The Gender Factor

At my last homeschooling conference, I had a display showcasing the traits of being either right-brained dominant or left-brained dominant (as listed on the sidebar of this website). A lot of attendees of that conference happen to focus on “raising scholars” as their center point in their homeschools. In other words, there was high value in the left-brained scope and sequence. Interestingly, I had a higher percentage of parents, particularly females, stand in front of the board, studying the traits, and finally, with a breath of confused exasperation, declare, “I don’t think I fit in either well,” or “I fit in both.”

The logical conclusion would be, “Then they must be whole-brained.” The thing is, I don’t technically think there is such a person. I believe most people are either right-brained or left-brained dominant. Then, why do some appear whole-brained, or having more than one trait on both sides? The gender factor accounts for a lot of this.

The female gene is naturally left-brained. The male gene is naturally right-brained. Do you notice that there are a lot more boys diagnosed with things like ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and Asperger’s than girls? Behind each of these labels is a right-brained learner. Do you notice there are more boys who learn kinesthetically than girls? This input modality is primarily used by right-brained dominant learners. Let’s take the list of right-brained/left-brained traits and determine which ones typically are associated with a gender trait.

The left-brained traits are reality, *word based (symbolic), *sequential, part, memorization, logical (mind), compliant, external perfectionism, product, and time. We know that it’s shown that females are much more verbal than boys, typically. Women tend to be better multi-taskers (organizers). Thus, in the left-brained list of traits, if you’re a right-brained dominant woman, you may also have a leg up when it comes to reading and organizing compared to your male right-brained peers because of the gender factor.

Let’s take the other side of the gender factor coin. The right-brained traits are *imagination, *picture based (3-dimensional), global, whole, association, intuitive (heart), resistant, internal perfectionism, process, and space. It’s typically accepted that women are more naturally emotional (both in how they

Read my book, The Right Side of Normal, to see how distance vision relates to later reading as another contributing factor.

feel and how they make decisions). Women, especially mothers, are often commended for their use of “mother’s intuition.” Thus, in the right-brained dominant traits, if you’re a right-brained woman, you may also have a double dose of emotional sensitivity (potentially being more prone to such things as depression and anxiety) as well as a highly developed sense of intuition compared to left-brained women.

Now let’s do the same thing for the men. In the set of right-brained dominant traits, men tend to be highly imaginative (big boy toys anyone?) as well as big picture thinkers (global). Thus, since the male gene tends to be right-brained, if you’re a right-brained dominant male, you may have a higher level of imagination and ability to think globally. In the set of left-brained traits, we tend to see males as being logic-based in their decisions as well as wanting to see a product (thus, liking to do things). Thus, if you’re a right-brained male, you may also be able to be logical (such as good at arithmetic) and seek after products.

I see the brain dominance (processing preference) information as a foundation, and then all the variables are factored in to create each unique human being. The gender factor is one of those variables. As a left-brained female, all my traits reside on the left side of the trait chart, except I have a strong intuition from my female side. My daughter is a right-brained female, but she learned to read on her own at 5 (using the right-brained sight word preferred method) and she enjoys being organized (with certain things). My son-in-law is a left-brained male, and he has an extra strong need for logic and likes to finish things, but also has a great imagination. My hubby is a right-brained male, with a gift for global thinking and associative information (how does he know that?!). Yet, he seemed to acclimate fairly well to the left-brained world of school to be highly successful. And this is where I hook back to my opening paragraph.

I find it more common for right-brained women to acclimate to the left-brained school culture with the help of the gender factor. This would seem like a good thing, right? They were able to “succeed” in school despite it not being set up to best support right-brained learners. What I’ve discovered, however, is what I witnessed at this conference. Women who feel like they don’t excel anywhere. Women who hold onto the idea of “raising scholars” as all they know to do. Sure, when these women were in school, they could do a bit of this and that enough to move along the school conveyor belt. But, they never developed any of their talents and strengths housed in their dominant right side.

I remember a woman in particular who approached me after my presentation on right-brained learning at another conference, who experienced an aha moment around this. She realized that in her early years, she was very much a right-brained, creative child. But, through the years of making it through school, she acclimated. She realized in that moment that she felt empty and without any real gift developed at all. She knew she needed to revisit all that she knew about the gifts of right-brained dominance and nurture the buried interests lying dormant within her.

For those who are highly right-brained dominant, we need educational environments that nurture their developmental time frame for learning, that value the creative outlets, and that respect the early subject strengths that build their particular strengths and traits. When we don’t provide this, we risk losing the creative genius they offer the world. For those who are right-brained dominant that are able to acclimate to the left-brained scope and sequence, we owe them the same opportunity to develop their unique gifts and talents that would risk being dulled or extinct by the long arm of conformance. We need to protect our creative resources found in the learning lives of our right-brained children.

How does your gender factor impact your learning life?

