A Tiger’s Pursuit: Mastery

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than Good Job,” intones Fletcher, the monomaniacal music instructor in the film Whiplash. Isn’t good, after all, the enemy of the best? Fletcher’s psychopathic devices sucked me right into the vortex of the questions I ask as my son’s teacher. How much do I push? And how? With the promise of Pokémon cards? There’s the drum student Andrew in the movie. His single eye upon Whiplash, the jazz piece he determines to conquer, he denies himself even the distraction of girlfriends. Would I have my boy bleed in the pursuit of excellence? Of course not. Except, if he were Korean, the first time Andrew plows through practice as the blood on his finger oozes from useless band aids would’ve been cinematic cliché. Because falling short would’ve hurt more. So logic and genes say I should at least allow my son to bruise a little.

Last year when he was not yet eight, we went for the optional Memory Master challenge in our Classical homeschool program. Tennyson had to recite the hundreds of facts he had learned in seven subjects (English Grammar, Latin, History, Science, Math, Geography, Timeline of 161 events in human history) through four rounds of testing. Beyond the one mistake allowed per subject in the second round, he had to come through with 100% accuracy in the last two proofs. He was so close but made more than the one error in the second sitting. He had rocked the memory review games in class and the teacher told the director he knew his stuff. The director was willing to give him a chance at the next round of testing. I bowed out.

I could see he’d felt the pressure – from me. After some yoga out back under a full moon, his hippy dippy California mother had suddenly shapeshifted into Tiger Mom from New York. She kept putting raw meat in front of him. Testing season came, and once again her Old Self, the one who unblinkingly had bled for grades at his age, she found herself oh, ambitious for her son. On the cusp of the third test, I realized I simply should have started reviewing the material with him sooner. We were running short on time and though the potholes were few, we were cramming. I was drilling Tennyson in the little time remaining and overwhelmed, he got headaches and spilled tears of frustration. Sigh. He had bruised enough. I chewed the last of my raw lamb liver, the mineral taste and feel of flesh a sad memory in the swallowing. And in the privacy of my backyard morphed back into the California homeschooler who wanted to honor the sacred whole child and spare him the pain of that great modern evil, stress. What I really didn’t want was to get in – make the hallowed halls of Memory Masters – by the skin of our teeth. I could’ve kept pushing him and been able to applaud as his name was called in the awards ceremony. But I didn’t want to barely make it. I wanted him to own it. Mastery means mastery, not hope crossing fingers that he doesn’t slip in the testing. I loved how high we set the bar in the program, the tall demands we aspired to. I would submit to them. And when my son reached for them again, they would be his without question.

So he went for it again this year. And he did it. He went up on stage recently, where one-eighth of the students in Kindergarten-Grade 6 received their Memory Master certificate.

I paced the material in such a way as to prepare him months in advance and by the time testing rolled around, the countries and their capitals, the math multiples and linking verbs, each continent’s highest mountain and the history of Western Africa were in his bones. I found myself at peace in the third proof – fingers uncrossed – where he could’ve lost it all. After an hour-and-a-half, he came out of the room smiling. I had told him to enjoy himself and the teacher said yes, he had himself a grand old time. Two days later, he did the Hokey Pokey as we got ready to leave for the final test. So I’m not Fletcher. I didn’t throw chairs at my son for him to get it right. But Fletcher had zero tolerance for mediocrity (well yes, if you despise it) and that’s something to appreciate. I’m still trying to figure out just what it is Tennyson needs to give up while we uphold those standards but I can’t sit with the majority and tell my child he’s doing a good job when he can – and should – be doing an outstanding job. It wasn’t recognition I was after. At the most practical level, the journey was about nailing down a solid foundation of knowledge he can retrieve at will and use in the older years. But the process was really about self-respect. That whatever his resources and abilities, he discovers he can use them to extend into his outer world of possibility and turn it into reality. I love the scene where Andrew’s got it. He’s mastered the impossible Whiplash and, when he finds himself in the band competition, it’s a part of him. He sails through the piece, sticks dancing on the snare still stained with blood. His new reality.

