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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 +

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fintan the "Prophet" speaks

About two weeks ago, Fintan was playing with a little girl.

After a time, he turned to her and said: "Do you have any brothers?" perhaps because young boys like Fintan, three, generally prefer the company of boys to girls - until they hit their teens of course.

She said no.

He looked at her and nodded in the presence of the girl's mother: "A brother is coming.", he prophesied.

Oddly, that evening, we got a call from England. The wife of one of my brothers had just given birth to a baby boy. Fintan hadn't known of the pregnancy so the timing of his remark and the subsequent birth were an interesting coincidence.

The new boy may not have been a "brother", but he was a boy cousin. That would have to do.

What was most amusing about it is that he made his prophesy with such assurance - and sure enough a new life did begin, though not quite the one required by the letter of his remark. Funny.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:45 AM  0 comments

This is my two hundredth post

I only started this blog at the end of September 2006, but already this is my two hundredth post. It has been a refreshing experience...and from the number of repeat visitors this site receives it seems that it is enjoyed by others, too.

Thanks for your interest...and taking the time to read.

Best wishes all.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:43 AM  0 comments

Friday, February 16, 2007

Atom feed added to blog

Some time ago a reader requested that I add feeds to my blog. I am new to this technology and unfamiliar with its implementation and consequences...so I am trying an experiment. I have added an Atom feed (just like RSS I suppose), for those who might want to take it.

I hope this helps some readers get better access to my posts.

Thanks

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:36 PM  2 comments

Ainan's Chemistry Conference

As readers of the post below will know, yesterday Ainan had a meeting with two chemists and his Principal. The meeting took place over an hour or so and, during that time, the chemists asked questions about broad areas of Chemistry, seeking areas of strength and weakness. It seems that they only found the former, for they concluded that: "Ainan has an amazing depth and breadth of knowledge in Chemistry."

The chemists have promised to write a report on Ainan's chemistry knowledge so that it might be available to further his education. So, the conclusions of the chemistry "conference" are positive - but that still doesn't change the fact that the manner in which they approached the meeting was offensive to both parents.

Yesterday, my wife went to Ainan's school with him in a final attempt to be admitted to the meeting. She failed in doing so. She informed them that it was rather insulting to be excluded in this way but that made little impression. Thus, despite our every effort, Ainan faced this committee alone. That he acquitted himself well is a testament to his mental maturity - but that is little consolation. My wife pointed out to them that in most countries the presence of the parents would be required by law: here, it seems, it is denied, whether by law or not. The whole experience has left us much less happy than before about what is happening. We no longer feel entirely in control of the situation.

One thing that can be said of the Gifted Education Branch, though, is that they are very thorough. One would have thought that the evidence they have so far gathered would be enough to decide what to do next - but no, it is not. The next step is for Ainan to be observed in the classroom to see how he is in that situation; to view how the teacher interacts with him; and how he interacts with the teacher and his classmates. We haven't been informed whether there is yet another step after that. Each hoop passed, so far, has only revealed another to be jumped through. I feel like I am in a hall of mirrors surrounded by infinite reflections: it seems impossible to make progress through them all.

They did say one thing though that puts Ainan's life and ability into perspective. They said that Ainan is the only scientific child prodigy in Singapore. That is in a country of four and a half million people. They did add, though, that they have a number of maths child prodigies...but no other scientific one. Perhaps that explains their intensity with regards to him.

(If you would like to read more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, and his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:33 PM  0 comments

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How to make parents unhappy, Singapore style

There are many ways to make parents unhappy, but one of them is exclusion from involvement in their children's education. Recently, I have posted about our son Ainan's acceptance onto the Gifted Education Programme, in Singapore. We have kept an open mind as to what benefits might accrue from their involvement with Ainan, and we are still trying to, but the latest developments offer, perhaps, a warning as to what might be to come.

Today, as I write, Ainan, my seven year old scientific child prodigy son, aged seven years and two months, is in a room with two chemists from the Gifted Education Branch and his Principal. They are there to interview and assess him regarding his scientific interests and "other matters" which were not specified to us. We are not happy about the circumstances of this discussion for many reasons and all of them come down to one thing: parental involvement.

