Reflections on The Hurried Child

June 2, 2006

Asalaam 'Alaikum:

I have been spending any free-time I have (which isn't much) reading "The Hurried Child (Third Edition)" by David Elkind, Ph.D.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has children, insha'Allah.  On many of the homeschooling lists I belong to, there are often discussions on why do you homeschool?  I am amazed to find that all my answers are to be found within this book – I'm quite impressed.

Unfortunately, I myself was a hurried child – so I know what it is like.  I'm just amazed that I now have become a parent who unknowingly but definitely hurry my own children.  Alhumdulilah, not in all the ways mentioned in the book, but in many ways.  Reading this book has helped in that it has showed me the need to slow down and to relax my expectations.  Unfortunately, I am a perfectionist so it hasn't been easy – but I feel a lot of stress has been lifted in my life and I see an improvement even in my interaction with my children, alhumdulilah.

In thinking over things and reflecting on the ideas presented in this book, I have found that I too am subject to the rat-race and spend a lot of time "hurrying" my children as a result of my own upbringing in this society.  Reading this book has helped me slow down a bit more – to enjoy things more with the girls and not try to rush them too soon to "achieve".  I really recommend any Muslim parent read this book – it is very eye-opening and has helped me resolve some of my issues with homeschooling, when to start, etc.

I found the following exerpt interesting:

"Such attitudes, however, changed markedly during the 1960s, when parents were bombarded with professional and semiprofessional dicta on the importance of learning in the early years.  If you did not start teaching children when they were young, parents were told, a golden opportunity for learning would be lost.  Today, there are tax-supported kindergartens in every state, and some twenty-three states are considering programs for four-year-olds.  In too many schools, kindergartens have now become "one-size-smaller" first grades, and children are tested, taught with workbooks, given homework, and take home a report card."

Of course, the book contains information on several stresses that are put on children (beyond just schooling and education).  Fortunately, some of them – public school, peer pressure and media we have some control over in our home.  So, what may not influence my children may influence someone else's child.

I, personally, am not against educating your child or teaching your child if they are ready to learn.  However, I have seen many a parent (Muslim or otherwise) who makes this learing their central focus without any concern to the effects on their child.  In my case, I have found that my daughter is just not ready for formal schooling – the sitting down with workbooks – and having timed lessons.  I want her to learn and grow, but I have seen how this type of atmosphere affects her.  So, right now we are approaching homeschooling on a relaxed basis (and reading this book has helped me feel better about the decision).  Is she learning?  You bet.  Just this week we have been learning about the Solar System – about Adam and Hawaa – we are learning the Arabic Alphabet – we are getting lots of physical activity – and she has memorized another Surah of the Qur'an.  So, I can't complain.  Next week we are going to try to learn about Electricity and who knows what else we will come up with?

What I really have a hard time tolerating (my main pet peeve) is the parent who, in every conversation, tries to find some way to announce the many achievements of their child.  "Oh, my child potty-trained before they were 1, why hasn't your child started yet?"  Unfortunately, it happens often – at least in my experience.  I guess what goes on in someone else's home is one thing – but the problem is that, as with many parents, you worry about your child and want what is best for them.  You start to wonder – what should my child be learning?  Am I hurting my child by not teaching them to read by the age of 3?

The problem is, we need to realize that just as we are all different – children are also different from one another.  One child may potty-train at 2 and another may do it later.  If your child potty-trained at 3 instead of 2, it does not necessarily mean that your child won't go to Harvard and they are doomed.  Besides, at least in my case, I'm just trying to make sure I do my best, insha'Allah, to raise righteous children who strive and desire to learn and grow – a habit (I hope) that they will continue even later in life.

I have met many people since being Muslim (most, but not all were raised Muslim) who take for granted that they are Muslim.  It is a part of them – only in that they pray and fast, but they no longer try to strive and learn and grow in Islam.  They had their education in grade school or high school and choose to go no further.  I want my children to continue to strive to learn more – and to develop their iman.  What I hope (for them) insha'Allah is that they are not only born Muslim, but that they also live as if they are newly reverted (if that makes sense).  With that strong fire and desire burning within themsleves to improve and learn.  Mind you, I hate to make assumptions about others – as I have also seen people who were raised Muslim who have been great examples to me and they continue to strive to grow and learn in Islam.  Thus, I really think it is something about the way they were raised and taught.  Anyway, having my child go to Harvard (at least for me) is not that big of a deal (and it certainly doesn't mean that I achieved anything anyway).  We should remember: anything we have or achieve is only by the will of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Anyway, this is just my opinion.  Allah knows best, but I believe this path is what is right for me and my family, insha'Allah.  I'm not completely finished reading the book  – I'm about half-way through, but thought I'd share some insights with you.  Insha'Allah, if I read anything "earth shattering" I will post it here.

