The Wonder of Children: Nurturing the Souls of Our Sons and Daughters [NOOK Book]

Overview

With The Wonder of Girls and The Wonder of Boys, bestselling author Michael Gurian presented his groundbreaking views on parenting. Now, with the same breadth of vision and depth of commitment, he puts forth a practical design for better nurturing the souls of our sons and daughters.

The Wonder of Children...
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The Wonder of Children: Nurturing the Souls of Our Sons and Daughters

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Overview

With The Wonder of Girls and The Wonder of Boys, bestselling author Michael Gurian presented his groundbreaking views on parenting. Now, with the same breadth of vision and depth of commitment, he puts forth a practical design for better nurturing the souls of our sons and daughters.

The Wonder of Children offers Michael Gurian's scientifically argued steps toward better care of our children's souls. You'll learn how and why to:

• Increase bonding and attachment in the family and bring the extended family back into the raising of children.

• Control a child's media use and expand time spent in the natural world.

• Guard against damaging brain stressors that can trigger disorders such as depression and substance abuse.

• Examine the potential toxicity of a child's daily schedule.

• Increase the time children spend in spiritual process, understanding the mysteries of life, and experiencing joy and a sense of belonging.

A passionate and practical guide, The Wonder of Children puts forth a finely wrought argument for greater attention to the spiritual side of childhood.
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Editorial Reviews

Mimi Doe
Bravo to Michael Gurian for reminding us of the sacredness of our work as parents and the vivid lives of our children's souls. If you have any doubt about the reality of the soul, read this book.
Dharma Singh Khalsa
An absolutely brilliant and lovely book. Practical and scientific. A must read for every parent who wants to raise a spiritual child.
William Harper Houff
A tremendous work and one of the most important books of the new millennium. With its visionary outlook and good common sense, The Soul of the Child builds a unique bridge between science and religion. Its inspiring stories, beautiful prose, and touch of genius will change the way we look at children, and ourselves, forever. As a parent and grandparent, I was deeply touched by this book. As a minister and scientist, I was inspired to do the work of making our society a better place for children.
Ann F. Caron
Never one to accept the status quo, Gurian challenges us to explore how the science of neurobiology confirms our ancient religious traditions and invites us to consider a new definition of the soul. This daring mix of science and religion produces a beautiful understanding of the child. Gurian offers us an inspirational way to live and work with children.
Library Journal
Many books deal with the physical, intellectual, and psychological development of children, but few address the development of a child's soul in the manner that Gurian's does. Gurian, whose books include The Wonder of Girls, The Wonder of Boys, and Boys and Girls Learn Differently!, is a child development specialist and founder of the Michael Gurian Institute at the University of Missouri. His new work joins science-especially the "new sciences" (neurobiology, neurochemistry, neurophysics, etc.)-with various world religious traditions. Gurian presents his theory of humankind's development from Homo sapiens into Homo infiniens as well as his theory of the soul as light-which means that it is measurable and its existence thus provable. This controversial theory should not distract from the useful if general advice the author provides. Most people with at least some religious or spiritual background will recognize the importance of nurturing a soul's development and will appreciate this guidance. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., New York
From the Publisher
Booklist Whatever their religious and spiritual beliefs, parents will appreciate this thoughtful book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451604108
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Michael Gurian has published twenty books in seven disciplines, including five national bestsellers, translated into fourteen languages. In The Wonder of Boys and The Wonder of Girls he has pioneered efforts to bring neurobiology into homes, schools, and communities. He is cofounder of the Gurian Institue, which conducts research and provides training in applied neural science. His work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, and on the Today show, Good Morning America, and NPR. Michael lives in Spokane, Washington, with his wife, Gail, and their two daughters.
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

The greatest tragedy in human life is to live unaware of one's divine identity.

-- Reverend William Harper Houff

Blair is a small town about an hour from Omaha, set into the green fields, low hills, and open plains of eastern Nebraska. Most of the people who live in Blair also work there, as farmers, schoolteachers, or shopkeepers. A few commute to a larger city or neighboring town for employment or travel to visit family.

