Rethinking Education After COVID-19: Part 2

In Part 1, I shared how Ryan and I wanted to provide the best possible learning environment for our children that would spark their natural curiosity, inspire them to be lifelong learners, challenge them to grow in character and equip them to be leaders that will change the world.

While I never set out with a goal to start a school, as we evaluated the available education options, we weren’t finding anything that fit our vision of what education could be and decided that we would have to build it ourselves and set out to build an environment that was more conducive to equipping learners with the skills and mindset they needed both now and into the future.

(I also recommended reading Collaborative Homeschooling by Matt Beaudreau. If you haven’t already done so, take a moment to at least read the free preview now.)

In the first chapter, Matt share’s his background as an administrator and teacher in both public and private schools where the focus was on testing and benchmarks, which guided everything at the school.  Unfortunately, this is the rule, not the exception, in traditional schools.

This is the product of a faulty mindset in traditional schools, where students are directed to look to the all knowing being that is going to disseminate all information to them – lecture style. This person is held up as “the expert” in whatever they are teaching.

Truthfully though, how many of us are true experts in anything? There is power in admitting we “don’t know something” and instead inviting our kids to join us in the learning. My kids laugh at how much I say, “I don’t know; let’s find out together.” Perhaps, like us, you want to show your children that no one knows everything, and they have great power to find information and discover new things through research and with a spark of curiosity.

There are probably a lot of things you do well. Maybe you’re a great cook or an expert parallel parker. Maybe you can sing the entire national anthem backwards and in perfect pitch. Maybe you greet each new day with a smile and a positive outlook.

Take a minute and think about what you are great at. Now ask yourself, did you work hard to get to where you are? Okay, did you work at least moderately hard at improving your skill? In all likelihood, you did. Even if you put in the smallest effort, you did put in the work.

Very few of us are born knowing how to play the electric guitar, paint a still life with stunning realism, or even understanding how to be a good neighbor. But through hard work, trial and error, making mistakes and rebounding, we all find our groove.

Helping our children understand this, and helping them develop a growth mindset, allows them to understand that trial and error, rapid experimentation and perseverance are the keys to success. 

A growth mindset believes competence honed by struggle will grow over time as difficult decisions become habits that forge character which determines destiny. 

A fixed mindset sees success as the luck of the genetic draw and IQ points where success is tied more to innate intelligence and avoiding failure at all costs.  People with fixed mindsets believe they were born with their basic abilities. They believe qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits, which no amount of work can alter. On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe that traits can be developed over time. They believe that through education, effort, and tenacity, they can improve themselves.

You can see where a fixed mindset could be a problem. If you believe, “I’m a terrible artist,” you will likely never pursue work or hobbies to improve your drawing or painting skills. People with fixed mindsets follow paths that keep them from failing in the short-term. However, these same paths keep them from developing new skills over time.

People who cultivate a growth mindset tend to see failure as an indication that they need to work harder to learn and master something. A person with a growth mindset says, “I should keep working at this” rather than “I’m terrible at this.” Overall, people with growth mindsets are more likely to maximize their potential because instead of telling themselves they can’t do something, they work, instead, to achieve their goals.

At Acton Academy, we work hard to promote a growth mindset by praising hard work and character over momentary success measured by arbitrary standards, and you can do the same in your own home.

By nurturing a growth mindset, we are saying to others, and to ourselves, “I believe you can do it. No matter how much hard work it takes, you can achieve your goals and dreams.”

As you nurture a growth mindset in your own home, you also want to encourage our children to take control of their own learning and set their own goals. This is absolutely critical as they have to understand how to do this to move themselves forward as a lifelong learner who is capable of achieving their goals and dreams.

When they are younger, we still need to help them to create goals, and divide larger goals into smaller goals.  But over time, they need to be set free to manage their own goals and priorities. 

In our home, we gave our children the tools to direct their own learning. They utilized technology to research and collaborate. They set goals, documented progress, and celebrated mastery, grit, and hard work. We, as parents, shifted away from saying they were “good at xyz” or “smart” and instead celebrated “perseverance”, “excellence”, and “courage.”

To learn more about the growth mindset I encourage you to watch this video: Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset, or the video on Mindset that is about halfway down this page.

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can do so here.

In Part 3, I will share some practical tools you can use at home to spark your children’s curiosity and help them take responsibility for their own learning as they develop into capable lifelong learners.

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