Child Genius was the TV show that transfixed the UK, and 10-year-old Saffy Hills was the star. Her special subject was “The Premiership of Margaret Thatcher: Monetary policy and tax reform 1979-1990”. She managed to spell words like “myristicivorous” (feeding on nutmeg) and do sums like “multiply 19 by 7, subtract 13, multiply by 9 and divide by 2” – in her head.
She was dubbed a “real-life Matilda”, after the super-smart little girl in the Roald Dahl classic. When she was beaten to first place by another 10-year-old girl, Rhea, fans took their outrage to social media.
Now Saffy’s mother, Sophie Hills, has shared the secrets of how she raised a child genius. One point is sure to be controversial: be a stay-at-home mum.
Watch one of the contestants in the show. Post continues after video.
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) July 12, 2016
Hills, 44, gave up work as a chartered accountant when Saffy was born. She believes that being a stay-at-home mum has helped give her three children a stable and happy environment where they can flourish.
“They need you to be around, even when they’re school age, so they can talk about what they’ve been doing and the things that might be worrying them,” Hills told the Daily Mail.
“I know it’s not an option for all parents, but being a stay-at-home mother is massively undervalued in this country. I haven’t sacrificed my career: I am living another chapter of my life.”
Saffy goes to the local primary school, where she’s in a class with other children her age. She doesn’t get any private tutoring. Her parents are planning to send her to the local high school, too.
Saffy on the show. Image Channel 4.
"She will do well wherever she goes," Hills says. ‘‘We want our children to have a rounded education with children from all backgrounds."
So what else is key to raising a child genius? Making books part of their lives from babyhood, and helping them to read.
"The two most important things you can do for your child are to make them confident readers and let them read a wide range of authors and topics," Hills believes.
Outside of school, Hills encourages her children to have a wide range of interests, whether that be cooking or gardening or history.
"We don’t focus on a small academic stream at a desk," she says.
"It’s about nurturing their natural curiosity, not pushing them to learn as fast as they can."
Video: TV mums we love to watch. Post continues after video.
The television show's gifted child consultant, Lyn Kendall, also believes parents mustn't be pushy if they want to raise a genius.
“For a start, your child has got to have the brains - the innate intelligence has got to be there," Kendall told The Telegraph. "Secondly, all the research shows that children who are pushed by their parents actually have the opposite effect.”
But what about the stay-at-home mum bit? Well, the mother of Rhea, the 10-year-old girl who won Child Genius, is an obstetrician who gave up her career for motherhood.
Coincidence? Well, maybe...
Do you have any tips on raising a child genius?