How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) is a volume exploring why certain children succeed, despite the odds. He focuses on the children who are most struggling. Some of them succeed, by going to college and becoming successful, contributing members of society. What in their personality allowed them to overcome their past and succeed?
I really appreciated Tough’s research and the inspiring stories he shared. He argued that while learning letters and numbers and other “kindergarten ready” facts are helpful, what really helps children succeed in their lives is learning to deal with the frustrations of life (which he called developing “grit”), developing determination, and learning to improve and put forth extra effort when you make mistakes. He looked at schools full of well-to-do children from wealthy families, and he found that many did not know how to work. He also looked at students from poor, underprivileged families and found that some of them had developed grit and determination.
Education, he argues, is not just about book learning but about life learning and overcoming. There is a lesson to me in this as I teach my young son at home. I hope that I can exemplify to my kids the grit, determination, and confidence necessary to success in life. Tough’s book was not surprising or groundbreaking to me, but it did inspire me in my home education goals.