I started gymnastics when I was 5, Hebrew School in first grade, and soccer when I was 10. Middle school meant some combination of softball/dance/soccer and extracurricular activities like student council and “adventure club”. High school brought more soccer, winter and spring track, student council, NHS, PROTECT, class office, volunteering, tutoring, etc.
Some class at BC taught me that Annette Lareau calls this type of childhood “concerted cultivation.” Concerted cultivation is a style of child rearing where parents attempt to foster their children’s talents through organized leisure activities (thanks for the definition, Wikipedia). Concerted cultivation usually occurs in middle to upper class families. The other parenting style Lareau discusses in her book Unequal Childhoods (great book for you social workers) is called natural growth.
I have come to realize that nearly all of the children in Israel (from my experience) are raised through natural growth. Two examples in the past few days have brought this to my attention again.
Example 1: While walking out of the Damascus Gate of the old city in Jerusalem I saw an 11 or 12 year old boy riding his bike with no hands down the hilly sidewalk. This is a very busy area, as is all of the center of Jerusalem for that matter. Said boy clearly saw people as he approached them but decided not to put his feet down and stop the bike until he actually HIT another 11 or 12 year old boy carrying a 1 year old baby!! The minor collision was not enough to knock either over, but still scary. As I stared and gasped, the bike riding boy strolled over to his friend laughing hysterically about the incident. I do not see anything funny about almost knocking over a kid carrying a baby, and perhaps if this little boy’s parents were around he would not either.
Example 2: My sister and I were driving out of the parking lot of the grocery store. One car was ahead of us to leave the parking lot but had to slam on their breaks when two little boys, about 9, came running down the sidewalk and in front of the car. Said boys began to laugh as they jumped back on the sidewalk and crossed after the car. Again, I do not think running in front of cars is funny and perhaps if the parents of these boys were around they would not either.
Conclusion for now: Israeli children (read: until they graduate high school) are wild maniacs who wander the streets way past what should be their curfew and are allowed quite a bit of independence. I realize this is a different culture with a different way of thinking but it certainly takes some getting used to. I cannot imagine the life of a teacher attempting to keep a classroom of these crazy children under control. It seems as though no matter the income level, the idea of natural growth has prevailed as the best method of child rearing in Israel. I also must add, however, that most all the children turn out pretty well, and I think I attribute some of this to the army.