Math, character, and a bit of The Princess Bride
I had my boys take the Teaching Textbooks 7th grade math placement test today. In order to “pass,” they needed to score at least 10/15 on the first section and 8/15 on the second. They both scored 13/15 on the first section. Ethan scored 13/15 on the second, and Grant scored 9/15. So, although 7th grade math might be a tad easy for Ethan (who will actually be in 7th), I think I will, indeed, have him do TT’s 7th grade program, along with Grant, who will be in 5th grade.
Ethan balked. Tears sprung up. I asked Grant to leave the room.
I asked him, though I really knew the answer, “You don’t want to do math with Grant?”
“No. He’s good at math, and whenever he does better than me, he gloats.”
I told him that I would be careful to help Grant control his attitude.
Then… I shared something with Ethan that I never have before. It was something fairly weighty, but I felt like it was the right time. I asked him to keep it in confidence, and I’m certain he will.
I told him Ethan that, as his parents, we are far more concerned with him having strength of character — Godly character — than about him being or not being a math whiz, or any other kind of brainiac. Yes, math’s important. But, I feel that Ethan is much further down the path to Godly maturity than Grant is, like maybe Ethan is advanced beyond his years, and Grant is lagging behind where an almost-10 year old should be. I told Ethan that it’s Godly character that is going to be important, long-term, in his life, and that his Dad and I are so proud of how he’s maturing, and how he’s growing in mind, body, and spirit. It’s strong character that will help him persevere through trials, put him in good stead with his employer due to his integrity and work ethic, give him a solid marriage with a wife and children who love and appreciate him, help him keep his finances in order so that he can provide for his family, not incur debt, and buy a home… I told Ethan, “If you can do all of that, who cares about your math skills???”
I know that Ethan feels a bit overshadowed by his brother’s “dizzying intellect,” but from my perspective, I would a million times rather Ethan have mature, strong, Godly character than have him read at 3 years old (as Grant did), and do math two years advanced. Grant is book-brilliant; there’s not a subject yet that is difficult for him; he easily understands, he quickly grasps new concepts, and he flies through his work with few errors. But, his low level of maturity, and his continually applying his strength to being as disobedient and sneaky as possible, instead of making wise decisions and seeking to at least make an effort to do the right thing, is a source of heartache and frustration to Martin and me, and has me concerned for his adulthood. I know Grant is only nine, and there’s a lot that will happen between now and his adulthood, but I still have grave concerns about his future that drive me to the Cross in prayer.
Obviously, it can be a slippery slope, comparing strengths and weaknesses between children. But, I have often told each of them that everyone has both their strengths, and their “tough spots” that need work. And, Ethan was feeling (and has long felt — back to when he was five and struggling to read, and Grant was three and reading on a 2nd grade level) so discouraged, I just felt like it was the right thing to do, to let Ethan know that sometimes, fantastic book skills aren’t “all that.”
And now, for something only tangentially related. I stumbled upon this on YouTube. It’s a 10 minute condensation of The Princess Bride, my favorite movie of all time, done in Lego. Ten minutes of giggles: