In New Mexico, it’s wryly referred to as “Enchantment” (think deserting pebbly dirt blowing around!) and can be defined in one of two ways: As small, loose particle of sand or stone, or as courage, resolve and strength of character. Grit is simply the combination of passion and perseverance. In this age of snowflakes and easy offense, it’s something to consider. Are our kids growing in grit? Are they becoming courageous, resolute and developing strength of character? The remarkable gift of grit will stand our kids in good stead as they face an increasingly secular world that tolerates very little in terms of strong convictions.
In her excellent book, aptly titled, Grit, Angela Duckworth, takes on the task of developing the idea of grit in our children. She advocates for making Grit development a part of kid’s life skills curriculum. I couldn’t agree more. Our kids need grit. It’s what allows them to go out and compete, take risks, fail and try again. Grit is the strength of character needed to actually do hard things. We can want to do hard things. We can hope to do hard things. But without grit, those dreams and desires never make it to reality. In the same way we can want and hope for our kids to do hard things, but if we make it too easy on them, they won’t develop grit. If we protect them from failure, make excuses, buy their way, coddle and protect them, they won’t develop grit. Their determination to succeed and their grit development will be stunted.
Duckworth goes on to explain the necessary ingredients for developing grit:
- Practice– Practice is what lets us learn as we go. To practice and develop well we must get assessment and feedback.
- Purpose– Grit is not always about pursuing those things that we might have a natural inclination in, but rather pursuing something that we can develop an interest in over the long term.
- Hope- is as much about what you hope for as the ability to fail and keep trying, working and pursuing one’s goals despite set-backs.
- Time– time to practice, purpose, fail and succeed.
In the homeschooling world you hear a lot of verbiage about making school “Fun” and allowing your child to pursue their passions. While I love fun and have pursued a whole lot of passions of my own, I believe this is a skewed understanding of education. When we focus on “fun” we lose sight of the satisfaction that comes from really hard, difficult, at times painful work. We cheat our kids from the joy of knowing they’ve conquered, maybe having failed along the way. Fun is entertainment. Success is hard work, sweat, tears, pain, failure and then, accomplishment.
I’ve also learned that our passions develop as we take an interest in something and learn more about it. We often like what we are good at. We don’t usually get good at something until we work at it a bit. Some of my passions in life have developed as I’ve faced challenges, failures and set-backs. An interest in something does not equal a passion. A fanatical pursuit does. Often those pursuits require learning new skills, overcoming hardships and road-blocks, looking somewhat foolish, asking hard questions and displaying humility.
Teaching our kids that life isn’t always fun is a really valuable skill. Teaching our kids that passions often require sacrifice is also a very valuable skill.
Duckworth’s recommendations for bestowing the remarkable gift of Grit Goals to your children are requiring them to:
- Choose something that requires deliberate daily practice.
- Commit to doing this activity for 2 years.
- Finish what you’ve started for specified interval.
In our homeschool, we utilize grit goals. For the past two years, it’s been about tackling Latin. As a result, both of my kids have developed a true love for language learning and acquisition. Both have goals for tackling their next language and beyond. My daughter even picked up the little gem of a book, “How to Learn Any Language in 30 Days” at a thrift store recently. The point is, our last grit goal developed their understanding of what they could do and given them the tools and skills to hope in what’s possible. They know they can learn a second language because they learned a first. Is learning Latin “fun?” Not at the beginning. It’s grunt work. It’s memorizing declensions, and vocab and grammar. But it’s fun to de-code and translate. That, however, doesn’t come until after some of the grunt work.
Our grit goasl for this coming year will change, as our family changes, and kids grow. Our oldest son is at Boot Camp, as I write this. A program, paid for by our tax dollars, that bestows on thousands of young people the remarkable gift of grit each year. We, as a society, should be grateful for the thousands of young men and women who are tough enough to endure this intensive grit training on our behalf each year! Our second son is participating in a demanding memory work competition and our youngest, like I mentioned, is intent on studying languages even more in-depth.
Grit goals can be academic, physical, social, mental, spiritual. How do you determine which area to focus on? Start by considering what areas are your student the most vulnerable in? It might be time to think about some grit goals so that they can develop the courage needed to face whatever’s up ahead. Sometimes our biggest obstacles are where God wants to grow us the most. We often hear of world class athletes who overcome insurmountable physical odds to win beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
I also think it’s helpful for our kids to see us as parents setting and accomplishing difficult goals and challenges. We’re never too old to learn, grow and overcome! If you set Grit Goals for your students (or self!) I’d love to hear about it!
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