Recommended Reading List

The Purpose of Boys - Michael Gurian

The Purpose of Boys - Michael Gurian

Several families who attended our latest Family Seminar were interested in what we considered as some of the most recommended books to read on the subject of parenting and mentoring boys. All of the books on this list have taught us how to better teach our middle school boys. Every staff at Cherokee Creek will have their favorites, but three books in particular that really captured my attention and spoke to me were: The Purpose of Boys, Boundaries with Kids,and Wild at Heart.

Here is our recommended reading list in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name:

Beausay, Bill. Teenage Boys! Surviving and Enjoying These Extraordinary Years. 1998

Brozo, William. To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader: Engaging Teen and Preteen Boys in Active Literacy.2002

Cloud, Henry & John Townsend. Boundaries With Kids. 1998

Dobson, James. Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for those Shaping the Next Generation of Men. 2001

Eldredge, J. You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2004.

Eldredge, J. Wild At Heart. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2002.

Gurian, Michael. The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. 2005

Gurian, Michael. The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our Boys and Young Men. 1999

Gurian, Michael. (1999). From Boys to Men: All About Adolescence and You. New York: Price Stearn Sloan.

Gurian, M. with Trueman, T. (2000). What Stories Does My Son Need?. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Gurian, M. (2009). The Purpose of Boys. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gurian, M. & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

James, Abigail Norfleet. Teaching the Male Brain. 2007

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

Kimmel, Michael. Manhoodin America: A Cultural History. 2006

Kindlon, Dan and Thompson, Michael. Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. 1999

Mosatche, Harriet and Unger, Karen. Too Old for This, Too Young for That! Your Survival guide of the Middle-School Years. 2000

Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Muharrar, Aisha. More Than a Label. 2002

Pollack, W. (1998). RealBoys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Schaffer, Susan and Gordon, Linda. Why Boys Don’t Talk and Why It Matters. 2005

Slocumb, Paul D. Hear Our Cry, Boys in Crisis. 2004

Strauch, Barbara. The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids. 2003

Stone, Richard. (1996) The Healing Art of Storytelling. New York: Hyperion.

Tatum, Alfred.  Teaching Leadership to Black Adolescent Males. 2005

Thompson, Michael.  Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions about Raising Sons. 2000

Thompson, M. & Barker, T. (2008). It’s A Boy! Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18.New York: Random House.

Tobin, L. (1991). What Do You Do With A Child Like This? Inside the Lives of Troubled Children.Whole Person Associates: Duluth, MN.

If you would recommend other books that you have read that are not on this list, please let us know. The staff at Cherokee Creek Boys School is in perpetual learning mode!

Happy Learning!

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For Some Children with Communication Challenges, Seeing is Knowing

Written By: Marilee Emerson

Marilee is a consultant to CCBS

Marilee is a consultant to Cherokee Creek Boys School

One of the first questions I ask when I inquire about an individual’s communication is, “What is the most reliable way your child/student receives information?”

The vast majority of responses point to a visual channel, i.e., printed to-do lists or schedules, a picture of the end project, or photographs.

Through the years, one of the things that I’ve learned, both the hard way and easy way, is that sharing information verbally makes the information transient. Once you say it, it’s gone.

Visual information (written words, pictures, or objects) on the other hand is static. It sticks around so you can reference it, if needed.

Speaking is, of course, the quickest and most convenient way of sharing information. But, in this highly distractible world we live in, it is often wise to “back up” your verbal communication. For example, using a note, a memo, a voice recording will make the spoken words more permanent.

But, for children with communication challenges, “backing up” spoken information maybe be a necessary part of their everyday learning experience.

In fact, visual information may be the primary way to communicate; verbal sharing of information would be the back up.

It’s GREAT to be alive in the 21st century. Here’s why: Technology has made the task of supporting communication much, much easier.

One of the most helpful actions we can take for others is to clarify expectations, especially if a new task or experience is forthcoming.

Think proactive preparation. Ask yourself, “What does my child/my student need to know to be successful in this up-coming situation?

Notice I said, “…need to know…” This doesn’t mean you should prepare the child for every aspect of the situation. Rather, I recommend focusing on the areas of the situation that will make him most successful. This is often referred to as “priming.”

You can share your expectations for a variety of activities, i.e., school and community involvement, travel, social events, religious ceremonies, and doctors appointments.

Depending on your child (whom you know best), you should consider how much information to share and what’s the best format to use.

