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:


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on May 18, 2009, in Christian Living, Funny Stuff, Homeschooling, Motherhood, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, Parenting, Sad Things, The Dear Hubby, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You are such an inspiration. I am having a hard time transitioning from “do this because I say so” mode that I’ve been in since the kids were babies, because they couldn’t understand the ‘whys’ behind everything (although we do often give them short explanations). But I’m trying to transition to a more in-depth, Bible-based character-shaping kind of mindset … and it’s just hard for me and I don’t know why. I feel like I need a script. I guess I need to buy a book. Know of any good ones on the subject? (For reference, I find the Ezzos’ method heavy-handed and Dr. Dobson a little short on the how-to details … )

    BTW, the video is awesome! 🙂

  2. We are so alike in so many ways, Melanie. So alike. I could have said this EXACT same thing: For reference, I find the Ezzos’ method heavy-handed and Dr. Dobson a little short on the how-to details …

    I do have a few books, but I must say that I have not read many of them cover-to-cover. Here’s my problem: It’s hard for me to sift the wheat from the chaff. Sometimes I read something, and it might be like, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. NO!” and then the “no” part ruins my perspective on the “yes” part. Does that make sense? It throws into question everything else in the book, for me. So… then I “have” to go back to the Bible, to discussions with my husband, and from advice and encouragement from other mothers whom I respect. I think I do better with examples IRL than from books.

    I did read some Ezzo stuff (cover to cover) before my oldest was born, and while many of the things we implemented from there were very effective, and we continue to this day (like the wake, eat, sleep cycle), I don’t agree with their, “You WILL toe the line” approach. They have a one-size-fits-all attitude, and I have seen that that doesn’t work, especially for kids who have learning disorders. I get the impression that they think that even learning disorders are rooted in the child’s sin, and I just don’t agree with that. In fact, treating my son Grant’s behavior as all rebellion/sin when he was younger just about destroyed our relationship, and I’m glad we got some intervention and a diagnosis that he actually had a LD, and that gave mercy to our parenting of him, which may have saved his life. (Honestly. An alarmingly high percentage of kids with his LD commit suicide because they live in a world where they feel/are completely misunderstood.) He had — at four years old — developed the perspective that, truly, we didn’t love him. Ack. Since that time, I have strayed more and more from the Ezzo approach.

    I have gotten more out of one parenting class I took as part of the second hour of a Bible study (it was group the first hour, classes the second hour, not that that matters all that much!!!) when Ethan (who is now nearly 12) was about one. And, I have spent a LOT of time in conversation about parenting with a friend of mine, Brenda, whose oldest is a year older than mine.

    Both the class and Brenda took many of their directives from Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart. You can find it on It’s funny — the book almost invariably gets either five stars or NO stars from reviewers. It’s pro-spanking, so that seems to be the reason. It also comes from the perspective that children have a sin nature, which many people don’t believe (I do!), and they find the author’s wording to that effect offensive. I have never read the book — if I didn’t know Brenda, and if I hadn’t taken that Bible study class, I might be dissuaded by some of the negative reviews. But, I have seen the beautiful fruit, in the lives of their children, produced by Brenda and her husband, and the teacher’s children. So, just based on that, I’d recommend the book.

    I started to read a book last summer: Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Honestly, I stopped reading it partly because everything he said, I replied, “Yes, I agree with that. Agree. Check. Yup.” And it felt like I wasn’t gaining any new ground. Much of the book, if not all of it, deals directly with the parents’ attitudes, and how that affects how we deal with our children. However, it was a good confirmation to me of the grace of God and the changing effect that my husband and my church have had on my attitudes about parenting… I mean, I grew up (like you) in a VERY legalistic home, and there was many things where I said to myself, “I will not do that as a parent,” but I needed to fill the void with something better that what had been modeled to me. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but Grace-Based… confirmed to me that a) I was right to set aside some of the things I did, and b) what I had picked up in its place was good. I did find some of the book hard to read, just because it brought up bad memories of my childhood.

    A book that I have that I have not yet read is Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in you and your kids by Scott Turansky. Again, I haven’t read it, but it’s funny — a friend quoted from it recently in her blog, and I was like, “YES. That is so true,” without realizing at first that it was from that book.

    So… maybe we should both put some parenting books on our “summer reading list” — I put it in quotes, because it seems like I have LESS time over the summer to read. 😀

  3. Proud of you Karen. I know even growing up, academics was a big deal in your home. It’s not always easy to find the balance between “yeah my kid is smart” and “that isn’t the only thing that is important.” Proud of you for helping Ethan recognize the balance and and what matters in the long run. Good for you babe. I will pray for you guys and Grant. Just out of pure curiosity, do you guys have Grant doing any occupational therapy for his disability? Again, pure curiosity.

    On the Princess Bride note – we watched it with the kids last night and I told them how it was your favorite movie and that is how you named Wesley. Maddie thought that was so cute. 🙂

    Love you!

    • Thank you, Lori. I appreciate your words… especially from having known me for so long!! (For everyone else, we met in the nursery at church. As in, we were in the nursery as toddlers!!)

      We did have Grant in OT for about 3 years, but he’s been out for about 1.5 years. I have already decided that one of the things I’m going to do this summer is see his developmental pediatrician again (who we haven’t seen in about a year), and get an OT eval done. In some areas, he’s improved SO dramatically, but in others… not so much. Like today, I was exclaiming, “Oh, my goodness! Your handwriting is amazing! It looks so great!” and I was laughing because those were not words I ever thought would come out of my mouth.

      Hahaha! about us naming Wes after TPB. We didn’t even think of that at the time! In the movie, he’s Westley with a “t.” My sister is sure that, simmering somewhere in our subconscious, was the desire to name our son after according to our Princess Bride obsession. It honestly wasn’t on purpose! At least, I don’t think it was… 😀 It does make me really happy, though, that that’s one of their favorite DVDs. I have seriously seen that movie upwards of 100 times over the years. I lost count in the mid-40s and that was before we got a DVD of our own. 😮

      • Replying to myself here! Hehehehe!

        Also, when I was a kid, I think my Dad’s outlook was, “If my kids are smart, that means I’m doing a good job.” Now, I am especially responsible for my kids’ education as a homeschooler, but I have come to the realization that if my kids are smart, it doesn’t mean jack squat about my parenting.

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