Is it important to show your work?

My older son usually won’t put up with posing for pictures, but he is the one who told me, “Look, I match the table cloth.” So I snapped the picture. I included the description next to the painting in case he wanted to talk about the painting later on. Which he did not.

We went to the Andrew Wyeth museum because I wanted to go. Normally I don’t force the kids to do museums (I once let the kids play on their phones while I walked through the halls of the Smithsonian, which I may or may not go to parenting hell for.) But their dad was in town, and he wanted to go.

One of the reasons I married him is that he always finds interesting stuff. And I’m sure a reason he married me is that I’ll do anything he plans. So in the current iteration of post-divorce life he lives with us about five days out of each month during which we revert to the best of times.

The paintings were incredible. And, in case you are thinking of going to this inconvenient-to-anyone-outside-West-Philly museum, go in the summer because the building and surrounding river banks are lovely.

When I saw Wyeth’s paintings of farms I got sad.

For years after being at the World Trade Center I got a quick, sick feeling in my stomach when I heard a plane overhead. Now instead of planes it’s pigs.

The best thing about having the Ex come visit is I can make the kids go to a museum under the pretense of helping them maintain a good relationship with their dad. If it were just me I’d feel guilt making them spent their time learning stuff I want to learn about because it’s not unschooling if I’m unschooling myself and dragging the boys behind me.

Midway my older son said he doesn’t have time for the third floor. He did two floors. He’s done. He has to do physics.

I think he knew he was going to say that, which is why he posed for pictures. I said, “We waited all morning for you to finish physics. You don’t have to do it now.”

“I have to show my work. I forgot. I have to redo everything.”

I went ballistic in my head. I have read a lot about showing work. Some kids don’t just do it. I said, “Why? Who cares? You homeschool. We pay a tutor. That rule doesn’t apply.”

“When you take the AP test you can get partial credit so you have to show your work.”

Are we slaves to testing? I think the answer is yes. I think the litmus test is, does your kid skip out of art museums in the name of getting a 5 on an AP test.

Maybe the best thing that came of the trip to the art museum is that I’m posting a picture of my older son instead of my younger son. Surely everyone in the world has noticed that I post more of my younger son.

It’s impossible to keep things even when you’re a mom. I read that all moms have favorites and all kids in the family agree who the favorite is – even the favorite. But all moms will answer that they have different favorites for different things.

My younger son is my favorite for taking pictures – he’s a ham, and he’s always doing fun things, and he dresses up like he’s going for a modeling audition every day of his life. My older son is the one I’d want to be locked in a room with for an undetermined amount of time – he’s hilarious and understanding and we see the world in similar ways.

Wait. Did I just show my work?

I just realized the idea of showing your work is a fundamentally intriguing one: it’s letting someone how you think and what’s driving you. Which means showing your work is a sort of social skill because you do it to connect with someone.

13 replies
  1. May
    May says:

    Note how INTJ naturally gravitate to min-maxxing test scores. nice.

    (i also liked strategizing how to get the best scores on tests where you get deductions for wrong answers)

    It usually takes me a while to show my work as well, academically or even conversationally. It’s hard to backwards engineer my thoughts to explain to someone why I think such-and-such is wrong/ill-defined/misguided when it’s so easy to just be “it’s stupid and/or i hate it”, so I only save that energy for people/audience I think matter most to me while letting other potential connections wither as they must haha.

  2. Minami
    Minami says:

    I think it’s great he’s determined to show his work. Wasn’t he fighting having to do that before? This means he is progressing towards his goals. That progress may not be showing up at the exact time you want it to, but we can’t pick and choose when kids suddenly start to apply the things you’ve been fighting to get them to do. Sometimes it will be at inconvenient times, like during visits to world-class museums, but it’s still meaningful and a good reflection on your parenting that it’s happening.

    By which I don’t mean you’ve been fighting to get him to show his work. But you HAVE been fighting to help your kids know what they want and figure out how to get it.

    So it’s okay that he wants to step away from looking at Wyeth paintings, which he is not interested in, and focus on his actual interests instead. This seems in alignment with how you’ve been raising them all along.

    And yes: showing your work is a kind of social skill, which is why INTJs hate doing it. Which is also why it’s so great that he’s pushing himself to do it anyway. Even if it’s partly an excuse to flee the monotonies of Wyeth. :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes. That’s the one. I didn’t see the house part til you mentioned it. Maybe next time my son has tons of physics problems we’ll try the studio tour.