Before the Internet was so pervasive, (Yes, I’ve been teaching that long!), you might have used pictures from magazines, drawings of stick figures or Polaroid pictures. But now, you have amazing resources at our fingertips.

mom and son on computerBelow are my top 3 resources for sharing expectations:

1. Google Images– You can find almost ANYTHING on Google. I find that Internet images are good for showing specific locations, or finding brand logos and generic pictures.

2. Digital Cameras-Nowadays, if you have a cell phone, you have a camera, too. Digital pictures you take are good for illustrating step-by-step sequences or generating lists.

3. YouTube videos-Videos are another great resource. Of course, you’ll want to preview the videos before you share them. Videos are helpful for priming more involved experiences such as going to the dentist for the first time; first time flying in an airplane; how to brush teeth, make popcorn or any number of activities.

Note: If your child is overwhelmed with the narration, you can view the video without the sound. You can also make your own videos, without narration.

With so many choices for accessible visuals, it’s much easier to support learning new expectations than ever before.

I encourage you to try, even if it’s at the most basic level, and observe how your child responds to priming of expectations.

Once you know what works, experiment with other applications for growth and learning. That’s when ‘seeing is knowing’ becomes really exciting.

Have you used visuals with your child to prime him for new expectations? Please share your experiences with me or on the MyMarilee Facebook Page.

Let’s start a conversation.


Marilee Emerson is an educator who is passionate about helping families through challenging transitions. She helps parents of children with disabilities and learning differences know what they need to do next, so they can create better lives for their children and families. Her weekly newsletter Note from Marilee is full of practical tips and helpful perspectives. If you are ready to take your next best step for your child and family, sign up for a FREE subscription at

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You Can’t Have it Both Ways

As the rain continued for the FOURTH day in Westminster, SC, I chuckled at a friend’s Facebook post saying, “Hey! Quit grumping about all this rain when just a few months ago we were grumping about the drought and low lake levels. You can’t have it both ways.”

It reminded me of how often my parents used that exact phrase. It always drove me a little bit buggy to hear it (and usually was followed by a big long argument beginning with BUT WHY CAN’T I…?). This was my parents’ phrase for teaching me that life is full of choices and choosing meant something had to be given up as part of the bargain. I spent the better part of my 20s learning and relearning that I can’t expect to have my cake and eat it too.

This lesson, along with providing opportunities for our boys to rethink actions once given the consequences, are two of the primary  steps for teaching good choice-making here at Cherokee Creek Boys School. Life is full of choices. Life is full of consequences  —  both natural and man-made. Navigating the waters of life involve consistently making better choices for ourselves and our families. It’s not an easy task and it seemed like I’d barely gotten the hang of it before it became my duty to impart it to my children as a necessary task. Talk about feeling barely qualified!

My daughter Grace, who is six, came to me the other day wanting a piece of her sister’s birthday cake. It was the pre-dinner hour. I said she could have it right then or she could have it for dessert. She of course chose right then … because she is six and there is no “later” to six-year-olds. So she had the cake and ate her dinner. Of course everyone knows what happened after dinner: Big tears, wailing, flailing and drama that there wasn’t going to be a dessert piece. I held my ground, shuffled her off to the bath, and tucked her in shortly thereafter. The big pouty lip was still there as I tried to explain to her why she couldn’t have both pieces of cake. We talked about how sometimes waiting a little bit made things even better when you finally got them. She seemed to understand as I pulled out the piece of perennial wisdom, “Sometimes you have to choose, Grace. You can’t have it both ways.”

She nodded, pulled the covers up and – as only a six-year-old can – said, “Okay. I’ll have two tomorrow to make up for it.” I sighed. Thank heavens for more tomorrows to impart the lessons of choice.

Academic Dean and Mom Denise Savidge explains choices.

Academic Dean and Mom Denise Savidge explains choices.

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How Our Wounds Help Others

Group Horse Therapy lends many opportunities for passing lessons learned to a friend.

Group Horse Therapy lends many opportunities for passing lessons learned to a friend.

“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. ” Rachel Naomi Remen

I asked my boss to forward this quote to me after she read it aloud at a recent meeting. WOW! If I didn’t believe in this idea wholeheartedly (as the poster child of incredibly wild mistakes) I would likely be in someone’s closet by now curled up in the fetal position. Not a day goes by when I don’t pull out a perfect example of “Don’t do what I did, kids, it was REALLY stupid!” Sharing an experience then shaking our heads when they do it their way anyway is what we get to do as wise grown-ups. But there are the occasional days when the boys listen to my experiences and sidestep trouble, which makes the wound of having made it in the first place worthwhile.

