The Apprenticeship of Being Human



The Apprenticeship of Being Human:
Why Early Childhood Parenting Matters to Everyone

By Graham Scharf (2012)




What the Book is About:

Scharf argues, with mounds of medical evidence to support him, that it is in these early stages of child development that the brain of a child is most malleable and developing at rate unmatched in later years. In these highly formative years, parents have profound influence to shape their child’s brain, literally, for good or for waste. This is when a child learns what it means to be a human being—by observing his or her parents in real life, particularly by experiencing their interactions together.

Through compelling stories and revealing studies, Graham carefully builds his alarming case that parents can actually cause brain damage by failing to nurture and engage their children, or can launch them into a successful and virtuous life through attentive care.

Keith’s Reflections:

When I first saw Graham Scharf’s title, The Apprenticeship of Being Human, it piqued my curiosity. He offers the phrase as a straightforward yet profound metaphor. If my child is my apprentice, I then am the master craftsman responsible to educate, develop and train my apprentice for a useful and successful vocation; in this case, of becoming a mature, caring, virtuous person.

Graham’s skillful and persuasive writing inspires me to be a better, more reflective, and intentional father. I was stunned to learn that regularly talking with my children actually develops the physical structure of their brains, not just their ability to think.

Graham is a brilliant and masterful educator who chooses to speak in plain language I could understand and embrace as a parent. I loved this book. I’ll read it again and again. I strongly recommend this read to all dads and moms, particularly of young children—or even better, for those preparing to become parents for the first time.

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 co-founded, 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.  (from

Target Audience:

Scharf’s title specifies his target audience—parents of early childhood age children. He appears to mean children up to pre-school age. This would be a fantastic book for expecting parents to read, and even adults and couples who hope to have a child one day.

For More Information:





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When Our Kids Amaze us

Have you had one of those moments when one of your kids amazed you with how grown up they seem, how articulate they are, or how mature they’ve become, as if you missed a few years of their development somehow? And there they are now, standing before you as a wonderful young man or woman. Where did the time go?

Who is this lovely creature?

I had that experience last May when my two oldest boys, JD and Cal, now sixteen and almost fifteen, went to their spring formal dressed in sport coats and ties. I looked at these two handsome young men in wonder. And truly they looked like men, and they carried themselves that way. I shook my head, and I felt so proud of them.


I had that wonder-filled experience again a few weeks ago when a friend of mine, Dr. Lori, suggested she interview my youngest son, Kai, about an experience he and I had with one of my painting customers (I’m bi-vocational). She heard Kai tell the story earlier and thought it would be great for other dads to hear. They had so much fun planning it together, and the idea quickly grew to include several other subjects, all related to The Great Dads Project.

I shot the video, and stood there with my mouth hanging open most of the time. I could hardly believe this was my little twelve-year-old son still in braces. His thoughts, ideas, suggestions, insights, humor, and his way with words floored me. Seriously, this kid could be an actor. He was so comfortable on camera, and carried himself with such poise, grace, and presence. I’m not kidding. I know, I’m his dad, I’m bound to think he’s great. But seriously, check this out for yourself, and see if you don’t think he’s as great as I do. Enjoy.


If you like this, leave a comment below, and share
a story about a time one of your kids amazed you.


To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

Large Book with Outline


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