My children's great-grandmother, Laura, a woman of ninety-five, lives in Blair at a nursing home. She has accomplished much in her long life, including raising three children with her husband and then without him, helping to run a chicken farm, and teaching elementary school. She is my children's oldest living relative.

She is also very frail, thinks of herself not only as living but also as dying. "It is time for my soul to leave my body," she said once. Neither her vision nor her balance is good. She can no longer live independently and now exists in that time of life between life and death, and has the wisdom to know it.

Once while visiting her, my daughters and I took a walk on the parklike grounds of the nursing home, which sat near the edge of town. We had just come downstairs -- the children and I needed a little time walking outdoors after spending an hour in Laura's small room. The three of us were saddened, as we walked, by how quickly Great-grandma's soul did seem to be leaving her body -- almost like air gradually leaking out of a balloon. Her body's skin was shriveling and pale, her presence in the teaming, vital world contracting before our eyes -- and yet we also simultaneously experienced a different emotion that was difficult to describe, almost a mysterious sense of anticipation. We knew something incredible awaited Great-grandma, though we didn't know what it was.

Davita, who was eight, asked me, "Where will Great-grandma's body go when she dies?"

"Probably into the ground," I replied.

"What about her soul?"

Though tempted, as most parents are, to say "heaven" when a small child inquires about death, I said instead, "We don't know for sure. We could say she's going to heaven. We could say she's returning to nature itself, to the trees and the wheat fields out there." I pointed to the green plain at the horizon that surrounds Blair, Nebraska.

"Her soul will be out there, all around?" Davita asked.

"Maybe." I smiled. "We don't exactly know what happens to the soul after death."

Gabrielle, almost twelve, had been chewing on the moist end of a long blade of grass. Now she entered the conversation.

"Dad," she said, "what is the soul made of?" She had been to Christian and Jewish Sunday schools over the years. My wife, Gail, is of Nebraskan Protestant stock; I am of New York Jewish origin; our daughters have thus heard both Christian and Jewish answers to questions about the soul. Because we have lived overseas and are interested in world religions, they've heard Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and other responses as well. Yet I don't think she had ever heard an answer to this specific question. It was a somewhat unusual one: what material is the human soul composed of?

My instantaneous answer was to stall. "What do you mean?" I asked.

She thought for a moment. "What's a soul made of?" She did her best to ask again a question that I had no answer to at that moment.

I responded honestly, "I don't really know. I'm not sure anybody does."

"Well, but I know," she said.

I raised my eyebrows, amused. "Really?"

"Yes. It's made of God."

"The soul is made of God," I repeated back to her. "Okay. And what is God made of?"

She frowned. Behind her eyes her mind whirred, trying to figure out the logical quandary she'd walked right into.

"I guess I can't say 'God is made of the soul,' can I?" she thought aloud, applying simple logic.

"You could actually," I said, "and you're most certainly right. But it wouldn't answer your question the way you want it answered, would it?"

"No," she agreed.

"When Great-grandma dies," Davita said, interrupting our intellectual discourse, "will all the lights go out in her soul?"

"I don't know for sure," I responded. "But every wise teacher from all over the world seems to agree that her body will become dark when her soul leaves."

"That's what her soul is made of, then," Gabrielle said triumphantly. "It's made of light."

"Light?"

"Yes. Light." Gabrielle, still a little girl at eleven, yet beginning to develop the mind of an adult, looked at me with certainty. And now, I must admit, behind my own eyes, my mind began to whirr at a fast rate. Thoughts from the Bhagavad Gita, the Sutras, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran, flew into my mind. "Be ye lamps upon the world." "You are light for all the world." "Light particles are energy -- they cannot be destroyed." "The brain on a PET scan shows life because it lights up." Pieces of Newtonian and quantum physics, like children's rhymes, replayed themselves in my mind. Einstein's physics and principles of neuroscience tugged at me. Was this an epiphany? What if Gabrielle had stumbled onto a linking point between the human and the divine conversation, there in Blair, Nebraska, on an afternoon filled with feelings both of life and of death?

"You know," I said, grinning at the children, "there's actually something pretty profound in what you're saying, if we follow it all the way through. Though that follow-through might take some time, and a lot more research. But there's something very complex in the simplicity of what you've said."

