Thi, my connection to the world of high schoolers, told me that she did not get a high enough score on her SAT. So her mom took away her phone. Thi’s score was 2180 which is the 98th percentile, but the score was not good enough for her mom.

Later Thi said she thinks her mom wants her to go to an Ivy League school. But only for bragging rights.

And I thought, “Of course. That’s what all parents want.”

I adore Thi. She is tutoring my son in biology (over Skype) and guest blogging (on my blog), and having scintillating conversations with me over email (well, at least I think they are scintillating) so I think her parents did a great job.

But these are not clear-cut measurements. And there is no universal seal of approval to identify good parenting. So I can understand her parents wanting clear cut measurements. We do so much for our kids, give up so much of our lives to making their lives good. So of course we want some way to judge our parenting.

Sometimes I look for signs in the New York Times for what might be benchmarks I can hold myself up to. I like that this article about standards for parenting says homeschooling moms on farms in Wisconsin make impossible mom standards for everyone. Does that mean I’m a winner? Because then that photo of my son walking his calf is sort of my victory lap.

Or maybe the cow is just a cow and parent victories are more of a class thing. For some people good parenting is getting the kid out of a war zone.  Some religious people judge good parenting by how assiduously their kids follow the rules of the religion. Some parents feel like they’ve accomplished something big if their kid is the first in the family to go to college.

Amy Chua wrote a whole book about how Asian and Jewish parents judge whether they are good parents by how prestigious a college their kids attend. Which might explain why Thi and I understand the language of Ivy League bragging rights.

Then I thought to myself, “If I’m being honest, I am looking for bragging rights, too.”

But what will they be? I don’t think I’m trying to get either son into an Ivy League school. The Ivy League doesn’t have the type of music program my youngest son aspires to.

And my older son knows he wants to go to a school with an astrobiology major, and he knows he doesn’t want to do anything that is not a requirement to meet that goal. I sniffed around for a list of the best undergraduate programs for astrobiology and I found this list, which includes no Ivy League schools.

My son could go to Harvard and major in biology, but frankly when I heard from Thi what her high-performer friends are doing to get into an Ivy League pre-med program, I told myself to forget it. (Example: There’s a two-year waiting list to get an internship at hospitals in her region because all the kids want to stack up summer internships to bolster their applications.)

So then I was thinking, “What am I doing?”

Then it hit me: I’m unschooling. I did not teach my oldest son math until he was twelve. I did not teach my younger son to read. Ever. And they are both at grade level. And I think I can keep this up, letting them play video games for a huge part of each day, letting them structure their own time and make their own priorities.

So my bragging rights will be that my kids did whatever they wanted to do, and they got into the same schools that everyone else’s kids who went to school eight hours a day got into. That’s how I see it, at least.

So that must be why I like Thi so much. I am like her mom. I put my kid’s education as a top priority, and I want accolades for doing that.