Some kids are excited to get back to school, progress on their learning, see their friends and exchange stories about the break. While others dread the approach of school, the return of constant rules, routine, and boring structure. The days spent uncomprehending in the classroom, being lectured by teachers and parents to "Pay attention and work harder," and the self-consciousness accompanied by feeling behind and not as good as their peers, who seem to understand everything much better than them.
We train kids to dread the school year, then during break, they also take a learning break! This teaches them that learning is not an integral part of life, it's something that stops when school stops, it's something we need to take a break from, therefore, something negative. So why is the place where kids spend so much of their time associated with such negative feelings for some children?
I urge parents this semester, to watch their children's behavior as closely as they watch their test grades. It seems to me that our school systems today completely strip students of the ability to individualize their learning and expect student to all fit into the same box.
Why is it that we expect diverse minds to learn in the same exact way?
Allah سبحانه وتعالى has brought diversity in every creation :
"Certainly, your efforts and deeds are diverse." (92:4)
وَمَا خَلَقَ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَىٰ
إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّىٰ
Yet, we don't respect these diverse skills and abilities and expect everyone to learn in the same way.
Okay, let's just say this, it's true, not all kids are geniuses in our traditional understanding of the word. There is not one way to be smart, in our day, smart means you must be able to memorize flawlessly and anticipate the desired answer to every fill-in-the-blank. Some people's minds can't be boxed and restricted in that way. Some are good at memorizing, some may be creative, logical, comprehensive. The fact that modern school systems expect all brains to learn in the same way is why we praise those children who fit into this flawed system, and those who don't are made to feel less and inferior.
“Certainly, trying to teach the head while ignoring the body and emotions may account for a great deal of school failure.”
― Jane M. Healy, Endangered Minds: Why Children Dont Think And What We Can Do About It
Many parents may think their kids don't like learning-but in most cases this is not true. A more likely scenario is that kids don't like school, and since they only associate learning with school, by association, they are reluctant to "learn" as well. Learning becomes a burden, not something they appreciate and feel blessed to do. Learning is measured only by test scores, students become consumed with the goal to become the first in their class, not with the desire to learn to enrich their lives, and increase their knowledge of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
ثَنَا ابْنُ وَهْبٍ قَالَ قَالَ مَالِكٌ الْعِلْمُ نُورٌ يَجْعَلُهُ اللَّهُ حَيْثُ يَشَاءُ لَيْسَ بِكَثْرَةِ الرِّوَايَةِ
Al-Qadi Iyad reported: Malik, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Knowledge is not memorizing many narrations. Verily, knowledge is only a light that Allah places in the hearts.”
عن ابن عبد البر قَالَ سُفْيَانُ الثَّوْرِيُّ رحمه الله إِنَّمَا يُتَعَلَّمُ الْعِلْمُ لِيُتَّقَى اللَّهُ بِهِ وَإِنَّمَا فُضِّلَ الْعِلْمُ عَلَى غَيْرِهِ لأَنَّهُ يُتَّقَى اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ بِهِ
Ibn Abdul Barr reported: Sufyan Ath-Thawri, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Verily, knowledge is only studied to become mindful of Allah. Verily, knowledge is only favored over other virtues because one is made conscious of Allah by it.”
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
(صدق الله العظيم)
Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
He created the human being from a clot.
Recite: Thy Lord is the Most Generous
He Who taught by the pen
He taught the human being what he knows not (Surah Al-Alaq 96)
We know as believers how important it is to appreciate all of the blessings of Allah سبحانه وتعالى upon us, especially His blessing of bestowing upon us knowledge from His wisdom and mercy. It's never too early to teach children to appreciate this blessing and strive to excel in whatever area they are talented in for the sake of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
If you set the fire of knowledge in youngsters' minds, it will keep burning on its own. That burning desire to learn and discover doesn't just fade away. But in order to create that love for learning we have to ensure the environment is open, encouraging, inspiring and nurturing.
Honestly, I don't think our schools do a very good job about encouraging kids to love to learn. The teaching methods are aggressive, not nurturing, for example, if a student answers a question wrong in class, he is scolded or humiliated by the teacher in front of his peers. Students spend most of the day with their teachers: they either grow to have strong attachments and respect for them, or they begin to fear them and dread going to school. Your children spend more time with their teachers than they spend with you on a daily basis, so the effect teachers have no them needs to be considered and evaluated. You need to pay very much attention to what kind of teacher is teaching your children and what affect they're having on them. Spending all day with a mean, uncaring, and un-nurturing teacher can do psychological harm to a child, and affect his ability to learn and study well. So, if you notice that your children don't seem eager to learn and excel, you should assume that this is not from the fault of the child, or laziness on his part, rather a failure of either the teacher or the parents for not creating a good environment for the child to feel comfortable enough to try and excel-even if he fails!