Asalaam' Alaikum,
Sumayyah Umm SAA

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No Responses to “ Reflections on The Hurried Child ”

  1. Susan on June 2, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    Jazaki Allahu Khairun sister for sharing your thoughts on this book as well as all the information and resources you make available to others. Masha’Allah you must be extremely organized to do it all in an “un-hurried manner”.

  2. Iman on June 2, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    as salaamu `alaykum…

    I needed this *S* My daughter was made fun of by certain ADULTS (!!!) when she could not grasp certain concepts.

  3. umm maryam on June 3, 2006 at 4:18 am

    Assalamualykum i found what u wrote very interesting. JK for sharing. it sounds like an intersting book.

    the only thing i feel i will go by for learning by age is the quran. i was reading an article that the golden age (ie best age) to learn quran is 5-23 (strange age range) but alhumdullilah v. interesting. that doesn’t mean though that i want to sit the kids down with a mushaf and a stick! i feel that they can memorzie it now easily, just by hearing it over and over in the background etc the hard part is showing them how to implement it day to day. making it a real thing that we live by rather than just a book. kwim? apart from that i just let my kids lead with the learning, for now.
    i don’t really want to push them, maybe when they r older i will.

    i want them to want to learn all their lives, education dosen’t begin at 5 and finesh at 18/21 etc i feel it is a life long thing. for now i need to work on good manners and good character, by trying to have a secure base for them, ie me!
    kids build secure bases (from what i read) from birth to approx 5. it is hard to be there all the time but in the end insha’Allah the reward is there also.
    insha’Allaah everything else will slot in.
    i have also had ppl kind of go on and on about how they put their kids in nursery or school, are my kids not going! their children know abc/123 kwim. i have to sit there and try to shift the converstaion away. its nice if their children know things alhumdullilah. but they are children and i don’t want to compare or know, i am sure u must have come accross ppl who get kind of shocked/ jealous if they find out your child knows/ can do something theres doesn’t. how did u teach them?

    i am all for sharing ideas/ tips etc but each child is different and will learn at their own pace. and ppl forget that, i forget that sometimes! i totally have to stop myself and think calmly about it! anyway i must stop blabbing! masha’Allah i think you are doing a great job, may Allaah swt make it easier for you and reward you with the best of rewards, ameen.
    you have been very helpful
    JK
    wasalam

  4. educatingthemuslimchild on June 4, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Asalaam 'Alaikum:

    Susan – I'm still learning to be "un-hurried" *smile* – I'm definitely not proficient. However, seeing how it affects everyone in a positive way makes me strive harder. However, I still have to fight my "perfectionist" and work-to-death attitude when dealing with myself!

    Iman: I know what you mean. When we went to the doctors when my daughter was 3 1/2 he gave her a book and asked her "What does this word say" without even asking me if we have taught her to read yet. I was surprised because he is a Muslim doctor and I just thought that he would be more aware of the detriment of constantly pushing children to achieve – but I guess not. I was a bit angry – and this has happened quite a lot. Oh, you don't know how to read yet? and puzzled looks at Mom (I guess especially because I am Muslim). I have faith that they will learn what they need to in time, insha'Allah.

    Umm Maryam: I agree with you – in fact, right now our largest focus in our home is actually Islamic Studies. Not that we sit down with workbooks or anything – but we are working on memorizing surahs and I am also reading "Stories of the Prophets" and making it more digestible for my daughter. She is really getting into these stories more and talks all the time about the Prophets and their stories, masha'Allah. When I say not forcing homeschooling too much – I think what I mean is that right now I am more an unschooler – taking her where her interests lies. In Islamic Studies, we do have things we want to cover and we do so. I try to do it in fun ways, by telling stories and discussing it with my daughter (she has lots of questions, masha'Allah!) I intend to also spend time teaching her to read and some math and science – but not forced and not every day. I still want to go out with them and allow them to be active. Instead of reading in a book about trees – to go outside and see a tree – feel a tree – smell a tree. To ask questions and to delve futher into that interest – and, most importantly, to bring it all back to the Glory of Allah – that He created all this for human beings.

