BY: JELANI GRANT
At the young age of four, Isaiah McDonald has become known as a Canadian map master, able to recite all 196 countries across the globe.
Born and raised in Toronto, Isaiah’s mom, Alyssa, began to notice his tremendous ability to retain memories of some of the smallest moments. At the age of two, Isaiah started to memorize kindergarten sight words and showed an interest in the solar system. Once he turned three, he started to show an interest in geography after Lisa, short for Alyssa, told him about Jamaica where his Aunt Patsy lived. Because he loved visits from his aunt, he would ask where she was from and began to show a heavy interest in geography and began retaining every countries name, starting with South America.
A few weeks Lisa took Isaiah to a book reading for one of her published children’s books. Lisa’s name and the number was displayed on a banner for the book. Without any inclination to the phone number, Isaiah jotted it down in his memory bank and is now trying to teach it to his younger brother Elijah.
What Isaiah loves about geography is looking at photos from different countries and learning about their customs. He is currently being taught at a grade three to grade eight geography level. Though he only began playing a few months ago, Isaiah is currently refining his musical talent with the violin, and can recite “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. Lisa says the violin in Isaiah’s hands looks absolutely natural.
Isaiah was one of the kids, aged 4-12, chosen to appear on CBC’s new show Canada’s Best Kids hosted by comedian and Canadian Screen Award winner Gerry Dee. They did a talent search all through Canada this year looking for kids with unique talents. Isaiah was chosen as the best in his category of geography. The show is scheduled to air at the end of April.
Isaiah and his two-year-old brother Elijah are homeschooled by his mom. Lisa says she thinks homeschooling works best for Isaiah as he is able to learn at a much faster pace than public schools could provide. “I have a curriculum that I follow, but I realize it’s not enough”.
Lisa tried teaching Isaiah with the kindergarten curriculum but flew through the school year work in weeks. “With a child like Isaiah, you have to keep them busy…He’s doing grade one math, I suspect he can probably do more but I still want him to enjoy his youth, I don’t want to bog him down with so much work.”
Something she really appreciates about homeschooling is that she can give her boys the individual attention they need while exposing them to various environments and social circles. She created a Facebook group, called the GTA Homeschool Fieldtrips, for other homeschooled kids to get together and take trips to places like the Ontario Science Centre, the Toronto Zoo, and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.
Lisa ensures Isaiah is always being stimulated while still not trying to bombard him with information just because he can absorb it. He is enrolled in an art class, cooking class, pre-school discovery class and loves to play soccer. “I truly believe in teaching to a child’s ability and not their age”.
Whenever he is home though, there’s always an abundance of books for him to learn from. “We spend a lot of time at the library…I think the max is fifty books you can take out and we are always at our max, sometimes I return five books just so I can take out five more.”
Lisa says that for now, Isaiah wants to become a police officer, or Iron Man, which speaks to his thoughtful personality. “He’s very caring, he’ll always ask mummy are you ok, do you need anything.”
Lisa says she is a big believer in positive affirmation and regularly teaches Isaiah to be confident in himself. She tells him to recite to himself, “I am intelligent. I am a great violin player, and if he tells himself that every day, his mind will believe it. As he grows, Lisa intends to teach her sons money management skills, gardening techniques and entrepreneurship so there’s no telling what accomplishments this young man may reach.