What’s Your Mindset? - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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What’s Your Mindset?

{photo by Moss on Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0}

Have you been hearing people around school talk about the book Mindset? Are you curious about it, or thinking of picking it up for yourself? (Great idea!) To encourage you, today we have a compelling book review to share written by Emily Ferrarini, our SLOCA Librarian. Read on to hear more about this mind-changing book, and Emily’s own experience with it. Thank you, Emily!

Over the summer, everyone on staff at SLOCA, from administration to teachers to playground staff, read the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck. When I first picked it up, I admit that I was not too pumped about reading it. I love reading, and I love psychology, but this just didn’t look like my type of book. I was encouraged by others who had read it, though, and decided to give it a try.

The author’s premise is simple and practical. There are two basic approaches to life: a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset. Those operating within the fixed mindset believe that intelligence is static. Those who employ a growth mindset understand that intelligence can be developed. 

The deeper I got into the book, the more I began applying these ideas about mindset to my relationships, my work habits, my parenting, even my long-held beliefs about myself. For instance, why had I believed this wouldn’t be my type of book? What other insight was I tuning out, believing that I already got enough wisdom from my usual sources? How arrogant is that? How foolish?

In many ways, the book was encouraging. I could see the areas of my life in which the growth mindset had already brought me success. I fell in love with literature at a young age, and it propelled me to work hard and get an education, in spite of many obstacles. The struggles I met with actually pushed me to work harder, because I really believed that if my colleagues and professors could do it, so could I. I wasn’t a perfect student, but I viewed my shortcomings as challenges to be learned from. I didn’t give up when I compared myself to students who seemed more talented, or more privileged. I kept to myself, figured out how to focus and study and learn, and refused to give up.

Reading Mindset, I also saw ways in which a fixed mindset had held me back. This was a more difficult truth to swallow. “I’m an introvert, so public speaking will never be my thing,” I remember telling myself while taking a required speech class in college for the second time. (It was so stressful for me the first time that I dropped the class!) “I’m more of an indoorsy person,” I might explain, excusing myself from a difficult mountain hike. I used to love to paint and draw when I was in high school, but then I met people in advanced art classes whose talents far surpassed mine, and I quit. I abandoned what should have been a lifelong passion in favor of staying in my comfort zone. I couldn’t bear to compare myself to others, so I didn’t even try. What a loss. If only I had viewed speech and mountains and art as skills to be developed! 

The most powerful take away for me, though, has been in how I talk to my children. How many of us have told our kids how smart and talented they are? It is a countercultural idea, but this book showed me that there is almost nothing more inhibiting to a child’s development than mindless praise. I have grown increasingly conscious of how I speak to my kids. I don’t tell them how smart they are. I don’t tell them how great they are at sports. I praise their sincere efforts, their choices, and their determination. When my son claims his brain is melting, but he finishes the last page of a Latin translation anyway, you’d better believe I make a huge deal out of his hard work!  When he goes out every day and practices shooting baskets, I praise his hard work, not his inborn talent. I recently noticed that my high schooler’s vocabulary had increased. I was careful in how I worded my compliment: “With every great book you read, your everyday speech becomes more mature and impressive.” I made him feel good about himself, but I connected his success to his efforts in reading challenging literature. Of course I think my kids are the most brilliant people on the planet: that comes with the territory. But they won’t hear it from me. I know that my voice speaks into their hearts, and will become their inner voice for years to come. I am shaping how they will speak to themselves, especially in times of stress and struggle. I want them to know on an elemental level that their determination and persistence are the best indicators of whether or not they will succeed.

Here’s how Calvin Coolidge summed it up: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Mindset is available for purchase in our school store.


Book cover image via Amazon.com. SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any of the above mentioned websites or businesses. 

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