    I hope this makes sense. I really don't think it is possible to NOT EDUCATE your child. They are constantly learning and growing. I just want to make sure that I don't measure their success by standards that I don't agree with – I want to measure their success by how much they are growing and learning as a person and I am sure that the other success will just take care of itself. I don't mean that I won't teach her math and by some method of osmosis she will learn math.

    We have to realize that there are many ways to learning something – not just by textbooks and boring lectures. There are videos, stories, experiments and real life experiences that are full of learning opportunities and I have found that learning in these ways are much more memorable than the other method (at least for me).

    I was educated in a school environment all my life and yes, I do have issues with it. When I was in the younger grades, I usually finished my work before the other kids. I would walk around and see if anyone needed help or had a question (I was bored out of my mind and had to wait an entire period for most students to finish). Needless to say I was chastised and made to sit in my seat quietly and wait (or else). All through school – I was terrible in Math because the Math teacher never tried to reach me and make the subject digestible for me – they just continued to allow me to get low grades or minimally passing grades and never made the effort to "fix the problem." At one point they even put me in Remedial Math (no offense, but most of the students there had learning disabilities or they just hated school and didn't want to do the work) – it was depressing to be there and my abilities way outweighed the other students.  I was able to work my way out of there before the year was up.  Looking back, I know part of the problem was that we moved from Canada to the US.  The system of schooling is different and subjects we covered in Canada were not yet taught in my school in the US.  Topics that I had not covered in Canada were already discussed in the US so I was missing a chunk of skills that were necessary to be successful with later topics, but no one picked up on that need or ever bothered to wonder what was the problem.  To this day I still have not idea about conversions . . . how many inches make . . . how many feet make . . . how many cups make. . . – I am clueless and this is just one part of the education I miseed in moving to a new schooling system.  Another funny thing is that being Canadian – if you are not aware – we spell things funny (okay, I guess I have been in the US too long 🙂 ) but when I came to the US my English teacher was always yelling at me that I was purpously spelling words wrong (as if to spite her).  However, I was writing them the way I was taught in Canada and never realized there was a difference (check becomes cheque and center becomes centre, etc.)  Yet, there was no tutoring available or advised – they'd just pass me. 

    The strange thing is, however, that when I attended college I had an instructor that was so wonderful that I excelled (and this was with higher math concepts) – got the best grades in the class and was actually asked by the college to tutor. That's not a miracle – it is having the ability to reach someone and finding a way to make something interesting to them that may not initially be interesting.  If the student is having trouble grasping a subject – find another way to reach them.  I realize that it is not possible to do this in a school system where there is 20 or so students to 1 teacher, and I guess this is one of the many reasons why I am homeschooling – it is possible in my home, alhumdulilah.

    When I was in grade school our English teacher always had boring writing assignments – I hated them but I loved to read and write. One day she came in unprepared and decided to let us write anything we wanted. I spent days and nights for a week working on my assignment – writing from my heart. The day after I turned in my assignment the teacher stood at the front of the class and mockingly read my story and questioned my ability to write. She then told the class that I plagarized the entire thing. She even refused to return my story to me so that I could keep the copy. Even more strange is that I would often write on the bus on the way to that week's softball games.  One main part of the plot was a young girl becoming blind.  I had an in-depth discussion with my history teacher about how to make the girl blind in the story.  Yet, when I asked him to "testify" on my behalf that I wrote the story he said "I can only state that I spoke with you on how the girl could become blind, however, I cannot say that I know you wrote the story or any part of it.  Needless to say, I was quite upset and actually stopped writing until my later years of high school when I had an excellent teacher who always had interesting writing assignments. He quickly noticed that I was a writer at heart and encouraged me to continue.  To this day, writing truly is my one passion – but what would have happened if the teacher in high school didn't come along?  The thing is – who is teaching you makes just as much a difference as what you are being taught. I have the utmost interest and desire for my children to excel and learn – something I can't promise with any other school.

    I want to first build a basis of loving learning and desiring to know more before I squash that desire by forcing learning on her – if that makes sense. Insha'Allah, I hope this is the right path for us – and if it is not, insha'Alah we will be guided to the right path.

    Asalaam 'Alaikum,
    Sumayyah Umm Sadiqah wa Asma

  5. Mona UmIbrahim on June 5, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    interesting thoughts. You are right, it’s the teacher that matters in learning. The one thing i hated about school was being forced to read books that i wasn’t interested in. Alhamdulillah it didn’t squash my interest in books completely!

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