In a moment of great math self-doubt and great faith in my ability to earn money, I called a very expensive math tutor in Washington DC to see if she could tutor my son online.

He is six and doing third-grade math, but I have no genes for math skills and neither does his dad, so I’m convinced that the only reason he’s doing third-grade math is that I inadvertently skipped things I can’t bear to teach. Like measurement. I hate that. I mean, look, I’ve gotten through my whole life not knowing metric conversions, so I don’t think we need to teach them since it’s clear that most people don’t know them and they still live happy, fulfilling lives. Or, really, even if they are not fulfilling, I have never heard anyone lament their inability to measure by the meter.

But I’m the only one who can’t measure metrically. This is what the consultant made me think. Because apparently, math is linear, and you learn step by step, and there are standards that kids need to meet before they go on.

I imagined the math corollary of putting a kid in front of a stack of Newbery Award Winners and telling him to read. But there is not that. I mean, there is no best-of for math problems.

So the tutor says my son needs to learn math according to math standards. And you know what? I’m really hopeful that maybe we do not really need rigid math standards and he could be a free-thinking math kid. But maybe the tutor couldn’t say this because she is certified to national standards.

I’m just not sure what to think, or what to do. Today, when my son asked what his math problems are, I gave him a painting by Miro and asked him to do a graph of triangles, squares and circles.

He thinks the assignment was BS. He likes multiplication drills, so I gave him a peppermint for each circle. Am I an unschooler if I use conventional bribery?