You have the right to be picky about the private pre-K or kindergarten program you choose for your son. Your decision, after all, will likely impact him well beyond his early years. Pre-K and kindergarten lay an academic foundation upon which your son will build throughout the rest of his elementary, middle, and high school years and beyond.
It’s an important decision and you want to make the right one. But before you can narrow down your options for pre-K or kindergarten programs for your 4- or 5-year-old son, you have to decide whether an all-boys school or a coeducational school is right for him.
All-Boys Education: Myths and Misconceptions
We recently discussed this topic with Margaret Kelly, Director of Lower School Admissions here at The Fessenden School. Margaret shared with us some of the most common misconceptions she has heard from parents about an all-boys experience in the early years.
If you’re wondering whether an all-boys program will be right for your son, Margaret’s insights may answer some of your questions.
Myth #1: ‘Girls are necessary as role models in the classroom.’
Margaret says parents often worry that, with an absence of girls in the classroom, their sons will have nobody to role-model certain behaviors, such as sitting still and engaging “appropriately” or proactively with teachers. Some parents believe that girls at this young age are naturally better at these behaviors and can set examples for boys to follow.
The truth is that boys and girls do have different behavioral hardwiring. Many boys find it harder to sit still and are naturally more adventurous and active. Margaret explains that girls, on the other hand, “get in this great pattern of anticipating, jumping in and being those little stars.The teacher, naturally, is just going to reinforce that, praise that and appreciate that.”
However, that’s not necessarily good for the boys who, rather than emulating the behavior, may actually come to view themselves as inferior in the classroom and sometimes even rebel against the preferred behaviors. By contrast, in an all-male setting, we find that boys usually behave in ways that will earn their teacher’s approval and admiration.
“When you remove girls from the equation, boys totally jump in to fill that role,” Margaret says. “That’s a big thing if they end up doing that. Then it is the boys who are the role models of doing great things.”
Myth #2: ‘Most of my son’s friends are girls. It will be hard for him to make new friends.’
If most of your son’s friends are girls, you might worry that he’ll miss them at an all-boys school. Established friendships are meaningful at any age, so it’s understandable that you might not want to separate your son from his female friends.
Once your son starts school, though, he’ll make new friends quickly. We find that these new friendships are just as fulfilling as the ones he’s used to at home or in preschool. Whether your son’s friends are boys or girls, his development will benefit from a wide array of friendships.
The type of play in which children engage broadens in pre-K and kindergarten and boys’ horizons expand. In a classroom without girls, boys feel free to engage with friends in activities that are often unintentionally reserved for girls, including dramatic play or expressive arts.
This freedom to explore more facets of their learning fosters excellent growth opportunities for boys and allows them to enjoy the camaraderie of other boys who share those same interests. (For more on this phenomenon, with an explanation of the latest research, read our recent article, “Learning Outside the ‘Box’: The Advantages of an All-Boys Pre-K.”)
Myth #3: ‘All-boys schools are just for ‘jocks.’’
According to Margaret, some parents worry that, if their sons aren’t athletically gifted, they won’t fit in with the other boys in a single-sex school. This is a particular concern as they look past pre-K and kindergarten to the middle and high school years, when physical education and play evolve into more organized, competitive sports.
This is not the case. All-boys schools are not ‘jock’ schools. In fact, one benefit of single-gender environments is that boys feel free to get involved in a wide range of activities beyond athletics, such as the arts or community service. At an all-boys school, there is no such thing as a “girl’s activity.”
As for athletics at The Fessenden School, we offer opportunities for our older students to get involved with sports, no matter his skill level. We’re large enough to offer teams at all different levels of ability, something often absent in smaller schools.
Myth #4: ‘My son won’t learn how to interact socially with girls.’
“Will an all-boys school stunt my son’s social skills with girls?” “Will he suffer from a lack of confidence around the opposite sex?” Margaret notes that these are common questions from parents considering an all-boys school.
Some parents believe that boys need to be educated with girls in order to learn how to interact with them.
In our experience, alumni of all-boys schools emerge having such a good sense of who they are, that they are comfortable in their own skin and are comfortable engaging with girls—and people in general.
Learn more about single-sex education by taking a tour.
Perhaps the best way to find out if an all-boys school like Fessenden is right for your child is to see for yourself. We would be delighted to give you a tour of our campus to give you an opportunity to see an all-boys education in action. Schedule a visit today.
And, before you visit Fessenden or any other pre-K or kindergarten, download our Pre-K & Kindergarten Private School Visit Checklist, which will help you know who to talk to and what to ask during your visit.