Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mrs. Other McCain gets credit for this

Our 17-year-old son Bob just scored 93% on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, including an impressive 99% in mathematical concepts and problem solving. His scores:

The gap between his reading comprehension (95%) and spelling (35%) probably results from insufficient rigor in spelling drill. Note also his low 47% in mathematical computation, likely resulting from the same sort of insufficiency.

Some things simply must be drilled, and cannot really be learned in any other way. Before we blame maternal indulgence for Bob's shortcomings, however, we must first credit Mrs. Other McCain for his academic excellence. (And good looks.)

When she saw Bob's reading comprehension score, my wife said proudly, "I taught him to read!"

Indeed, he was homeschooled from childhood until he entered church school two years ago. I remember when Mrs. Other McCain convened her first homeschool class in our little house down in Georgia, with Kennedy, 8, and the twins, Bob and Jim, then 5. The curriculum was eclectic which is not necessarily a synonym for "improvised," "ad hoc" or "a hodge-podge of workbooks, flash cards and whatever else came to hand."

Despite every imagined obstacle -- my wife's claim to educational expertise consists of a high-school diploma -- our oldest graduated from Highland View Academy with honors at age 16. Having finished Phi Theta Kappa at Hagerstown Community College, and spent a year abroad in Argentina, Kennedy is now making straight A's as a junior at Frostburg (Md.) State University. And, oh yeah, she's working her way through school and paying rent for her own apartment.

Last month, when Jim was basking in the glory of his field-trip expedition with me to cover the Orlando Tea Party (and learning scuba) his brother Bob was hurt that I hadn't published photos of his performance with the school orchestra.

Sibling rivalry between these boys is intense. They are fraternal, not identical, twins but look so much alike that when they were little -- before they insisted on different haircuts, etc. -- most people couldn't tell them apart.

Both are musical, but Bob's fanatical devotion (he plays guitar and several other instruments) had the effect of encouraging Jim to seek other pursuits, including mechanics (Jim will be replacing the brakes on the family car this evening).

Their differences of personality are interesting, and raise the inevitable question of nature vs. nurture. Raised simultaneously in the same environment by the same parents, it's hard to see how nurture could be credited with their differences. How could we have shown favoritism or partiality, when it was so hard to tell which was which? (We've sometimes called them "JimBob" or usually just "the boys.")

Well, let's leave such theoretical speculation to the experts, shall we? Instead we will celebrate Bob's achievements -- and the widely acknowledged wonderfulness of all six of our children -- as proof of what Sir Francis Galton described as Hereditary Genius.

P.S.: Sending their Dad to Pasadena? Genius!

UPDATE: Another reason to homeschool:

State schools admit they do not push gifted pupils because they don't want to promote 'elitism'

(Via Instapundit.) This phenomenon is not new -- busy work and "group projects" were around even when I was in school -- but it's gotten much worse, because of the alarming decline of the teaching profession. (Fact: Education majors, on average, have the lowest SAT scores among college students.)

Mediocre teachers are more likely to resent intelligence, rather than to admire or encourage it. In this manner, professions of egalitarian concern for "fairness" mask the mediocrity's envious resentment of excellence.

Why parents are so easily convinced to surrender their children to the custody of government bureaucrats -- notice that, even in their architecture, public schools are now barely indistinguiable from Youth Detention Centers -- is a great mystery.


  1. "Mrs.Other McCain" needs to be made CZARINNA of the Federal Education System and given free "Reign" over the curriculum. Congratulations!! To all of "The Other McCains."

  2. Congrads Kid. Remember man, stay in school. Otherwise you'll end up being a fat, 30-something year old blogger, who can't get a job anywhere... like me.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that... well, maybe a little.


  3. The apple doesn't fall from the tree, congrats!

  4. Congrats on a beautiful, intelligent family.

    2 of our 6 are 9-year-old twin boys. It's fun watching "the twins" display their different personalities, but constant togetherness.

  5. It is a fortunate child who has a Mom and Dad who 'celebrate their achievements." Good work, Bob. Both of you.

  6. I suspect this is redundant; but - You should thank God every night for such a pretty and talented wife. She is doing many jobs very well besides having good looks.
    Kids are also praiseworthy. Which means the dad's genes are worth something, not sure how much. (That is a joke, I am sure they are very good genes!)
    You all keep up the good work

    Go Sarah

    If you have a min give me a jingle. I'm in the phone book.

    Rod Stanton
    Cerritos (which BTW is only a stone's throw from where Patton was born and raised Pasedna)

  7. Daughter at Frostburg State? Well, perhaps she'll turn out to be a better student than that other famous Frostburg State alum, James Wolcott!

    But congrats on on the kids. Good job!

  8. Gosh, that's seriously awesome news!

  9. For the uninitiated, an eclectic curriculum is a strength of homeschooling. The idea is to utilize the child's natural interests to focus and develop curriculum, making school an adjunct to those interests rather than an impediment. It is surprisingly easy to employ this approach and has the benefit of creating autodidacts instead of people accustomed to being spoon-fed information.

    The absurdity of how the schools abuse (neglect is too mild a term) academically gifted kids is a whole different rant. I won't go there today as it is not a happy place.

    Congrats to Bob on excellent work and to his parents for making him do it. Don't worry too much about the spelling unless and until you take up competitive Scrabble. Doing crossword and acrostic puzzles is an excellent and enjoyable drill.

  10. Hint: West Point values homeschoolers for their usually superior character and academic accomplishment. Two of our three homeschoolers are Grads. Three aspects are point-valued in the admissions process and in the 4-year curriculum: Academics, Leadership and Physical Fitness. I co-led one of our state's West Point Admissions programs for three + years early in this decade.

  11. "[H]owever, we must first credit Mrs. Other McCain for his academic excellence. (And good looks.)"

    I'm afraid I must differ here, sir. Since you have given us all the photographic evidence necessary, it is clear that your children got their good looks from you. The Missus still has hers. :)

    Congratulations to the both of you on your progress and you children's. From all that we hear, it seems you have done a great job so far of raising decent, hard-working Americans. From one father to another, I salute you. While the wife and I may not be so... prolific (we'll see what God wills), I hope that we can try to match you in quality.

  12. That's what happens when a kid has parents that take an active role in the upbringing and education of said kid: excellence! Fruit snacks and accolades all around!

  13. Your son Bob plays string bass and you NEVER told us? That's child abuse! I'm calling the cops.

    Tell Bob from another string bass player that he is the apex of COOL. Can I adopt him? Of course, that would be premised on his bringing the bass with him...