(Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon. I can’t resist this title, or this clip, for this post.)
Another parent using Beast Academy recently wrote to the company, worried that even with assistance her daughter still sometimes gets the problems wrong. She asked whether that meant her child wasn’t ready for the program. Jason Batterson, the author of Beast Academy, wrote back saying:
Part of the philosophy here is that if you are not getting problems wrong, you ought to be trying harder problems. You usually learn more from the problems that you try really hard on and get wrong than the problems you breeze through. Encourage her to keep at it, let her know that missing problems is an important part of learning, work through the solutions to problems she misses, and mix in other resources to keep her spirits up if she gets frustrated.
YES. This is one of my strongest guiding principles for my children’s education. Reflecting on both Alex’s homeschool education and on my own childhood school experiences, I’ve come to believe that giving kids work that is consistently too easy is not just a waste of their time – it’s actively destructive. It leads them to conclude that being “smart” or “good at school” means never putting in effort. It weakens their appetite for challenge. And it ensures that when they do face a challenge, they won’t have learned either the intellectual or the emotional skills for handling it.
So hard stuff is vital. But at the same time, nothing about that implies Amy Chua’s piano-side tyranny. It’s not about a relentlessly overachieving drive for perfection, chased by the fear of never being good enough. If you buy into these theories, there’s nothing scary about being out there on the edge of what you maybe-can’t do. That’s the place that you value, because that’s where you stretch. (Although I stress: maybe-can’t, not hopelessly can’t. That’s not fun no matter what your theories are.)
The materials I’ve found for Alex that I love the most are like Beast Academy. They have plenty of fun, joy, even whimsy… and they’re hard. They’re written by people who, like Jason Batterson, think that dragging you out to the edge of maybe-can’t is giving you a delightful present.