This morning as I drank my coffee and perused Facebook I happened upon a link that looked interesting about a boy genius. That boy is Jacob Barnett, a boy who’s parents were told would not ever amount to anything. Here is the story. Jacob is autistic. Many of you know my children are both on the autism spectrum, and our oldest reminds me very much of this boy when he was young. Sometimes I wonder if by teaching him to do things “normal” we have made him change too much. When he was young he could do things that were a real pain (like unlock anything, get his own food, be totally independent of others), but he figured stuff out. Today he can’t figure out how to unlock a door with a key and it took months to teach him to turn the water on in the shower (and heaven forbid the shower was not left on!). He doesn’t like buttons on his clothes, I have been unable to teach him to tie his shoes, and he hates being randomly touched. However, like Jacob, he is fascinated with physics, though as far as I can tell he lacks the “savant”-ness of this other boy.
Reading about Jacob Barnett gives me an interesting perspective on my education of my own children. Our youngest really struggles with paperwork. Sure, he has to know how to do it, but he often feels like a failure as it takes so much work to get him to understand it. He is so smart without that paper in front of him, yet our state requires yearly testing, which he will most likely fail. Our oldest is actually very good with paperwork and teaches himself. He doesn’t know the average stuff for his grade level, but in math and reading he is well above and I am certain the testing doesn’t even touch what he really knows. He is fascinated with black holes (and thanks to Jacob, now he wants to know about white holes). I kind of wonder what is inside his head that he doesn’t say. I know both boys think a lot, and sometimes they tell me, but more often than not they don’t know how to express those ideas in a way I can understand. This gap in communication is sad.
With the school year coming to a close and testing right around the corner I, like many parents that homeschool, am already thinking about next year. I really need to focus on what they have learned and how they learn so that I don’t squash their creativity and thinking. It’s easy to screw up, but if we can just remember to listen and encourage our kids they can become great. Of course, I still want them to be able to make it in this world, but to some degree if they are allowed to be who they are they will find their niche. I will leave you with some videos of Jacob; perhaps you will find them as interesting as we did!