Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Spark - Kristine Barnett

When the author's son was about two years old, he stopped talking and developing at a normal rate.  After taking him to a number of doctors, he was diagnosed with autism and his parents were told that he would probably never talk.  He was viewed as mentally retarded and his parents were counseled to manage their expectations. But, his mother knew that there was something else going on.  As Jacob spent hours staring at sunbeams or creating complex designs out of yarn, she knew there was something inside that she just needed to unlock.  A daycare provider by profession, Barnett began opening her home to other children with autism.  Instead of forcing them to abandon the areas they were interested in to focus on practical life skills, Barnett found ways to incorporate their true passions as a way to unlock their hidden genius.  In her son's case, he truly was a genius.  As the years passed, it became clear that during all the time staring silently seemingly into nothing, Jacob was actually working out complicated theorems.  By the age of 12 he began working on an original theory in astrophysics.  While every child (or hardly any) actually possesses this type of genius, it is really Barnett's attitude about how children learn that shines through in this book.  This is a great book for anyone who has a child or who works with children - an excellent reminder that sometimes we need to let go of our ideas of how children are "supposed" to learn or what they are supposed to be learning - and just let them explore. I went to an elementary school that really gave students the freedom to explore the things they loved to learn, and several of my friends from that school are now parents who are homeschooling or unschooling their children and really allow them to pursue their passions.  I am one for a little bit more structure of traditional schooling, but think there is a lot I can be doing at home to help my children really unlock and pursue their inner passions.

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