His brain never stops. His thoughts fly through him, overwhelm his entire being, and send him to a far off land. Grabbing his attention is a struggle sometimes. He isn’t zoned out; he’s zoned in. When he’s finished piecing together his many musings, his eyes light up, and he zooms across the room. He sprawls ideas across the board, and he is filled with glee as he attempts to slow down enough to share his ideas. They often have nothing to do with what we are learning in class. It is hard to resist following him down the rabbit hole.
I want to satiate every curiosity he has, but that’s not always possible. He asks questions that often have no real answers or answers he’s not prepared to understand. He does best when he’s given multiple unrelated tasks to do at once, allowing him to bounce back and forth from one to the other. To a stranger, this might look like chaos, but to him, it is calming.
He needs intense mental stimulation to remain focused – to occupy his mind enough to keep the wandering thoughts at bay. I turn clean up into a puzzle and ask him to recite facts that he’s currently fixated on while he works. I don’t ever expect him to sit. He sometimes reads upside down or sprawled across the floor.
Teaching him is a balancing act. He could accelerate more, but he also adores the activities and lessons from the lower grade level. He finds phonics fascinating. It’s full of patterns. He loves numbers, and I don’t know if he will ever tire of playing with place value cubes. But, he also yearns for a challenge – to learn new things – and feel like something is actually hard.
I let him do the easy stuff, I provide him with the challenging stuff, and I let him bounce between the two, pushing him just enough to teach him how to persevere in the face of a challenge while still letting him be a kid.
If I really pushed him, I think he could be ready for prealgebra in just a year or two, but acceleration is not the goal. It’s a side effect. I want to satiate his curiosity and to make sure he’s always learning something new. We dive deeper into the topics at hand, and we branch out to other topics.
We built a ten-thousands cube; he wanted to feel 10,000. In the process, he also learned about nets and 3-D shapes.
He is endlessly entertained by adding and subtracting BIG numbers; he never uses the standard algorithm for carrying or borrowing. He does it mentally, using his knowledge of place value, and he’s still in awe that it works every time.
I plan to do logic with him. We’ve done some of the story-based logic puzzles. He very politely told me, “Miss Danielle, I don’t mean to be mean, but this isn’t math. And it’s kind of boring.” I laughed, and told him it’s okay. Let’s finish this one, and we can do something else. We’re going to try binary puzzles, sudoku, and magic squares.
He loves sequences and patterns, so we’ll probably do some combinatorics too.
I admire his relationship with numbers. I picture them swirling around inside his mind, but I don’t think he sees them as numerals. They have dimension and character.
I adore this child, but my heart aches for him too. I can see how frustrated he gets when he misses out because his thoughts took him elsewhere. I can see how exhausted he gets trying to reign himself in – to stay present. I can see how disappointed he is that he can’t get all the answers for everything all the time – that there is not a high speed download button for information.
While he is here, he is able to share his fascination with numbers and patterns with his peers, but I know that most kids his age don’t want to do math problems for fun or read the dictionary for free time, and that must make making friends and keeping them hard.
Right now, he’s fearless and uninhibited. But I can also see that he is starting to understand – to see – that other kids aren’t like him. It’s happening slowly, but I know as he gets older, it’ll become more obvious to him. And I’ve seen kids try to stifle their excitabilities and intensities to fit in, but I hope that he never sees a day where he feels the need to dim the magic that makes him shine just to fit in.
Kids like him inspire me and motivate me every day. Whether they’re here for a few hours each weekend or all week with our microschool, I hope that HEROES is that safe place for them – the place where they can grow, learn, express their truest self, and make friendships that will last a lifetime.