  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I love your realization in the last paragraph. I never thought of it that way but it rings true. There are some things you write with which I don’t initially understand or agree but you do connect with your readers by showing how you arrive at your conclusions which are aided by including links. Also, this blog format lends itself to even more connection with your readers.
    There is one thing I’d like to say about links. I think each link should have its own sentence or be broken apart individually if multiple links are included in the same sentence. It makes it easier and more clear for the reader. As an example, this sentence in this post – “I have read a lot about showing work.” has four links. It looks like one link until you slowly draw your mouse across each word in the sentence. Also, while on the topic of links, you’re missing a link in this sentence indicated by the LH placeholder – “I read that all moms have favorites and all kids in the family agree who the favorite is – even the favoriteLH.”
    Showing your work in a technical investigation is important and a good habit to acquire. I understand it can be distasteful if it’s only to satisfy a teacher or gain extra points on a test. However, showing your work is important to allow other people to critique your work by challenging assumptions, test conditions, etc. It also allows other people to try and duplicate your results. And it allows you and other people to go back and more easily resume your work without having the difficulty of trying to remember or reconstruct various stages of a project.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Ugh. Another forgotten link! Thank you for pointing it out. Fixed it. And the article is so surprising to me – it’s old but it made a huge impression on me. I hope you all read it.

      As for linking style, I do think a lot about how I make the links. If I think you really should click the link and it’s important, I make more words part of the link. If I’m offhandedly saying “this happens all the time” then I link lots of little words in the sentence to show multiple times.

      I do wonder if I convey what I think I am conveying… it’s my little link language that maybe only I speak….

  4. Daniela
    Daniela says:

    Trying to get 5 on an ap Test and paying for tutors all over the place and forcing cello on a kid at s very young age are NOT unschooling. You picked the cello. You’re running their lives entirely. You’re the exact equivalent of tiger mom but you use iPhones and macs as babysitters though now it’s them being older and recreating. You used the farmer. You claimed autism and used the school. You found a BFF not as aspie as you (if you’re aspie I’m the Easter bunny) but as vain and self centered and you have a legion of followers who didn’t drop off after your bizarre jealous comment about mr Sheryl Sandberg. You have bizarre politics you’re trying to indoctrinate your kids with that match your socioeconomic aspirations and hobbies but nothing about your philosophies. I don’t think your writing is awesome. It’s good. Same with your presentations. But you ooze confidence while you say you’re mired in self doubt. This whole blog is a brag fest. Even when you’re down it’s still a brag fest. I’m glad to hear at least one dad is still in their lives. You may not like the way they treat their significant others bc they watched the callous mememe way in which you treated yours. Also if for some reason they take detours in life that aren’t high achieving I hope you are supportive.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi, Daniela. Just letting you know that I deleted three of your comments. I left this one because it summarizes the other three. Generally, I am fine allowing people to comment anonymously. But you are so scared of me knowing who you are that you used a shielded IP address – like we’re in a spy movie or something. If what you’re saying is so terrifying for you to say that you can’t even let us know the region you are commenting from, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it.


  5. Amy D. Kovach
    Amy D. Kovach says:

    I always thought you had to show your work to prove you weren’t cheating and getting the answer from someone else!

    Re the greater Philadelphia area – I’m sure you know about all the main attractions, but here are 3 less well-known:
    a. Chanticleer- probably not for the boys, but absolutely beautiful
    b. Mutter Museum – I’ve never been there (too queasy) but I bet the boys would love it. Lots of body parts in jars and other medical oddities.
    c. The Rosenbach – Very small but they have a reading room that you can make a (free) appt for. I took my (very literary) dad there for his 80th birthday – the research librarian showed us original hand written/illustrated Canterbury Tales type of books from the 14th century (or so). (We had to wear gloves to handle.) He was beyond thrilled. It was one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever given anyone.

  6. Minami
    Minami says:

    Also, I think it’s easier to not favor one kid over the other so much when you have just two. Each one has strengths the other doesn’t have, so they’re almost like a break from each other. My mother had two kids and I know she liked different things in each of us more than the other, but neither of us felt like she liked one more than the other overall (except when she was mad at one and not the other).

    Probably way more obvious when you have 3 or more, though. I once asked one of my friends jokingly who her favorite of her 4 children was: “My youngest daughter,” she says immediately, without batting an eye.

    That kind of honesty is refreshing.

  7. Daniela
    Daniela says:

    Double post error sorry but Omg you spy on people like nsa but wonder why they block their ip? Not everyone enjoys making their everything public. You’re the reality tv mentality. Nothing nothing is personal. I think it’s creepy to check ips. Yuck.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      Daniela, I also post anonymously. My IP is not masked, and my fake-sounding email actually goes through. I think PT could probably even dox me if she wanted to. But why would she?

      What I don’t do is post like a seagull, unloading a rant on the host and then flying off. I try to be productive in conversation instead. Maybe you should try that too. It might be more fulfilling for you.

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