By Mutryce A Williams
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of reflections, insights, quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue: How do you define education? The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your parenting skills and also make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter.
We often say to our children, and I am certain that our parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, neighbours, and members of our community have said to us, “Go to school and get a good education!” This remark we often equated with ‘pounding the books hard and taking in as much book learning’ as possible, then excelling in our exams and possibly going off to university, get a profession, and make something of ourselves so that we can make our family and parents proud. I do not mean to be technical or diminish the value of ‘book learning’ but is this really an education? Is getting a good job or being a professional the end result or mark of success of the ‘educated?’ What is education, really?
As we approach the school year, the emphasis on education would be ‘front and centre’ and I just want to give parents something to reflect upon. So that I am not misconstrued, book learning is important, the question is however, is this all that there is to an education?
“Education is not what the teacher gives: education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Doing so, he/she will witness the unfolding of a new adult who will not be the victim of events, but will have clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society.”
Dr Maria Montessori
My older son called me a few days ago saying that he was a bit frustrated at university. When I refer to my older son, I must note that, although I have two biological children, I have been a mother for many years and have several who I love and consider my very own sons and daughters. My son informed that he was not feeling quite challenged in the classroom. He stated that the only subject that posed a challenge was Statistics. I listened, as I always do. Then I asked, “How do you define education, in the context of your going off to university?” The conscientious young man that he is, he paused before providing what I consider a most brilliant answer. He said that he considered his education to be the sum of his university experience not just the knowledge he hoped to gain in the classroom.
“One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.”
I am happy that at the end of our conversation my son realized that his education was not only the lessons being delivered in the classroom but also the experiences that will help build and fortify his character. I am happy that he realized that his education is being able to assimilate and thrive in a culture vastly different from his. I am happy that he realized that his education is one of self- reliance and self-sufficiency. His education is being able to use his talents to share his culture and be an ambassador for his country. His education is participating in the numerous extracurricular activities that he engages in. His education will be found in the many friendships that he will make while at university. Finally, I am happy and most proud that he realized that his education is sharing his experiences with others in an aim to create awareness and effect positive change.
Our conversation set me thinking about the way in which parents define education, and also how they impress this upon their children. It also set me thinking on whether parents were able to identify the ‘genius’ in their children, because each child is a genius in his or her own way. As a parent, how do you define education? Have you identified your child’s genius?
Everybody is a Genius!
It is important to value the uniqueness of each child, his or her abilities, capabilities and talents. It was Albert Einstein who 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.” Isn’t this profound? Isn’t that child who is so disciplined and who excels in sports a ‘genius?’ Isn’t that child who is gifted with his or her hands, creating craft or masterpiece artwork a ‘genius?’ Isn’t that child who is musically gifted a ‘genius?’ Isn’t that child who is a master negotiator or salesman ‘genius?’ Isn’t that child who is a master baker or chef a genius? Isn’t that young man or woman who could create the most ornate hairstyles a genius? Isn’t that child who is a natural at cultivating the land or animal whisperer a genius?
What is your child’s special gift or talent? Isn’t he or she a genius in that area? Isn’t this something to praise or encourage? Don’t you think that your encouragement in this area may light a fire in other areas which you may consider deficient? For example, a child who excels at sports but may not be academically ‘inclined’ for lack of a better word, may exert greater effort in the area of academics when told that the combination may open many doors or present great opportunities.
Again, as a parent, how do you define or evaluate whether or not your child is ‘educated?’ What is your child’s genius? As Albert Einstein noted, “What standards are you judging your child by?” If he or she is a fish, why would you judge him or her by his or her ability to climb a tree rather than his or her ability to swim as fish naturally do? Every child is different. Every child has a gift. Every child is unique.
by Margaret Hillert
Nobody sees what I can see,
For back of my eyes there is only me.
And nobody knows how my thoughts begin,
For there’s only myself inside my skin.
Isn’t it strange how everyone owns
Just enough skin to cover his bones?
My father’s would be too big to fit –
I’d be all wrinkled inside of it.
And my baby brother’s is much too small-
It just wouldn’t cover me up at all.
But I feel just right in the skin I wear,
And there’s nobody like me anywhere.
Quotes on Education and Knowledge by Albert Einstein
“Education is only a ladder to gather fruit from the tree of knowledge, not the fruit itself.”
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
“The aim [of education] must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life problem.”
“Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be.”
“The only source of knowledge is experience.”
“Information is not knowledge.”
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Recommended Reading for Children – Remarkable Children’s Books
by Rachel Isadora
Beatrix Potter – The Complete Tales
by Beatrix Potter
Read-Aloud Poems – 120 of the World’s Best-Loved Poems for Parent and Child to Share
edited by Glorya Hale
Mutryce A. Williams, a native of St Kitts and Nevis is the mother of 4-year-old Daniel and 3-year-old Nicholas. She not only values the many facets of West Indian parenting but also thinks that there is vast room for improvement. A former educator and a child/youth advocate, Mutryce firmly believes that children should not only be seen but heard.. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org