SPARKS = Loving to Learn

In the last two weeks, I’ve given you some information on Sparks and how to use them to connect with your children. In the article on March 10 – SPARKS – The Big Fail, I mentioned that when we learn to utilize Sparks, we can help our children love the idea of learning.

Kids have a lot to learn, and often, whether we homeschool or use public or private schools, the love of learning can get buried. We can’t prevent times when school is boring or too hard. But we can keep the desire to learn alive, as we utilize our children’s Sparks.

When I was speaking and teaching, I spent many hours helping parents use their children’s Sparks. I wrote LOTS of articles on the experiences actual families had. I wasn’t the only one experimenting and learning. Today’s article was written in 2012, the same year I had my big fail and many big wins.

My friend, Leah, was taking her family to Florida and wanted them to LOVE the trip and to LEARN a lot. She took the time to think it through and prepare her family for the trip. She got their minds going. Her children were older than my grands but her use of Sparks worked as well for her, as it had for me. We both knew what I wrote in the article two weeks ago – Life is about learning, and the best-lived lives happen when we continue to learn. Leah wanted this for her boys.


Here is an email I received from Leah and my response. Then I will share what Leah did with the information and how the trip went.

Hi Mary Ann,
I have a favor to ask. I really need a “jump start” and I knew you could help me. I feel a little like I am in a brain freeze right now…We are taking the kids to Orlando for a huge Disney World trip. I want to inspire some Florida learning…but I need a tiny little jump start. Off the top of your head…could you walk me through some first starts? Just to get me motivated and the juices flowing. Just a few quick ideas of how or where I could start! Thank you! Leah S. (shared with permission.)

Here is what Leah was really asking – We have this terrific trip coming up. How can I get my children on board, be excited to learn, and have a great time too?

Here is what I came up with in just a few short minutes, seriously just a short time:

1. Start with a map. It’s fun for children to see where they live in relationship to where they are going. Attach the map to a wall and run a piece of yarn from your state to the one you visit. If you have older children, they can rubber cement the string along the major roads you will be traveling. (Just today, 3-19-24, my husband asked me to show him on a map where a relative lived, in relation to our daughter who lives in MO.)

When I was in school one of my favorite things was to make my own maps. You can print a map or draw one. Let your children find the information to complete their maps or do one map as a family.

Here are some things you can put on your maps– state capitol, the state abbreviation, the largest city, major rivers, and lakes, and major industries (find out what part of the state the industries are found and then draw a picture or glue a miniature to that area), state nickname, motto, and song.

Now you can draw a picture on the side of the map of the state flag, state bird, state tree, state flower, state mammal, and state water mammal, etc. This will not appeal to all children, but I would have loved it and so will others, especially if it is done as a family.

2. Know up front where you are going. States are big places and usually varied in their topography. So, plan ahead. Then you can go online and find out what fun things there are to do where you are going and what the landscape is like.

3. Get some great books from your library, with pictures and information about the state you are visiting. As you know from last week’s article SPARKS -The Big Win, I love books and so do my children and grands. When I have opportunities to learn with them, we begin with books.

4. Read a chapter book as a family. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings loved and wrote about the people of Florida. She wrote The Yearling which takes place in Florida. There is also a state park in Florida called the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park.

5. Get some books about the odd and wonderful animals you can find in Florida: dolphins, manatees, panthers, alligators, etc. Play charades using only the animals and birds found in Florida.

6. Learn about some of Florida’s famous sports teams.

7. Give each child a journal, rubber cement, etc. so they can write about the trip, and capture photos, postcards, and other mementos, rather than waiting until they’re back home. In the moment there is more excitement and enthusiasm for the job.

These fun ideas make learning about any state interesting and exciting. When you have a family trip coming up you can do many things to interest and excite your children. Begin talking weeks before the trip. Have mini-conversations and dinner conversations. Have conversations in the car, driving from one appointment to another. Get the fire going.


The next day Leah emailed back and confirmed what I had been teaching moms and dads for years. When you step out and start, resources (thoughts) show up no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. I want you to see what happens when you start, even if you are scared, don’t know anything, or feel unable. Here is Leah’s email. (Shared with permission.)

Hi Mary, I emailed you during some feelings of doubt in my efforts and frustration (you may have been able to tell). My 9-year-old, Miles, was looking over my shoulder reading my email, so I was a little embarrassed that he may have seen it. I tell you that because I wanted to start TODAY with Florida stuff. So, I did just that…just stared…started with a map.

labeling, tracing, and coloring. We traveled from Utah on the map state by state. We looked at all the states we would fly over and talked about what we might see out the window.
Then we got into the explorer Ponce de Leon for a while, and are getting more info on him and his explorations. We talked about the American Revolution and how Florida was under Spanish rule.

Then we got to the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys; now we are studying bridges, how they’re constructed, and even building a bridge for our hot wheels out of popsicle sticks. got us cars came about because the original bridge wasn’t necessarily designed for automobiles. What was it like to live without cars, when in history did they begin to have cars? Then we went into boats and how they cross these bridges. We built a bridge out of Unifix cubes and tried at dinner to use our spoons and forks to understand how they could anchor pillars, or the like, into the ocean to sustain a seven-mile-long bridge!

Then we got into how long seven miles is and the running race held on the bridge every year. I could go on and on, ALL in ONE day. And we could have done more.

I was exhausted though and ran out of time! : ) Now I have so much more to go on, thanks to you. The kids are thrilled and say it makes more sense when they know about the place they’re going. Thank you, thank you for your quick response. I do have a lot of faith in you and always will! Love, Leah”


These kinds of activities and conversations went on for the few weeks before the trip. The kids were so on board. They loved learning all this cool stuff. There were awesome dinner conversations and car conversations.

When Leah and her family returned from their trip to Florida, she told me it was AMAZING!! One of the things that made it so amazing was planning ahead, creating a Spark and then a roaring fire, teaching, and being with her boys. The process had them very excited and created great anticipation.

When you watch for Sparks, and then respond, it can be magical for your family and help children have a lifelong desire to learn, no matter what happens in their schooling.

Sparks – Watch and respond. It makes a difference.

Enjoy the article? Why not share it?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *