Monday, 12 January 2015

The Spark: a mother's story of nurturing genius by Kristine Barnett

The Spark is the true story of Kristine Barnett's battle to stop her son Jacob, who was diagnosed with autism, from disappearing totally into his own world .  Find the book here at Amazon.

Kristine Barnett's son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein and a photographic memory. At nine he developed an original theory in astrophysics that may earn a Nobel Prize. But Jake's story is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism.
When the experts wanted to restrict his behaviour - staring at shadows on the wall, stars, patterns - Jake withdrew into his own world. But against all the advice, Kristine decided to follow Jacob's passions - his 'spark'. The results were beyond anything anyone could have imagined.Dramatic and inspiring,The Spark is about the power of love and what can happen when we tap the true potential that lies within every child.

What I love about this book other than the remarkable story, is the fantastic struggle the family went through to allow their autistic son to develop in the way they believe he needed.  Trying to find any child's 'spark' is the main reason that I home edcuate my children.  It is much easier to facilitate a child finding their 'spark' when it isn't being squashed by going to school with being 'told' what to do and spending more time at school than at home or out and about.

Anyway here are the quotes I found the most inspiring from this book:

The typical therapy with austistic children is to focus on the lowest skills, such as, feeding a cookie to a puppet or tying shoe laces.  "So instead of hammering away at all the tasks there kids couldn't do.  I thought we'd start with what they wanted to do."  p68 (hb)

I have to agree here that is amazing what children learn when left to their own devices and also the sporadic nature of learning such skills as tying up shoe laces from learning about knots or learning reading from having to follow instructions on a computer program (both things that my children have done.)

"Harnessing the children's passions may not have been the conventional way to work with them, but it was very much the way I'd always worked with my daycare children."  Luckily Kristine Barnett's own mother mirrored with behaviour to Kristine and her sister, Stephanie.  Kristine's sister was an artist who wanted to do nothing more than draw.  When Stephanie was failing at school, her mother stayed upbeat ""If you don't do art, nobody cares.  But if you can't do math, everyone 's up in arms." she remarked once, "Why is that?"  I found the comment a little surprising, given that she as an accountant and loved numbers herself.  But she knew Stephanie."

That is the crux of the issue.  The mother knew her children.  She could see what they were interested in and harnessed that passion, knowing that finding your passion leads to happy children and then happy adults.  Kristine's mother could see that some brains can do sum and some brains find art easier to do (and school maths confusing.)  What she showed Kristine is that "everyone has an intrinsic talent, a  contribution to make, even if it comes to an unexpected form."  School doesn't always help, enhance or even nurture that talent because academic subjects only cover a very, very small section of people's talents so there has to be a different way in which to tap into that talent in each and every child.

"I have always encouraged the children in my daycare to lean into their passions, and over the years I saw how astonishing the results could be when they have the opportunity and resources to do so." She saw how the kids would flourish because of the attention they gave to the activities they loved and how doing what they loved brought all the children other skills as well.  

It is great reading a book which ends with the author reporting that a kid who she had been told would not amount to anything was told "he can do anything he wants" and that she believes that that is a ceiling that every parent and teacher can set for every child and that all of us can set for ourselves. She wanted everyone to believe that her son's story is emblematic for all children.  

"If you fuel a child's innate spark, it will always point the way for far greater heights that you could ever have imagined. It's hard to trust your child to find his or her own path, especially when we're told every day by professionals that children must fit into rigid boxes. We all want to give our kids the best opportunities we can, which is why it feels like such a disservice if we don't push them in the "right" direction. Celebrating your children's passions rather than re-directing them, especially when those passions don't line up neatly with a checklist for future success, can feel like jumping off a cliff. But a leap of faith is necessary if you kids are going to fly." 

Find the book here at Amazon

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