My 11th grade son came home with his mid-marking period progress report last Friday. This is his first year in public school after a life of homeschooling, so Will and I were very excited to see how Thomas was doing. His teachers all marked "doing well," and there were only two comments. His English teacher wishes he'd participate more. If she means she wishes he would talk in class, good luck. His Algebra 2 teacher wrote his average: 89%. Honestly, we're thrilled. We didn't know what to expect in math since he's hated it so much the last few years. I happened to mention that it would drive me crazy to be so close to an A and not get it. His response? "I'm glad I'm not you." I had to laugh. He really, honestly, truly doesn't care if he gets 89% rather than 90%, and he won't try any harder just to go for the A. Don't get me wrong, he's not goofing off, and I'm thankful. It's just that he's not exactly busting his tail, either. It's not just that grades don't mean anything to him, it's that he only wants to do what he needs to to get by. It's a mindset.
I can't help but wonder where this mindset came from. Is it nature or nurture? Or both? Did homeschooling contribute to it along with a natural tendency towards complacency? Would putting him in school have sparked a competitive streak?
I was reflecting on those questions this evening and it caused me to think back over my years in school. And I realized something. I was fiercely competitive in many ways, but never really in school. In public school I was often competitive with specific people. In other words, I didn't so much care about my grades as I cared about beating one or two specific people. In college, when the competition seemed more anonymous, my grades actually fell. I only received high marks in "cake" courses (usually courses where my natural gregariousness was an asset, like philosophy) or in my major classes. I got good grades in my major classes because I was engrossed in the material. I loved it so I learned it. But English, chemistry, and math? B's and C's were fine with me.
Thomas doesn't appear to be competitive about much outside of video games. But within the video games, he is very competitive and he takes it very seriously. Someday, perhaps, Thomas will find something else in life he is as interested in as video games. Or else he'll find a way to translate his video gaming into a life.
So now I'm not so worried about his complacency over a B in Algebra 2. He cares enough to do his homework promptly and go to class prepared. That's a huge improvement over the past few years. I have a feeling that this will be a trend.