I recently met a woman who told me about her son. He used to love school, he would get high grades and loved studying. Then suddenly he changed and she couldn't understand why. He would beg her to stay home from school, refuse to get out of bed in the morning, and stopped studying. Then she found out that he was being bullied at school. He was bullied by his classmates and ignored by his teachers, and all of these factors made him averse to and dread school! And these types of cases happen so frequently yet most of the time no solution is sought, so the child ends up become averse towards school for the rest of his life.
Albert Einstein said
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
And it's also interesting to see that many of the people who have made large contributions in the fields of science and art also showed signs of late-development during childhood and even signs of autism. Albert Einstein was considered to not have fluent speech skills until the age of 9, was told by his teacher to leave school at the age of 15, which he did, and throughout his life he showed many signs of autism.
Another problem is the restriction of learning to only the school subjects and only during the school year. When summer break starts, learning stops!
Poet and author Oscar Wilde said, "I never let schooling get in the way of my education."
This means that school is not the fundamental place of learning, learning is a life-long process, and when you condition kids to learn during school and stop during break, you are teaching them one thing-that learning is a burden, that it's something we need a vacation from and something we only should do for tests and homework. Learning enriches life and expands the mind. Encourage kids not just to learn for the purpose of getting high grades in school, but let them learn outside the boundaries of school as well, find out what they're interested in and encourage them to learn as much as they can about it.
Consider this a metaphor of a child's mind and intelligence: At birth, each child comes equipped with a golden tent of creative potential all folded up inside. It is the task of the individual throughout life, to unfold that tent, and to the adults in each child's life to assist that process.
....how well are we doing?
When I was a child, I took countless classes, in French, Spanish, to play piano, the flute, science classes, pottery classes, I learned ballet and was even on a soccer team (that phase didn't last ;)) even though I was not a great soccer player, my parents still encouraged me, my dad still came to my games every week and convinced the coach to let me play. Was I excellent at all of these things? No! But it's only through trial and error that we can excel at the things we do enjoy and what we are good at. I was always slower than my classmates in math class, yet I always read at a more advanced level than the others, won speech contests and entered my stories and poems in contests and the school newspaper. If my intelligence had been defined by the one subject I was bad at, I wouldn't have had the confidence and desire to excel at other things: my abilities would have been restrained, and that is true with all children. Children who are told they will excel and praised will develop stronger confidence in their abilities. And we need to leave behind this idea that only those who can conform with obedience to the education system based on memorization, and repetition, not on individualized thought, are those who are intelligent. And when we limit the evaluation for smart to one rigid idea, we limit so many children from thriving in their own special way. Variation in skills and talents is what makes us a successful community within every field! We need to understand that such variation enriches the community of the believers and the scope within which righteousness and piety are realized in people’s lives.
Let us nurture learning in the correct way so that children can appreciate education as a gift and blessing from Allah. So they are able to thank Allah for the opportunity to learn and grow and gain education which is deprived to many, and in learning they can appreciate more of the wonders and miracles of Allah's creation and deepen their faith. And the main purpose of knowledge is not to attain high grades, but to use our knowledge to become closer to Allah and use that knowledge to help others in a way that pleases Allah سبحانه وتعالى and makes us closer to Him.
If a love of education is not instilled at a young age, it can be hard and in some cases impossible to change a bad attitude towards learning and create good studying habits as children get older. And let's remember that a home that doesn't put knowledge of Islam (and practice of Islam) as the main priority will not be a home of guidance and happiness no matter how many degrees the household holds.
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ: مَنْ سَلَكَ طَرِيقاً يَطْلُبُ فِيهِ عِلْماً سَلَكَ بِهِ طَرِيقاً إلَى الجَنَّةِ. وَإنَّ المَلائِكَةَ لَتَضَعُ أَجْنِحَتَهَا لِطَالِبِ العِلْمِ رَضاً بِهِ. وَإنَّهُ يَسْتَغْفِرُ لِطَالِبِ العِلْمِ مَنْ فِي السَّماءِ وَمَنْ فِي الأَرْضِ حَتّى الحُوتِ فِي البَحْرِ. وَفَضْلُ العَالِمِ عَلَى العَابِدِ كَفَضْلِ القَمَرِ عَلَى سَائِرِ النُّجُومِ لَيْلَةَ البَدْرِ. وَإنَّ العُلَمَاءَ وَرَثَةُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ. إنَّ الأَنْبِيَاءَ لِمْ يُوَرِّثُوا دِينَاراً وَلا دِرْهَماً، وَلَكِنْ وَرِثُوا العِلْمَ. فَمَنْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ أَخَذَ بِحَظٍّ وَافِرٍ.
اللَّهُمَّ انْفَعَنِىْ بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنِىْ وَ عَلِّمْنِىْ مَا يَنْفَعَنِىْ