I should have insisted my son learn French, because I’m not fluent, but I’m close. Instead he is learning Spanish and while I thought I’d be useful (it’s a romance language!) I find all I do is pronounce French words like they’re Spanish and hope they are.

They usually aren’t. So my son is on his own. He interviewed tutors and found one he liked, and he devised a flashcard system that seems to be working.

Except that he writes really slowly — to the point that it was taking him longer to write the word than to memorize it. I liked the flashcard app Quizlet, but he wants a stack of flashcards he holds in his hand.

So, fine. I told him to buy a printer.

At first he had no idea what to do. He said, “How about if you just buy it?”

“No,” I said.”You find one you like because you’re using it.”

So he started looking and he found one at Staples – an HP Office Jet Pro printer that does mobile printing and color printing and all sorts of stuff I was having to ask my assistant to do for me because I have a terrible printer for my business.

So now he uses the printer for flashcards and I use the printer for my business, and we end up saving money on the tutor (he is learning faster on his own) and my assistant (I don’t send her to Kinkos as often.)

My son feels like a rock star, and he’s been looking around for other purchasing decisions he can make.

For example, when he shaved for the first time, I gave him a pink Venus razor.

His brother made fun of him. So he dropped blue Gilette razors into our Amazon cart.

The excitement over making purchasing decisions is a little disconcerting because as far as I’m concerned, the less I can have learning tied to money the better.

On the other hand, I know kids write better when there is something real at stake (like everyone is going to read their paper on the Internet). And they are more likely to benefit emotionally from chores when the family cares (like the cat will starve). So it makes sense to me that my son would make better decisions when there’s real money at stake.

Kids learn best when it’s the real world and not a hypothetical world. Life is not a word problem. It’s the real thing.