They looked at me quizzically, which they often do when my words meander. Then we stood silently for a moment, taking in the view from the edge of the nursing home grounds in Blair, the sun beaming down on the green fields of Nebraska.

I thought, Okay, it's a given that we still can't really know what the soul becomes after death, but hadn't things changed since the times religious sacred texts were written, even in the past hundred years? Wasn't there a way to know what the soul is composed of and how it works while the body is alive? Because both science and religion have changed in the last decades, could it be that we are at a moment of truth as a civilization that we hadn't yet quite seized?

What was I thinking? I backtracked. Wait a minute. Was I, in an instant, conceiving of a way to provide a philosophical, religious, and scientific proof of the soul? Had I arrived at this idea by having a conversation with my children? If I had, how might this proof apply to children? It had grown, after all, from the wisdom of children.

It was very hot and very humid. Davita had had enough and asked to go back inside so we could return to their mother, Gail; Grandma Peggy; and the other family members still chatting with one another and Great-grandma Laura.

I led the girls back into the nursing home and up to room 214.

"Where did you go?" Grandma Peggy asked. She sat on the edge of her mother's bed, holding the aging matriarch's tiny hand.

"Just walking and talking outside," Gabrielle reported.

"We talked about you," Davita said, coming up to Great-grandma and giving her a kiss.

Instinctively wary that Davita might say something awkward like "we were talking about your dying," I said aloud, "We were actually being kind of philosophical -- we were talking about the human soul and children."

Grandma Peggy ruffled Davita's hair. "You're a good soul, aren't you?"

Davita nodded, giving her grandma a hug.

Great-grandma Laura, looking first at my two daughters with her light blue, watery eyes, then looking to Gail and me, commanded, "You take good care of these two sweet souls, okay?"

"They are beautiful young lights, aren't they?" I said, my mind still on my thoughts of moments ago.

"Yes," she murmured. "They are. God lives in your children."

"We'll take good care of them," Gail assured her grandmother. I nodded my agreement, looking from my position at the foot of the bed into my two daughters' eyes, so beautifully lit from within -- lit by the light of their own natures, by their sympathy for their elderly and dying progenitor, and by the light of God.

Everywhere around me hovered not only the souls of the dying but also those of young children. In my mind came a kind of verbal replay of the words "you're a good soul," "these two sweet souls," "God lives in your children." In these later moments of their long lives, Grandma and Great-grandma saw so clearly that near them stood not just "kids" but living, breathing souls -- discernible aspects of God. Did this really mean anything? Or was all this just about words?

No, I didn't think so. There was something more here. In response to the comments from the girls' grandma and great-grandma, my epiphany increased to include a sense of the obvious light in my children's eyes -- the same light in every child's eyes, and even beyond that light, the very essence of God.

The afternoon in Blair was a private epiphany, one I didn't share for quite some time even with my wife. But in it, this book began.

A Vision

We think of our children as "kids." What if we thought of them as souls? This was the challenge, inadvertently presented, by a ninety-five-year-old woman. Her words were not just a metaphor but, I think, a real description. As she moved toward death, Laura saw the soul of the child quite clearly.

Most of us are too busy to think of our children as being anything other than "boys" or "girls." This, like thinking of them as "kids," is worthy and important, but how little we think of them as soul, as God, as infinite nature. Laura seemed to see the infinite material. And even Gabrielle's and Davita's thoughts and words, which were touched by the circumstances around them that afternoon, seemed to have a consciousness of soul itself.

We think of our children as "offspring." How would it affect not only our methods of nurturing children but also the growth of our civilization if we spent much more of our time seeing our children as infinite design? How would this awareness change what a child means -- not only to a parent, but also to human civilization? We think of our children as "young people" -- what if we understood how richly and fully they were God?

These questions arose in me.

We are aware of how a child's body develops. What if we could also know how the actual divinity -- the soul -- of the child develops? If we had in our hands a blueprint of the invisible "spiritual" growth of divine identity, how would families and indeed our human cultures plot their courses for the lives of children and adults? Would it be different from the course we plot now? Would both wartime and peacetime be different? Would our hopes and dreams be, if not different, at least more achievable?

