Monday, June 7, 2010

"FIRES IN THE MIND, what kids can tell us about motivation and mastery"

Via Jossey-Bass, author Kathleen Cushman and the students of What Kids Can Do, bring us the book, FIRES IN THE MIND, what kids can tell us about motivation and mastery.

"Fires in the Mind" is a beautiful summary, both "big picture" and "zoomed-in-&-up-close" of what happens to create a master, an expert, in something. "Fires in the Mind" discusses the relationships among resiliency, habit formation, engagement and attention, practice, mentors, and social factors along the way to becoming good at something. It's not "light" reading, yet it is easy to read, uses terms a laymom like me doesn't have to look up in the dictionary or psychology textbook, and is full of insight. I am impressed by how of all of the factors as a combination work together to add up to mastery.

Parents and teachers are given insight about their role in a child's success toward becoming good at something. Students will, I suspect, relate to the rich descriptions and anecdotes from the students from What Kids Can Do, and gain encouragement from them. For a child who wants to be really good at something but doesn't want to develop a habit of deliberate practice, (sometimes my kids expect to be masters right away and can become discouraged - do yours do that, too?) this book may be eye opening and it gives words to students who want to articulate how they can be better supported by parents and teachers in their lives.

I have to admit, although this book is about school-building-schooled students, it has me pondering the possibilities of homeschooling all of my children and not just one of them. So many of the suggestions in the book are already common among homeschoolers (particularly in co-op settings, where the social factor is higher) and are more challenging to accomplish in a public school where teaching to the standardized test has become more common, leaving less time to build and grow those fires in the mind. Chapter Eight, "Is Homework Deliberate Practice?" raises a lot of the same questions my own children ask about homework (sometimes it's a waste of time, they wonder, what's the point of it). I'd wager to take a guess that a lot of public school teachers would like to spend more time focusing on growing mastery via the concepts in Fires In the Mind and less time on other stuff.

Homeschoolers, I think I hear Charlotte Mason here. Do you hear her, too?

Chapter One, "What Does It Take To Get Good" is HERE.

Kathleen Cushman's web site is HERE.

The Fires in the Mind web site is HERE.

Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery by Kathleen Cushman, The students of What Kids Can Do
ISBN: 978-0-470-64603-8
208 pages
June 2010, Jossey-Bass
US $24.95

Wiley Publishing sent me a (complimentary) review copy of Fires in the Mind. I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

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