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 +

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In Homeschooling Permission Limbo

We have applied, once more, for permission to homeschool Ainan. In Singapore, one is not automatically free to homeschool: permission must be sought from the Compulsory Education Unit of the Ministry of Education.

Seven months ago, I applied for permission and was told that I would hear from them soon - but I heard nothing. Recent events have led us to understand that we are unlikely to receive appropriate and adequate educational provision for Ainan from the Singapore public school system - despite our experiences of Raffles Insitution, Raffles College and NUS High School for Maths and Science. The provision is insufficient and now we understand that it is intentionally so. So, we are moved to ask for homeschooling once again.

I have written to them explaining that Ainan is not receiving suitable educational stimulation in school and that the educational authorities have made it clear that they are not going to provide for him. I have put the case for homeschooling to them - and I am now waiting for a reply.

I do understand from their first communication, however, that Ainan's school appears to be resistive to the suggestion. I wonder why since they are unable to provide for him?

At this stage, after giving them a year and a half to sort out their response to Ainan - and watching them respond only in the most minimal of ways - we are convinced and adamant that the only way forward is for us to educate him ourselves.

So, we are in a kind of limbo: the schooling system is not providing for Ainan - and the educational authorities have not yet given us permission to provide for him. For as long as this goes on, Ainan will be wasting his time in a school system unable to cope with his particular gifts. I hope this time does not last long.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and nine months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and two months, and Tiarnan, nineteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:32 PM 


Anonymous Bee Yong said...

Dear Mr Cawley,

I read your blog almost daily, and look forward to reading your insights on gifted education, and Ainan's development.

I understand that your wife is a Singaporen while you are Irish (sorry if I made a mistake here). Is Ainan a Singaporean? If he is not, then I think it is not necessary for you to get approval for his homeschooling. There is a homeschool group in Singapore:

Bee Yong, Singapore

12:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Bee Yong for taking such an interest in Ainan and my blog.

Ainan is Singaporean by birth - but yes, I am Irish. I don't know how or whether the law applies to him - but the Compulsory Education Unit hasn't given me an answer about it. They are silent while things progress in the background.

Thank you for the link to the homeschooling group. I hope something can be worked out soon.

Best wishes

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Bee Yong said...

Hi Mr Cawley,

I am very proud to know that Ainan is a fellow Singaporean!

Ainan is so amazing, he may be a scientist and Nobel prize winner in the making. Isn't his gift what our government is hoping for? I really hope that someone from the top takes notice of it, as he has the potential to put Singapore in the World map in the future. It would be a shame if his potential is not exploited to the fullest.

Has he completed his lab sessions at RJC/RI? Has a mentor been appointed? I hope he could be admitted to one of the universities here after his 'A' levels (I understand he is preparing for his 'A' level Chemistry now).

I feel sad to read about the hurdles you encountered with the education branch and schools here, and the lukewarm response you got. Aren't they excited to be involved in moulding a young prodigy into a future scientist?

Just curious, does Ainan watch the Science Challenge '07 on Ch5 every Thu? Are the questions posed too trivial for him?

Warmest regards,
Bee Yong (Mdm)

12:35 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Bee Yong for your further comment.

Yes, it is altogether possible that, one day, Ainan could put Singapore on the scientific world map - but it looks like he will have to do it without as much help from the "system" as you might expect. There are many things they could do to help him on his way that they are not doing - and have made it clear that they are not willing to do. They do not seem interested in enabling him to flourish as best as he might.

There were only six sessions at RJC/RI - so he finished those a long time ago. They were helpful in giving him a grounding in practical work. However he needs ongoing practical provision but the Gifted Education Branch have specifically said they will not provide that. I simply cannot understand what their motive could be: no positive one springs to mind in explanation.

No mentor has been appointed.

I don't think much that is positive will come from them.

Yes, Ainan occasionally watches the science challenge and is able to answer the questions.

We are doing our best to provide Ainan what he needs - I only wish others were doing the same - but they are not.

Best wishes

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Cawley,

I am considering home-schooling my child and will soon need to write in for exemption. Has MOE gotten back to you on the outcome of the exemption of your child from CE?
I hope to learn from your experience. Thanks.

Ms Lim

12:34 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am afraid the MOE just wasted our time. They never gave permission, though they did make empty promises to "revert to you shortly". You see, when they don't want to do something, they just won't - even if the rules supposedly allow it. We found them to be nothing but blockers of a chlid's opportunities.

You may have a different experience. Some advice: don't, whatever you do, let them think your child is "gifted". If you do, they will NOT allow you to homeschool (as far as we can see) and will try to TAKE CONTROL of your child's life. If you look at the MOE website it says it believes that gifted children should be in the school system. Perhaps that is why they gave us so much trouble.

Make your application. Say nothing about your child being exceptional...and good luck.

11:41 AM  

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