Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Story--A Thanksgiving Poem


I want to write a story,
I said.
A good story,
with good people,
a tale that winds on pleasant paths,
that makes me gasp
and smile
and breathe a happy sigh
at the end.

All right,
they said,
those conference speakers
come from the mysterious
world of Publishing.
And also my friend Pat,
practical and kind,
who writes Fiction,
first you need
All right.
And, Godlike, I created
out of nothing but
words and
the memories of all the people
God had already made
and let me meet.
I liked these humans
I had made--
two teenage girls
full of spunk and fun
mischief and potential.
Now what? I said
and I was told that
I must now
make my precious Characters
face hard and painful things
and even suffer
and not know what to do.
I must get them up a tree
and throw rocks at them
must have the reader
shedding tears.
But why? I cried
I like these characters
love them, even,
these humans made of words
that I’ve created.
Why must they not only
meet a gentle obstacle or two
easily hurdled,
but also be rejected
suffer loss
be disappointed
suffer pain,
and in the blackest moments
lose all hope?
They looked at me
kind eyes that knew,
and said,
It's not a story
if you don’t.
The reader needs the Characters
to struggle and keep on,
through all the hard,
to try new ways,
when none of it makes sense,
to cling to hope
when all is hopeless,
and finally,
at the end,
to overcome.
All right,
I said,
and as I formed the story I
sadly forced my precious Characters
to be rejected
and suffer pain
and not know what to do.
But what an unexpected joy
to make them triumph in the end
and find them wiser than before
resilient yet still
their fun and lively selves.

As I typed and edited
manipulated time
chose events
and shaped my characters
I came to see
that my attempts
and even those bestselling books
from conference speakers
are only knockoff paperback
flimsy imitations
of the vast and overarching
Story we are part of
all around us
behind and beyond us in time.
This is the most epic of Epic Sagas
and we are characters
struggling trying hoping
learning growing wondering
what on Earth is going on
suffering crying and
ultimately triumphing.
He is the Storyteller
shaping the narrative
and allowing his beloved characters
made not of words but
flesh and blood and soul
to face dilemmas
and obstacles
to face black nights of hopelessness
because the Story matters
and He’s already
typed the ending
and He knows
that on the final page
both He and we will triumph,
overcome all obstacles
destroy the enemies
and looking back
breathe a happy sigh
it all makes sense
and all the suffering mattered
We will see
how all the threads connect
and all the meaningless frustrations
were actually clues
and all the pain and suffering
mattered more than we
could even dream.
Behind the scenes and
hidden from our vision
were crowds and armies
cheering us and
battling wild fights
on our behalf.
The hopeless nights had purpose
in chapters that couldn’t
any other way.

The Author knows
what He’s about
and I a minor character
face my daily challenges
and pain,
and I give thanks
to be included in this story
and that
the ending is already typed,
edited and published,
and we win.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Book Review: 30 Days to Discover the Genius in Your Child

UPDATE--We have chosen a winner: Betty Griffin, who commented on Facebook. Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing!

This post is a review of my friend Sharon Kuepfer's book. First, as usual, I had to share all the wider thoughts and memories the book generated. So scroll down to the second part to read about the book, and to the third part to see how to buy or win a copy.


 As a young mom, I found a wide spectrum of parents’ views on children’s potential, from Deciders on one end to Discoverers on the other.

Deciders see their children as “Tabula Rasa,” or blank slates, as the philosophers used to say. These parents plan to make the child into the person he or she ought to become, not only a football player, farmer, Fundamentalist, or fiddler, but a certain kind of personality as well. Deciders tend to follow systems and methods, expecting specific and equal results with all their children. At their worst, they are rigid and inflexible, pushing children into roles that simply don’t fit.

Discoverers see their children not as blank slates but as unique little people who come pre-programmed with personalities, giftings, and natural bents that it is up to the parent to discover and encourage. They tailor their parenting and guidance to each child’s talents, limits, and even preferences. They tend to be looser about rules, workbooks, and what you wear to church, and at their worst ignore terrible behavior and a need for routine.

Like I said, it’s a spectrum. Most parents teach specific skills and behaviors; most find that natural giftings manifest themselves early on. Many parents slide back and forth on the spectrum at different stages of parenting.

I’d say I was somewhere in the middle, pushing too hard with the workbooks and chores in adolescence but letting the kids explore and discover their own interests in other areas.

Mostly, I recall the incredible sense of discovery when they were born. With each one, I thought, “So that was YOU! I knew someone was in there, kicking and squirming, but I didn’t know it was YOU!”

In the ensuing days and years, that feeling of finding out who this little person is only increased. Look at him, stacking blocks! Look at her, making up stories with Little People for four hours straight! It pains me that I missed this early discovery in Steven’s life, but I still recall his delight, at the orphanage, when I had him mix blue and yellow paint and he yelled, “Iss GDEEN!!” So I was finding out about him as he found out about colors.

Christian parenting was system-heavy when our kids were little. Most people took specific courses and followed certain teachers. The pressure was intense. Often, I felt like we needed to go against the prevailing systems to work with our children’s needs and bents, like we were Discoverers in a world of Deciders.

