Mom and dad of 9-year-old high school graduate share their No. 1 parenting rule: ‘You’ve got to develop a different mindset’


Talking to David Balogun is like talking to a 9 year old.

Despite the occasional tangent about quantum entanglement, David is a kid at his core. He competes in paper airplane races with his sister, presses his hands over his eyes to imitate glasses, and becomes irritable after sitting still for too long.

"It's a normal 9-year-old part," his mother, Ronya Balogun, told CNBC's Make It as she focused him on the conversation.

David is one of the youngest people in the U.S. to earn a high school diploma. He graduated in late January from Reach Cyber Charter School, a tuition-free online school in his home state of Pennsylvania, and is currently enrolled in online classes at Bucks County Community College — where he says he completes a week's worth of homework in one sitting. the day

"If I don't study, I'll probably stay up until 4 [a.m.] and wake up at 5 [a.m.]," David said.

His parents are Ronya and Henry Balogun, who also have a young daughter Eliana. They first tested David's intelligence when he was 6 years old and have since abandoned their traditional parenting practices for him.

"You have to develop a different mindset as a parent," Henry said. "It's not always easy when your son is constantly asking you questions. You have to answer the questions because you don't want to say, 'Leave me alone.'

The Baloguns insist there is no magic parenting recipe. When it comes to raising a child like David, "there's no book on it," says Ronya.

However, they have no. There's 1 rule: When the system isn't built for your child, don't try to fix your child. Try to repair the system.

They don't push conformity

By the time David was in first grade, it was clear that he wouldn't do well in a regular classroom, Ronya says: In one incident, she learned that David's classmates were listening to him more than their teacher.

So, the Baloguns got creative - if it helped him sleep at night.

They researched Pennsylvania's Rewarded Individualized Education Plan law, which mandates that school districts provide programs for gifted children. Those programs weren't enough for David, his parents say — so when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, they looked at more permanent, personalized solutions.

In 2020, they transitioned then-7-year-old David into Reach Cyber, an online learning program that emphasizes personalized curriculum. Later, when there was no option for his birth year on the College Board's Advanced Placement Testing enrollment website, his parents got on the phone and went back and forth for weeks to get him on the list.

Ronya says she's had conversations with universities about David's next steps, but wants to be tough about letting her 9-year-old be in a classroom with 20-year-olds. She and Henry say they don't know what their solution will be, but are dedicated to finding a creative solution.

"It's a different adaptation that we don't have yet in the United States of America. It's so scary, you can't find it," Ronya says: "Sometimes I can't fix the system, but there are other extraordinary options and solutions to guide my son on his journey to fulfill his dreams."

They prioritize happiness over social norms

It also has a social dimension: When David tells his mother that he has no friends, Ronya says, "It hurt me and hurt me." Unfortunately, this also makes sense.

"I think the biggest social and emotional problem [for gifted children] is that they can't find other people like them," Dr. Ellen Winner, a psychologist who specializes in gifted children, told ParentEdge magazine in 2012. "The more intense the gift, the more difficult it is."

Clinical child psychologist Shefali Tsabari wrote in a CNBC Make It article last month: Understand and accommodate your child's needs, not the other way around. Rather than pressuring David to build a large network of friends, Ronya focuses on embracing his introversion, she says.

David says he embraced it, immersing himself in research on introverts. "There's a study that suggests introverts don't enjoy spicy food as much as extroverts," he says.

They believe that they lead their child

When David showed that he could add and subtract negative numbers at age 6, before anyone could teach him, his parents had to believe him. Taking David to his word, Ronya says she developed a new level of trust with her child, which she adds is essential for any parent.

"I can't tell him, 'This is what you know,' because I'm not in his brain," she said. "I have to believe he's partially driven."

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