The Officer from the Gifted Education Branch has spoken a lot of parental involvement, of how nothing is done without the approval of the parents and how the parents' involvement is important. As far, however, as her actions show, this is all empty talk. We had requested that either my wife or myself be present at the meeting, to make Ainan more comfortable. This request was firmly denied, the Officer arguing that our presence would make it difficult for him. Yep. I can see how having his mum present would be socially awkward: he is seven and she is his mother...what difficulty could there be? No measure of persuasion on the issue had any effect at all. One member of the Branch suggested that we could be present behind a two-way mirror and watch proceedings. (This, apparently, is something that is done quite often.) Another pooh-poohed this very stiffly, clearly irked by her colleague's suggestion. So, we weren't allowed to be present behind a screen either. We then asked if we could have a recording of this meeting, since it would be valuable to have such a record of this scientific meeting between Ainan and two chemists...invaluable really for the future, to record what he was like at this age. That, too, was denied, with the argument that the presence of a recording device would make him "feel like he is being evaluated". OK: so a panel of three judges firing questions at him, does NOT make him feel evaluated but a passive recording device, that says nothing, does?

I cannot see any good reason why they don't want either parent present, or a device to record what transpires. However, it is not difficult to see bad reasons, with a little thought. Why, basically, don't they want either parent to know what is happening in the confines of that room?

The manner in which we are being sidelined in the education of our son, by the Gifted Education Branch from the moment they came to recognize his gifts is quite perturbing. They are behaving almost as if they own Ainan in some way - and we are perceived as an inconvenience in the way of their plans for him. At least, that is how it feels from the way we have been treated on this issue.

In our previous meeting with the Gifted Education Branch, the Officer mentioned that, sometimes, parents refused to co-operate with the Branch and tried to go against their plans. Well, I wonder why? Could it be because the Branch disregards the wishes of the parents and treats them as a barrier to total control over the child?

Ainan is generally a quiet child. I am unconvinced that a panel of three strangers bombarding him with questions is a superior experience to one that included his mother as a reassuring presence. I am also unconvinced that the presence of his mother would detract from the quality of his responses. His greater comfort would be likely to produce a better result. Placing him in an uncomfortable situation is unlikely to secure the greatest access to his thoughts on science or any other matter.

What is notable is that his Principal was quite fierce on the phone on the issue of not allowing a recording or the presence of a parent. She had clearly been briefed by the Branch before she received my wife's call and cut her off before she had even begun to explain what she had in mind and quickly denied permission in an irrefutable style.

Given their approach to Ainan and his parents, one wonders if this Gifted Education Programme is concerned about what Singapore can do for Ainan, or what Ainan can do for Singapore. If their interest is education, it should be the former, if their interests lie elsewhere, it will be distinctly the latter.

Perhaps we were naive, but we didn't expect this high-handed approach to Ainan's future. The way the Branch Officer spoke, the Gifted Education Programme was portrayed as a great enabler, that allowed the children to grow as was appropriate. Yet, it is only the beginning of their involvement and what we already feel, strongly, is that our wishes are being disregarded and theirs imposed on us and Ainan. It is as if the parents are the enemy and the child is the trophy to be won over and harnessed to their own ends. Whether or not that is their intention, that is the impression they have managed to create in the space of a week.

I noticed, during the first meeting, that the Branch Officer, gainsayed a lot of what I said. She often had a counter view to my own. Since then, she has displayed complete inflexibility over how she wanted things to go, failing to accede to all of our requests. She always had strongly held views as to why things had to go her way and even came out with the "I am a psychologist...I know what to do." with an implicit, "I know better than you." Err...no, she doesn't. She knows very little about Ainan. She even said: "All child prodigies have the same issues." Really? Now, if that isn't stereotyping, I don't know what is.

She had already irked me enough by her refusal to accommodate our requests - and so she was unable to irk me more when she spoke in a manner that can only be described as condescending: "You should read about gifted kids then you would understand your son better."

That would be hilarious, in a dark sort of way, if it wasn't so alarming about what it implies of her understanding of the situation. My wife and I have a gifted child, a scientific child prodigy...does that not imply, genetically, that we too were once gifted children and so are well aware of the issues? That thought appears beyond conception for her. If I want to know about my gifted children, there is no need to consult a book...consulting my memories of my childhood will do.