Here’s a glimpse of what Tennyson learned this school year. I threw random questions at him from the year’s work for you. I am proud of him for keeping the joy and must say, of myself for not ruining it.

Math: Counting by 12s

What are the major groups of invertebrates?
Sponges, stinging cell animals, flatworms, roundworms, segmented worms, mollusks, sea stars, arthropods

What are the major groups of vertebrates?
Fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds

Latin Noun Cases
Nominative – Subject
Genitive – Possessive
Dative – Indirect Object
Accusative – Direct Object
Ablative – Object of the Preposition

First and Second Declension Noun Endings, Singular and Plural

English Grammar
A preposition relates a noun or a pronoun to another word.
About Above Across After Against Along Amid Among Around At Atop Before Behind Below Beneath Beside Between Beyond But By Concerning Down During Except For From In Inside Into
Like Near Of Off On Onto Out Outside Over Past Regarding Since Through Throughout To Toward Under Underneath Until Up Upon With Within Without

Tell me about the Age of Imperialism.
During the Age of Imperialism, the British established rule over India in 1858, and Queen Victoria was declared the Empress of India in 1877. Before his assassination in 1948, Mohandas Gandhi led the passive resistance movement, which helped win India’s independence.

Tell me about the Heian empire.
As the Heian government weakened in Japan, Shoguns began to rule and expelled all foreigners during the period of isolation. Circa 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. restored trade, allowing the Meiji to modernize Japan.

Some kinds of leaves and leaf parts?
Spines, needles, tendrils, bracts, bud scales, palmate

What are the four kinds of volcanoes?
Active, intermittent, dormant, extinct

What are the five major circles of latitude?
Arctic Circle, Tropic of Cancer, Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, Antarctic Circle

141 thoughts on “A Tiger’s Pursuit: Mastery

  1. As a homeschooling mom of four, the oldest now safely in college on scholarship, I loved your candor and wonderful description of the daily dilemmas we face. Great post!

    • Thanks for sharing, Tanya. That is wonderful you guys pulled that off. It’s remarkable you blog with three still at home. I know it’s your sanity many days!! Appreciate the encouragement.


      • They help with the blog, especially pictures and ideas. This morning they helped break glass and make stage blood for a photo we needed for a post. Thankfully we finished school early this year.

      • Interesting reading this D. I have known plenty of parents who push their children, and some who lack the wisdom, that you appear to have, to know when to stop. I think kids need an opportunity to play and have unstructured play. I also think they need to have expectations that they will succeed. As long as they understand that it is okay to fail as well. –Curt

      • “I think kids need an opportunity to play and have unstructured play.” Check.

        “I also think they need to have expectations that they will succeed.” Double check.

        “As long as they understand that it is okay to fail as well.” Check. (I hope!! Glad you’re keeping me accountable.) 😉

        Appreciate the wise feedback. Thanks, C.

      • I was disappointed comments were closed under the wonderful post I just visited. I can’t believe she took those shots. At her age! I love how your oldest, the determined PhDer still has bad handwriting. You sound like an amazing crew with quite a captain at the helm. Great job, Mom. Keep the joy.

  2. That is always my struggle too – how hard to push my son. I want him to see that with a little hard work he can do really well. Thank you for sharing your journey. That is so helpful – start early enough to be properly prepared. So glad that your son has such a blast!

  3. My grandfather was a ‘Fletcher’. I grew up with a father who was the product of that and so I know that to allow the whole child to flourish is far superior. Brave of you to write about your epiphany (we all have them as parents) and to have supported your son rather than pushed him. The loving way is always better.

    • Wow. I don’t know why but it does something to hear from a Fletcher descendant – I heard something clicking into place. My mother was not quite a FL even though I did weep my apology in the face of “Why is this only a 99%??!” because she didn’t beat me. (So crazy I have to grin. And she is painfully remorseful now. And now you see why I’m crazy!) But this season had me looking back to my own upbringing and I found myself deeply thankful for having grown up under high standards because I see that the parents who are more easy in our group themselves grew up comfortable — and I do want MORE for T. One year at a time. We make it as enjoyable and doable as we can. Thanks, A.

