Watching your child graduate high school at 14 isn’t exactly common. But when Bawo and Bankole Bodunrin watched her youngest daughter, Oforitsenere, receive her diploma in Arlington, Texas, this spring, they may have felt a sense of déjà vu.
That’s because, four years ago, her eldest daughter, Fifehanmi, did the exact same thing.
The brothers scored well on IQ tests, but their success isn’t just in their DNA, says Bankole, their father: It’s also a product of their family background. “I don’t think kids are geniuses or not geniuses,” he tells CNBC Make It.
Plus, girls’ learning styles are quite different, Bankole and Bawo point out, meaning parents couldn’t just copy and paste a singular parenting approach.
Their secret, they say: Remember that home schooling is just as important, if not more so, than classroom education.
Bawo and Bankole first noticed their daughters’ talents by how quickly they both started reading.
Children usually start reading stories around the age of 6 or in first grade, depending on the United States Department of Education. Both girls were reading and comprehending books even before they entered pre-K.
“If you put a TV in front of a child, the child will learn all the Disney characters,” Bankole says. “It’s what you put in front of the child that the child becomes.”
This became a concern when enrolling each child in pre-K: if the child already knew the curriculum for the year, they could get bored and get into trouble.
The Bodunrins’ solution: “The library became our school,” says Bankole.
Bawo took the sisters to the local library to participate in summer reading programs, where they would win prizes like Chipotle gift cards for reading books. It was part of a larger approach for parents, who wanted to expose their children to as many hobbies and potential skills as possible, from museum visits to swimming and karate lessons.
The more the girls navigated through the books, the more they fell in love with reading and the more they sped through their school’s curriculum. In turn, Bawo and Bankole looked for educational settings that could keep up, from homeschooling to private schools.
Both girls eventually graduated from Martin High School, a public school in Arlington that leaned on the fast track of daughters, accepting Oforitsenere as a 10-year-old ninth grader, for example, and working for incorporate it with their teenage peers.
‘Not a screen family’
The Bodunrin say they are “not a screen family.”
It’s a bold statement in the age of “iPad Kids”. Children between the ages of eight and 12 in the US spend an average of four to six hours a day looking at or using screens, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Screens are unavoidable in today’s world: the Bodunrin used them while homeschooling their children, they say. But they don’t have cable TV, and neither of their daughters received a cell phone until they started high school, and it became necessary.
That helped minimize “the distractions that come with” the devices, Bawo says, and struck a healthy balance between schoolwork and screen time.
“If you don’t want your kids to drink Coca-Cola, don’t drink it,” adds Bankole. “It’s not like we’re like, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this.’ It’s just, ‘This is who we are,’ and it became a part of them.”
The lack of emphasis on screens is, at least in part, responsible for children’s voracious reading habits, she says: At church, her daughters flocked to the corner to read books, regardless of what the boys were doing. Other children.
“They sit and read because that’s what they know, that’s what they did when they grew up,” Bankole says.
Today, Fifehanmi is studying at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas to become a pilot. Oforitsenere will begin earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science and aviation at the University of Texas at Arlington in August.
Neither of them was pressured by their parents to make those decisions, Bankole says.
“They choose their own path. I tell them, ‘You have to own it. It’s all yours. What makes you happy is what you do,'” he says.
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