How Finn Got His Knack Back

There’s something we’ve known about Finn for awhile now.

Don’t worry, it’s not bad.  It’s just that we knew there was something a little different about him.  I remember back when he was two year old and making towers out of Lego Quattro blocks.  I realized he wasn’t just grabbing any blocks, he was making patterns with the block colors.  At first I thought it was just coincidence and I tried to hand him blocks that did not match the pattern.  Each time he would quickly reject my offer and go out of his way to find the block he had in mind.  Hmm…

Then he started taking toys apart.  No toy car or truck could be found in the house with all four wheels in tact.  We were starting to realize…  Finn had The Knack.

You know about The Knack, right?  If not, this less than two minute video will fill you in.  If you do know, you need to watch it anyways because the information in this Dilbert comic is pretty pivotal to the serious discussion we’re having here, okay?

(Obviously I don’t have The Knack.  If I did, this video wouldn’t be too large despite my watching several YouTube videos on how to embed YouTube videos.)

So, yes, we knew Finn was a little different.  But it was so much fun to see him tinkering around in the areas he enjoyed.  He could build Lego sets made for much older children.  He was great with patterns and numbers.

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And at least I wasn’t worried about how he would do in school!  Even though he would be one of the youngest in his class, I knew he would be fine.  After all, he was SO SMART!  Surely, school is MADE for kids who have The Knack.  Right?

Not.  So.  Much.

In Kindergarten Finn was not happy.

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I thought he would get over it.  I thought he would adjust.  Sure, he whined every day when it was time to go into school, but CERTAINLY he cheered up once he got settled in?

Nope.  He never did.  When he had his Student Of The Week poster project, his teacher told me she was surprised.  Why?  Because Finn was smiling and having a good time in the pictures.  She had never seen him smile like that.  🙁

I realized that even in Kindergarten, there was A Box That All Must Fit In.  And Finn didn’t fit in that box.  He was smooshed and miserable and fighting it every step of the way.

And in the process, Finn was losing his Knack.

Now, I don’t know that this applies to all kids with The Knack, but Finn is Stubborn.  The more he was pushed to comply with The Box, the more he fought it.  Anything that was deemed “school”, aka “learning” was rejected with animosity.  Math homework had Finn on the floor in tears, even though it was mostly very simple problems that had been so intuitive to him earlier in the year.  He no longer enjoyed puzzling over numbers and how they worked.  My former budding mathematician hated math.  The joy had been sucked out of it.

I recently read A Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockhart.  Here’s a quote:  “We are losing so many potentially gifted mathematicians— creative, intelligent people who rightly reject what appears to be a meaningless and sterile subject. They are simply too smart to waste their time on such piffle.”

TIME OUT!  You remember what the Dilbert cartoon said, right?  “If an Engineer loses The Knack, the results can be devastating.”  Math is part of The Knack.  A love of learning is vital to The Knack!

This is bad.

Well, the Dilbert part was funny, but it really isn’t a joke.  It’s true.  What happens if kids like Finn, kids who don’t fit in “The Box”, are being so squashed and molded to conform that they end up saying “FORGET IT!” and leaving their talents by the wayside like a crumpled piece of notebook paper?  I imagine they would end up an angry shell of who they could have been.  And that isn’t funny in any way.  It’s tragic.

It leads me to think about the epidemic of kids who are being labeled with diagnosis codes and put on prescription medications.  Honestly I am sure plenty of doctors would have offered our family the same, if we had been so inclined to ask them their opinion on our child.   Certainly each parent is the expert on their home, and sometimes interventions are beneficial.  STILL, I wonder, how many kids are out there, taking pills to fit in, because their undiscovered brilliance and ingenuity is so astronomical it cannot fit in a One Size Fits All container???


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Well, as you know, we took Finn out of The Box.  It’s taken some time, but I’m happy to report that the old Finn is BACK and so is his Knack.  If you know Finn, you know he can be a little curmudgeonly, but I have never seen that kid so happy.  He still doesn’t care for dittos, but he loves a good math problem to solve in his head.  He insists that we all be completely quiet while he sits there figuring and pointing at  imaginary objects, until at last he jumps up and with great excitement shouts out his conclusion.  He delights in building with Legos and Snap Circuits and theorizing on how things work.

No, he will never be “normal”, but none of us are around here, so it should work out just fine.

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So, do you have a kid with The Knack or were YOU once a kid with The Knack?  What has been your experience with school?  And how do you make sure your little mathematicians and engineers keep their Love of Learning alive?

And on a less serious note, is having ALL of your Legos out on the floor REALLY a necessary part of having The Knack???

I’d love to hear from you!