Following the Spark – One More Reason to Homeschool

There are a few parents who turn away from labels stuck on their children by “experts”.  Some view their beloved kids through the lens of every day reality in their homes, and while out and about. They might not agree with the professionals. That’s why we sometimes look for second and third opinions and do a little research on our own.  Often, the most perceptive view comes from mom and dad.

Kristine Barnett’s intuition seemed to work for her boys.  At the age of two, her oldest son, Jacob, was diagnosed with autism and his mama was told he would never talk or read.  She was told there was no hope. Instead, she persisted, after observing the passion in Jacob, who is now 15 years old, fascinated with theoretical physics and the Indiana native now researches at Ontario’s Perimeter Institute.


The Washington Post‘s Maureen Corrigan noted Kristine’s book in the Book review: ‘The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius’ by Kristine Barnett. Corrigan is also the book critic for NPR’s program “Fresh Air.”

At age 3, Jake was enrolled in “life skills” classes in hopes that he might learn, as Barnett says, to “tie his own shoes at sixteen.” Often, though, Jake was so absorbed by other things — shadows on the floor, plaid patterns on clothing and, especially, alphabet flashcards — that he couldn’t be persuaded to attend to the lessons. At the beginning of “The Spark,” Barnett describes a chilling comment made by Jake’s special ed teacher on a home visit, after insisting that the boy leave his beloved alphabet cards at home: “We don’t think you’re going to need to worry about the alphabet with Jacob.” In other words, she didn’t think Jake would ever learn to read.

 Every special education teacher should appreciate the resolve and skills reached by Jacob now.  I know a local one who would only wish us well with offered help if we were in that situation.  Hope and mamas persevere.  Barnett didn’t believe the expert(s) and took her little guy out of the special ed classes, using his passions as the core learning base while homeschooling.

Jake got alphabet cards galore, as well as maps (another passion) and puzzles. Barnett managed not only to mainstream Jake into kindergarten, she also did the same for many other autistic kids in the learning center, Little Light, that she ran out of her garage.

I’m not particularly keen on 3 and 4 year olds being in any sort of classes until they’re much older.  (The Charlotte Mason/Dr. Moore philosophy makes much sense to me.)  These preschool-for-all classes are a modern trend that hasn’t proven particularly successful.  Schools and our fear-mongering leaders can tell us they need more money to solve our children’s education issues.  But the Barnett family with all their challenges, prove love is the key factor while deciding to entertain others’ opinions, whether they are experts, friends or family.  It doesn’t need to be forced on us.

Corrigan concluded with this below.

Whether Jake’s story and Kristine Barnett’s maverick learning strategies represent good news for other children will probably be debated in educational circles (and book clubs) for years to come.

 Every homeschooling family is a maverick finding the unique way their children learn.  The spark that turns them on and lights their eyes, ears and fingers up chasing down some answers and accomplishments.The Barnett story is a wonderful account of a boy’s great success.  He’s happy.  That’s all families would ever want and the sooner, the better.

By the way, Jacob doesn’t mind being autistic.  He sees it as a gift, rather than a detriment.

Read more about the Barnett family on The Mother List.


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