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The Gospel Of Grit

The Gospel Of Grit

Hello and good day!

The most rewarding thing that has happened to me so far this year has been seeing my kids get good at math.

I recognize that this is a fairly mundane accomplishment.

But please allow me to explain why it means so much to me and also lay out the larger significance of my involvement in this pursuit.

We homeschool our kids.

I've written quite a lot about homeschooling in the past, and in those articles, I've given an in-depth explanation as to why we decided to pull our kids out of the school system.

Long story short, we would like our children to receive the most effective education possible and we feel that this is best achieved through homeschooling.

Every family has to decide for themselves what to do with their kids and we've found that our methodology works well for us.

Even so, I am a big supporter of public schools and I think that educational funding is the second-best way to spend tax money.

The first best way is on infrastructure.

My opinion is based on several books and studies that I have read that show the returns on investment of the various ways of utilizing public funds.

Now back to math.

In our house, I teach math.

We have a little downstairs study room where our kids have small white desks that we purchased from IKEA.

Around 7:45am every morning, the boys descend the stairway and take their seats. We don't do anything on tablets or computers, which means that I must photocopy lessons out of textbooks every day.

This allows us to reuse the same books over and over for all three of our sons.

The boys do their work by hand with pencils and scratch paper.

For the last few years, almost every morning has been a struggle.

My sons do not like math. Or rather, they haven't traditionally liked math.

I now believe that this is actually a subset of a much more general phenomenon, established by biology, that is present in all living organisms.

We are all hard wired to seek the easy way because the easy way allows us to conserve energy.

Laziness is our default setting, and we only tend to switch away from the default when matters of life or death present themselves, or when the default is overridden by strong ideology.

Overcoming biological tendencies is not easy.

I had a buddy in high school who was perpetually grounded by his parents because he kept sneaking out of his house at night to see his girlfriend.

I asked him why he kept getting himself in trouble and he replied that he had to see her.

He couldn't live without her.

The threat of punishment wasn't enough to quell his biological urges and keep him at home in bed.

Regarding ideology, an example is a person who grows up in terrible poverty and swears from a young age that they are going to do whatever it takes to strike it rich so that they can pull their family out of destitution.

Their desire to achieve the goal is so powerful that it supersedes their body's natural inclination towards inactivity.

Another example is culture.

Some cultures value education highly and there is social pressure to obtain a high level of proficiency at certain skills.

Here is the thing about math.

It is a subject that becomes progressively more challenging all the time.

In this way it differs from something like reading. With reading, there are 26 letters. You learn the sounds. You learn the irregular cases.

Once you've learned to read, you know how to read forever more.

You can get better at it through practice. There is spelling and vocabulary to consider.

But for all intents and purposes, you only have to learn it once and then you have it.

All of my children learned to read by age 5.

We give them exercises to maintain and improve their ability, but we never have to go back and teach the entire concept anew.

This is not the case with math.

There are new concepts all the time and each new concept can be combined with prior concepts to form new types of problems.

Not only do you have to learn the new concepts, but you also have to be able to analyze a problem to know which concepts to use, and in what order the concepts must be deployed.

It is almost custom built to frustrate the daylights out of a little kid.

At school, a kid is in a room with a bunch of other students and therefor they are more likely to suppress their frustration and not show their emotions.

But at home, children are in a safe place, and they feel free to let their emotions fly.

It got to the point where I had to put boxes of tissue paper on each of my son's desks for the snot and tears expelled during regular morning math sessions.

For the last couple of years, I've been bewildered about how in the world my kids would ever get good at math.

And now, it is changing.

They are working hard, not crying, not becoming overly frustrated, and handling new concepts with composure.

It has been spectacular to see.

I believe that their recent success is the culmination of me preaching a particular ideology to them every single morning for the last two to three years.

It is the ideology of grit.

One of my favorite books, a book that I think all parents should read, is Grit by Angela Duckworth.

The thesis of the book is that grit is a meta skill.

The ability to grind through hard challenges and not give up is what opens the door to all noteworthy achievement.

As stated above, grittiness crashes head on into our biology.

So, what I've been telling my kids for the last several years is that everything that will make them proud, will be hard first.

Other than room and board during their childhoods, and the love of their parents, nothing in life will be given to them easily.

Math is nothing more than practice for the types of challenges they will face in the real world for the rest of their lives.

And that seems to have taken root.

Now when they come up against something hard, they don't freak out, but rather they slow down, think, and take it step by step.

I love it and it makes me very proud because I know that it will open the door to a world of accomplishment for my sons.

Thank you for letting me share it with you.

If you know any youngsters who need direction, hopefully you can share the gospel of grit with them.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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