6 responses to “The Gender Factor

  1. I read this with my jaw on the floor, Cindy! It started with the “I’m both” and/or “I don’t fit anywhere” remark, which seems to apply to my daughter in all the RB/LB online checklists and tests I’ve filled out about her. It got more astounding as I read the difference between right-brained Aspie/spectrum males vs. females — my daughter DOES have that double dose of emotional sensitivity and the tendency toward anxiety and depression, neither of which her Aspie father shares! This explains so much about why the diagnosis rate for Asperger’s has been so much higher for boys than for girls.

    I also particularly appreciated your reminder that being RB or LB doesn’t mean one is EXCLUSIVELY inside that pattern, but that this is the dominant means of processing, seeing the world, and reacting, interwoven with other elements from “the other side.”

    • Karen, thank you for sharing your experience as you digested this post! I find it interesting and fascinating to discover the recognizable patterns that various attributes contribute to who we are, such as gender, brain dominance, energy level, and verbal ability, to name a few. It was particularly interesting to note the differences you see in your Aspie daughter and Aspie hubby in regards to this information. But, as you reiterate, it’s not set in stone, but once you start to see there are patterns, it can help us be our best selves through understanding and giving value to our differences. (BTW, I’m late posting your comment because it was in the spam folder.)

  2. I was in a marriage class recently where it was stated that women typically have more communication between right and left sides. That physically there is more matter in their brain responsible for that communication (I forget the specific name)and so they are better able to use both sides at once. While men tend to compartmentalize and use only half or the other at any given time. It would support what you are saying here about girls being able to better adapt to a system that doesn’t match their dominance. This is super fascinating to me as I am just now learning how my right brained daughter learns and she is not adapting well. But thankfully we are homeschooling and I have the freedom to revamp and change our methods. I’m so excited for her to enjoy school time. She’s smart and creative and lives to learn but formal school time has come to be associated with frustration and discouragement lately. Thank you so much for this site

  3. I can so relate to the not fitting anywhere, as well as the not excelling anywhere thoughts.

    I can’t remember not knowing how to read. I stayed with my great grandma a lot when I was very small, and she read to me all the time. Additionally, she recited poetry, and told stories, which we then acted out. We watched old musicals on TV and then sang all the songs. She sewed and crocheted, and would have taught me, but I”m left handed and watching me confused her. She did teach me to bake bread though. I liked to paint, color and draw too, and she encouraged all of that.

    When I got to school, I was lost. The word “anxiety” comes to mind, and I think I was anxious the whole 12 years. I don’t know how many report cards said, “Does not use time wisely”. I still lose time. I use a timer a lot to keep myself on track, if I’m doing something creative. Math was a nightmare. I think I was about 25 when I finally got it. I didn’t do well in grade school art classes and began to dread them. In junior high and high school, I began to do better in most classes.and graduated in the top 15 percent. While in high school, I got involved with choir and musical theater, and absolutely loved it (Still do)! I also found out that I was a pretty good writer, and used to write my own stories.

    I got the message though, that those things I was pretty good at, weren’t important in the grand scheme of things. My stepfather insisted I take a math and a science all four years of high school. I like the science for the most part, but again, math was a night mare. I loved history though. I did four years in the army after high school, and started having kids right after that.

    Oh, yeah, I’m a doodler. Imagine my surprise the day I was absent mindedly doodling and my husband says, “I didn’t know you could draw.” “I can’t” I told him. His response was “What do you call that?” “Doodling” I said. He said, “Well, your doodling looks pretty good to me!”

    So, here I am, trying to home school a right brained teenager, and wondering if I need to tap into something inside myself.

    I’m almost 52 years old and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

    • Wow! What a story! I hear this process over and over again. You matched really well with what I say about right-brained learners. And, you’re right, the things that right-brained people are often attracted to are not as valued in school. Because of the sensitivities of right-brained people (anxiety and depression can be common because of this), they pick up on that. I’m glad you have a hubby that sees certain things in you to help remind you of by-gone talents left behind. I also am glad you found a few gems to hold onto, like theater. Maybe as you continue to look to positively support your right-brained child, you’ll nurture you, too!

  4. Me, too!! That’s all I have to say! Just kidding, there’s more! LOL! I spent the first 30 odd years of my life thinking I was broke. Then, I discovered personality traits(Myers-Briggs, etc.)and that explained a lot. But there always seemed to be something else missing. And this article nailed it! I’m that right-brained female who assimilated enough to get along in the left-brained school system. I never could figure out why math never has made sense. Everyone (aka. left-brains) says “but it’s so logical, there’s rules for everything.” Whatever! I’m approaching 50 now and can do basic math up to Algebra and then it falls apart. I call it a “square wheel rolling”. It moves, sort of, with a lot of effort. Like your article said, I’ve never really excelled anywhere, I raised scholars, I’m a mom. (Mind you, I love being a mom!) But I really loved the part about “revisiting the right-brain dominance gifts”. I think I need to do that. Maybe that lingering idea about writing a book is what I should have been doing all along. Thanks for all your insight!!

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