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"The Edison Project at Quick Study
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DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE THE EDISON TRAIT? by Lucy Jo Palladino
He was a boy who learned only by doing. At age six, he had to see how fire
worked and accidentally burned his father's barn to the ground. The next fall he
began school, where he alternated between letting his mind travel to distant
places and keeping his body in perpetual motion in his seat. Because he was
distractible and restless, he did not last long in a formal classroom. His
teacher called him "addled." Eventually, his mother had to home-school
him. As an adult he would recall: "My father thought I was stupid and I
almost decided I must be a dunce."
The core of his learning was his passion for experiments. As his new teacher,
his mother gave his talent free rein. At the same time she infused him with the
disciplines of study. With time and determination, he mastered his runaway mind.
He grew up to become a prolific inventor, bringing the magic of electricity and
sound recording into the world. He either invented or improved hundreds of
practical conveniences. It is said that Thomas Alva Edison succeeded where
others failed or never tried, because it was his nature to dare.
Today, a growing number of children have that nature to dare. Like young Edison,
they are easily distracted and disorganized, but also wildly imaginative and
They have minds that are at home with meanderings and leaps of vast proportions.
They make unexpected, sometimes startling, connections.
QUALITIES OF A CREATIVE MIND
There was once a man who drove a truck on a road through a town and got stuck
under a bridge that had a low clearance. The men of the town gathered around the
wedged truck to think of ways to dismantle the truck or the bridge. Finally, a
young boy came up and asked, "Why don't you let some air out of the
tires?" That is what they did, and the truck went on its way.
This was a child who had the Edison trait. He saw an element of the scene that
no one else saw, because they were busily and systematically focused on what to
them was relevant to the solution.
An Edison-trait child:
Expects the Unexpected
A child with the Edison trait makes sudden, astonishing connections. Because his
inner critic disallows neither the ridiculous nor the sublime, he can be
innovative, ingenious, and fascinating. He can see ordinary things in
extraordinary ways, which is the very essence of creativity.
His sense of humor is disarming. It stems from keen perception and the ability
to see things from a different perspective. Sometimes he exhibits the kind of
straight-from-the-subconscious humor that makes successful stand-up comics so
funny. He blurts out ideas that are just under the surface, things that most
others would have automatically censored.
This is a child who stands up for his own ideas, especially when they are
uncommon or nonconformist. He is an independent thinker and does not rely on the
opinions of others to form his own judgments. In a matter of personal interest
to him, he stands firm with conviction, even in the face of strong opposition.
Hyperfocuses and Persists
When the Edison-trait child is intrinsically motivated, he has formidable mental
power. If he is working on a project that is his own brainstorm, he is
determined, tenacious, and persevering. As if by magic, he can work for hours
involved in what he is doing. He finds ways to overcome barriers; his passion
sees him through. In matters of his own choosing, he has inner direction and
Is Diverse and Intense
Edison-trait children are pluralistic, nonconforming, and multifarious. Once
they begin to speak on a topic of their choosing, clear your calendar ... you'll
be here for a while. Flights of fancy are common. One thing leads to another,
though sometimes the connections are not apparent to the rest of us.
Has a Mind That Is Holistic
The Edison-trait child notices and reacts to things from any and all directions,
so he is likely to have a global sense of places he has been. Take this child to
the shopping mall and he'll probably be able to lead you back to your parked
Lives on His Own Schedule
Time passes slowly for this child when he is not engaged in an activity of
interest. Otherwise, watch out! When an Edison-trait child works on a project of
his choosing, he is dedicated and determined.
Loves to Come Up with Ideas
Some do this slowly and dreamily. Others are like kernels of popcorn popping.
Many do both. They have qualities of being both a whimsical Dreamer and a
high-charged Discoverer or turbulent Dynamo.
DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE THE EDISON TRAIT?
All children are imaginative and enjoy make-believe, but children who have the
Edison trait live even closer to their imaginations. It is their lifeblood.
Children manifest the Edison trait in various ways. Some are quiet and reserved
and live in their own worlds. Others are loud, interruptive, and bold.
Your child may be a Dreamer, a Discoverer, or a Dynamo. Or he may combine
features of any or all of these patterns.
Dreamers drift from place to place, on a schedule of eternal time.
Discoverers have to find things out for themselves and do things their own way.
Dynamos are always in motion, with a flair for surprises, power, and speed.
