Inventor’s Brain {CELEBRATE This Week: 183}

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Sam hijacked my Instagram feed this week with this photo. Andy and I were cooking dinner in the kitchen and he said, “I’m inspired by all of the wind. All I need is two old belts and five paperclips, and I’ll be able to put the idea in my head into the world. “
He took his supplies and went to the basement. (It’s his workshop. Every inventor needs a workshop, according to Sam.) It’s not very easy to get winged arms up the narrow basement stairs. We heard him before we saw him. 
The first run didn’t go so well. “It’s a good thing I have my helmet on!” Sam laughed as he hurried back to his workshop.
Sam deemed the second run as successful as possible given that he’d ran out of duck tape. Sometime after dinner he hijacked my Instagram account. The caption read:

This is how I spend my Wednesday evenings: inventing.
Correction: every evening I spend inventing.
I’m trying to “fly.” This last run gave me 2 seconds of air time!
If only I had duck tape, I could flyyyyy!
#hijackedbysam

Sam is in 5th grade. He tells us often, “I don’t have a school brain. I have an inventor’s brain.” Sam scores high on standardized tests, he loves to read, he thinks about numbers in unconventional ways. He is a spacey, brainy, witty kid.
School isn’t on his favorite list.
Right now he’s working on a train layout. He called Papa yesterday and asked for a piece of foam installation board to build a “vertical layout for his trains.” He wrote a sticky note reminder and put it on my steering wheel so I wouldn’t forget to stop at Papa’s house for the styrofoam.
He met me at the door last night. “Did you remember the foam installation board?”
“It’s in my car.”
Sam and the styrofoam were heading down the basement stairs into the workshop before I put my shoes and school bag away.
Sam comes up the workshop stairs and says, “You might not think a vertical train layout will work, but I think if I figure out the right angle it will.”
I nod and keep writing this post.
“I like inventing, Mom. I get to use math in creative ways. I like to make up stories or think of advertising jingles for my inventions. It’s not really playing, it’s just fun.”
I look at him. His eyes are wide. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop inventing so I can get better grades at school.”
Sam is sensitive and his eyes get watery. “I don’t want to give up my inventor’s brain, but I don’t know any other way to get better grades at school.”
I want to tell him not to worry about grades, but he is concerned about his grades. (His concern is valid.) “Maybe you can work on focusing in school. When you’re at school you do school work. When you are at home you invent.”
Sam is sincere when he says, “An inventor’s brain doesn’t work that way, Mom. When I’m at school and we’re talking about finding area of triangles, my brain begins to think about my train layout, I think about how I need more tracks, and I could figure out how many new tracks by using parameter instead of area. Then I start wondering how knowing area would help me. That makes me start thinking about painting my layout and then I think about the pond I want to add. I probably need area for that because you need to get the special gel to make it look like water. Only I don’t need to know area of a triangle, I need to know the area of an oval. My brain starts thinking about filling the pond with triangles, but that won’t really work either. I probably need a different formula.”
I nod, unsure of what to say.
Sam continues, “See what I mean? I have to just turn off my inventor’s brain.” He blinks back tears. “Then all the fun will be gone, but my homework will be done.”
I take a deep breath and say, “You know, Sam, it’s Saturday. I don’t think we need to figure this out right now. Saturdays are a good time to just be who you like to be. Don’t worry about being something else.”
He worked a little more on his vertical train layout. Then he moved on to a Lego creation. Now he’s talking with Andy about fishing. I hear him say, “When I get home from bowling, I’m going to ride my bike over to the river and put in a line.”
And I’m left wondering how will his inventor’s brain survive school? 

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7 Comments »

  1. As I read about Sam I wish he could have been in my math class this week in fifth grade. All the mathematicians were hired to design the best boxes for packaging 24 chocolate candy bars. I hope that Sam's inventor's brain never leaves school, and my prayer is that he has teachers that encourage that type of thinking throughout his school week. Perhaps Sam might want to be hired into our candy company, we sure could use his thinking.

  2. It makes me sad that Sam feels he needs to divide up his brain into one for school and one for invention. School should be a place that celebrates and nurtures in the inventor in Sam. But he has you and Andy, and a world of loving acceptance – he is lucky in that.

  3. I saw Sam's picture of the wings, and love that he got those two seconds! I'm glad he gets to be the inventor at home. I hope that he might find other like-minded kids at school & ask the teacher about different projects they could do, maybe to demonstrate how whatever the math that's being studied can work in another way. He is a thinker for sure, so maybe he can “invent” a way to make school work for him.

  4. Ruth, Sam is a deep thinker and a reflective child so I certainly hope his teacher has figured that out and is willing to help him become a school thinker that enjoys his divergent thinking patterns. Ruth, as a great mom, your Saturday wisdom helped him out.

  5. Hijacked by Sam is always a good thing! I think there are some classrooms that need to be #hijackedbySam; it sounds to me like he is ready to jump in and begin teaching his math class! Although school right now is not a good fit for your inventor, I am holding out hope that there will be a time when the match is just right.

  6. I must share a quote with you from David McCullogh's “The Wright Brothers” (a wonderful read): “Between formal education at school and informal education at home, it would seem he [the Wright brothers'father] put more value on the latter. He was never overly concerned about his children's attendance at school. If one or the other of them chose to miss a day or two for some project or interest he thought worthy, it was all right.” This quote was in the context of a description of the family library, the value placed on reading, and the encouragement of intellectual curiosity.