kitchen table math, the sequel: Tiger Mom

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tiger Mom

Debbie's been telling me for ages how wonderful Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom is, and I finally bought the book.

She's right. It's incredible.

Here is the first page:
This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It’s also about Mozart and Mendelssohn, the piano and the violin, and how we made it to Carnegie Hall.

This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones.

But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.
A lot of parents whose kids are heading off to college will find the book moving, especially parents who've been part of kitchen table math. All the things you wanted to do, and tried to do, and failed to do because your kids had other ideas....your kids and your schools and your culture: all the things you didn't manage to do because no one thought it was a really good idea to spend 4 years of your child's life reteaching math (and spelling) at home so he could be on par with his peers in Europe and Asia.

Hard to sort it all out.

That's what the book is about, though for Amy Chua's kids the contested territory was music, not math.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the memoir of a Chinese afterschooler.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


Debbie said...

I got chills reading your post. It made me want to read this book all over again.

I think about this book every day; it has really impacted my life, which is unusual in this day and age of "nothing sticks" (especially math and grammar).

Debbie Stier said...

"But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old."

...and I forgot Lulu was just Daisy's age when she humbled her mother....

Catherine Johnson said...

We had dinner this week with a woman whose friend moved to Hong Kong. Her friend wanted her kids to make friends with Chinese kids but it's impossible because the Chinese kids don't do play dates.

It's exactly the culture Amy Chua describes: the Chinese kids all have practice and various lessons in the after school hours.

FedUpMom said...

That's not the life I want for my kids. I don't want my kids to be constantly striving and competing.

I want my kids to have friends and free time. I think life should be enjoyed. I'm a Western parent.

Crimson Wife said...

We find it tough to make playdates with kids we know who are not homeschooled because they're all so busy with various organized activities. The balance here may be tilted more towards sports & dance and less towards Kumon, but it's the same phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

I'll chime in with what Crimson Wife says. My 10 year old's primary complaint with life is that his friends are so rarely available to play. During the school year, M-F they tend to do something like:

get up, go to school, go to aftercare, come home, eat dinner, do homework, sleep

Their weekends tend to be full of scheduled activities or homework.

My son really looks forward to summer because his friends are much more available.

Just not this summer :-(

-Mark Roulo

Bonnie said...

For kids of working families, aftercare simply replaces play dates. That is where my kids do all their freeform playing with their friends. They have been at the same aftercare program for years and have formed very tight bonds with the kids there.

Crimson Wife said...

I'm not talking about going to an after-school program, but rather kids being chauffeured around to various sports practices, music & dance lessons, and other organized activities. Back when I was growing up, kids did maybe one or two per week (my brothers and I each did one music lesson and Scouts). Today, however, it seems that the norm is 1-2 per *DAY*. When do kids get the chance to enjoy their childhood?

Bonnie said...

Anonymous, who agreed with you, mentioned aftercare as one of the problems. I merely wanted to point out that aftercare is quite different from the scheduled activities. In addition, it is not really an optional thing for families in which both parents work.

Amy P said...

I've had my oldest beg to go to aftercare at school.

lgm said...

Most go to a in-home daycare or grandparent here. They are available if you can provide transport.

The latch-key kids can come over and play if they can schedule a day in advance in order to get a bus pass, then get picked up by the parent on the way home.