Waldorf homeschooling and Waldorf Education is amazing in that it teaches and guides children to be true “Renaissance People” – ones who can nurture themselves, humanity and the environment, provide compassion for others, explore all of the traditional arts and handicrafts, music, drama, academics and more.
Growth Mindset is the idea that individuals can develop their talents and their learning through hard work, good strategies, repeated mistakes and growth from those mistakes, and input from others, as opposed to just “I was born smart” or “I was born dumb.” This idea is one that is certainly trending in both education and in business. So, I want to be very clear that to me all the talk about “growth mindset” as a growing educational trend in public schools has been in Waldorf Education all along through such things as repeated attempts at mastery, repeated resilience to do and try things that are foreign, not just doing the things that are comfortable, the use of a strong classroom organism to help an individual grow and more.
So where does the idea of growth mindset fit into Waldorf homeschooling? Sometimes it is harder at home, I believe. We may have a second grader comparing him or herself to much older siblings. We may have children that seem unmotivated no matter how much vigor we bring to designing a lesson, and with no peer group to carry it along, it can be harder. These are a few of the realities that homeschooling families face in the day to day of being in the trenches with our children as teachers and as parents. However, we can certainly impart a growth mindset to our children and we can do this in accordance with the developmental features of Waldorf Education.
For those under the age of 9, we MODEL growth mindset for our children. We look for times when we make mistakes and bring what we have learned that to the forefront as in incredible model. We can use words to describe the process and the hard work of creating rather than focusing on the outcome, and we can use brillant phrasing -short and concise- to help our children. If you don’t know what to say, try the list here. We don’t need to psychoanalyze what growth mindset is for our six-year-old, but we just do it in our actions and in the way we approach thing. We help find strategies that help our children be successful, and help them develop the skills to try again. Ways to do that include not just “book work” but problem solving in outdoor play in a group of children and allowing plenty of time for free play and exploration. If you absolutely MUST read books to your children about growth mindset, please let it be a little more sideways than what you would use with a ten-year-old. I like books like “Flight School” by Lita Judge; “Whistle for Willie” by Ezra Jack Keats; “Brave Irene” by William Steig, “Extra Yarn” by Barrett, “the Dot” and “Ish” by Reynolds as examples of growth mindset that don’t hit you over the head but show the model of resilience and perseverance.
For those ages ten and up, I think you can start to delve a little deeper, especially for those children that are struggling in this area due to perfectionism or due to learning disabilities and who have already realized they are not quite where their friends are academically. We still model, we still use the great words, but we work hard to help THEM develop their own strategies to be successful. This is what they will need in the upper grades. I like books like “Hana Hashimoto: Sixth Violin” by Uegaki and Leng as an example of the hard work needed to shine. I think it can be important for both of these groups of children to hear this.
For those twelve and up, you can get a little more heady since they have more skills to see cause and effect readily. “Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain” by Deak and Ackerly is a good place to start, and there are some wonderful resources for growth mindset for middle schoolers available on Teachers Pay Teachers. I have used this ten lesson unit by Angela Watson with our upper middle and lower high schoolers. Books for children this age include “Salt In His Shoes” by Dolores Jordan, “Nadia, The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still” by Karlin Gray, “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” and all the wonderful biographies we bring through history in the sixth through eighth grades as teachers.
For those past the 15/16 change and adults: They might enjoy Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” and some of the other books about growth mindset available in the business section. If a teen this age is not motivated, sometimes a gentle push toward a class or experience might just change their whole life for the better. This is the part of parenting that is hard – knowing how much to push and how much to let go when older teens are on the cusp of adulthood. However, sometimes even older teens need an objective eye to encourage them to go for something great and to get a chance to stretch their growth mindset wings. It will serve them well later in adulthood.
How are you nurturing growth mindset in a developmentally appropriate way?