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.


  1. Hahaha, Ben: I think I need to bring all siblings in to help fund me now!
    I’m not sure what type of parent I was with my girls at a young age. I was scared, not supported, struggling, sleepless; but, I loved them unconditionally.

  2. Makes me wish I could go back thirty years and start over with this book.

  3. I feel like I really need this book!

  4. Love your blog- Me!

  5. Where were these resources when I was raising our five? I think my son and his wife would benefit from this book. Enjoyed your review!

  6. Me! Jacinda Rosenberry

  7. I confess, I almost didn’t read this, as my hackles raise at any title beginning with “30 days…” but it sounds interesting and practical and I am in the thick of it.

  8. **raise? Google is not entirely clear on this.

  9. Me! Kimberly Eshleman

  10. This sounds like the book I need right now. We’re trying to navigate raising TCK’s, which is a whole different subject, but this book looks like it could give some fresh ideas and new angles to consider. Lisa Smidt

  11. I wish I would have had a book to read like this when our boys were young!😊

  12. It sounds like Sharon has found a good balance in educating her children. Not only does she educate her children, she knows how to gently share her wisdom with others. Linda Rose

  13. Katrina Martin11/02/2022 6:33 AM

    I’d love to read this book.

  14. Good morning! I love teaching, and this book looks like something I’d really be able to apply into my life. And what cute illustrations!
    Leah Bergen

  15. Susanna Nolt11/02/2022 9:48 AM

    Me! I discovered that my daughter loved music in utero, and at 7 mo, she LOVES it even more and tries to help sing! So fun!

  16. Looks like a good book! -Rachel

  17. Me iss a 5th Grade teacha! (Thanks for taking the time to put your own thoughts down too 💃🏿)

  18. I love books. Crystal Zeiset

  19. If I am fortunate enough to win, I'll be delighted, but if not, I plan to order a copy. -Beverly Gingerich