  4. Learning can be fun and it appears that you have that gift. Some children do well when pushed past their limits while others don’t – the trick is not to treat all children using the same yardstick. Parenting has no script. I was pushed to bleeding and I still do it to myself but my son is a little monkey who knows how to dance around me. Your son is such a beautiful boy!

    • Now you knOw you got brownie points for saying that about T. =) Very wise, Jan. The Yale professor who literally wrote the book on Tiger mothering did use the same impossibly tall stick with both her girls who were opposite sorts. I could see that the one who rebelled could’ve killed herself. Mom was most fortunate. And thank you but it is not I who made it fun. He just loves the curriculum that makes memorizing so doable with the songs. I am glad – and sad – to learn you are a fellow bleeder.

  5. Parenting is such a tightrope walk. Learning only happens when kids are inspired or sometimes when terrified. I remember the fear and humiliation I suffered as a child for not knowing my times table by rote. I’ve never forgotten it. Judging by your child’s delight
    I think you must have inspired him

    • So gracious of you, Robyn. No, he just loves the way the material is presented – in song – and when I’m not crazy about a melody I’ll rewrite one he’ll like that’ll help him memorize. So we’ve been fortunate to land this program. I just now finished a youtube lecture by a PhD who put out a Latin curriculum for children (which T sampled and LOVED so I have to buy it now). We can sum up his talk with WB Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but, the lighting of a Fire.” And Fletcher used the fire of fear but yes, nothing like inspiration. Thank you for sharing in the journey.


  6. “about nailing down a solid foundation of knowledge…But the process was really about self-respect”. I think that is a great way to teach a child, and to teach anyone for that matter. Not only should one work it, but they should also learn to figure out their limits and what works for them and what does not. I am sure Tennyson will go far 🙂

    • You got it, Mabel. That’s exactly what I was after in those lines, broadening the lesson I learned for those without kids who were gracious enough to lean in. No matter our limitations, no matter our age, we can all reach for the transformation of possibility into reality. Thanks, sweet friend.

  7. Congratulations to Tennyson for owning it and shining for the sake of mastery! Isn’t instilling a lifelong love of learning a goal for every parent?!!!

    Another thought came to mind as I read your blog post. We have to be careful not to heap undue pressure on our kids. A sneaky way this happened to me was in the name of “fairness.” For a while, I tended to think that (as a mom) I had to give BOTH my boys the same opportunities, even though they had two very different personalities. I learned how to support and challenge our boys in ways suited to their personalities, giftings, and aspirations. Both exceeded my expectations when I got out of the way! 🙂

  8. Amazing! I marvel at the bond you must have with him. All I can remember my mom teaching me was not to pound on the bottom of the ketchup bottle and hold it horizontal and tap the mouth of the bottle on my finger to get the ketchup to come out. And if I kept my toenails trimmed, my socks would last longer. Good job mom.

      • I’m doing 12 miles on my mountain bike now, and I’ve made some trips into the high country. I’m doing much better than I thought I would do on the hikes. I have to stop and rest a little more, but that fives me a chance to look around and enjoy the place more than I used to. 🙂

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  10. I buy this, as others do ” .. nailing down a solid foundation of knowledge he can retrieve at will and use in the older years. But the process was really about self-respect. That whatever his resources and abilities, he discovers he can use them to extend into his outer world of possibility and turn it into reality. ” Mental resources, or what we used to call `a well-stocked mind` are invaluable. But beware vicariousness. WB Yeats is right. The child finds the passion, lights the fire; the parent and the teacher can help, but must not direct. Otherwsie the child will be living someone else`s life, not their own.

  11. Wonderful post, Diana! The best part is Tennyson seems so joyful about learning. I’m all about keeping priorities in the right order.

    • I might post this but he also made Bible Master, getting down 17 verses of Exodus in the King James. I tested kids in this, offering rewards, and it was very interesting. Most of the kids who stressed about it were .. GIRLS. Reminded me so much of myself at their age. I was relieved to observe that Tennyson by nature is not a stress eater like me (unless I go too far with him). Keep that cortisol down!! Thanks for being here, Carol.


