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.