These questions occupied my mind over the next few days as I came to acknowledge -- in the wake of our visit to Great-grandma Laura and my epiphany with my daughters outside the nursing home -- the uniqueness of our place in human history. Both our scientific and religious knowledge have developed to a point of creating an astounding new vision, a vision that is right before our eyes but that has not yet been recognized. I came to realize that a number of incidents in my personal and professional life had built to this recognition and led to an unfolding of ideas and human stories that needed further scrutiny.

As the weeks and months progressed, this book, The Wonder of Children, emerged. Initially, it came as an epiphany only, for I needed to spend a great deal of time checking neurobiological as well as religious sources to make sure my vision did, indeed, make sense. I am grateful to all these sources for the book you are reading now, grateful especially that an in-depth study of both sets of sources reveals what my epiphany had hoped it would reveal: a distinctly new point in human possibility. And a new way of understanding our children.

The Book

As a child development specialist, I have written this book so that any parent or caregiver of a child can find inspiration and practical wisdom in its insights. Simultaneously, as a student of both religion and science, I have written it in order to take our human understanding of the soul and God beyond where it has been before, to that place where science and religion can meet. Because the new neurosciences have reached a point of sophistication now, and because the world's religious literature is so readily available, via books, Internet, and teachers, we have come to a time in human history when the sciences of human nature and the metaphysics of divine nature can be seen running intertwined in the human project.

The Wonder of Children hopes to let you stand at the point of interconnection that human progress has created for us. At this point of connection, I hope you'll join me in noticing that a new human is emerging all around us. Our children are surely representative of that new human possibility.

As this book begins, we will discover the development of the human soul through a child's life. Gradually, we will come to see something startling, invigorating -- that God is the child, and in being the child, God needs us far more than we've realized. The universe is, in fact, not merely a spiritual one-way street, wherein we need an omnipotent God and receive his aid, but a two-way street (at least) on which God, a beautiful child, needs us in beautiful and mysterious ways.

As the book progresses, I will present a new approach to the new sciences of neurochemistry, neurobiology, genetics, neurophysics, neuropsychology, and sociobiology ("the new sciences" will be our short name for these). I will also explore with you the millennia-old metaphysics of human religion (including references to nearly all world religions). In this unifying approach, I hope you'll discover how the human body, mind, and heart actually participate in the process religious metaphors have, for some time, named as soul. Once that discovery becomes second nature, everything changes, even our concept of God.

In Part I, I will offer a proof of the existence of soul, then reveal how the human soul develops and matures in children. From this point, I will offer a glimpse into the divine blueprint every child is born with. Even further in Part I, I hope to show you that the idea of a soul/body split, with which we've all grown up, is an erroneous idea promulgated by an earlier era -- with the best of intentions, but one that is no longer necessary or even plausible. We are now able to observe -- utilizing new PET (positron-emission tomography) technologies (as well as SPECT scans, MRIs, skin conductance tests, and more) -- how completely, in the human lifetime, soul and body are one. The consequences of this new human ability are staggering; specifically, one outcome is that it brings us far closer to God -- the divine activity of the universe -- than we could imagine being before.

In this closeness you will find that many of the other dualities you and I have lived with throughout our childhood socialization and adult education will dissolve -- mind versus brain, science versus religion, nature versus nurture. Given the new sciences available to us, it is possible now to see that we've been raising our children and living our lives with a script in mind, one written by a young civilization, in which history -- both personal and cultural -- is built upon a stage of oppositions. We will discover how different -- how unified -- the world looks when we penetrate beyond the veneer of these old, barely useful oppositions.

In Part II of this book, the new understanding we've gained of what soul is and how it operates in children will lead to a deeper understanding of the soul of the adult. Who are we really as adults? How do we lose soul and how can we regain it? There are clues all around us, clues we can understand better when we understand the soul of the child. There are spiritual messages religions have been sending us for thousands of years -- concerning our lifelong divinity in human form -- which now we can fully hear. As the book builds to its final chapter, we will come to realize one of the most inspiring revelations: Having understood the soul of both child and adult, we can now recognize the actual face of God. The two parts and six chapters within this book constitute a step-by-step proof of this ultimate idea: God is the Child.