Realizing that something we’ve overcome provides us a unique ability to help others is indeed part of our own healing process. Our gaffes are what make us human and sharing them with others helps increase the survivability and recoverability of each one.  If you can’t eventually laugh about the lesson you learned, perhaps you just need to repeat the story one more time. Trust me, they get funnier as time passes.

Using one’s past to rise above a situation repeats itself throughout history. Some notable examples include Moses, who was accused of murdering a man before leading his people out of Egypt. Bill Wilson, a noted alcoholic in the early 1900s, went on to found Alcoholics Anonymous. And we’re all familiar with Alexander Fleming’s big scientific oops that became penicillin. There’s an example of healing in its most literal form. To say these three men made a significant contribution to others despite mistakes in their past is a drastic understatement.

It’s easy, as adults, to think of someone who makes the same mistakes over and over and – like a train wreck – there’s little you can do to stop them. So at CCBS, we begin to teach the boys to reflect on their past behavior and learn something from it. Then as their time with us increases, they can take their lessons and pass them along to those not so far along the PATH. They become empathetic to the limitations of others and those moments we observe among the boys are priceless and dear.

The lessons of the Medicine Wheel are evident when we share our life lessons with others. We show not only, “I am wise,” but also, “I am resilient,” and sometimes, “I am forgiven.” But most importantly, when we admit our mistakes and make it part of our healing process, we show “I am authentic.”

What part of your past can be used to show someone your authenticity? How can a wound in your life become a healing story for you and those around you?

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All I Really Need to Know About Life, I Learned from Middle School Boys

Learning all I need to know about life with the boys on the CCBS front porch chairs...

Learning all I need to know about life with the boys on the CCBS front porch chairs...

(with a nod to Robert Fulghum, who learned about life through Kindergarteners)

Most of what I really need

To know about how to live

And what to do and how to be

I learned from my middle school boys.

Wisdom was not at the top

Of my doctorate pursuit mountain,

But deep in the red dirt of a therapeutic boys school known as Cherokee Creek.

These are the things I learned:

Share with others, but some things can be just yours.

Play fair. Play often. Be playful.

Don’t hit, kick, punch, throw things, or yell.

Put things away if you want them to be there tomorrow.

Clean up your own mess.

Anything found abandoned is considered fair game – It’s called a “G-Score.”

Say you’re sorry when you’ve finished processing an argument. Don’t say it until you are ready , or it’s not authentic.

Wash your hands, a lot. Especially important after seeing their science fair pitri dish results.

Flush. Twice if necessary. There will be a boy cleaning your restroom.

Cookies, milk, and the occasional gourmet cupcake can make anybody’s day.

Live in balance – pursue Personal Enrichment, Academics, Therapy, and Healthy endeavors.

Learn some and think some

And play and work every day some. Make it outdoors whenever possible.

Forget naps – you might miss something good. You can sleep when you’re dead.

When you go out in the world, keep an eye on whoever’s in your group. They like to hide around corners just to see if you’re paying attention.

Hug them a lot.

Be aware of their individual boy-ness, build a strong relationship in which you show you care about them, and remember, no matter how big or hairy they are, they are still BOYS.

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Earthlore Lessons

Mark Warren determines appropriate bark for making cordage.

Mark Warren determines appropriate bark for making cordage.

Recently, I observed the intense curiosity and active engagement of the boys as they listened to a story about the Cherokee Indians. It was presented by Mark Warren, naturalist, composer, writer and Director of Medicine Bow, A Primitive School of Earthlore in the North Georgia Mountains. Warren showed the boys their unique relationship with nature through the Earthlore (stories from nature) he had accumulated by the Native Americans. After engaging the boys in a discussion of Earthlore and nature, the boys went outdoors to experience hands- on activities that connected them to the spirit of Cherokee Indians who lived and walked the soil where the Cherokee Creek campus now sits. Mark then helped the boys experience nature as a source of food, medicine, craft materials, fire, tools, weaponry, play and shelter. Learning through the patient methods of the American Indians, the boys had an incredible opportunity for academic as well as spiritual growth. They encountered their masculine spirit through the rituals of an Indian Warrior. These rituals included learning how to hand drill a fire from wood, stalk without being seen, and make cordage (rope) from tree bark. For me, the day was a “real and true” demonstration of the living and practical messages of the medicine wheel –the warrior, visionary, healer and teacher. He showed us how our Cherokee ancestors lived in harmony with nature. But the day went beyond Warren’s lessons of Earthlore. It was a poignant demonstration of the power of mentoring. He shared not only skills and knowledge but also the important message for all males, “I am wise, strong, loved, and a man.Jane Barker, LISW, is the Clinical Services Manager at Cherokee Creek Boys School, located in the upstate of South Carolina.

