I Knew He Was Brilliant

I said, “I love you too.”

Then I said, “Oh, oh, oh, say lion.” He said, “Lion.”

Say, “Light bulb.” He said, “Light bulb.”

Then I called my husband at work and made the poor child say every L word I could think of until finally my husband started cheering, because he finally realized why I was torturing the boy with this crazy list of words to recite. We couldn’t believe that his speech problem was just gone.

When Cody was four he suddenly walked up to me one day and said, “I can count to 100.” Then he started doing it. The next day he walked up to me, randomly, and said, “I can add one to anything.” Again, he started doing it. “One plus five is six. One plus 10 is 11.” The day after that brought another surprise announcement. He had figured out how to add two to anything. I just knew that I had a mathematical prodigy on my hands.

We began homeschooling with very high hopes. We picked curriculum that had worked well with my older son for two years. We planned classes. We started with great enthusiasm. Then life changed everything. My family went through some really painful months that first year of homeschooling Cody. There came a point, by Christmas, that I actually did what most homeschool moms think about doing. I quit. I enrolled by children in the local public school. It was a highly rated elementary school. My older son had gone there for kindergarten and it wasn’t disastrous. I felt like I had lost it. I felt that the boys could get absolutely no education from me in my current state of mind. I felt that the school was the best place for them to go. I felt completely defeated. My dear sweet prodigy would have to be molded by somebody else.

That summer my husband decided to take a job in Florida, so we all moved. I still didn’t think I was ready to homeschool so we enrolled them in a local magnet school. At the magnet school, Cody started first grade with a brand new teacher. She was not just new to him, she was new to teaching. He spent an hour on the bus, eight hours with this young and inexperienced teacher, then another hour on the school bus. Very shortly after the start of the school year, I started receiving notes from the teacher saying that I needed to read at home with him more because he was not keeping up with the class. When I talked with Cody about the class, he complained of the students who wasted the class’s time. He complained about the teacher yelling at the class. He did like, however, the lady who came to class once in a while and read with him. I spoke to the teacher. I spoke to the guidance counselor. I spoke to the school nurse at the least once a week because one of my two boys developed a mystery illness that frequently. I spoke often to both of my sons about their classes. I found out that my boys had not learned anything since I stopped homeschooling them. I decided it was time to quit again. I needed to quit believing that somebody else, especially a government agency, could fix my problems. I needed to quit allowing somebody else to control their education. I was finally committed to homeschooling, no matter how I felt.

That January, I started homeschooling Cody all over again. This time we were not quite as enthusiastic. This time we were determined. This time we had a mission. This time we had to find out why he was having trouble instead of how to mold the prodigy. We read, wrote, did math, and played, of course. He was a wreck. I was a wreck. “How can we possibly move forward?” was often the question of the day. Amazingly the first answer came at the doctor’s office. He needed glasses. He wasn’t reading well because he wasn’t seeing well. The next answer was that being told he was a poor reader had killed his confidence so he did not want to read. I needed to build his confidence. We camped out many afternoons on my bed reading together. He picked the books. He read for 20 minutes with all the help he needed. I read for 40 minutes to help the story move along. This kept him interested in the stories and in time his confidence improved. We were starting to roll.


  • Erasers have texture.
  • Wood grains, real or fake, have great varieties.
  • Strange tiny threads float in the air, especially through sunlight.
  • When the battery is running low on the clock, it’s always half past the hour.
  • The leaves on the tree in my back yard never blow the same way twice.
  • The color of the carpet changes slightly when you vacuum.
  • When you drip milk on paper it bubbles. (The paper, not the milk.)

This is really just the beginning. I can’t remember everything. I don’t think you would like to read it anyway. The point is that Cody stares. He stares a lot. He stares when he should be reading. He stares when he should be writing. He stares when he should be calculating. Basically, he stares instead of doing his work. I am no education expert, but I do think I can recognize an attention problem when I see one. This was an attention problem. I needed help. My brilliant son couldn’t pay attention long enough to be brilliant.

I was suddenly faced with a new challenge. Not only was Cody not the perfect, self motivated homeschool student you read about. He was a challenged student. I didn’t want to label him. I just wanted to educate him. I wanted him to read. I wanted him to write well and I wanted him to understand mathematics. I knew that I expected a lot from my children, but I didn’t think I was unreasonable. Often I have been advised to just accept that Cody is not as smart as the other children and give him a break. The problem with that advice was that I knew he was brilliant. When he wants, he can learn anything….fast. When he gets a new video game he masters it in a day. He remembers actions with his hands. He remembers locations on a map. He even knows how to do research to help find answers he can’t figure out on his own. I thought that if I could turn every one of his school subjects into video games he would do so well. There were a couple of problems with that approach. One problem was that I didn’t program that well. The next problem was that I didn’t know how to make fractions as exciting as WWII battle fields. We did try available video game style education programs. They didn’t help. They actually provided more distractions than opportunities to learn. It was time to get help.

I asked my homeschooling friends for advice. I asked my “real teacher” friends for help. I was advised to keep his lessons short. I was advised to provide him a piece of carpet or textured fabric to rub. I was advised to never leave his side when he is doing school. The lessons were already short. The texture rubbing brought his attention back to his work, but he never remembered to do it on his own so I had to never leave his side when he was doing school. This is particularly difficult because I was homeschooling up to three other children while working with him. These friends and “real teachers” even offered to work with him personally, either at my home or theirs. These sessions usually ended with the same comment, “I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know how to get him to stay on task. It’s amazing how he manages to NOT get work done. Maybe you should expect less of him.” I always smiled as graciously as I could through my great disappointment. In my head I was screaming, “BUT I KNOW HE’S BRILLIANT!!”

I’m not here to tell you that I have the answers for attention challenged students. I am here to encourage any of you who are facing the same challenge. I have spent years staying by his side as he does every lesson and repeatedly saying, “Get back to your work.” He started last year to read well. This past summer, since he was in high school and it couldn’t be avoided any longer, I asked a young grad student friend of mine to help him learn how to write essays. We have been making great strides and I’m really beginning to see the fruit of my efforts.

The good news is that attention challenged students thrive with one on one attention from their “teacher.” The best news is that we are homeschooling and that gives them their best, and maybe only, chance for success. Cody is 15 years old at this writing and a sophomore in high school. He is taking Geometry, Communications: Oral and Written, Latin, American Literature, New Testament Survey, Courtship and Marriage, Introductory Web Design, Marine Biology and American Government. If I hadn’t homeschooled him, I am confident that he would be working a minimum wage job and preparing to drop out when he turns 16 next month. I don’t know where he’ll go when he graduates, but I’m glad he will have a chance to choose. Your homeschool students will also.

—-Laura Nolette

Pages: 1 2

Posted in Homeschooling. Comments Off on I Knew He Was Brilliant