      • I think girls, by nature, are the perfectionists. Not good if it goes to extremes. Tennyson sounds like he’s got it just right ~ intelligent and capable but not stressed.

  12. I read somewhere where even the smartest person only uses a fraction of their brain potential. I was glad to see your reference to owning learning for one self. Sometimes too much pressure on a child is counter productive and leads to a dislike of learning. I had a love of music as a child and still do, however my teacher was brutal in her punishment if not done to perfection. Never get away with that in today’s world, but at that time it was acceptable. I suppose brutality in supervision is not confined to physical punishment either? Mental pressure can be counterproductive too. As a result I dropped out much to my regret now, so perhaps a little gentle pressure from Mom and Dad at the time and a change of teachers would have counteracted that.

      • Ha ha ha ha! You’re trying to catch me being a strict parent? Hours and hrs on his own? Left to his own devices?? Nope. He slipped late in the whole trading of Pokemon cards – only bc Daddy got him his first set – and I begrudgingly allowed a few more. He earned a set for having made Memory Master. =) Seriously, we keep it all enjoyable.

    • Right. You should watch Whiplash. =) These threads are so good for me. I appreciate the reminder that too much pressure can backfire. My compass is off for the intense academic milieu and pressure from Mom I grew up in and under. With your tender spirit, I can only imagine what a little forgiving encouragement would’ve done for you those days you were studying music, Ian.

  13. Congrats on the joy you share together in this! Learning really should be something that brings the kind of smile I see in T’s face. How fun that you can share in this journey even though it always involves tears too.

  14. Diana, I caught glimpse of your blog on my phone yesterday. Determine to come back to read. Scrolled and scrolled until I did:) Bless to see your beautiful boy. (Video didn’t do well on my device will check out in email), Reading your “I am a Mom and love my boy” verses, ” I am a teacher and want him to soar”, I can only say this, as “I am a Mom and love my boy”, who desires and knows he is able ” to soar”; we (Moms) learn as we go:) I love your retelling of the heart and truth. I love how you and your boy soared the second time around! My boy, after second semester of his first college class as a Junior in public HS, soared from a “B” to an “A”. I knew he could; his story read like yours, but today, with much joy, he soared! Oh, how we ( Moms) learn as we go:) blessings friend:) Enjoyed your read. denise

    • Very sweet. Thank you for sticking with the post! I love the duality you point out, our protective love and then the part of us that wants them to risk going far. That’s great about your boy, Denise. I share in your pride. 😉

  15. Little T. has inherited the “smart genes” from both parents. As proven by this post it is up to the parent/s to inspire and mold our children’s character and learning ability. You are fortunate, I hope, that you know when to back off and when to push. But it must always be fun and rewarding for the child or there will be a heap of problems later on with rebellion and the like if you push too hard.

    He is dear little boy and may he always be that bright star in your life.

    • Appreciate the encouraging reminders, Yvonne. Eh, I probably went too far last year. Am just glad I didn’t injure him any more than I did. How’s your dear big boy doing? I trust he’s made great strides in the speech therapy.

      • Thanks for the reply Diana. Danny is doing relatively well but still has problems pronouncing some words although I know what he is saying. He is self conscious abut his ability to speak but he has also gotten very lazy about wanting to go to therapy. He is very depressed but last week began a new med in hopes this one will help him feel better about the changes in his life. Thanks for asking.

  16. There’s nothing quite like the high of having achieved something, particularly when it’s been hard won. Recently, though, I have been reflecting on how we value and categorise ourself and others by the ‘doing’ of life. ‘Hello, and what do you do? What can you do? What will you do?’ I suspect that we miss so much in striving for doing. Much harder is ‘being’. And harder still, valuing that. And even harder still, teaching it, particularly when it’s not in our skill set. I’m trying to learn how to be, because doing has almost used me up.