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Middle-School Motivation

Academic Dean Denise Savidge

Academic Dean Denise Savidge

I’m the “new teacher” at Cherokee Creek. With a bit of trepidation and excitement, I set forth to get to know my students and discover what motivates them to perform.


Motivation…It means many different things to everyone. What works as a motivator for one person is of no interest to another. Some folks are self-motivated, others need the carrot on the stick just outside of their reach to keep moving forward. To some it’s money, to some it’s power, to some it’s prestige. Others haven’t given it a thought because their motivation is just the desire to do something well because it’s the right thing to do.

Most teachers teach just to see a child smile. To make a child’s life easier. To make a difference. Plus it’s pretty comical stuff on any given day, and teachers like to laugh. And middle-school boys keep a scorecard on how many others they can amuse in one day.

In class the other day, I handed the boys a motivation checklist. I really wanted to know what was going to make them produce…What would help them do their best…Which carrot smelled the most delicious to an adolecsent boy. Silly me. They’re not about to let that nut get cracked by simply asking. No, this was an opportunity to ignore the multiple choice answers and make it a fill-in-the-blank adventure. It was a perfect occasion to amuse  and entertain the new teacher. The multiple choice answers focussed on peer praise, prizes, prestige or public recognition. But ours are not fill-in-the-bubble boys. They quickly unraveled the code of answers and decided they had better ideas:

Q – If you really did well on your science project, what would you prefer the teacher do?
A – Keep Quiet!
Q – You are on a roller coaster and a photographer from a newspaper takes your picture. It appears on the front page the next day. What do you do?
A – Sue the newspaper company.
Q – What do you like best about your birthday?
A – That the Good Lord has given me another year.
Q – If you found a $10 bill on the playground and turned it in to the school office, what would you want the principal to do?
A – Give it to ME!

Pity the teacher who asks our students to answer within the box. They’re innovative, creative, amusing and charming young men. It’s been a delightful ride to get to know them.

When are you a teacher and why do you teach? Do you know what motivates the different members of your family? Do they know what motivates you?

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The Golden Apple

CCBS Math and Science Teacher Nick Linscott

Nick Linscott, CCBS Math and Science Teacher

You remember your favorite teachers forever. They inspire, provoke, challenge and celebrate your abilities. Under their influence you thrive; your possibilities expand.

Imagine if you were asked to nominate a teacher for the coveted “Golden Apple” award for teaching excellence. How would you persuade the voters that your candidate was the best?

This is exactly what Academic Dean and Language Arts Teacher Denise Savidge recently asked students to do in an assignment tackling the persuasive essay. Many of our students responded with essays about Cherokee Creek Math and Science Teacher Nick Linscott (LEGO League Coach extraordinaire!). Nick has been a valued member of the CCBS team for over 7 years and is loved for his unique style.

Excerpts from students’ essays are below:

I feel that Nick Linscott deserves the Golden Apple. He helps us learn when we need to. He is assertive in the way that he talks and tells us directly what he wants us to do.

Nick helps me learn more math than I already know. I can trust that he will help me when ever I might need it. He is very intelligent and can answer almost all the questions I can think of. When I am confused with something I can ask him and he will explain it to me in amazingly accurate detail.” – Anonymous

Nick is loving ans caring. I like his personality. I also believe that if I work with him, he works with me so in turn I am very appreciative of him.” – Alec

Nick is an exceptional teacher because he helped me go from 6th grade to Algebra 1 in one year. He taught me physical science and biomedical science. He is helping me learn today in science.

Nick is a good friend that I can trust about anything. I can talk to him and he will listen to me.” – Jon

What are the common denominators of great teachers? Looking at the boys’ responses, it appears they recognize that teaching is only part of the equation.

Nick Linscott definitely deserves a Golden Apple! He is a talented and effective teacher. His caring and compassion are appreciated by staff and students alike, and that adds up to an inspiring educator.

Nick often repeats the words of wisdom given to him by his mother, “To get a friend, you have to be a friend.” Golden words to live by.

Therein lies the difference between a good teacher and a “Golden Apple” recipient.

As we contemplate what is “real and true”: What kind of teacher are you? Who have been your greatest teachers? What made them great?

