Mastery learning has the power to revolutionize our education system.

Since Mastery is not required in any educational arena, homeschooling is the only option available for parents to enable their children to learn at a mastery level.

Mastery is simply defined as “command or grasp, as of a subject.”

For example, “Lilie has mastered short vowel sounds,” or “Peter has mastered the present tense French verbs.”

All home schooled children should earn an “A” in each and every subject.

Why would I make this outlandish statement? Simple. A student does not move on until an A is achieved on the material. A student doesn’t move on until he or she totally understands what has just been presented.

A very, very simple concept with life-changing implications.

Mastery requires practice. Practice, practice, and more practice. If a student does less than A work, then the material is re-done until the student can demonstrate that he or she thoroughly understands the material.

Why should a parent or teacher or school administrator EVER be happy with B-level work? A = Excellent; B = Good.  Why is “Good” good enough?

If a student only grasps 80% of the material, he is not “getting it.” It is a disservice to the student to allow him to move on. How can you build onto that old concept when you don’t truly understand it? There is no disgrace in practicing until the light bulb goes on.

All students are capable of mastery. All students may not enjoy a subject being studied, but if mastery is required, if mastery is expected, then the student will sit up, pay attention, and soak up the material the first time around because he knows he will be going back over the material if it is not understood.

Going back over material is not punishment! It is practice. There is a huge difference.

Perhaps a student is not ready to tackle a certain subject at a certain age.  That is known as readiness, and I urge parents to look for readiness. Children learn at different speeds as we all know. Some things just can not be forced. In a situation where the learner has not reached the point where the learning is possible, I say wait.

If you do not expect mastery in your home school, chances are exceptional that you will not receive mastery-level results from your students. Human nature often dictates that “good is good enough.” Is good good enough for you as a parent?

Most of us as homeschooling parents pore over curriculum year after year to find just the right tools for teaching our children. We have a great blueprint, so to speak.

Picture a construction company beginning a project. The blueprints look excellent. They are well thought out and structurally sound on paper, so the actual building begins.

Oddly, the building of the foundation is off by 15%, but the accuracy target is hit 85% of the time. Oh well. We’re still operating at a good level.

The building of the first floor level is off by 18%, but it is still good by the standards the company is using. No need for concern; they probably have built in some leeway for being off-target anyway.

What if you knew that this building project was for a 60-story building? Would that make a difference? The errors made on the construction of a single-story house are not going to be as horrific or potentially life-threatening as those made on a 60-story building. Would you want this construction company to build your home?

Education is more like the 60-story building. It is important to have excellence at each and every stage of the building process. Having a great blueprint is not enough!

Not only do children thrive in an environment where excellence is expected (and rewarded), but also they have higher self-esteem and a higher expectation of themselves than children who are allowed to settle for “good work.”


If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things.
     ~ Vincent Van Gogh ~
Attaining mastery is a double-edged sword!
Okay, well Van Gogh didn’t end up too well, did he now? He was still a master of his craft. We don’t know much about his upbringing or family ties, but the fact is that you recognize his name. 
How about another quote:
If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldnt seem so wonderful at all.
    ~ Michelangelo ~
Mastery requires practice, and practice is not always fun. If we can learn to enjoy the journey of practice, then we have truly lived. We need to demonstrate mastery to our children. Just talking about it is not enough.
There is so much more to be written on this topic, but this is a small sampling to give you an understanding of what I mean when I use the term “Mastery.”
The opposite of Mastery is Mediocrity. Mediocrity is accepted anywhere these days. What do you call a medical school graduate who graduated with a “D” average?
Mastery is essential to true learning.

9 Responses to Mastery

  1. charlotte says:


    i was wondering your thoughts on mastery teaching and the high school student. we have always taught to mastery, but now that i have a high schooler im concerned with reports i have gotten from other parents stating straight A’s on a homeschool transcript were seen as suspicious when applying for college. we have been grading materials, recording the grade, then reteaching to mastery as a “middle ground”. i was wondering what you think? if you dont mind would you email me direct?

    thank you

  2. urthemom says:

    Good question, Charlotte. Straight A’s are not suspicious to college admissions personnel provided the student has correspondingly high SAT or ACT scores.

  3. Brandie says:

    The mastery approach makes sense to me, but as I’ve tried using it I have run into some problems. First, my son will get 10 wrong on his math (usually careless mistakes). I give it back to him and he’ll redo them, but will still have five or six wrong. So I check it again. Now he has three wrong… and so on, in every subject. If I have him correct it himself, he feels guilty if he kind of remembers the answer from the Teacher’s Manual and stresses out that he’s cheating. Suggestions?
    Thanks, and thanks for writing this blog!

