School’s Out for Summer

Certificates of achievement have been received. Sports day prizes have gone to the winners. It’s time to relax and do nothing.

July 21, 2023

Except, in my house, my secondary-school age kids had another award to strive for. For fun, I bought a trophy, just 10 cm tall, featuring a cartoon-style character holding a tiny cup. I got the base personalised with the phrases: “I am curious, I am courageous, I care – and I do it now.”

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I felt these were all characteristics to encourage in my children. While they could have cultivated those qualities any time, they were usually too busy doing schoolwork during the term to have time to work on curiosity, courage and caring. There was also definitely something appealing about those three all beginning with the letter c.

I believe an example of someone who had these attributes is Prophet Abraham peace be upon him. In the book Muslims turn to for guidance, the Qur’an, God explains:

  • Abraham’s curiosity – finding God after looking at the stars, the sun and the moon
  • Abraham’s courage – to destroy the idols of his father, and to have a conviction of belief shared by no-one else at the time.
  • Abraham’s caring –his concern for his family and all his descendants, and his desire for a country safe for all.

And Abraham got on with all the things he felt obliged to do. He didn’t say “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “can’t someone else do it? I did it last time”

So my children and their cousins had examples of what success looked like and the opportunity to win the award each week in the holidays. The kids explored nature, put themselves in new situations, helped around the house. One time Grandad came. Each grandchild made a pitch to Grandad about how amazing they had been. The judging was a mix of chaos and hilarity. My son was disqualified early on for taking credit for everyone else’s efforts. Grandad took great pleasure in awarding the coveted trophy to the most quietly capable child. So despite school being out, I like to think they were still learning, albeit learning rather different skills. Now the children have grown up, it’s become a family tradition to take the trophy by stealth rather than for exhibiting any great qualities. As parents we can but try.