Wednesday 28 May 2008

Children and Enriched Environment

I sometimes worry that I do not do enough with my children, especially as I work full-time, I am sure I am not the only one. I usually manage to fit in an Arabic lesson, a bedtime story, some play time and lots of "talk time" discussing everything under the sun with them whilst I am in the kitchen cooking. Aside from that we visit friends and family on the weekend and sometimes the countryside. Hubby tries to take them to the park most days that it isn’t raining and sometime they’ll wait till I’m home so that we can all go.

What I did miss out, partly because of lack of time and partly because we’d lose interest in it, was any kind of conscious learning such as practicing numbers and letters.
Something that made me feel much better though was coming across Maria Montessori’s philosophy of enriched environment. Montessori believed that children do not have to be "taught" but are born with an innate craving to learn and gather information from their environment. The key for her was to create an enriched environment which would stimulate the child and also give them the tools to satisfy their curiosity.

I realized that over time, our family area has become that environment to a certain extent. I have picked up good quality books and toys cheaply (second-hand) and my craft supplies and drawing and art stuff are stored in the same room. So there are always toys for them to use in their make believe and books for them to look at and think about. For a change or when I need to keep them occupied their box of chunky beads gets brought out or I let them have my glue and spare bits of paper and bits and bobs that I won’t be using for my cards (postcards, old cards, magazine or catalogue cut-outs, bits saved from old jewellery, toys and gift packaging). They think this is absolute treat because mum’s letting them have a go with her stuff. Little Lady sometimes is allowed to have my craft scissors and scrap paper to see what she can come up with.

A level of interest is added to our home by the odd gifts my husband temporarily brings home from his removal job: a green recliner that rocks and swings around like a fair-ride, a children’s toy kitchen that the kids kept hiding food to rot in, a giant beanbag that took up nearly the whole room, a collection of old gift bags that we could cut up etc.

Charlotte Mason also talked about the quality of the tools used when educating children. First and foremost she mentioned nature with its numerous benefits for children (see 2. here). She also advocated the use of classic literature, poetry and fine art as opposed to "dumbed down" books (I try to keep an eye out for old discarded books from the 1920’s onwards as they have a great feel to them although I would vet them first).

I think you don’t have to be rich to give your children an enriched environment with the best educational toys and the best books. I think the key is creativity: finding a bargain, using what you have, being resourceful when your purse can just about manage the basics, as is the case for many young families. I think if you have that creative spark in your thinking (even if you are not artistic) it is something that your children will pick up. If they have the creativity and resourcefulness within them, then you would hope that they could deal with any situation no matter what the difficulty or resources to hand insh’Allah.

Little Lady's scrapbook

"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise . . . specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine." ~ Allan Bloom

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand."
-- Chinese Proverb

"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."
-- W. B. Yeats


  1. Anonymous28 May, 2008

    Assalaaamu Alaikum wrwb,

    Mash'Allah! I really enjoyed this post. I think all parents struggle with not being able to give their kids the best on the market. Sometimes, we don't realize that our time and effort is really what they need.

  2. Assalaumu alaykum ukhti-

    I hope your blog is around for a long time inshaallah. Either that or i shall start printing your entries that discuss great ideas for children- as my little furry critter isnt big enough yet, for must things.

    At present, I talk to him constantly, and I read to him. Sometimes I tell him about my life, his father's life and other related things. my voice seems to soothe him, and he makes direct eye contact now. he tries so hard to communicate, and it is the cutest thing ever. He is just learning to smile- we arent there yet, but its coming. mashaallah it is the most beautiful thing to witness.

    Oh- Fashionista visited my blog! Does she have one too? I left a reply for her, on the same post that she commented on. How sweet!

    Ciao bella!
    iMuslimah & Co.

  3. Assalam-alaikam Sister Umm Yusuf,
    Thanks for taking the taking the time to read my bog.
    I almost had you mixed up with the other Southern Muslimah. Thats two great blogs from the South I'll be catching then.

    Assalam-alaikam Sister iMulsimah & Co.
    I plan to keep blogging as I am really enjoying it.
    I love that you tell you child about your life and his fathers life. My mom was the same from when I was little and I have retained so much that the rest of my family have forgotten. I think it will make him a much more interesting and well-rounded person if you keep doing that.

    Oh its great when they start smiling (although one of my sisters kept telling me its just gas!).

    Fashionista sis hasn't got a blog, but she starts her teacher training in September, so when she learns useful things, I'll ask her to tell me/write about them to pass on insh'Allah.

  4. Anonymous01 June, 2008

    wa 'alaykum as salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

    Masha'Allah, it's inspiring to see you put so much effort. There are many parents out there that don't realize the importance of nurturing creativity in kids from a small age.

    I used to feel pressure from people to put my son in preschool when I worked at the Madrasah and brought him to work with me. Now, I am just letting him be him. I don't plan on setting any type of schedule till he's atleast 7, and even then I lean a lot towards part time and more towards unschooling and letting my children lead me.

    Have you looked at the waldorf style rooms before? I've been getting rid of things that are junk and books that don't serve a purpose this past week, and I'm hoping to replace many of his toys with more natural toys made from wood. I'd also like to make him a tipi and a dress up box where he can dress up like an army man or a doctor, masha'Allah.

    These are my attempts. Plus, I let him go outside a lot to explore. It amazes me how much he is able to learn on his own. And really children do have that ability, alhamdulillah.

  5. Assalam-alaikam Sister Umm layth,
    Thanks for the tips. I'm going to look into the Waldorf-style rooms.

    I definitely agree with letting them be.

  6. I was googling this morning and looking for a woman in polyester clothes. I love your blog. This article was particularly well written! I can tell that you are a great Mommy and you love your children very much!