Thirteen-year-old Jack Rico is a little different from you and me: For starters, he’s already got four associate degrees under his belt.
He recently earned his fourth degree from Fullerton College and will very likely continue to challenge himself academically in the years to come.
Jack’s progress is definitely special, and his mom, Ru Andrade, truly couldn’t be prouder of him. After the news of his story began to make waves, I wanted to find out a little more about who Jack is. Happily, his mom was happy to chat with LittleThings about her son and his older sister, Julia.
It turns out that both Jack and his sister are homeschooled, and his mom credits this choice as the game-changer for Jack.
Ru said, “Homeschooling was never on my radar, ever,” but that in third grade, Jack was clearly growing frustrated with what school offered him, and she thought it would be worth a shot.
And boy, has it been: Here’s a little more about Fullerton College’s youngest graduate ever.
Ru told us that Jack was always a bright, curious child, even as a baby: “He was always an old soul. Even as a baby you could tell he was just taking it all in. But the first sign was definitely when we learned all the presidents and vice presidents at 4 years old.”
As the story goes, when Jack was 3, he asked if he could visit the White House. Ru told People, “I told him that was a big trip for a little guy, and that I would take him if he could learn all the presidents. A week later he said, ‘Mom, I have a confession to make. I already knew all the presidents, but I learned all the vice presidents if that will still count?'”
Ru decided to homeschool Jack when he was in third grade. She explained, “Common Core was introduced and he was getting really frustrated. I knew I had to do something. I knew he was in the wrong learning environment. So one day I just said, ‘That’s it, we are gonna try homeschooling!'”
She also shared that homeschooling was a great fit from the start. “On our first day of homeschooling we were learning together and there was just this moment where we looked at each other and just knew this was going to be fun. I reached across the table and grabbed his hand and apologized for not homeschooling him sooner.”
Jack also immediately took to the learning style. “He was so frustrated at that point in public school that he was all for it,” she said. “He was first sold on the thought of no homework! He just had way more time to spend in his areas of interest, and we weren’t pressured to hurry through things in his areas of weakness. We could spend days, weeks, and months even, if we needed, to mastering a concept. Time really got to slow down, and we were able to enjoy the process of learning together. “
Ru said that Jack’s older sister also homeschools but definitely has her own rhythm. Ru explained that Julia “isn’t the most studious” but “is a drummer and drums for like five hours a day.”
As a lot of homeschooling families learn, the at-home model of instruction can definitely offer you a lot more flexibility, even in the same home. Ru said that her children’s “homeschool routines are very different. Both of their routines have changed over the years as they change.”
She also said, “I think homeschooling is just about finding out what works best for each kid and making lots of adjustments. We don’t have a very rigid routine. We travel a lot, so thankfully my kids are pretty flexible when it comes to changing the routines. Jack is much more disciplined and is very good at time management even with a change to the schedule.”
In her interview with People, Ru also acknowledged that Jack isn’t extra-smart; he’s just really focused: “Jack is not a genius, he just works really hard. We are so happy for Jack and all his academic accomplishments, however, he is an even more awesome human being. He has a sister with autism that he has just been an amazing brother to.”
As a college student, Jack definitely had a pretty unique schedule for a 13-year-old. Ru explained, “Jack had five on-campus classes last semester. But he made sure none of his classes started before 9 a.m. (he’s still a teenage boy that likes to sleep in!).”
Ru also works on the campus part-time, so she’s able to drop off Jack and homeschool Julia until Jack is finished with class. And, like many kids his age, as soon as he’s finished with homework, he “goes straight to his video games. He plays games with his friends and cousins online.”
One of the best parts of the entire story is that Jack never set out to accomplish so much at such a young age; it just happened. “I think he shocked himself,” she said. “He was never shooting for a title; he was just doing what he loved. Even when I told him it was time for him to apply for graduation, he was surprised. When he learned he qualified for 4 AA’s, he was really shocked.”
Happily, Jack is still very much a kid and is in no rush to move into any kind of career path. He told People, “I’m 13, so I don’t want to rush everything. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I just want to focus on learning right now. That’s what I love to do.”
His mom also told us that Jack “loves drawing and art. He loves screenwriting and writes short movies all the time. Even [though] he mentally is older than me, he still has that silly kid side to him that likes to scare and prank his sister.”
Ru also said that the relationship her children share is really special, and it’s even part of Jack’s motivation. “He is the best brother to her,” she said. “Sure, they fight, a lot, but they spend more time play wrestling, [playing] dodgeball, and laughing. When she wants to play with him and he’s busy studying, he will say, ‘Julia, if I do this now then maybe one day I can buy you a farm with all your favorite animals on it.’ I think they give each other so many gifts like patience, compassion, and perspective.”