The new sciences are changing our human script. I hope that this book will inspire you not only by showing how that script is changing, but also by showing how your life -- especially as you care for children -- can be one of leadership as humanity poises itself to navigate this sea change.

It is a sea change at the heart of the very definition of human nature.

The New Human

By the time you finish this book, you may recognize a new human among us. As we explore the soul of the child and the soul of the adult we will be compelled to notice, with great joy, evidence of our present human evolution from the genus and species we call Homo sapiens -- an intelligent but xenophobic, brilliant but also warlike, human -- to an even more sophisticated human being. In Part II of this book, we will name and fully explore this new human, providing the same genus name, Homo, but a new species name, infiniens, a new possibility.

We are in a sea change, if we will but recognize it -- one that has been evolving for quite some time but most clearly during this last century. The technological and societal challenges of the last century have presented our lives with new challenges that our existing intelligence alone cannot face. We are evolving, as we always do, because of necessity. We are poised to learn of a new kind of intelligence by which to live life.

In exploring in this book the new human we are evolving into, our new intelligence, and our ability to know God, we will also discover the future of the family. What can we expect of the human family? What is the soul of the child asking of the human family? What can each of us do to protect the soul of the child? The answers to these questions lead to new expectations for children and for ourselves.

Arguably, the emergence of a new human -- with a new way of looking at children, family, self, and life -- is perhaps the single most important event in our current culture. It is also an event too little focused on by the human community. From the media, literature, and personal intuition we gain a fragmented sense that something new is going on, but we rarely integrate the fragments. The Wonder of Children offers an integration and focus grounded in our sense of the present and future of human childhood. As this book ends, we will circle back to where we will soon begin, at the point where human vision and intelligence, bound up in the mysterious and the holy, can provide our own hungry, truth-seeking souls with more than tradition and more than science fiction: a proof of the soul of the child that might, hopefully, impress an old woman who has seen it all.

Great-grandma Laura, who had lived a fruitful century, was experiencing the end of her life while her young progeny -- myself and my daughters -- were enlivened by a conversation and a vision of a new century. As Laura drifted off to sleep that afternoon, she closed her thin, almost transparent eyelids and inhaled and exhaled in that shallow way old people do. Outside the window lay the plains of Nebraska with milo, corn, and wheat, windless and moist under an ember-colored sunset. In the halls of the nursing home were now mainly muted sounds -- of human voices, of televisions, of footsteps. It became time for all of us to leave. We said good-bye to an old woman sleeping; we drove away, west, into an evening of yellow, red, and pink.

We did not know if Laura Whitcher, ninety-five, would live to see another afternoon gathering of her family. Driving from Blair to Lincoln, Nebraska, a trip that takes an hour and a half, we were subdued at moments, and happy at moments, the challenges and delights of family life weaving through our conversations and our silences.

Grandma, Grandpa, myself, Gail, and our two children had often made this car trip, and we enjoyed singing when we did so. Grandma Peggy requested that we sing the gospel song "Amazing Grace." And so that is what we did as we passed the town of Gretna, Nebraska, six souls singing together in a 1996 Oldsmobile 88. We sang for the living, and we sang for the dying.

I remember Laura Whitcher in every page of this book. I remember her and all the old people who have made possible the century of new discovery whose rewards we now reap. May this book do some justice to the nearly hundred years of life that not only one woman but also countless other men and women have given the world. Let us begin this book with the truth in mind that their lives speak loudly, if we will but listen, a message about the souls of the children they leave behind.

May Laura Whitcher continue her journey in peace, and may the message of her lifetime inspire us all.

Copyright © Michael Gurian
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Table of Contents


Introduction

A Vision

The Book

The New Human


Part I: The Soul of the Child

Chapter 1. The Science of the Soul: Proof of the Soul's Existence

The Monitors

Thinking Differently about the Science of the Soul

Seeing the Light

The Science of the Soul

The Soul Right Before Our Eyes

Beyond the Soul/Body Split

Where We Go from Here


Chapter 2. The Soul Grows: Soul Development from Birth to Adulthood

Watch the Light Grow

The Secret Life of a Child

The Human Journey of Individualization

The Science of Soul Growth

Flowering

Soul Growth, Stress, and Cortisol

Protecting the Light

The Precious Child



Chapter 3. Soul Markings: The Divine Map a Child Is Born With

The Divine Child

Genetics: Soul Markings

Does Your Child Have a Destiny?

