How do you raise a child prodigy?

How Do You Raise a Prodigy? asks Andrew Solomon in the New York Times Magazine.

Chloe Yu’s son, Marc, “picked out a few tunes on the piano with two fingers” when he was “almost 3.” As a preschooler, he began performing at retirement homes. By 5, he added the cello.

At 6, Marc won a fellowship for gifted youth that covered the down payment on a Steinway. By the time Marc was 8, he and Chloe were flying to China frequently for lessons; Chloe explained that whereas her son’s American teachers gave him broad interpretive ideas to explore freely, his Chinese teacher taught measure by measure. I asked Marc whether he found it difficult traveling so far. “Well, fortunately, I don’t have vestigial somnolence,” he said. I raised an eyebrow. “You know — jet lag,” he apologized.

Marc was being home-schooled to accommodate his performance and practice schedule. At the age of a third-grader, he was taking an SAT class. . . . “In America, every kid has to be well rounded,” Chloe said. “They have 10 different activities, and they never excel at any of them. Americans want everyone to have the same life; it’s a cult of the average. This is wonderful for disabled children, who get things they would never have otherwise, but it’s a disaster for gifted children. Why should Marc spend his life learning sports he’s not interested in when he has this superb gift that gives him so much joy?”

. . . Marc sat on a phone book on the piano bench so his hands would be high enough to play comfortably and launched into Chopin’s “Fantasie-Impromptu,” which he imbued with a quality of nuanced yearning that seemed almost inconceivable in someone with a shelf of Cookie Monster videos. “You see?” Chloe said to me. “He’s not a normal child. Why should he have a normal childhood?”

Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, a conductor and a former wunderkind, thinks the U.S. education system has little tolerance for spiky genius. “If Beethoven were sent to nursery school today, they would medicate him, and he would be a postal clerk.”

6-year-old qualifies for National Spelling Bee

A six-year-old Virginia girl who learned to read before the age of 2 will compete in the National Spelling Bee. Homeschooled by her mother, a college professor, Lori Anne Madison plans to become an astrobiologist, reports AP. She also excels in math and swimming.

“Hold on to that basalt,” Lori Anne Madison said in a bossy 6-year-old’s voice, shoving a chunk at her mother, “and do not drop it.”

“Go away,” her mother said playfully.

Sorina Madison held on the rock nonetheless, and soon was carrying more basalt and a nice hunk of quartz.

By then Lori Anne, wearing a green “Little Miss Sunshine” shirt, had joined up with more friends and had taken on a different quest, searching for snails, slugs, tadpoles, water striders, baby snakes at the Scotts Run Nature Preserve in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“Oh my gosh, what is it? A water worm. A water worm! It’s alive,” said Lori Anne. “I need it in my collection. It’s wonderful.”

Her mother tried to enroll Lori Anne in a private school for the gifted, but the headmaster said she was too smart.

The veteran spellers, some as old as 15, have honed sophisticated study methods, spending hours daily over many months in their attempts to master as much of the unabridged dictionary as possible.

Lori Anne? She likes to study while jumping on her trampoline, with her mother calling out words.

“She doesn’t sit at a table for hours to study anything. I mean, she’s 6,” Sorina said with laugh. “She’s still a 6-year-old and we want to allow her to be a 6-year-old.”

Lori Anne’s favorite word is ”sprachgefuhl,” which means an intuitive sense of what’s linguistically appropriate.