Awakening Children’s Minds by Laura Berk (Thoughts on a Reread)

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It’s interesting how a year and a half changes one’s perspective. In the early fall of 2010, I read a wonderful nonfiction examination of how parents can help children embrace imagination. Revisiting Awakening Children’s Minds: How Parents and teachers Can Make a Difference by Laura Berk (2001, Oxford University Press) provided me with some necessary reminders in the how to’s and why’s behind parenting a young child that is becoming an intelligent and creative individual. Rereading the book gave me encouragement as a parent. I am immensely glad I revisited it: I see it from a new perspective.

When I read the book the first time, my son was just beginning preschool, and his imaginary friends were new to our family. I said I was “not about to homeschool” because I don’t have that kind of stamina. I read the book as a call for encouraging creativity (which it is). On this read of the book, my son is finishing his last months of preschool, he’s reading at a second grade level, and he is constantly asking questions about “how” and “why” (today’s question was “why do we have floors?”). Further, I’ve decided to homeschool him. It’s not that I have stamina (I’m not actually sure what I can do) but I’ve become remarkably excited every time I see him learning and I can’t wait to help him along his journey.

The message I received from Awakening Children’s Minds was slightly different this time around as well. Although it certainly is still about creativity in children, I noticed far more often the emphasis on parental involvement in teaching children emotional intelligence. The book is a manual for parents to teach children with patience, and how to do so by reaching them at their level. In short, Ms Berk reminds parents that children are human and need to be approached with respect and individuality. A cookie-cutter approach to education cannot meet children’s needs on an emotional, intellectual, or creative level; each child needs space in which to find their abilities, and parents and teachers are uniquely able to assist as they recognize each child’s needs.

For example, I find myself more often saying to Raisin something like this “You could say ‘Can I have one please?’ or ‘Will you please share?'” instead of “Ask instead of grabbing!” He is much calmer in his response to me when I give him options and ideas of how he can get to what he needs. While I’ve still found his four-year-old temper tantrums frustrating, I feel I understand him a little bit more. His feelings are real, and his frustrations stem from things that to him are enormous and feel nearly impossible to deal with. By helping him realize what he can do, I feel like Raisin has found a bit more comfort in his distressing world. And I hear him saying more frequently now “I feel frustrated!” rather than exploding in tears. (The tantrums over little things still occur, but I see improvement.)

On this reread, I skipped the chapter about teaching children with disabilities: if I feel that is relevant to me at some point, I may revisit this book again. The last chapters, which focused on the ideal classroom setting, reinforced to me the decision I’ve made to teach my son myself. I know our local public school will be unable to meet his needs. In our homeschool setting, I am hopeful that I can help Raisin’s creativity, intelligence, and delight with learning flourish.

Reviewed on April 23, 2012

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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