    I am thrilled your lovely boy loves learning and that you are so inspired and consumed by the love of teaching him. May you discover astonishing ways of being through this co-education ❤

  17. Diana,
    Congrats to the scholar! Not an easy job being a parent, is it? I can only state that from the perspective of the child. As I look back, all I can say is; God bless my mom and dad. Parenting is truly a balancing act.
    My academic claim to fame on stage was short lived. In elementary school I qualified for the school spelling bee. My first word was “quite.” However, although given a second opportunity I continued to spell what I thought I heard: “Quiet.” One and done. And yes, I went quietly.

    • Wry grin. We are enjoying the journey, Alan. The big question for me is how I encourage him forward when it’s not always peaches and cream. Some if it’s simple labor. I easily get exasperated bc I loved school and worked hard at his age – and always. He wants to play!! And who can blame him?!! Ha ha ha. Making myself crazy. Was thinking of you. Thanks for joining us.

      • As a boy, I wanted to play rather than do school work as well. As I remember as a teacher the greater percentage of my best students were girls. The boys were always the first ones out the door for lunch, recess and gym class. Hang in there, and thanks for thinking of me.
        Was wondering where you were. Now I know.

      • Smiling. Thanks for that, Alan. I have yet to see a boy who would rather not play. And yes, I was very busy getting him ready for the MM tests in March and April – just once a year that we can go for it. Thank you.

  18. Kudos to you HW for putting such a high value on your son’s education. Nobody who has not homeschooled their children has any idea of the amount of effort and commitment required to do this well.

    ‘The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out The Way They Do’ by Judith Harris, is a much respected work which argues that the peer group, not the family, is the important environmental influence on the adult personality. The author partly qualifies that claim by observing that, for some children, the family is the peer group, as for example with homeschooling. Homeschooling is, among other things, a way of making it more likely that your children’s parents, siblings, and a few friends will function as the effective peer group. Seen from one standpoint, that means parents trying to control their children and mold them in their own image. However, seen from another view, the choice is between the parents’ values and the values of a random collection of kids–and most parents know which they prefer.

    • “…the choice is between the parents’ values and the values of a random collection of kids” Precisely. Not unlike (mass) hospital birthing (as opposed to home births), institutional(ized) learning is a relatively young phenomenon in the sweep of human history. Spending the chief hours of one’s day sardined with peers is not the way most human beings have socialized, though that was the norm of the 21st century.

  19. As you know I’m a great fan of homeschooling. During the two years I homeschooled my daughter the bitterest enemy we were fighting was the California Teacher’s Association who claimed that parents were not qualified to teach children and who wanted to make it illegal for them to do so. Monopolists always fear competition, whatever the field.

    • Really ironic because I’ve worked with public school teachers (in an upper-middle class district) who couldn’t spell, whom you could run circles around. Btw, I take it you’ve seen Whiplash?

  20. All professional licensing is a way to restrict trade and protect the income and privileges of existing practitioners. The AMA is one of the worst examples of this, perhaps closely followed by the teacher’s unions. No, I haven’t seen Whiplash yet but, following your recommendation, it has just gone to the top of my Netflix queue 🙂

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  22. Well done to you and your lovely son. He looks so happy, and I’m sure you encourage rather than push him too hard. I’ve not had children and realise it must be very hard to decide just how much to push. My parents always encouraged my brother and myself to push ourselves, and the schools we attended loved to test us, and I feel it’s a good thing. Life itself is not easy, so testing is a part of life. Good post.

    • “Life itself is not easy, so testing is a part of life.” Exactly! But it’s such a tightrope. I know health is balance. But no one who’s achieved greatness – or his best – can stay balanced to get there!!

  23. Tennyson has just a beautiful smile, D. I loved your message regarding mastery and appreciated T-dog’s (and yours) journey to ultimately succeed. There are applications of this concept in so many facets of life. It makes me think about some tangential questions that I’ve been asking myself. For example, I used to be a competitive, distance runner until I had knee surgery two years ago. Should I continue competing, knowing I will never master my hobby again, or should I give up and move on? I know it’s a theory question about less important things, but it does cross my mind a lot.
    I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long, my friend. I’m down to editing the last 2 chapters in my book–I’ve not mastered the revision process either 🙂

    • Really sweet of you to take the time here when you’re still under it, Micky. (He’s drumming as I write, by the way.) You got it: yes, as always, I had broad applications for everyone – no matter the age – who would take ’em. That whatever our baseline or material capacity, we can reaaach to turn possibility into reality. But your quandary’s just it: whEn do you let go (your dream, the goal)? We don’t HAVE to work every dream into reality. And HOW, when we do? Still living the questions. You know I love that you’re editing! Be ruthless!! LOL.


