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The Apprenticeship of Being Human: Why Early Childhood Parenting Matters to Everyone Paperback – March 5, 2013
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About the Author
Graham Scharf’s insight into early childhood parenting is deeply personal and multidimensional. As a NYC Teaching Fellow, Graham taught early elementary grades in a “school in need of improvement” in Brooklyn. While he earned his Master of Arts in Teaching in early childhood education, he witnessed daily the social impact of early childhood parenting on his students. By the time the kids entered Scharf’s third grade classroom, two-thirds were a year or more delayed. In the midst of struggling to help his students who faced so many obstacles to learning, Scharf himself became a father and tasted early childhood parenting firsthand. When his eldest daughter was eighteen months old, Graham took a child care leave from the NYC Department of Education to provide full time care for his daughter. Immersed in the world of puzzles, crayons and playgrounds all day every day, he began to look for internet solutions that would tell him at the appropriate time what skills his daughter was developing, what sorts of activities she would enjoy, and what great children’s literature was appropriate for that age. After coming up empty in a search for web 2.0 solutions, Graham and his life-long friend Jonathan Dahl (who went on to found Zencoder.com) co-founded Tumblon.com, the only web app to provide interactive developmental milestones to parents of young children – along with children’s literature, activity and toy recommendations for each stage of early childhood. While Graham was at home (and at the playground, in the park, at the zoo, etc.) with his daughter, his wife was continuing her medical training with a pediatric residency, a master’s degree in public health and a fellowship in developmental and behavioral pediatrics. Family life – web startup, clinical practice, public health research, and delighting in a young child – revolved around early childhood. Graham brings all of those experiences as early childhood educator, full-time father, educational entrepreneur, and husband of a developmental pediatrician into a seamless narrative in The Apprenticeship of Being Human: Why Early Childhood Parenting Matters to Everyone.
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Graham Scharf points to the multiple ways in which young children are little apprentices, learning from and imitating the adults around them (both to their benefit and detriment). It is a concise, thought-provoking, and action-provoking book that invites us all to re-examine some of the ruts and grooves that we are in with regard to how we interact with the children in our lives. What I love about this book is that it makes several compelling points, but takes the discourse one step further by actually talking about what we can do to make things better. I highly recommend this book!!
In this book, Graham Scharf lays out a model for early childhood education that literally could change society, one child at a time. His premise is simple: if children are our future, then empowered parents will expand our future possibilities. Inversely, hindered parents will stifle our future. This book goes about explaining how to avoid such stifling and gives detailed, practical steps to empower parents in many spheres of life (family, community and society).
What makes Graham's perspective so poignant is his mix of personal anecdotes and the best research available. He uses his own life experience, as a father, a teacher, and an entrepreneur to provide motivation and passion to his argument, but he infuses this well-intentioned spirit with a level-headed grasp of many disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, economics, and even cognitive science. Thus, his approach avoids the common pitfalls of being either a) a good-hearted simpleton with no clue about what is causing a problem or how to solve it or b) a high-minded social engineer with little insight into people's actual life problems. Instead of these, Graham offers hard-won insights, in-depth analyses, and many practical steps to empower parents, and improve the culture surrounding parenting.
So, if you want to know how to improve our future, and/or you care about our children flourishing right now, buy this book and put its suggestions into practice.
One of my favorite parts of the book is in Appendix 2 where Scharf encourages parents take stock of their parenting ruts and grooves. He gives the example of two parents that wanted to make changes to their evening routine. They started by devoting energy into making Monday evenings just the way they wanted. Then when they got this down, they were able to make changes to other nights.
Graham Scharf is a dedicated father of two girls, the husband of a developmental pediatrician, a former New York City Teaching Fellow, and co-founder of Tumblon.com--a site that helps parents track their children's developmental milestones.