Reflections on The Hurried Child
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.
Sumayyah Umm SAA