If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I'm a huge proponent of two distinct methodologies: self-learning and mastery learning. These strategies take the pressure out of home education and enable us to enjoy the homeschooling journey while raising our children to be all they were created to be. Rewarding responsible students with the freedom to self-teach, coupled with the concept of learning each day's lessons to an A level, forms the foundation for success in education and other areas—the foundation, in other words, for faithfulness with what we have been given.

How can we best encourage our children to develop the gifts they have been given? In my experience, it has been through these two methods.

Recently I came across a book entitled SAT Perfect Score: 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score by Dr. Tom Fischgrund. I picked it up because it was based on a study of perfect-score students and contained the results of interviews with the students and their parents, along with statistics of all sorts. This study purports to be the "first of its kind to look at the highest academic achievers in the United States."1

Sound intriguing? I thought so. I wondered if I would find anything that would support the mastery and self-learning techniques that have been my family's mainstay. What can we learn from studying the highest achievers, and how will that knowledge help us raise naturally high-achieving students? What makes these students tick? What are their habits, and what makes them successful?

A variety of interesting findings came from the study. For example, students who earn a perfect score on the SAT generally spend several more hours per week reading (and less time watching TV) than those who get an average score. Few describe themselves as the brainy type. They're typically involved in only one or two activities outside of the classroom rather than having a diversified list of activities, but they pursue their interests with passion. More than 90 percent of perfect score students say they have a particular skill or passion, and they tend to follow with determination whatever piques their interest. They also have confidence in approaching problems or situations of any kind. This type of yes-I-can attitude is invaluable.

So what motivates high achievers? "Perfect score students . . . depend largely on their own inner motivation to drive them to success."2 In addition,

. . . almost without exception, perfect score students are incredibly motivated to succeed—not just in academics, but also in life. Motivation is the key to high academic achievement and a perfect SAT score. It's the spark that drives students through their high school years, college, and beyond. It's the dividing line that separates successful people from those who aren't . . . Perfect-score students are incredibly self-motivated, but they also have parents who expected them to achieve from the start. By believing in their children, these parents infused their kids with a belief in themselves . . . [which] enabled perfect score students to become their own motivators in high school and beyond. [emphasis added] 3

When these students were asked to give the name of the person(s) who motivated them academically, a whopping 90 percent said they motivated themselves. We simply cannot underestimate the power of a motivated student, and it is our faith in our children that inspires that yes-I-can attitude that in turn enables them to soar.