Book Club: The Spark by Kristine Barnett

Welcome to our first online book club meeting!

BookClubWe hope you enjoyed reading “The Spark” by Kristine Barnett and we thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments with us here today. Before we dive into the questions please take a moment to read through our online book club guidelines:

1. Please read other comments before adding your own to create a dialogue (unless, of course, you are first!)

2. Check back once or twice (or more!) to add to the conversation.

3. Keep all comments and discussions respectful – We love differences in opinion!

You may respond to any or all of the questions and add your own thoughts and opinions as well. Use the comment section to start your reply to the questions.

  • First off, did you enjoy the book?
  • Did you gain any insights that will have an impact your teaching/parenting/childcare?
  • What are your thoughts on Kristine’s persistence, efforts, and determination?
  • What do you think about making important decisions based on maternal (or teacher’s) instinct?
  • As a teacher, what part(s) of this story were most relevant to you and your practice?
  • What audience do you think would benefit most from reading the book?

Thank you for participating! The next book will be announced on Friday so stay tuned.


7 thoughts on “Book Club: The Spark by Kristine Barnett

  1. Firstly, thank you to Meaghan and Karley for organizing this book group!
    Question 1. Yes, I enjoyed The Spark and found it to be an easy and interesting read.
    Questions 2/3. It reminded me of the patience needed for parenting and teaching and living! Kristine was definitely the protective mother bear and showed great endurance and determination in wanting educational success for Jake. The book made me think of my oldest son and how he is having to have great endurance to launch a career in the competitive field of fire fighting. Never giving up no matter how tired or discouraged you are or how many years have passed.
    4. Instinct can give us important information and often shows us where are heart is.
    Believing in what you are doing is so key. I have watched and taught many children on the autism spectrum, some whose parents were not comfortable with the challenges they had in the public system. One of these children ended up in an Autism program, the other home schooling. Parents need to be able to support their child wherever they are learning and make decisions regarding their education. Sometimes parents need help and/ or support with these crucial decisions.
    5. Relevance- I have an autistic student currently who has special interests, spiders and snakes. He is drawn to spider and snake books all the time. He has now made spider and snake books with the help of one of his E.A.s and shared them with the class. During the reading of Spark I was inspired to encourage him in this direction.
    6. This book is great for parents, administrators and parents. However, not every child with autism is a genius even though every parent thinks their child is the greatest:) I do think that parents of special needs children need to be realistic about what their child can and cannot do and what the next steps are for them.

  2. So I read this book a few books ago, which means I am a little bit fuzzy. So, here are some general things I took away from the book.

    The first was that I am intrigued to find out what each person on the spectrum might be really interested in – and give them everything I can find about it. I’ve shared it with a few friends who are currently working with kids on the spectrum, and they find it very interesting. I’m sure they can reach many PLO’s on a modified curriculum while only studying boats, or flowers, or electricity – if they are passionate, why not run with that? Who cares that their grade/class is working on planets, if they have not interest in it?

    Secondly, I have to admit that going into the book, I was prepared to take it with a (large) grain of salt. Then, however, Kristine spent so much time discussing how her approach worked with other children – not all blossomed as quickly or exponentially as Jacob, but she had still found a way to get through to so many.

    I feel that Kristine made some great choices that ultimately worked out for her an her family. However, I also feel that it was a rare situation for her to be able to essentially stop her life to bring Jacob home and explore his interests. I can’t help but feel it would be hard for many dual income families to handle that change, even if they feel their child has more potential than the system is offering them.

    I think it is so important to have a SSSW who is just right for your child! I’ve seen some amazing work over the past year, and I have also seen some upsettingly distant, uncaring attitudes as well. I would hope that parents would have a say in this.

    Finally, here is another good book to read – quick and so interesting!

    Also, here is a TEDtalk Jacob Barnett did:

    And finally, and article I just read, after chatting with a woman who had twins… one an identifiable genius, and the other, low-functioning on the spectrum:

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  4. The Spark was my Spring Break book and I devoured it. It was captivating and emotional.

    As both a teacher and a parent, I could identify with the story from both perspectives. I greatly admire Kristine for sticking to her intuition and working so incredibly hard to personalize the learning of both her son and the other children in her life. The part that really resonated with me was the point about if you can engage the student fully in certain aspects of their learning, they are more willing to “tolerate” other aspects of their education or daily lives that may not be as interesting or captivating. I have found this to be very true when working with students who are on the spectrum. The book was a great example of what personalized learning could be if we all could have a very small teacher-student ratio (or an incredible advocate of a mother). I wish we taught in a system that valued personalized education in more than just name only. It would be wonderful to have the resources (people power) to tailor to every student’s needs.

    As a science and math teacher, I found the brain science portion of the book very fascinating and a good reminder of how little we know about how brains really work, especially when brains work in different ways.

    The Spark is a worthwhile read for educators and for parents. It provides an enormous amount of hope for people who are living with children with autism. For educators, I think it’s a reminder that while we may be the experts on a lot of things with respect to curriculum and pedagogical theory, most of time, parents are the ones who know their kids the best. I know a lot of teachers who get up in arms when the topic of homeschooling comes up, but I think we need to remember that there are students out there for whom traditional school may not be the best fit. If you have a parent who is willing to dedicate her or his whole life to finding out what works best for their child, what can be better than that? For those of us trying to work within an inclusive model with students with all ability levels in our classrooms, the book has inspired me to keep trying all the angles to find that one that may just create “the” connection.

    Thanks for the wonderful recommendation and the discussion. I love being part of this network of learners.


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