What Is Evil?

What Is Death?



Part II: God Is the Child

Chapter 4. The New Human: How Our Thinking Must Change

Unifying the Field

The New Human

The Future of Religion

Bridging the Gap between Soul and Body

The Future of the Child


Chapter 5. Soul Retrieval: The Personal Journey Back to the Soul

The Science of Lost Soul

The Science of Soul Retrieval

The New Human: Putting Children First


Chapter 6. God Is the Child: The Future of the Family

God Needs Us

The Loneliness of the Child

The Future of the Family

The Family of the Future

When God Is the Child

Moving Beyond Individualism


Epilogue

Notes and References

Books That Help Nurture the Soul of the Child

About the Author

Index

Reading Group Guide
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Reading Group Guide


Questions and Topics for Discussion about The Wonder of Children

1. In the opening chapter of The Wonder of Children, Michael Gurian reveals how the book grew from a conversation with his daughters during a visit to their dying ninety-six-year-old great-grandmother Laura. What do you think of eleven-year-old Gabrielle's insight that the soul must be made of light? How does the author support this idea with discoveries from PET (positron-emission tomography) technologies, SPECT scans, MRIs, skin conductance tests, and other findings from neurobiology?

2. Do you think of science and religion as being in opposition to each other? Why or why not? How important do you think it is for science to confirm religious belief?

3. How persuaded are you by the scientific "proof" Michael Gurian presents for the existence of the soul? How have your own views of the soul changed, if at all, from reading The Wonder of Children?

4. How do you think our methods of childrearing would change if, as the author suggests, we stopped thinking of our children as "kids" and started thinking of them as souls? What does Michael Gurian mean when he boldly asserts "God is the child"? If we had positive scientific proof of children's divine identity, how would that change what childhood means-not only to parents, but to human civilization?

5. One of the central ideas of The Wonder of Children is the unity of soul and body. If the soul and body are one, what happens to the soul when the body dies? If the soul remains alive when the body dies, mustn't the soul and body be made of different materials? Do you think it is possible to believe both that the soul leaves the body at death and that the soul and the body are one? How does the author resolve that apparent contradiction?

6. What do the concept of soul markings in ancient religions and the recent discovery of the human genome-"the blueprint of human life"-tell us about "the divine map a child is born with"? Do you believe each child has a destiny? How can parents and other caregivers guide children to fulfill their destiny without trapping them in preconceived ideas of who they are or should be?

7. What happens to the souls of children and adults who have been damaged in some way? What retrieval techniques does the author suggest for these "lost souls"? Do you believe there are some lost souls that cannot be retrieved?

8. Discuss whether evil is more the result of nature or nurture. Do you believe that evil is marked on the soul? What does Michael Gurian mean when he writes: "Parents and other caregivers do not create evil in the child....Yet it is also fair to say that we are the creators of the evil in our child"?

9. What connection does the author make between child development theory-as expressed in the writings of Freud, Adler, Montessori, Piaget, and Kohlberg-and the concept of the soul growing over the course of a lifetime? Why is bonding in infancy key to the healthy progress of the soul? What role does the strong extended family play in soul growth? Why is Gurian convinced that nurturing our children's souls is the most important thing we can do for them-and for society?

10. Do you agree or disagree with Gurian's assertion that the new sciences are leading us, inevitably, to abandon the monotheistic idea of separation of God and humans in favor of the unitheistic concept that God is us and we are God? Why? How do you envision world religions changing in light of recent and future discoveries of the new sciences? Will these changes inspire a deepening or lessening of faith? In what ways do you think your own religious beliefs will be altered by new scientific discoveries? Which concept of God do you find more comforting-God as a Higher Power, the Supreme Being, or God as indistinguishable from every human being? Why?

11. In what ways is The Wonder of Children a natural outgrowth of the author's nature-based child-development theories in his bestselling books The Wonder of Boys and The Wonder of Girls? How is the new book similar to and different from those earlier works?

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