Chris over at O’donnellWeb mentions an interesting article in his post The Power of Praise. He links to New York Magazine’s How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise by Po Bronson (February 19, 2007 issue), which discusses potential negative side effects of praise, long noted in some homeschooling circles. Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes is frequently mentioned on homeschooing lists as an eye-opening “other view” of a reward-and-punishment approach to education, work, and living.
Carol Dweck, one psychologist featured heavily in the New York Magazine article, is a busy bee. She and NYM’s Bronson are interviewed on NPR’s On Point about praise and about her new book MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success, which seems very relevant to how homeschoolers go about educating their children. From the Amazon review,
“Dweck proposes that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as… well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.”
Developing this “growth mindset” sounds a lot like an approach many homeschool families take, and it sounds very different from what seems to be happening in many schools, where emphasizing testing and praise seems to create a more fixed mindset. (Given the attention unschoolers have been getting in the media lately, I can’t resist noting this “growth mindset” is especially prominent among unschooling families, and is probably a key ingredient in what seems to be a mystery to many as to how unschooling works). I made a mental note to put the book on my never-ending “to read” list.
It is one of those lovely serendipities (not to mention a well-executed book promotion) to have Chris point me to the NYM article and realize the substance of the article is from the MINDSET author. I am reminded how much we homeschoolers can potentially learn about learning from non-homeschooling resources, especially if we are willing to use more than the occasional grain of salt if homeschooling myths are promulgated or, more usually, homeschooling is not acknowledged. Often, these books validate things homeschoolers are already doing instinctively.
I often wonder about the education establishment’s belief that school systems have so much to offer homeschoolers — when it seems so clear to me that homeschoolers’ perspectives are the ones that should be valued by the education establishment. We are living the learning theories, which, in the hearts of our homes and our children, seem both obvious and feasible.
by Jeanne Faulconer