The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, December 22, 2006

The natural emergence of gift

I believe in the natural emergence of gift, if it resides in the child. I feel a need to state this in reaction to an extraordinary comment I received from a ten year old girl, which is simply too nasty to print.

This anonymous girl painted an extraordinary picture of how she views my parenting. She thought of me as a father who wouldn't let his son out to play with his friends. She thought of me as a father who force-fed his son abstruse scientific topics, against his will, in some kind of interminable hothousing project.

She also used the implicit argument that my son couldn't be doing what he did at six, because she was ten (and though she didn't say it, seemed to imply that she couldn't do it at that age) - so reasoned that he could not either.

All of this completely fails to understand the situation. My son is essentially a self-taught, young scientist. It is only in the last few months that I have had any input to his scientific education: he has mastered it all on his own. It is his own vital interest to pursue science - and that is what he does, daily.

It is my belief that the interests of the child will naturally emerge, and will express themselves at the level of intensity appropriate to the child. I am not a believer in "hothousing". If the child wants to learn, the child will learn of their own accord.

What I find most remarkable about this incident, however, is that a young girl would get so angry that there is a child like mine, and make so many wrong assumptions about the father. Perhaps she merely speaks what she hears her parents say.

If they had troubled themselves to actually read my blog in its entirety they would have seen that nothing could be further from the truth than their assumptions.

Blogging has begun to teach me things about people, some good, some bad. The biggest surprise is the extent to which some people will go to see something in what I write that is simply not there. They impose their own view of the world on me, and hold me to words I never said, and beliefs I do not hold. What is more they then propagate these things on the net, in my name: when what they are saying is just not true.

If you would like me to clarify something, please just ask: don't assume. Thanks very much for reading.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:41 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's the ten year old girl again. i'm actually kind-of sorry about how mean i was, which was kind of wrong. i still believe that you taught your 6 year old what he knows, he did not learn it himself. i realized that it's the holidays and i really don't want to be mean. i actually did come up with what i said before, my mom didn't tell me to say it. i was mean for no reason. sorry. i'm actually not a bad person, as you inferred from my previous comment.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for having the grace to apologize. Your apology is accepted.

I am trying, in this blog to give a sense of what my son is like - and my other children. I am a father of three and am therefore quite busy, since I have to make a living for my family - and I have three boys drawing my attention. Therefore, I don't have so much time to teach my son Ainan. I wish I had more time to do so. Ainan is largely self-taught, therefore. In fact, he is entirely self-taught up to six months ago. Only in the past six months have I found some time to help teach him. He says I am slowing him down by doing so!

Ainan comes up with many things himself - it is his way to think on the science he knows and understand its applications and implications. In this way, he comes up with his own ideas and observations. I know it is hard to take in - but he does think of a lot of things for himself. I find it remarkable too.

I wish you well over the Xmas holidays and have a happy new year.

Best wishes to you.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Cawley,
I am a 40 year old mommy of 2 young children.

I do not doubt the fact that you have gifted children.

My older girl, now 6 years old, has superb memory. She is able to understand difficult concepts effortlessly, and she has excellent fine motor skills.

However, I have my reservations about your statement that your son is "entirely self taught". You must have at least taught him to read, right ?

I know parents who say that they did not "teach" their kids to read. But they do read with their kids, and they point to every word as they read. This is "teaching". A child with superb memory can remember hundreds of words after being taught only once. For example, my girl went from not knowing to read any words, to reading Charlotte's Web entirely on her own, in about 1 and a half year, learning for less than 10 mins everyday. There are many children who can do better than her.

I also think that you must have provided the right environment for your son. For example, leave chemistry books lying around in the house, within easy reach of your son. I totally believe that an exceptionally bright child will pick up those books and start reading on his own.

When I grew up, we did not have a single English book at home, and my parents do not speak a single word of English. Even if I were a genius, I would not have amounted to anything.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your comment, Tamarind.

I find it interesting that you choose you write your own, more acceptable, version of Ainan's childhood.

We made no conscious effort to teach Ainan anything, until he made it clear that he had already taught himself much. He started to pick up reading without any conscious input from us. Yes, people read around him...but no-one sat down with him and pointed out individual words and made it clear that "this" meant "that". He observed these things himself.

As for Chemistry books...we had NO chemistry books in our house. He found them in a relative's house and started to read: so that was a happy accident that had no preparatory input from us. He also did a lot of surfing for chemistry on the internet.

Ainan was essentially self-taught, until very late in the game. I only began working with him once he was able to answer an o level test paper...which he had worked up to on his own, without anyone knowing.

That being said, of course, many children are helped by having a more conducive environment to support learning.

Re. your childhood. You may not have had the chance to become expert early on in English...but there were surely other opportunities to learn from watching what happened in the household.

Kind regards

10:38 AM  

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