To see how closely your child's patterns match the profile of children with this
trait, take a moment and think about him since his earliest days. Then ask
yourself these questions:
If your child is a Dreamer
1. Does he get absorbed or intensely involved in his own ideas much of the time?
2. Is he prone to saying things out of the blue?
3. Does he procrastinate to an extreme?
4. Are his interests and activities eclectic?
5. Does he start at least three projects for every one he finishes?
If your child is a Discoverer
1. Is he easily attracted to sights and sounds around him?
2. Is it vital for him to express his opinion?
3. Does he crave novelty, power, and excitement?
4. Is he always ready to speak, especially if you're talking?
5. When he wants his own way - which is almost always - is he relentless?
Or, if your child is a Dynamo
1. Does he get aggressive or intensely emotional about his own ideas much of the
2. Is some part of his body always in motion?
3. Are chances to run and climb as vital as the air he breathes?
4. Does he have boundless energy, enough for about three children his age?
5. Do you find yourself wondering if he lacks common sense?
The more "yes" answers you gave to these questions, the more reason
there is for you to read on.
Dreamers are mind wanderers. These Edison-trait youngsters seem to be lost in
timeless space. From time to time, they have blank expressions on their faces or
may look a little dazed. Actually, they are floating through one or several
ideas in another realm, a world of their own.
I dwell in Possibility
A fairer house than Prose,
More numerous of windows,
Superior of doors.
Like Emily Dickinson, the author of these words, Edison-trait Dreamers are
self-styled visionaries and poets. They have an ephemeral quality, a digressive
style of thinking, and an inclination to see things from an unusual, even
quixotic angle. In the classroom, after a lesson is taught, the Dreamer may not
give the expected response, so others presume he just didn't "get it."
But ask him and you'll find out that if he was tuned in, he probably "got
it" all right - in an entirely unintended or uncommon way. He produces the
kind of answer that makes you think twice.
Dreamers like sensory experience. They are drawn to color, sound, texture,
taste, and fragrance. Often, Edison-trait Dreamers remember odd and seemingly
unrelated facts and details, knowledge of an idiosyncratic nature. Seldom can
they say exactly why they are drawn to these particular thoughts or
recollections, but their fascination can become intense. What appears as
spaciness to us is felt as absorption by them.
Discoverers are Edison-trait adventurers who must blaze their own trail. They
are high-spirited and have to see "what would happen if . . ." They
are spontaneous and they must do things their own way.
Discoverers are multi-sensory, usually with a strong preference for visual
input. This is a child who craves, and often creates, the stimulation of power,
surprise, or diversity. He wants to explore his own ideas and express his own
opinions. He wants life to keep him interested. If he does not find people
stimulating, he will stimulate them, usually by provoking laughter or anger.
Discoverers like to live in the moment, without giving too much mind to what
will happen in the future. Typically, they are not planners. Discoverers live
with the attitude that they'll discover what's going to happen when it happens.
That's what makes life interesting.
When a Discoverer is on the trail of an idea or project of his own, he feels a
sense of urgency or impatience. During these times the Discoverer may "hyperfocus."
He pays attention to what he is doing with an unusual degree of intensity and to
the exclusion of all else. Discoverers also "multitask." Multitasking
means doing more than one thing at a time. Dreamers and Dynamos hyperfocus and
multitask, too. But Discoverers do it more.
Dynamos are fuel-injected speedsters. They have erratic spurts of energy. They
overexcite easily, and when this happens, trouble is on the way.
In some ways, a Dynamo is also a Discoverer. He is impulsive. He acts first and
thinks later. Like the Discoverer, the Dynamo loves power and speed. And like
the Discoverer, the Dynamo is strong willed and immovable in his position.
The distinguishing feature of the Dynamo is his boundless physical energy.
Dynamos keep their bodies in motion, one way or another, almost all the time.
They walk, run, skip, kick, climb, jump, bounce, leap, bound, pounce, bolt,
dash, race, sprint, dive, swim, splash, and fly.
Dynamos act with gusto and zest. They are risk takers and daredevils. And they
are constantly entertaining. Life in their company is never dull.
THE EDISON TRAIT IS LIFELONG
The Edison trait is a personality characteristic. It endures. As Edison himself
did, people with the trait have to make good matches between their aptitudes and
their life work.