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Just One Sentence…

Daniel relaxes with a little Tolstoy

Daniel relaxes with a little Tolstoy

It was 1963 and I was an 8th grader at St. Margaret’s Catholic School. It was the year that Peter, Paul and Mary were telling us that the answers were “Blowing in the Wind,” but unfortunately I had no idea what the questions were. Sister Philip Mary suggested that I might check the philosophy section at the Hartford County Library. In retrospect, she was probably only suggesting the likes of Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, but I fell first upon J.B. Philip’s text, “Your God is Too Small.” I panicked! If he’s right, I thought, I’m looking at some serious Purgatory time!

At Sister Philip Mary’s prodding, I continued to read. There was Kierkegaard, Sartre, Teilhard de Chardin, Camus, Kant, Dostoyevsky. You may be curious if I understood what I was reading…well…not exactly. I could always latch on to just one sentence with which to begin an after-school conversation though. Thus began my fascination with books…

So today, at Cherokee Creek, I still feed that facsination by helping our boys get their hands on the books they want to read. and book donations from parents and friends have allowed us to secure hundreds of books for our boys, newly awakened to the power of words and books. Hardly a day goes by that I do not receive a request for a book about pandas, or fly fishing, or WWII fighter jets, or card tricks—or a book by J.K. Rowling, or Gary Paulsen, or John Grisham, or Orson Scott Card. The possibilities are endless!

And just when I thought I had seen it all, picture this scene from last week: a boy comes up to my office and says, “Sharon, can you get me a book of short stories by Leo Tolstoy?” I’m telling you that my heart skipped a beat! Peter, Paul and Mary belted out lyrics in my psyche! And in my mind, Sister Philip Mary admonished me to take this lad seriously! And so seven days later, I was handing over Count Leo Tolstoy, one of the world’s greatest novelists, to an eager 13 year old. An observing colleague asked, “how much do you think he’ll understand?” “It doesn’t matter,” I responded, “I hope that a spark will ignite, and this young man will latch on to just one sentence…”

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upsate South Carolina.

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Don’t Feed the Bears!

Thirty miles from our destination and fifty miles from our starting point, our backpacking trip had ground to a halt.

 “Who’s in charge here?” she asked. I quickly indicated to her that I was the trip leader and handed over our permit. We were 35 miles from the nearest trailhead and I was a little surprised to see such a young, petite backcountry ranger this far in without a horse nearby.

 “Get your group to empty their packs and before I let you in to this Wilderness Area I need to see that all of your food, trash, and toothpaste is packed in bear-proof containers. We have a real problem here with…”  She glanced at something behind me, “s’cuze me just a second.” The ranger quickly walked over to her pack as I turned around to see where she was looking. It was a bear…A BIG BLACK BEAR… headed straight for the contents of our backpacks. The pixie-like ranger strode right by me, straight at the bear, but now she was carrying a shotgun! She marched right up to the bear, lowered the muzzle, and WHAM!, shot the bear right between the eyes from point-blank range.

 I was stunned at what had just happened! The bear squealed and whirled around, disoriented for an instant, then sprinted off into the woods. The whole event took less than 5 seconds and our whole group was staring, with our mouths open, not really able to absorb what had just happened!

 “Um, excuse me, would you mind explaining to us what just happened?” I asked very politely.

 She faced us and said, “People have been too sloppy with their food here…they even feed the bears.  Now all the bears in the area associate people and backpacks with food.” Continuing her matter-of-fact answer, “My job is to show the bears that people and backpacks do not equal food. I just shot that bear with a rubber slug, so hopefully he’ll get the message.” She paused and then said, “If he doesn’t…well…let’s finish checking your bear cans.”

Until then bear-proofing every night was a real chore – usually done begrudgingly with groaning and eye-rolling. But, that rubber bullet impacted each one of us. Our laziness, carelessness or ignorance was putting this great creature in real danger.  After witnessing the consequence of thoughtless actions, it no longer felt like a chore – now it was a compassionate duty for the safety and well-being of the bears.Dont Feed the Bears

 A “Real and True” lesson about actions and consequences was revealed to us at point-blank range. We are surrounded by “bears” all the time. As parents, teachers, mentors or leaders, we influence others by our willingness to “bear-proof” our life – to follow the rules and hold appropriate boundaries for everyone’s safety.

 My challenge to you: Go to your backpack and check to see if everything is “bear proofed”. It just might save the life of a bear!

David LePere is the executive director for Cherokee Creek Boys School, a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys ages 11-15, located in beautiful upstate South Carolina.

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