The Spark Station Isn’t About Insects!

by Mary Ann on May 13, 2010

“I had to send off a quick thank you for your help. The Spark Station is transforming our learning experience! It was better after your class, and even better after your phone call. I think I’m getting it. One of the most helpful things for me was your comment at the forum that we decided to homeschool, we need to budget for it, even if it is a small amount. I thought I was off the conveyor belt, but your feedback helped me see where my thinking was stuck.

Last Saturday I found $1 insect items at Target. We are having a blast—and it hasn’t all showed up in the closet yet. I almost passed up the big plastic insects as “toys” but realized, no, they are inspiration (for my little boys) and models for insect body parts. What was I thinking?

Thank you for all you’ve done.”

Isn’t that just the BEST letter? I get them all the time. Mom’s who feel successful in their efforts to inspire their children and children who are having a blast learning new things. I am happy for this mom and all the families whose lives are enhanced by what I teach.

However, parents always think it’s about the stuff. I have to smile. When I read the above letter I knew what it was really about. It was about a mom who was focused on inspiring small boys. It was about a mom who meets with her children every day at a set time and then stays present.

I can’t stress enough that the transformation is more about the Five Rules of Engagement than the insects or any other great thing we put in The Spark Station. Let me explain using the above example.

The Five Rules of Engagement

  1. Have a structured family learning time and be consistent
  2. Be present
  3. The Spark Station is only accessed during structured family learning time
  4. When you put something in take something out
  5. Plan

Structuring time and then using that time to inspire our children is like magic. Giving them enough time to explore, create, and learn is what brings a love of learning. All families are busy. We have a busy world and good things often edge out important things, like giving time to our children on a consistent basis. Kids just LOVE it when we give them our time and attention.

Being present is a gift to whom ever we give it to. It is listening without texting, answering the phone, checking email or watching the TV out of the corner of our eye. Being present is being all ears and eyes for what is happening now. Children feel secure and happy when parents are present. Structuring time and then staying present is a gift to your children.

The Spark Station is a magical space when it is only used during our structured family learning time. It is something to look forward to. It is exciting because our children are never sure what might be in there. It is always new even when the contents are the same today as they were yesterday because they haven been able to see  it for hours.

Keeping the Spark Station stocked with wonderful toys, games, projects and odds and ends makes it inspiring and exciting. However, an overloaded Spark Station is hard to manage and makes it hard for children to find things and get engaged. So after your closet is full, if you add something, take something out. Put it into a box to reintroduce in a few months or put it in your general play area for everyday use.

Planning is key, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just look at what happened to the mom that wrote me that great success letter. She was in Target and saw some dollar items that would be really interesting and fun for her children. She bought them and put them in The Spark Station and voila! They are having a blast and learning at the same time. We need to watch for “sparks” from our kids. What interests them, what holidays are coming up, what is happening in the world, what is happening in our families? All these things can give us ideas of things that we can put in The Spark Station to inspire our children. Have a thirty minute brainstorming session with your husband once a week. Talk about what you liked to do as kids. What do you want your children to be exposed to, to know about? What have you heard them talk about in the last week or what have they seemed to enjoy. As you practice this “focus” on just watching and thinking, ideas will just come to you as they did for the mother in Target.

I work with families every day. I talk to children every day. I can tell you for certain that structured time, consistency and parents being present trumps content every time.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Ann July 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Hi Dougles, When you work with families as much as I do then you see first hand that children really do want a parents time and attention. If they opt for stuff it is a poor substitute. If you don’t have children you will find that this is true when you do have them. If you do have children start spending more quality time with them and focusing on them when you are with them. Put it to the test and see for yourself. : )


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