  4. Shaina Seville says:

    Hi, Joanne. I think mastery learning makes so much sense in theory and I want to make sure I’m implementing it correctly in my home. What I would LOVE to hear more about is the nitty gritty of how to do that. Do they just make corrections to their work? Do they go back and do the whole assignment again? Do you show them their mistakes? Does their grade count the second time they do something, the first time only, or an average of the two…etc. I’m sure I could think of more….Looking forward to reading more about this topic from you someday. I read you are proofing your book. Any updates on that?

  5. My question is: Do you require mastery in every part of your life or just academics? How does one attain “A” mastery at keeping a house clean, preparing meals, being a hospitable Christian, having their children being all “A” students, keeping up with a blog, a business, a ministry…All at mastery level? Is this even possible? Do you feel like you have reached “mastery” in every area of life?

  6. Ronda says:

    I’m sorry, but this post makes me feel overwhelmed. :-/ And the question above doesn’t help a bit! 🙂
    I don’t know how well you monitor comments on old posts like this, but I have a question. I’ll post it here in an inconspicuous place since it’s kind of embarrassing. 😉 When I first began teaching my own children, I was SO into it. I spent lots of time planning and working with them and it was fun! About 8 years ago, (has it REALLY been so long?) we moved. And with a new area, new house, new logistics, new schedules, plus the oldest (my cheerleader) beginning to work on her own, things began to fall apart. “School” has become increasingly scattered, and last year things just fell apart, frankly. I still have a 17 yr old and a 15 yr old to teach this year, and after last year’s practically non-existent school year, I am a little scared. My 17 yr old son hates school (he is dyslexic/dysgraphic, and I possibly should have gotten outside help for him, but didn’t) which is part of the reason things got so bad last year. He wants to do everything on his own, but basically did nothing that he wasn’t pushed to do. He would much rather watch movies and TV online all day. My 15 yr old daughter actually sort of likes school, but is influenced by the bad attitude of her brother.
    My question: Do you have any specific suggestions on how to pick up the pieces/start over/revive our homeschool for this year so that I don’t completely cheat my son out of a decent education? I have had major setbacks the past couple of years (pneumonia, major surgery, etc) right when school was starting, and I am desperately hoping that this year we can finally get off on the right foot.

    • urthemom says:

      Hey, Ronda! I am sorry my post made you feel overwhelmed. That is NEVER my intention….never! Thank you for letting me know that it backfired. Heh heh.

      Please let me know how this year is going for you so far.

      No, you have NOT burned any bridges for your kids or stifled them in the process of home education. However, we as parents are responsible for the attitudes that our children possess. It is our job to change those attitudes that are crummy, and the earlier we start age-wise, the easier it is.

      I invite you to join my free yahoo group where lots of kind and loving Moms hang out. You can reach out to me there, in real time, and post any questions, comments, etc and get immediate feedback. Go to and sign up for free!


  7. Ronda says:

    Thanks for answering, Joanne! I’m really behind–we actually haven’t started school yet. I’m hoping to start Monday, but the truth is that I have done nothing to prepare. We organize a teens’ camp the weekend after Labor Day, which takes a lot of time, and I’m still recuperating from the sleep deprivation. 😉 Since things have been so haphazard in our schooling, they simply stopped where they were in the spring, so in some subjects they can just pick up the same books and continue. However, we have always used a History/Literature core like Sonlight–the past two years was Mystery of History–and this year I don’t have one. I’m feeling a little lost and just trying to get a vision for where we should go.

    Last year they pretty much took care of themselves. The trouble is, it wasn’t sef-learning as you describe it. It was more like ‘do the absolute minimum and then play.’ I had surgery in September and didn’t recover as quickly as expected, and I think I just kind of gave up. They did a LOT of TV watching and other nonproductive junk. So this year we need to learn new habits.

    I did sign up for your list, so I’m hoping it will be encouraging, though I honestly am having trouble believing that we can fix this. It really seems sort of hopeless to me sometimes–the patterns are pretty deeply ingrained, and I am horrendously forgetful, which makes it harder to check up on them. I’m just praying that we can find a way.

    Thanks for your kind words and advice!

    • urthemom says:

      It’s all OKAY, Ronda. Really. Life happens. And it is about retraining….I had to do that when we started back up this year. Decided that if I wanted to encourage reading, I had to minimize distractions in the evening. Bye-bye TV. It works! For me, too. I am developing better time-spending habits. Why do I have to force myself to do the stuff I know I should?? LOLOL

      Get my new book, if you can. It will change your outlook and your kids’ too. I’m not saying that to sell a book; I’m saying that because it is really true. There is so much in the new book that speaks to what we are talking about….and how to fix it.

      Keep in touch…and I’ll look for you on the yahoo group.


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