"The acquisition of knowledge at childhood is like engraving on the stone; but the acquisition of knowledge at adulthood is like drawing lines on the surface of water".6 And it is also said:
"A child is like soft clay; he will take shape however you mould him".7 But if a person advances in age, his personality and identity take form through knowledge and ethics, and he develops habits, then he is difficult to change.
Concerning this, the Persian poet Sa'di says:
Improvement is taken away from him at the old age;
You may turn a piece of wet wood, but
You cannot make it straight except with fire.
Imam ‘Ali (as) recognizes the childhood as the best time for education. For this reason he does not consider it feasible to let this period pass in his child's life without necessary changes he wants to create in his life. He believes: the heart of the child is like a piece of land which is capable to grow any seed. It is at this stage of life which the child should be exposed to the seeds of education.
6. Ibn Abi al-Hadid's Commentary on Nahj al-Balaghah, vol.16, p.67. A similar sentence is reported by Imam ‘Ali (as) in Bihar, vol.1, p.324.
7. Op cit.