TURNING THE LIGHTS ON
As the parent of an Edison-trait child, you have probably asked yourself some
variation of the following question: "If my child can recall the entire
roster of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, why can't he remember that eight times
seven is fifty-six?"
To better understand your youngster, picture him wandering through an empty
house alone. Most of the rooms are dark. One or two are well lit. When your
child enters a bright room, he is filled with enthusiasm to explore. He
remembers those bright rooms and develops a strong preference for them. Of
course, the way you see it, he should be able to turn the lights on in any room,
if only he would use the light switch. When you ask him to and he doesn't, a
strain of tension develops between you.
From his point of view - and this is his house - his lights are wired
differently. In the past, your Edison-trait child has tried to use the same kind
of switch he sees others use, but to no avail. He senses that he doesn't operate
the same way. He has a different configuration. Problems start getting solved
when you work from his blueprints, not yours. You empower him to figure out his
own circuitry, and the rules and methods to turn his lights on.
CONVERGENT, NO - DIVERGENT, YES
Having the Edison trait makes some things easier for your child and some things
The things that come easy are:
Thinking up wild or unusual ideas
Standing up for, feeling strongly about, and getting involved in those ideas
Making things up, and imagining the future
Trying things out
Starting new projects
The things that come hard are:
Focusing on someone else's ideas
Letting go of his own ideas
Remembering things he's been asked to do
Practicing skills repeatedly
The things that come easy are divergent thinking skills. In divergent thinking,
one thought stimulates many others; thinking branches out. The things that come
hard require convergent thinking. In convergent thinking, many thoughts reduce
to a single one; thinking funnels in.
Read the lists again. It is no surprise that Edison-trait children will not
shine in a typical classroom, or on the playground, or in most forms of
organized sports. In settings like these, their chemistry sets them apart. They
are the exceptions to our implicit rules of how children should think and
perform, rules that say they should behave like uniform convergent thinkers.
CONVERGENT THINKING AS THE NORM
It is a natural human tendency to assume that all minds work the same way. We
tacitly agree that all minds should naturally be able to follow through on one
idea at a time, from beginning to end, with attention to detail. We call
convergent thinking the norm and we presume it's what comes naturally if a brain
is "normal." Divergent thinkers are viewed as having "attentional
We label convergent thinking as right and divergent thinking as wrong. We base
the methods we use to train our children on this premise. We expect children to
focus in a linear fashion for as long as we say they should. This is true at
home and at school. And at school, as class sizes get larger and children get
more diverse, a teacher's tolerance for a student's divergent thinking
necessarily diminishes. The same curriculum gets taught to all students in the
same way and at the same pace.
The brains of Edison-trait children are misunderstood, not inferior. As students
they are attentionally disadvantaged because we punish, and fail to appreciate,
their unique creative slant. They get blamed for not completing desk work in the
allotted time. They are scolded for not staying in their seats until recess.
They are forced to work at an unsuitable tempo, and then get graded down for
poor handwriting, and errors in grammar, spelling, and math facts. These
outcomes are inevitable artifacts of a mismatched approach.
We teach to their weaknesses, not to their strengths. We insist that they see
things our way, but we won't see things theirs. These children are stunningly
divergent. They are on a quest for discovery, exploration, and stimulation.
Surely we can be flexible and accommodate their style. They can and will develop
convergent skins, but only if their desire to learn is protected and kindled
WE CAN HELP EDISON-TRAIT CHILDREN DEVELOP SKILLS
We Can Guide Them to Motivate Themselves
These children need extra incentive and stimulating rewards. They need to
experience success so that they can believe in it. They need reasons compelling
enough to keep up the extra effort to get through the glass maze.
We Can Communicate - Think and Talk - in Their Language
A child with the Edison trait needs to feel he's in control. He will accept help
only if it does not threaten his autonomy. He is prone to feeling crowded and
seeing adults as overbearing.
The Edison-trait child is easily overwhelmed. For this reason, he needs clear
direction, phrased in brief, concise messages. He needs his workload assigned in
manageable portions. He needs structure, simple categories, and prominent visual
For this same reason, he needs frequent breaks and relief from tension. He
responds best to a calm and steady voice, devoid of emotional charge.
The Edison-trait child thinks in images and stories. He needs instruction that
is attractive and captivating. He responds to metaphors and identifies with
characters he likes. Creative approaches work best. Humor is a strong ally.
