Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane
The storm had come suddenly, sometime between sandwiches and schooltime, and the branches banged against the house, and the lightweight lawn-chairs did flips across the lawn. The storm was just severe enough to be fun.
“May we please go play in the wind before math?!”
It was respectfully asked, and there it was in his eyes, the spark.
I bent down and smiled straight into that spark: “Ten minutes. Ready? GO!”
A blur of boots (no time for a coat!) ran out the door, and I watched from the kitchen window as they ran across the yard, flapping arms and laughing, feeling the powerful gusts push them along.
I glanced back at the book there on the counter, ready to be returned to the library, and gratitude welled up in me again for Kristine Barnett’s message to all moms:
Fan the spark.
Three decades ago when I was homeschooled, my mom espoused this delight-directed approach to learning, long before it was touted as “unschool.” Sure, we had discipline and duty. We obeyed. I remember the first time I saw another kid tell his mom, “No.” I about had a heart-attack.
But I think maybe one of the reasons we didn’t tell her No was because of how often she said, Yes.
For awhile it was photography. Then dinosaurs. Then piano. Then chemistry. And always lots of make-believe. When Mom saw a spark in us, she fanned it. We dove into subjects with whatever voracious appetite our hearts had given us, and she used that spark to encourage a roaring love of learning deep into our souls.
From a young age, this enthusiastic Yes to the spark of our souls instilled in me the conviction that there was something worth pursuing placed into the heart of every human. I received plenty of discipline for naughty behavior, but I knew deep down I was wonderfully made.
Thanks to Jamie’s recommendation, I recently read The Spark, mostly because my son has Asperger’s, and I knew the storyline included an autistic boy. But I had no idea all I would gain by this heart-warming and keenly insightful glimpse into motherhood, education, nurture, and genius. I think it’s a must-read for every mom.
It brings me to tears when I think of every child’s potential for greatness, and how often we slam the lid down, toss wet-blankets on, give up on, or cruelly criticize because our own measurement-obsessed culture wants to quantify everything.
Our arbitrary benchmarks can destroy a child’s God-given love for learning.
If I’m dead-bang honest the biggest challenge for me as a mom of an Aspie is that I want an A.
As I read Kristine’s story, her words challenged me deeply. She didn’t indulge her special needs child. He had to do Pajama Day even though it struck him as asinine (I agree). He had to learn how to cope within the norms of society, but she poured out her life to fan the spark she saw in his soul, and he transformed from a “lost” nonverbal autistic boy who they said would never read or function in society, to a flourishing mathematician, making meaning contributions to society.
Oh, moms and dads, let’s carefully handle the precious gifts we’ve been given in the souls of our students.
Let’s look into their eyes and smile when they want to build a robot out of magnets (today), when they want to play in the wind before math (yesterday), when they beg you to do the science project that will take all afternoon and most certainly make a mess (last week).
Let’s believe once again in the potential of each sacred child, and do our very best to see the spark that makes them come alive.
You may be the only one who takes the time to look for the spark in your child. It will be worth the time and the mess. Say Yes.
Where do you see the spark in your child? How can you say yes to their natural love of learning today? Thank you so much for reading.
I’m so glad you wrote about this book. I read it a couple years ago and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I homeschool a son with a processing disorder similar to asperger’s and this book was an inspiration to me. Definitely a must-read. And I love hearing about how you are incorporating it into your daily life! 🙂 We’ve done many trips to the library for comic books and hours of drawing to fan the spark. Hopefully, more robot building and science experiments to come!
But it’s Minecraft. And Scratch programming. It’s all in front of a screen! Isn’t that the opposite of what I’m supposed to do as a home schooling mom? I suggest out of doors and I get a casual “no” and the boys will read on the couch. I’m concerned I’ve fanned the fire too much in their favor! I’m quite conflicted.
Cara, I think it depends on your educational philosophy and your boys’ ages. Sometimes screen time at a certain age/phase of learning can derail a child from really finding out what their spark is on their own. I’d suggest looking into TJEd/Leadership Education and the phases of learning: http://simplehomeschl.wpengine.com/core-phase/ and http://simplehomeschl.wpengine.com/top-educational-goal-tweens/
Thanks Jamie, great resource!
Wow! I guess it depends on what you think their spark should consist of. Minecraft has led my son to engineering interests, programming, coding, building webites, animation, and now he’s making money at it. It’s his passion and also the future of our society. Going outside is necessary for a healthy lifestyle but I would NEVER discourage their screen time as long as it consists of learning, and Minecraft is learning. It’s awesome.
I too sometimes get concerned about how much time my 16 yo son spends on the computer or his tablet or phone. Then I started watching what kind of things he was doing. He is almost always playing something that takes a lot of brain power to accomplish. One time it was finding angles for something. He loves word games (as do I) so we sometimes play against each other. But almost always it’s a problem solving type of game. Our oldest son played Runescape (personally I HATE that game) but when he was in high school he did very well in Economics. At a parent teacher conference the teacher remarked on how well he understood some things. On the way home I asked him how he knew that. He said, “Oh, I use that on Runescape all the time.” So they can learn from it! And yes, that is the way the world is going whether we like it or not.
Thank you Kari for writing this! So good and affirming of the education philosophy I cannot get away from, no matter how much I see or read to the contrary! We have 4 sons, and for me seeing and nurturing the spark is the most thrilling part of home educating! The issue I am now struggling with is how much screen time to allow. It used to be next to nothing when we we were raising our now 21 year old. However, he went out into the world and became addicted to screens. So I am now allowing 1 hour a day, divided between morning and noon. After all chores, school work, and other responsibilities are completed. The problem is that I feel like I am feeding a beast because now they are obsessed with attaining screen time. My concern is that they won’t have the spark because they are so focused on the check list required to get the “prize.” I am trying to decide if I ought to ease up on the time allotment, curious if that might help. If it were up to me, we would live 200 years ago and not have to deal with the distractions of screens at all. 😉 Any more advice?
Love this! Such a great reminder & encouragement!