Monday, December 6, 2010

PUMP UP YOUR BOOK TOUR: THE ACTIVE, CREATIVE CHILD BY STEPHANIE VLAHOV

The Active, Creative Child: Parenting in Perpetual Motion by Stephanie Vlahov
Book Review
(Late posting this today because of packing for the move...I apologize)

My thoughts:

When I was offered a place on this book tour, I jumped at the chance because I am the mother of an active, creative child.  My older son, Gabe, IS the child described in this book.  The only difference being that Gabe does have ADD and it was not a diagnosis that was forced upon us.  I'm going to break my opinions down according to sections of the book and how they relate to my experience with my son.

The observations that Stephanie makes in the first part of the book are a total description of my son.  This child is a live wire from the get-go, this child may not like to sleep, can be willful and spirited, is often labeled as having ADD (which he does), will continually get into things, marches to the tune of a different drummer, craves an audience, and can seem obsessed with his creative muse.  Wow! Let me break it down for you.  Gabe as a baby did not like to be held...it was like he was being confined.  He was never fond of sleeping or naps.  And the getting into things?  How about the time I came into the kitchen to find that he had smashed four cartons of eggs all over the kitchen floor! Not until he started elementary school did we find out about the other things more fully.  He is willful and spirited, but not in a horrific, bratty way.  In kindergarten, the transition and the need for more focus in the classroom setting sent him for a loop.  He was suspended a total of four times...IN KINDERGARTEN...until we were able to correctly diagnose ADD and get the medicine and the counseling just right.  What a mess! We learned that his differences were the cause of some children viewing him as strange.  He has always had a hard time understanding personal space.  Gabe also has nervous ticks such as biting his nails and shaking his head from side to side.  The latter he has learned to control at school, but in the early days, other children just thought he was weird.  Don't get me wrong he has friends, but it has to be a very special child who befriends him and understands what makes him tick.  Luckily, there are several like this at his school who have stuck by him.  Another aspect Stephanie mentioned, craving an audience, is very prominent in Gabe.  He will do just about anything to get a rise out of grown-ups and kids alike.  And we knew he had a creative streak way before school, but we didn't realize how obsessed he was with it until he started school and I would hear from the teachers, "He doesn't do his work.  He turns the paper over and draws instead."

So, what kinds of tips does Stephanie give to parents of children such as this?  She has some great advice, but to touch on it all here would take me all week so I'm just going to focus on the ones that I thought were the best.  One thing that she encourages is to get this type of child involved with is the arts, whether it be children's theater, music (voice or instrument playing), and/or dance.  Stephanie is a big advocate of the arts and children's theater and this has led me to seriously consider checking into it for Gabe.  One thing I can say about Gabe is that of all the school subjects and classrooms where he would get a 'needs improvement' or 'area of concern' mark on his report cards or progress reports, he never got this in art or music.  One problem she does mention when it comes to boys and the arts is gender bias.  She states, "the 'free to be' mentality still isn't quite there for boys."  Isn't that the truth?!  I've always tried to avoid this with my sons.  They had kitchen sets, Barbies, and cabbage patch dolls (boys) when they were little.  As they've grown older, I'll catch them saying, "That's for girls" and I try to explain to them that just because something is pink, does not mean that it HAS to be for a girl.  This is a stereotype that adults have applied and I just do not agree with it.  My husband is a little less thrilled with my views, but he's not totally opposed to it either.  And he doesn't force sports on them like some fathers do.

Stephanie also mentions the need of these children to question everything and she says that is a good thing and should not be silenced.  She states:

"Part of what makes your active/creative child who they are, is their ability to see the richness of the world in relation to their own mode of expression.  People who question conventional ways of doing things are the great thinkers of tomorrow.  Read the biography of any famous inventor and you will see the same pattern."

While she does say questioning should be encouraged, she also states that proper social interaction is important and what kinds of questions are appropriate and which are not should be taught. 

Also, these types of children with ADD or ADD-like behavior seem to be connected with creative/right-brain activity.  This can cause academic challenges when this child would rather be drawing or interacting then working math problems.  The bottom line in dealing with these kinds of kids is for the parent to be very involved with the school and teachers...to be communicating the types of educational stimulation these kids need.  I've been very involved and very lucky.  My son has, and has had, teachers who are willing to work with him and accomodate him in certain ways without taking away from the other students. 

Stephanie has written a winner here and I plan on keeping this book for my home library and will refer back to it often.  The Active, Creative Child spotlights the special nature of this type of child and what is needed to nurture and grow them into great adults.  As quoted at the end of the book, I think Paul Berg, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, sums it up best:

"Developing curiosity and the instinct for seeking creative solutions are perhaps the most important contributions education can provide.  With time, many facts we are asked to learn will be forgotten, but we are less likely to lose our ability to question and discover."

About the book:

"The Active Creative Child" was born out of the need to validate and celebrate the boundless energy oftentimes negated in a highly active child. In these current economic times of budget shortfalls within our educational institutions, there is more emphasis now than ever on "teaching to the test" to obtain high test scores. This translates to more funding. Children who are disruptive are considered a nuisance and distraction. Teachers "routinely" suggest to parents to have their child "evaluated" for ADHD. Oftentimes these comments stem from frustration with normal developmental activity (i.e. a wiggly 1st grade boy) or, a child who may wish to color the sky purple instead of blue.

Yes. children need parameters and they need to conform in a group setting. This issue goes beyond that. We are stifling some of our most brilliant minds.

"ADHD - like" behavior has been linked neurologically to "out of the box" and creative thought process(es.) While I am not a physician, I can see that this is the case in the children that I have known over the years through my activity in children's theatre. Alex was a questioning whirling dervish of activity-obsessed with the world of imagination and theatre. I saw in him the incessant pulse of activity and the need to create. If channeled correctly while working within the educational system, an active creative child can and will enrich the lives of those around him.

I would like to thank Tracy with Pump Up Your Book tours for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

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