Your goal is to value your child's divergent thinking, while at the same time
teaching and encouraging him to think convergently. With guidance and support,
he will learn how to concentrate, shift focus, and do things in sequence. He'll
make his own ways to organize his thoughts, words, papers, time, and money, to
follow through, plan, schedule, and stay on track. He will come to appreciate
conventional wisdom and the merit of reflective thought.
BRIDGES, NOT FENCES
Pretend for a moment that when babies are born, they already know how to talk.
Right from the cradle: "Hello, Mother. Hello, Father. Please feed me. I'm
Now let's say 80 percent of the babies in the United States are born speaking
English, but you're a parent of one of the 20 percent who speak a foreign
language. You know you must help him to learn English somehow, so he can get
along with everybody else. But it's clear your little guy likes his language
better than yours.
He learns barely enough English to get by, but no more. He prefers the sound and
the flow and the feel of his own tongue. He doesn't know how much of your
language he can learn, even if he tries. And why should he try, when everyone
acts as if he already should speak English fluently, and people make a bigger
deal over his failures than his efforts?
At first, you forbid your child to speak his language. That doesn't work.
Next, you reward him when he speaks only English. That works some, but it's a
strain on everyone.
Finally, you make a commitment to learn and appreciate the language he speaks.
You enter his world - through his sounds, his words, and his expressions. You
don't insult his language; you find what is beautiful and useful about it.
At the same time, you acknowledge every attempt he makes to speak English -
regardless of whether he succeeds or not. You let him know you recognize his
efforts and his desire to communicate with you. You tell him that you see his
courage and his hard work.
And then, a funny thing happens.
The more good you see in his world, the more good he sees in yours.
You build bridges, not fences.
You become enriched by your knowledge of his language. And he grows in his
motivation to learn yours.
Excerpted from Dreamers, Discoverers and Dynamos by Lucy Jo Palladino
I hope you found this commentary to be as enlightening as I
did. If this describes your child, I would love to help. I
understand these kids because I was born this way too. Spelling tests
drove me crazy, I never cared to
learn spelling, my way seemed just fine to me. Never appreciated math,
until my 8th grade math teacher showed me a use for it. When I took
pre-algebra in the 9th grade all the teacher gave us was the foolish, in my
algebra" X = 2y + 7, find X if y = 5? It seemed to be too
simple, a waist of time, and "Who would ever want to know?" that was my
question. Traditional schooling was torture for me. "Sit down,
memorize this because one day you will need it!" was the biggest turn-off in
my educational life.
I very distinctly remember the feeling of, why must learning be the cruel
torture that it is? Even during these dark days, I loved learning and
discovering new things, I just hated the classroom environment and the teaching
methods of mainstream education. After a few years of being made to learn
like the rest of the "good normal kids" all the LOVE-OF-LEARNING was
almost vanquished from my life completely. As a junior in high school my
educational experience flourished when I found an avenue of discovery, intrigue,
and enjoyment through the study of
If you think your child may have the Edison-Trait, I believe I can help.
If your child has Attention Deficit Disorder, I am confident these lessons will help
focus all that divergent energy to a better end. My lessons are short,
interactive, hands-on, and to the point. The lessons are developed to
support students with various learning styles including textile, visual, and auditory.
Both algorithmic and heuristic learning will be encouraged with attention to detail and method of instruction.
I have been a Certified Electronics Teacher in the state of Alabama since
1988, but started teaching the wonders of electronics to the boys club at church
long before that. I have a God given passion to help and encourage the
youth of today to find a love for learning science and math through discoveries
We recommend that all students start out in Edison Project Part 1, no matter the
age. If students thrive and enjoy the lessons sign them up for the next level.
Project is a two-year learning event, but you
can choose to sign up just one quarter at a time. You only purchase one
lab kit for the entire Edison Project. Each section of Edison Project is
eight weeks long so you can see how your child
responds and continue if you find these lessons beneficial. For more information please contact Joel Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org
or speak to me personally at 251-609-5422.
For a sample of lessons at Quick Study Labs, direct students twelve and older to do the
"Free Class" on the homepage www.QuickStudyLabs.com.
Younger students must be accompanied by an adult at all times due to safety
Early registration for The Edison Project will begin soon! Check the
home page for dates of registration.
To order the book referenced above, follow this
link to Amazon.com.
Quick Study Labs has online classes designed for Edison Trait Kids see
our Home Page