“Homeschooled Whiz Kid” on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360

25 01 2011

Aired January 24, 11 pm

–What do you think about when you’re in school?

–I think about getting the work done so I can come home and play.

Transcript excerpt as just posted to the intertubes, no video that I see yet:

Well, you may not know this, but an estimated 1.5 million students are home schooled in America. In tonight’s “Perry’s Principles”, you’re going to meet one of them who’s considered a whiz kid. He wants to graduate college at the age of 16.

Here’s our education contributor Steve Perry.


STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: Like any typical teen, Stephen Stafford loves video games. But unlike his peers, this 14- year-old is a sophomore at Atlanta’s Morehouse College.

Morehouse man?


PERRY: What is it like to be a Morehouse teenager?

STAFFORD: I’ve been doing this for a while now so it seems like (INAUDIBLE) for me normal. It’s not that big of a deal.

PERRY: Well Stephen and his sister Martinique were home schooled by their mom when they showed early promise.

STAFFORD: When I was in kindergarten, she had me reading second and third grade books. I was doing multiplication and division when I was in kindergarten.

PERRY: What you would do is you — on some level accelerated your children’s learning by not stopping.

MICHELLE BROWN STAFFORD, STEPHEN’S MOTHER: Exactly. You have to be resourceful. It’s just no way — I mean because you become the teacher, the administrator; I mean you just really have to pull the resources together. You have to invest time in doing that.

STEPHEN STAFFORD, STEPHEN’S FATHER: If you’re not actively participating in their education in school, they’re not going to succeed.

PERRY: You have been straddling this world of being a kid and being an adult. How do you feel about being in that world?

STAFFORD: When I was 7 years old I used to always hang out with 15, 16-year-olds. I’m used to people being older than I am and taller than I am. When I hang out with kids my age, I can socialize with them, so it’s — I think it’s pretty cool to be able to go back and forth with that.

PERRY: There’s a social life that we expect when we’re in college. There’s boys and there’s girls; there’s dreaming about your careers and families. What do you think about when you’re in school?

STAFFORD: I think about getting the work done so I can come home and play.

PERRY: What about those critics who say that you’re just pushing your kids too hard, let them be a kid?

M. STAFFORD: We acknowledge that we have to develop the whole child, ok. But a lot of times parents tend to focus more on the socialization than the intellectual. We let them grow at their own pace emotionally.

PERRY: When you’re in school, are the students there still caught up in the fact that you’re four to ten years younger than them?

STAFFORD: Maybe the first day the class starts, but probably by the third or fourth day they really just calm down and get used to it.

PERRY: Do they recognize that you might be able to help them with their homework?

STAFFORD: They ask me for help a lot.


COOPER: It seems like the Staffords are certainly very focused on helping their kids. What do you think the best way for parents to support kids is?

PERRY: Parents have to leave all options open. They can’t just depend on the school system sometimes. In fact, the Staffords understood that their child was special and they were not going to allow anybody to stop them from pulling a child’s gifts out. So they home schooled.



4 responses

25 01 2011

Gee, what unschooling slackers we are here, piping and singing and dancing, watching movies and reading books for pleasure! At 15, Young Son should be poised for university graduation, as is his (old maid!) 20-year-old sister, I suppose . . .

OTOH, take the top of the post and the bottom of it. The kid just wants to get the schoolwork done do he can play. Doesn’t fit at all with: understood that their child was special and they were not going to allow anybody to stop them from pulling a child’s gifts out.

It sounds like maybe they pulled his gifts out of him all right — put them up on a high shelf to get them out of reach! — so schoolwork could be Job One, so it would get done years early, all so real work could begin early. [shudder] Don’t let anyone ever tell you there’s no difference between school-at-home and unschooling!

26 01 2011

Btw, Tiger Mother was on Colbert last night, protesting too much imo that despite her chosen book title, she never thought of parenting and home-teaching or the life children need to be groomed for, as a “battle.”

Since this post went up, I noticed several hits to a true story about Favorite Daughter as a whiz kid, found by long-time readers who remembered it? — or drop-ins with highly developed search skills: How my unschooling guinea pig was wooed for TV and learned a life lesson we all could use

Anyway, we watched the show as a family when it aired a few weeks later. Maybe you saw it? As a professional educator, as a mom, as a human being, it appalled me. Even worse than I had feared. Buzzers and bells, summary dismissal even for a right answer that comes a split second too late (just like the Geography Bee, I read) almost like a sideshow at the carnival –- horrid fascination.

Please understand — we neither envied nor pitied those particular children. More power to them. The concern in my home was about the societal message being broadcast to children and parents and legislators across America, that THESE are the bright children, our hope for tomorrow, that the smartest kids in the country are the ones who succeed at a competition like this.

. . .Sometimes, as in the movie War Games, the only winning move is not to play.

And that one links this one, about Young Son as a whiz kid:

Talk about competitive, wow. And I don’t mean the child.

. . .When Young Son was barely four, he was something of a chess whiz and a real Russian chess mistress living on campus here with her doctoral student husband, took a big interest in him, wanted to put him in tournaments because she said he had unusual raw talent etc.

His stunned but proud dad actually started researching ivy league chess scholarships (we were both overachieving firstborns in school, infused with the win-or-lose world view . . .)

26 01 2011
Nance Confer

Yes, the standard school track is not appropriate for very bright children.

And, yes, JJ, you (and the rest of us) are a bunch of slackers. 🙂

26 01 2011
Nance Confer

And it’s a mainstream media story about hsers and they aren’t freaks! We have to be somewhat happy about that. I guess.

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