My impression is that the methods of 1990 have faded away, but the pressure has only intensified. From Gentle Parenting to Tiger Momming, the voices are more insistent than ever. Discipline is always a big issue, as well as safety, nutrition, and limits on electronic media. When I read some of the debates on social media, it makes me relieved I’m not raising little ones right now.

A big issue, both then and now, is education. The young moms I talk to make schooling decisions with endless research and anguished second-guessing. Most of our conversations have been about teaching children to read.

In that area, for sure, I was a Discoverer. I found that if I read a lot to the children, they were ready for phonics around ages six or seven. I used the ACE Learning-to-Read curriculum because it was free to use from the school where Paul taught, but we were flexible with it. Amy learned to read at age 4 from watching me teach Matt. Jenny never needed the ACE course because she learned to read from pointing at letters in books I read to her. Emily didn’t really read until age 7 ½.

I’ve tried to communicate this mixture of intention and observation, waiting and deciding, to numerous moms, but I never felt too successful.


Happily, I now have a book to hand to moms navigating not only teaching children to read but educating them at every stage. My friend Sharon Kuepfer has published a new book, 30 Days to Discover the Genius in Your Child. I wish I could have had it in hand when I had young children, as it provides a unique, multi-angled way of looking at how children learn and a balance of relaxed observation with intention and structure. It’s not a guide to specific schedules and benchmarks, but a way of looking at learning as an integrated part of life.

 Sharon is the mother of five young adults and definitely a Discoverer. I've known her for years and remember her as a quirky, relaxed mom who saw no need to follow the fads of the day. When “groupings” of pictures and little shelves and baskets were all the rage in home decorating, she kept her walls almost bare because it simplified cleaning. Likewise, she didn’t follow parenting fads if they didn’t suit her children’s needs. Apparently this was more difficult than it appeared, as she writes about the pressure to get her son up to grade level. “It felt like we were going against every grain there was to go against!”

However, Sharon is also a Decider in her own way, deliberate and intentional. She observes, researches, reasons, decides, and then does. She calls her approach the SIFT method—Sharon’s Interest Focused Teaching--describing  it as “a powerful learning style for any educational setting, in which children—or anyone really—can follow their interests, giftings, and passions.”

30 Days is, as the title indicates, a guide to learning about your children. Observation and documentation are key methods, and Sharon tells you how, each day for a month, without making it all huge or overwhelming.

The introductory chapters address all the “But what about?” objections that pop into your head. She does this thoroughly and well, then moves into the daily chapters. Each one looks at an aspect of learning and life skills, along with many stories and anecdotes. Each chapter includes assignments which involve an activity, such as meeting with friends or playing music or introducing children to tools and devices and jotting down how they react and respond.

The overall theme is one of discovery, and the knowledge you gain from working through this book will enhance whatever education method you choose, from public or private school to homeschooling to unschooling to your own unique hybrid.

This shows you the book's readable style and cute illustrations.

While she discourages rigid curriculums and endless deskwork, Sharon recognizes the need for children to learn academics. One of the first exercises involves writing down long-term goals for children. She wanted hers to be able to pursue a university education if they chose. That meant they needed skills in math, reading, studying, writing, and so on.

Then, she shows you how she met that goal without resorting to hours a day hunched over desks in the dining room.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this book is that it opens your eyes to all the ways your children can learn academic and social skills. The book is liberally sprinkled with real-life examples, so we see how her children and others learned math, planning, organizing, cooperation, and much more from following their interests. They baked cookies, played at setting up a “motel” in their house, pursued little businesses, and a lot more. The magic of observing and writing it down is that not only do you notice each child’s learning style, but you document how much education is going on in the middle of playing and projects.

If you’re a Discoverer who’s intimidated by lists and schedules, this book provides a gentle and adaptable structure that is easy to follow and provides the rewards of documenting what you’re already doing.

If you’re a Decider who’s afraid anarchy will break loose if you let go of methods and bookwork, this book will give you a month-long taste of Discovery learning without insisting that you embrace every aspect of it for the rest of your life.


1.    Win it! I have a copy to give away, so comment to enter the giveaway. You can comment here, on my personal and author Facebook accounts, or on Instagram. “Me!” is sufficient, or comment with something you discovered about your child. [I have comment moderation on the blog, so don't panic if your comment doesn't show up right away. Also include your name, please, so I can reach you if you win.]

DDrawing will be Thursday morning, November 3rd.

2.    Order a copy. Here’s the link onAmazon, and here is Sharon’s website. Or you can get it from the publisher, Masthof Press.

Not only will you see your children in a new light when you read this book, you’ll find out a lot about yourself as well.

Quote of the Day:

Ben: How much would I have to pay you to say "This book is about discovering your kid’s genius in 30 days. With my kids, it took me about five. Still a good book, though."?

Me: Name your price.

Ben: The problem is I don’t have much money. I need Matt’s funding behind me.

Me: I'm quoting you either way.