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 +

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A child prodigy's dearest wish

About three days ago, I asked Ainan: "How much do you want to be homeschooled?"

An answer was not forthcoming. There was just this silence that stretched on. I asked him again, "How much do you want to be homeschooled, in marks out of ten?"

Again he was silent, but there was much evidence of thought in his silence. What incidents, opinions, or circumstances he was reviewing in his mind, I cannot know...but that he was doing something of the kind was clear. A sense of sadness, or resignation, or both, seemed to overcome him.

Again, I asked: "Ainan, I am your daddy...tell me, how much do you want to be homeschooled out of ten?"

His silence lay upon him, like a protective cloak. His quiet sadness seemed to deepen. Then, almost too quiet to hear, a single word emerged from his mouth: "Ten".

That was enough. He had said what preoccupied him. School was not for him.

I decided on a follow-up question. "Are you learning anything there?"

He just shook his head emphatically from side to side.

I didn't ask him anything more.

So, this is the situation as it stands. The school system is waking up to Ainan's gifts (though it has taken over a year for them to acknowledge him) and has decided that he is suitable for the Gifted Education Programme. The question is: is the Programme suitable for him? Will it meet his specific needs...or will it be another disappointment? Would it be better to homeschool and leave the formal education system entirely? All is presently up for consideration. I would first like to see what exactly will result from our meeting with the government representatives...and then, if that is not satisfactory, to embark on homeschooling, if permission is granted. If it is not granted and we are not satisfied with his education, we would simply leave Singapore for somewhere that would grant permission readily.

Perhaps a mixture of homeschooling and gifted provision could be achieved: if that is better than homeschooling alone. We will have to see. Presently, Ainan is enduring a slow death in mainstream education. He has to be saved from that, at least.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, three and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to:
I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:01 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what little Ive read of your blog... Well... the impression I get is that your kid is not just gifted but really really really gifted, what they call "profoundly gifted".

If he really was talking at two weeks and recognizing words at 12 months... he might be one of the most intelligent people in... well in a very, very large area.

My guess is that the gifted program will not be adequate.

A lot of gifted programs only take the kid out of regular classes for an hour a day for "enrichment", and leave them in normal school the rest of the time.

Ive been told that advanced classes often consist of extra homework at the same level, and nothing truly enriching.

Also, gifted programs tend to be designed for those who are moderately gifted (30% advanced, IQ 130 or so) because they are far more common. (Moderately gifted is about 2% of the population). Your child sounds more like a 1 in 100,000 at most common... probably far more rare.

If I were you, Id calculate how far advanced your child is based on an average of his various developmental milestones compared with the average age kids hit them (if you havent already done so) translate that into an IQ score, (130% = IQ 130, 150% = IQ 150 and so on) and then determine whether he is near moderately gifted, or way out of that range.

Perhaps he has already taken or will be taking an IQ test. Id still do the developmental milestone calculation just to double check - there are many things that can interfere with IQ test scores, and they may not give your child the thorough one that tests even for learning disabilities. (As I see it, being that I suspect that I am both gifted and dyslexic, and neither was ever identified, and it cause me many problems, this is worth the investment.)

For a child of the intelligence that yours has, if you are going to consider schooling him, you should consider grade acelleration. One grade may be horribly inadequate. In order for it to work, he will probably have to be placed many grades above his age level. Ive heard of kids as young as 9 years old attending college. This is supposed to be the best thing for them when theyre that intelligent. Theyll never socialize normally with their age peers anyhow, being that their mental age is so far beyond them. Its easier for them to learn socialization with their mental peers, even if their age is different. I think you might have one of those can go to college as a child.

Im really glad to see you mention that youre willing to homeschool, or even move out of the country to make sure he gets a good education. So many parents are not in your position or do not have your ambition. My parents figured since I was capable of doing the school work, theyd just leave me as-is...

If what you want is the best possible school, try considering a few of these unique options:

Free schools - This is a style of school where the children dont take lessons unless they want to. I dont know for a fact, but Ill guess that theyd be more open to the idea of grade acelleration as well. One famous freeschool is called Summerhill.

John Taylor Gatto found a free school himself in New York. He has an incredible education philosophy. He beleives the current public schooling system is basically a brainwashing scheme, that all children are geniuses so long as its not schooled out of them. He actually resigned when the public schooling system he once worked for gave him the state award for teacher of the year and gave a speech called "The seven lesson school teacher" designed to expose the brainwashing.

Bondy Schools - An amazing gifted counselor (as in she specializes in giftedness) named Annmarie Roeper appears to have founded two schools. Her articles are the best Ive ever seen and her educational philosophy is amazing. You can find a video about the school at the bottom of this page, I havent seen it but I think one of the school's main focuses is the spiritual/emotional development of the child - she sees that overexcitabilities are a core part of their gift and Im guessing that her schools aim to cater to the special emotional needs of gifted students as well as their intellectual needs. I strongly urge you to read her articles, too. Shes the only psychologist Ive ever come across who I thought was sane and reasonable.

Montesorri schools - this is a style of schooling that pretty much removes formal instruction. The kids learn at their own pace. There are various montesorri schools all over.

NOTE: I havent tried any of these schools and havent researched them enough to know whether they truly are as good as they sound, but since it took me so long to even find out about them, I figured I may have saved you some time or trouble. At the very least, I hope it will open up your horizons.

- The SENG moderator. (I responded before, around Christmas)

1:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your post,

As ever your words are helpful, and most welcome.

I don't know yet what the gifted programme in Singapore will involve. I cannot judge whether it will be adequate. I do know, however, that they don't seem to have much regard for the parents' opinion or wishes (see the post How to make parents unhappy, Singapore style).

Your suggestion that we use developmental markers to scale Ainan is something that provokes a real problem. The numbers we get from such a calculation are truly very great. It leaves me in no doubt that Ainan has needs which will not be easily met.

He spoke at a couple of weeks - and began to have letter recognition at eight months - and was walking at six months. The ratios to the norm are very high.

Thank you for your tips regarding schools. We were unaware of most of them - so it is helpful to have new directions to look at.

As for "college as a kid"...I think that is almost a certainty. The only real question is finding a college that would take him (he might be noticeably younger than 9, though we will see.)

I much appreciate your kindness in taking the time to write.

Best wishes to you and the Seng board.

2:12 PM  

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