As Rowan’s main teacher one of my jobs, at the start of each academic year, is to check he is on track academically and that we haven’t missed any key areas of the curriculum from the previous year. I then spend some time familiarizing myself with the curriculum for the coming year.
Of course we are not attached to this curriculum, and he is in fact often a grade or two ahead in some areas, but it is good to know what other kids his age are learning.
If Rowan went to regular school he would have entered sixth grade this past September. And, as anyone with a child in sixth grade will know, this is the year when learning equations are introduced. When I read that I immediately got the Horse Boy Learning team together for a powwow on how we were going to attempt to teach this very abstract concept, that some of us barely even understand, to Rowan. And together we came up with what we hoped was a good idea.
Building on Rowan’s love of cartoon characters and the impact the use of these characters has had on his academics in the past, we decided to create our own character, a mysterious figure whom we named ‘Agent X.’
The next week as we swam or bounced or walked I began to drop ‘agent x’ into the conversation, pretending that he was chasing us and trying to catch us. Rowan, intrigued, eventually asked ‘who is agent x’ and that was my key to move on to the next stage. I replied ‘we don’t know but it’s time to find out.’
The next day Rowan received a note from one of his favorite characters asking for his help in discovering who agent x was. The character informed Rowan that hidden in the woods there were a series of clues to help him figure it out.
So down to the woods we went and the first thing we came across was a cardboard cut out from a show called “Code Name Kids Next Door’ named ‘Number 2.’ Next came to two sticks joined together to form a plus sign. And finally a second character from Code Name Kids Next Door named ‘Number 3.’
‘How weird, perhaps these are the clues we were looking for?’ I speculated and then added ‘2 plus 3 is 5 so maybe agent x is number 5’ (the name of a third Code Name Kids Next Door character).
And that is when we came across a drawing of Agent X which we peeled back to discover he was indeed Number 5.
Over the next week we repeated the game multiple times using different combinations of Agent X characters. And at the end of the week Rowan told me ‘you know Jenny, x is both a letter and an unknown thing.’ This was the first confirmation that he had taken the concept on board.
And a few weeks later we got a second confirmation. Whilst bouncing on the trampoline Rowan invented his own ‘agent x’ game. He instructed me to shout ‘what is x’ before running around the trampoline however many times I wanted and then shout ‘plus’ before running around it again. He then had to guess what X was. If he got it right he got to spray me with the hose and if he got it wrong I had to spray him. It seems he cracked basic learning equations whilst not even realizing he was doing it.