  24. Good job.

    No, I jest. What I meant to say, is great effort. One of the greatest regrets my high school math teacher had was sending her son to public school. Her two other sons and daughter had been home-schooled, and she realized that although she would study in front of a TV, she was actually absorbing the material.

    And yes, it was THAT math teacher.

    I met her daughter when I was 17 and still deciding on what course to take at university. She had previously been a dancer, much taller than her mother. It was only after an ankle injury, she became a doctor. The thing is, she didn’t only groom her own children to do well. She spent a lot of time encouraging kids who weren’t in the ‘accelerated’ streams to sit their exams early and reach their true potential.

    And what kind of parent would want their children to fail? Education is simply about providing more opportunities so that in the case you have an Achilles heel, you’ll always have something to fall back on.

  25. Such a powerful piece that I need to apply to myself as a parent and also to myself as a long distance runner.
    And incredible word imagery. My mind is still thinking about that raw liver ruminating in the mouth before it is swallowed….lol! 🙂

    • LOLLL We digest raw meat better than cooked. Hey, the Masai bleed their animals and drink the blood…HA ha ha. And yes, Carl. I appreciate the keen read. That’s exactly what I was after – not just to talk about my boy but the ways we all can reach for opportunity to turn it into reality. This makes for interesting application in your case. The question of whether GOOD JOB is enough.


  26. Love your wisdom here. My kids are a little older, youngest being 9, and we came to CC a little later in the game. My 2 middle children have both done memory master because they wanred to. Being older, I did no have to be super involved in the process. Youngest has not done it yet because too much mom involvement would be required☺. Looking forward to reading more on your site.

    • Right. I was fully behind it. I see some of the older kids in the group tackle it on their own. That’s great your kids were self-motivated. I want to see more of that in my boy. We’re in CA. What level Challenge is your oldest in?

      • My oldest did Ch. 1 the year prior to this one. This year he started a program at the community college that allows him to earn a high school diploma and an associates degree simultaneously.

  27. Bravo to both you and your son Diana. What a wonderful reward, earned the hard way. Your boy is not only cute and charming, but brilliant too. 🙂 ❤

  28. Be in awe of the tiger mom 🙂 It is really interesting to hear, see and witness how so many different methods of parenting there are ~ each one special, and as long as there is love in the process there will be success in a grateful and happy child. Not a better thing in the world. This is such a cool moment and seeing you as a proud mom and Tennyson even more so, as a proud son as well as a student, this post makes me feel good for you (and for the world). Enjoy the weekend D.

    • “many different methods of parenting there are ~ each one special, and as long as there is love in the process” You helped me see I was fumbling for THE RIGHT way, the best way to help T achieve. And there isn’t. It will change as he – and I, his sidekick – change. I so appreciate the sweet, thoughtful encouragement, R.


  29. Diana tell him he is awesome, well you already know that and you also know his limits. I think a little pushing is good but there is a line in the sand where we must meet and realise our kids need to be happy and confidant and we can take our time and let them evolve in there own way. My daughter is passionate about learning and most things come easy to her. My son has many challenges but I still have high expectations and by doing that I never give up on what he can learn in his own time, he surprises me every day.

    • “My son has many challenges but I still have high expectations and by doing that I never give up on what he can learn in his own time, he surprises me every day.” Love this, K. Keep it high but let ’em know they can get there their own way. Thank you for the thoughtful read and share!


  30. Are you helping him apply the things he learned in the memory challenge?

    As for praise, it was actually a relatively important part of my master’s program. It seems that praise is great but only under the two following circumstances:
    a) It’s earned. Praising a kid for scoring a goal in a soccer game or finishing a model airplane is wonderful. It means things like “my effort is important” and “hard work/risk taking has rewards.”

