Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tools of the Mind

Every 3 months I go to the library and get a stack of books on education, early childhood development, science, math, or anything else inspiring I see on the way to the checkout lane.   Telling my kids to read while I sit here typing on the blog doesn't work.  So I read.

 I'm a big fan of Tools of the Mind, but it seemed to have disappeared from literature and the internet shortly after I discovered it.  Tools was created to turn poor, lagging, underprivileged children into gifted kids, and it succeeds in putting these kids into the GAT program in urban areas.  Unfortunately, I don't see evidence of Tools of the Mind spreading, other than to high priced urban day care centers for the wealthy, and the parenting practices of the educated.   That's pretty sad.

The purpose of Tools of the Mind is to teach little kids how to regulate their behavior, a junior version of project management skills.   Kids with these skills learn effectively.  Since my children (not from a very poor neighborhood) already have fairly regulated behavior, I used the Tools approach - and still do - to teach them a higher level of project management skills, like how to teach themselves brand new material and how to focus on homework for long periods of time, if necessary.

I read Born To Rise by Deborah Kenny, subtitled "Autobiography of an Insane Mom Who Is Way More Insane Than Me."   Quite inspiring and requires a box of tissues to get through the stories of the kids.  When Kenny is visiting schools while planning her charter schools, she describes Tools type classrooms. Perhaps good teachers just adopt the methods, even if they don't call it Tools.  I wonder if this theory (tools) manifests itself in later grades by engaging children in exciting learning activities.

I was very surprised and pleased to see "How Children Succeed" by Paul Tough which discusses Tools of the Mind.   "How Children Succeed" goes way beyond Tools down to the research that hopes to explain where regulated behavior comes from.  It's pretty convincing stuff - all experiment and no unsupported theories passed off as Education Literature.

One of my rules is that kids have to read if they are out of bed between 7am and 8pm on the weekends.   You can stay up as long as me, but you have to read.  Last night I found my oldest son drawing at 8:45 pm.   He was planning his Mindcraft thing on paper, whatever that was.   Drawing like this is a Tools exercise and trumps my rule.   I also push off home-homework or music practice if either kid is engaged in a project that they designed.

Here's what I got so far from "How Children Succeed":  1.  The way to make your child succeed is to hug them a lot and give them a lot of safe, nurturing support.

My whole parenting world has just come crashing down around me.

Are you kidding me?  Baby your kid?  Fortunately, all of the research involves only the Mom and thankfully dads aren't mentioned.  I'm hoping the Dad's role is to expect a high standard of behavior and push your children. To be on the safe side, however, I'm gong to be doing lots of hugs and "What an awesome job you did on your math homework, little Billy, you almost got half of the correct.  Let's hug."  Actually I should say that anyway because I am providing material at the level where they will get half wrong or I give them harder material.  But instead, I pick apart their approach and show them where they failed and say things like "You aren't even reading the question."

There's a lot more in this book than I expected, and I'm adding it to my list of required reading for parents. In addition to #1 Hug your kids (gack) I'm also discovering support in this book for #2 Make your kids do chores.  As you know I've been researching the impact of chores on grades.  This book presents research that connects character and success in a very clever way.  There's a lot more in there and I recommend reading it.

The big question here is which of these options is the best way to raise your child:
1.  A warm nurturing environment where the child feels safe to fail, grow and explore.
2.  A regimented environment where the kid learns the value of hard work and responsibility.

I'm going to guess, without any further thought, that the answer is the same as the Phonics/Whole Language debate, or the Thinking/Doing debate of math.  I'm guessing answer is both.

No comments:

Post a Comment