Whatever results from the meeting today, one thing is most clear: the Gifted Education Branch have not handled this case well at all. Ainan's education has just begun, but we already feel left out of the equation altogether. Is this typical of gifted programmes worldwide - or is it just Singapore's approach to parents?

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:38 PM  6 comments

Belated Happy Valentine's Wishes

Here is a belated Happy Valentine's to all around the world. I was a bit busy...it was my birthday, of course.

Best wishes all.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:27 PM  0 comments

The introduction of post labels

I have just upgraded to the new blogger and so can now do post labels. However, there is a huge backlog in that I have to go back and label all my old posts: this will take time. So, please be patient while I do so, it will be a few days at least, maybe longer, depending on how much time I can devote to it. In the meantime, the labels will only have modest utility.

I will post my usual daily post in a couple of hours.

Thanks.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:52 AM  0 comments

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Early reading: first word recognition

Tiarnan is twelve months old, and yesterday night he rather surprised us. He noticed a word "pet", written down and, without anyone else saying anything, he clearly said: "Pet". Now, I don't know about you, but that seems to me to be rather more than coincidence: of all the sounds he could have made at that moment, he made the one sound, clearly enunciated, which happened to be the word in front of him.

He hadn't repeated a word said by others since no-one had said that word. It was his own initiative and response to the stimulus in front of him.

The only conclusion we could come to is that Tiarnan had recognized the word - and so read it. Uncanny.

(If you would like to read more about Tiarnan, or his gifted brothers Fintan, three and Ainan Celeste Cawley, seven years and two months, a scientific child prodigy, then please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 12:54 PM  0 comments

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Should child prodigies go to University?

This question was asked in a search by a visitor to my site today. It is important to know that their ISP was for an American University, so it is probable that the searcher is an academic or administrator of some kind who is wrestling with the question of whether or not to admit a particular child prodigy as a student.

My first reaction to their question, is why do they ask it? Many people, when confronted with a child prodigy, ask whether they are likely to be socially well-adjusted and my reply to them would be that there is no more reason to suppose they will be maladjusted than anyone else. The reason I say this is that being a prodigy, does not mean that one will have any particular social problem. Prodigy is not Asperger's - and only a very small minority of prodigies would be the autism scale. Most prodigies will be normal in their social development, eventually, even if they are advanced intellectually. It is that latter fact that may make a difference. You see, the prodigy is likely to "click" with those who are older than themselves and smarter than average.

So, I would say that far from being a misfit at University - as was the implicit worry of the University searcher above - that the prodigy is more likely to fit in at University (if they are a true prodigy and show adult level mental development, as a child, in their domain) than they are to fit in at primary/elementary school, or middle school or wherever their age would determine that they should be.

The child prodigy will only feel at home where they feel that they are among INTELLECTUAL peers - for that is what they will measure others against: their question being - "Do these people understand me?" The answer will be 'yes' only among their intellectual matches - smart adults.

So, do not hinder a child prodigy's progress to University, but enable it, for it is likely that only in such an environment will they finally feel at home.

There is one more point to add: if a child has mastered all the school level curriculum in their field, they cannot simply stop learning, but must go on to University to continue their development. To prevent them from doing so on the basis of age would be a grave error.

I hope the reader who searched for this question sees this, and, if making the decision, allows the child prodigy a place at their University.

(If you would like to read about my three gifted children including Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, and his gifted brothers, Fintan, three, and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 1:07 PM  2 comments

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tiarnan invents expletives

About a week ago, I scolded Tiarnan, twelve months, lightly for something: "You are a naughty boy!", I said, to him, quietly, while holding him in my arms. His reply rather surprised me:

"Baboon buttock!" he called me.

Now I found this both hilarious and surprising. Firstly, no-one had ever linked those two words together for him, though they would have been heard independently, in different circumstances, in the correct contexts. I was surprised that he had basically invented the idea of an expletive - and coined one, for himself.

I told my wife about it later, while he was in earshot - and he just smiled mischievously to himself. What a character.

(If you would like to read more of Tiarnan, twelve months, or his gifted brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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 @ 12:34 PM  0 comments

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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
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  2 comments

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