    Praising your kid for eating breakfast or using the potty is not helpful. In fact, it teaches kids all sorts of awful things like 1) “mom is full of it,” 2) “if I’m not being praised all the time something is really wrong” and 3) “my value as a human being is very much external.”

    b) It’s about something that the person can control. Praising your son for succeeding in the memory challenge is great. He can improve his memory. He can apply himself in competitions. He can keep trying when things get tough.

    Praising him for having “handsome black hair” or “being tall” is, in effect, dehumanizing. One of the things I hated when I was working with little kids is how some of the teachers would gather around this one little girl and tell her how pretty she was. They were telling this little girl that the most important part about her was something she had absolutely no control over. Human beings are the animals that choose and when you focus your praise on things people can’t control you are ignoring that humanity.

    All that said, from what you described, I think your son has a pretty good mom. 🙂

    • Yes, the program is designed beautifully in a way that builds upon the Foundations of memory work (F, the name of the prog for K through 6) so that they dip into and apply that rich store of knowledge in the dialectic and rhetoric stages of the older years. But we’re not waiting; we delve into as much of the information as possible. T knows so much more history and science than I did at his tender age.

      I love the constructive and destructive types of feedback you discerned. Syncs with my first post on the topic from 2013: Smarts, Praise, and the Myth of Self-Esteem, on a study by a then Columbia professor who discovered the inverse power of praising your kids for being smart. Consequently, the type of commendation we should provide is

      “whether it’s the number of times a hockey player checked his opponent or improved concentration on a task; sincere, specific feedback that provides REPEATABLE STRATEGIES which move one forward profitably.”

      So yes, I love that you point out the element of control, and absolutely, those teachers were retarded for praising that girl for her looks. (I have – commendably, I think! – restrained myself from telling my boy how handsome he is, LOL.) Just when you wrote, I read that JK Simmons, the actor who played the psycho Fletcher, agreed with the character at core. Why applaud a kid for going down the slide? It was gravity, not any skill on the part of the child. You’re looking well ready for fatherhood, B. 😉

      “Human beings are the animals that choose and when you focus your praise on things people can’t control you are ignoring that humanity.”
      I don’t believe we are animals but agree with the rest.

      “I think your son has a pretty good mom”
      Since this probably didn’t come from my genes and is something I can work out, I will accept the praise. LOL. Thx for sharing in this meaningful part of our journey. I can’t wait to see you as a dad. 😉

  31. Impressive stuff.
    Congrats to both of you.
    What made you go the homeschooling route? I’ve considered it but don’t think I have the patience. Just curious… ☺

    • Thank you. I researched hschooling in the 90s for a paper in graduate school and was surrounded then by great homeschool families with well-adjusted, respectful kids in PA (many of whom espoused the Classical model of education). So the seed had been planted in my 20s. =) He is growing so fast and will be gone before I can stop him. I also don’t trust the school system, having taught in it!

      • Ahhh, thanks. Good to know. I guess it helps that you’re also a teacher. I certainly see a shift in behavior by the time my kid comes home from school Monday afternoon as well as her food choices. It’s been a bit of a challenge to keep things balanced — to let her be a kid while instilling healthy boundaries — but I see how well she’s thriving and really that’s what I want. She loves school and her friends come home with her in her imaginary play dates. They even get her into trouble. Jokingly I tell myself she’ll be a writer just like me.

      • I have 2 older children but they’re grown and off doing their own thing so in many respects she is an only child. ☺

  32. Oh, that fine line. We walk it like a tightrope, right? I wrote a post some years ago about turning into my alter ego, Cuckoo Mommy, from time to time. Thankfully, I put her mainly to rest. But I hear you. The lessons of perseverance and work are not to be skipped. Congrats, mama bear:).

    • What feedback. Thank you so much for your time! With that behind us, we are still reviewing so he doesn’t forget and fill every crevice of time. There are so many great books on audio!

  33. Bringing up children is quite a tightrope walk. You never really know the full impact until, perhaps, much later. Great to see you getting the results you are looking for.

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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