He loves rockets, Legos and playing Minecraft. He loves to read, but only rocket books in the nonfiction section. His parents think he is probably only looking at the pictures instead of reading the actual words. He tests average in school and struggles with math. Homework is a nightly chore and often there are tears when it comes time for Devin to finish his math worksheet. Devin could talk for hours about Minecraft or rockets and often does on car rides alone with a parent. Devin’s teacher is concerned that Devin doesn’t do well in his school reading group and cannot pass the comprehension test after each book. His parents and teachers are beginning to think he has a learning disorder.
We’ll get back to Devin and his learning disorder in a moment. But first, let’s talk about some REAL LIFE geniuses you may know.
Albert was labeled a slow-learner as a young child in elementary school. He got average grades. Albert loved to stack a house of cards and got very good at it. He also loved to build toy models. Albert struggled with long division and hated to memorize. He didn’t like sports and was considered by many as “dull-witted”. He teacher suggested that he leave school at 15, which he did. Albert Einstein became a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, famous for his theory of relativity and contributions to quantum theory and statistical mechanics.
Thomas was a daydreamer. His teachers labeled him “addled” and a slow learner. His mother decided to homeschool him instead. Thomas Edison became the most famous and productive inventor of all time, with more than 1,000 patents in his name, including the electric light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera. He became a self-made multimillionaire and won a Congressional Gold Medal.
Walt struggled in school and was dyslexic. He dropped out at 16 and became an artist instead. Walt Disney became a multimillionaire founder of the Walt Disney Company and after winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he received an honorary high school diploma at age 58.
John was a poor speller and had serious problems in school. He later discovered a love for music and lyrics. John Lennon started a band called The Beatles, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest pop songwriters of all time.
Thomas struggled in school and his teachers said he was incapable of learning. He didn’t learn to read until he was nine. Thomas Jefferson became the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia.
George had trouble spelling and was told he had trouble learning. George Washington became probably the best known founding father of the United States and the first U.S. President.
Learning Disorder or Genius?
One of the greatest tragedies of education is our attempt as parents, as teachers, to label our children. Whether we label them as difficult, a daydreamer, hyperactive, dyslexic, or as simply having a learning disorder, we attach with it a negative connotation. What does this do to our children?
I believe it inhibits them from becoming who they are.
Take standardized tests. You’ve got children from all backgrounds, with various strengths and weaknesses, all testing on the same standard curriculum that they may or may not fully comprehend. You’ve got children who read slowly yet excel at memorization and children who have mastered focus but can’t seem to work through word problems or multiple choice questions. How can any of these tests truly determine a child’s educational growth if we are using the same test on every child?
Some may say this: “We need to evaluate children. Testing helps us determine the level the child is at in the curriculum.” I feel that parents, teacher, and administrators are so concerned with if a child is ahead or behind, they haven’t stopped to imagine that maybe, just maybe, the child is just where he/she is supposed to be, regardless of what the test scores show.
Every Child is a Genius.
I believe that every child is a genius. But I also believe that every child has strengths and weaknesses and if every child is made to fit into a perfect square, then many children will fail.
How Children (and adults) Learn.
Have you ever wondered how you learn? I’m not talking about your education as a child or as an adult. I’m talking about how you learn. Surely there are things you know NOW that you didn’t know as a fresh college graduate.
Well then, how did you learn those things? Who taught you? Who created the curriculum for you to learn?
If I were to guess, I would say you found something that interested you, you used your strengths, you talked to others about it, and applied a good dose of passion. Voila! You learned something.
In your eyes, maybe it wasn’t something spectacular. Maybe it was how to build a tree house for your kids, or how to make homemade bread. Maybe it was creating art, or learning how to play an instrument.
Maybe what you do best can help others, and you learned how to distribute that skill to others. Maybe you’ve even turned it into a profitable business. Maybe you learned how to enact your passion, or just a step on the journey towards making your passion real. Either way, you didn’t need somebody to assign it, and you didn’t need a curriculum to learn it.
Now Let’s Get Back to Devin.
Remember him? He’s the one who loves robots, Legos and playing Minecraft. He’s the one who struggles with completing his school work, but loves to read non-fiction books about rockets.
His parents and teachers are concerned with his reading comprehension. But have they ever realized that Devin can comprehend fine with his rocket books?
They are concerned with his inability to progress in math, but have they realized that Devin already has an interest in math, physics and science and has the ability to progress in it if shown how to apply it in his areas of interest?
The Solution at Home and School:
You may say that an individualized education is too complex, even impossible. The truth is, every day millions of parents are accomplishing this every day by homeschooling. (2.04 million in the United States to be exact.) Is it possible? Absolutely.
The purpose of my article today isn’t to convince everybody to homeschool their children. For many reasons, some parents simply cannot homeschool. My purpose today is to point out that each child is a genius. My purpose is to encourage parents to not live in fear of their child being “behind.” While you’re worried about test scores, the honor roll, and future scholarships, I urge you to pause and think about the people you are creating.
Are you creating people with “learning disorders” who will always feel that they are not good enough? Or are you creating people who’ve developed their inner genius, who can use their talents to find their passion and make a change in the world? Most importantly, are you creating people who will have an amazing time doing it?
Read my articles on our method of homeschooling called unschooling:
- Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Albert Einstein
- 15 Notable People Who Dropped Out of School
- Famous People with Learning Disabilities
- Learning Styles