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All the dirt on grit and why your homeschool student needs more of it

Updated: Nov 9, 2019

“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”

~ Angela Duckworth, PhD, founder of the Character Lab

Photo Credit: <a href="">kaneda99</a> Flickr via <a href="">Compfight</a> <a href="">cc</a>

So you’ve decided to homeschool. You want to give your child the one-on-one attention and teaching he needs to reach his potential. And admit it: You may even secretly want your child to best his peers who are in traditional school settings. Such an accomplishment would validate your educational choice, silence the naysayers, and show the world your child is the next budding Einstein.

But let’s face it, the kid who starts college at age 9 to study astrophysics (yes, there is such a prodigy) is rare indeed, and chances are he doesn’t reside in your family—just saying. Regardless, all parents want their children to reach their own pinnacle of success. So how can you help make that happen?

Let's start with your student. What are the best predictors of his or her success?

A. Natural talents

B. Passion and perseverance

C. Study habits

D. Standardized test scores

The second choice is correct. Surprised? If so, you’re not alone. The common misconception is that naturally talented pupils outshine their peers. Learning comes easy to them, so they should earn the highest grades and be the most successful in school.

That’s not always the case, says Angela Duckworth, PhD, psychologist, and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. If you don’t put the time into learning and practicing, then your talent alone won’t propel you forward.

Duckworth saw this first-hand when she was a middle school and high school math teacher. Math came easily to some students, so she expected them to land at the top of her classes. Instead, many did mediocre work. The high achieving students turned out to be the ones who had to work at it more, and consistently did just that. These students scored better grades. They didn’t have “natural talent.” They did have an ample supply of grit.

In fact, through years of research, Duckworth discovered grit is the biggest predictor of success, inside and outside of school.

What exactly is grit? "Resolute courage; pluck,” says the Doubleday Dictionary. For the purposes of her research, Duckworth describes grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.”

Passion starts as an interest and builds over time. "It's what keeps you going when mundane tasks bore you or difficult ones dissuade you,"explains Priscilla Shirer, author of Fervent. Passion helps you see past any repetitive tasks and focus on the desired endpoint, the long-term goal. Perseverance is the dogged resolution it takes to do the smaller, sometimes tedious and repetitive, things (like practice, practice, practice) that are necessary for success. When passion and perseverance meld, you get grit.

Gritty people tend to possess the following traits:

· self-control

· open mindedness

· ability to defer gratification

· an understanding that they are part of something bigger than themselves

Kids with grit embrace a “can do” attitude. They are less likely to be complacent, and more likely to follow through on tasks when they realize the tasks will enable them to accomplish their goal. Their excitement/passion motivates them to maintain good habits. Plus, gritty youngsters don’t view obstacles as setbacks or failure or a reason to give up. Bumps in the road are simply a part of the learning process.

Realize that a passion for something—an academic subject, musical instrument, sports, art, acting, inventing—takes time to develop. You can help your child find his or her passion and cultivate grit through the following:

· Try different activities. Make opportunities for your homeschooler to explore his or her interests. Over time, one of these could turn into a passion.

· Challenge your child to improve a little each day.

· Encourage your child’s efforts.

· Develop a strategy for moving forward.

· Help your child expand his or her social network.

“If we want our children to have a shot at a productive and satisfying life,” Duckworth points out, “we adults should make it our concern to provide them with the two things all children deserve: challenges to exceed what they were able to do yesterday and the support that makes that growth possible.”


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