Worship Hymn of a Tiger Mother [Thoughts on Achievement, Culture, Faith]

An article of mine, The Biblical Perspective of Achievement, due out this summer in Home School Enrichment magazine, was originally a a very personal response to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. The author’s psychotic ambitions for her daughters resonated with my academic and professional enterprises, and her confessions happened upon my homeschool goals at a time when they were crystallizing.

A walking paradox, I am a product of Asian rearing and intense east coast academic milieu, a former teacher of the gifted and talented program, an eventual coast-to-coast transplant converted happily to the gentler lifestyle of California, and a Christian. These thumbprints converged on the table where I set out to homeschool my son and pulled at me in different directions.  he new hippy mom disapproved of Amy’s coercions upon her kids while the dormant tiger from NY found herself assenting to her convictions.

Amy did not homeschool.  My struggle to place the issue of achievement correctly in the context of my faith happens to apply in the home.  Here’s a glimpse of the article:

Homeschooling opens a family to freedom in style and pace not viable in schools. Free reign in hand, I watched my boy full of joie de vivre opine at three and a half years, “obla dee, obla da, life goes o-o-o-n, la la life goes o-o-on,” and wrestled with the the unsophisticated question I had trouble answering. So how much do I push this little guy? For the way I had let it tip my life even to the compromise of my health, hard work is a practice and philosophy I still struggle to keep in the balance. The answer well may easily present itself to other Christian parents but as a workaholic I found myself picking through what were defining cultural, educational, professional, even physical experiences to sort out a lay theology of achievement as both parent and home educator.

There is a cost to anything worth achieving.  he building blocks of accomplishment are sacrifice. How much of it then, was I willing to exact from my son? My parents immigrated and, raising me here by the sweat of their brow, bequeathed to me the firstfruits of something American culture offers so wonderfully: the assumption of choice. The freedom to pursue my passion with no obligation beyond itself.  I say firstfruits because while I did not have to study and work to stay alive at the crude level my parents struggled, my drive to excel academically and professionally was not entirely free of constraints. There was an element of spurn against the prejudice my parents faced and a mission to redeem their suffering.  My child, however, remains at liberty – even at leisure – to dream and indulge his gifts.  In short, to enjoy his work when he’s grown and to explore the options along the way. Will this freedom weaken him or his character in any way? The fact that he is under no compulsion to be or do something? That he is, well, comfortable? After all, comfort does not soldiers make. You build muscle by defying resistance.  And the higher you set the bar, the more you get out of the reach. The stretch up as well as the one down into the resources of the spirit where character is forged. All to say some measure of trial is good for the soul.  So if survival in an unfamiliar country would remains exigency, what should we be straining for in our studies and why?

3 thoughts on “Worship Hymn of a Tiger Mother [Thoughts on Achievement, Culture, Faith]

  1. My personal story of education my children is much different. I kept my kids in public school even as I pastored churches with a ton of people who homeschooled . I was actually badgered about it a lot. My goals however were different, Public school afforded one thing that I felt I would have a great deal of trouble in doing as a teacher of my kids myself. Competition. I do not have the viewpoint that competition is bad thing. All of children were athletes and all of them had some success in it that lead to having greater confidence and any athlete will tell you that to be an athlete means to press on through difficulty. You have a personal struggle with yourself, an eternal struggle with your teammates and of course the struggle against a common opponent.

    My oldest has both faith and drive in large part because of this – He is currently a graduate assistant for a division 3 football team working on his masters and my youngest, my daughter is now married and expecting a child. My other son struggles to achieve but holds down two jobs. All of them speak fondly of their high school days where they learned to deal with others who had different faiths and how they learned to struggle through things and actually learned from their mistakes. The only one who struggles with his faith is my middle child but it has nothing to do with what he learned in school.

    • I spent my freshman year at Bryn Mawr College, an intense women’s liberal arts school in PA. At orientation, a young woman rose and declared she was a lesbian. When my turn for intro came around, I announced myself a Christian. I thought if she can do that, I can do that. Not talking about boldness. But that on principal, since I was on a multiperspectival platform, they’d better be open to me and my right to speak as well if such a liberal campus would embrace lesbians. I agree on all the benefits you name, how opposition offers a training ground for character and discipline. Thanks so much for thoughtfully engaging me. A footnote….I didn’t post the rest of my article, due out in July. =) The question of achievement I was exploring applies to all believers in their respective endeavors, all who strive for excellence.

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