I was inspired to write this post some time ago since many people ask me this all the time. People ask me this question for many reasons. Some of those reasons include curiosity and wonder, others ask incredulously, accusingly; and even better yet-some people ask me this after talking with her and seeing her manners, language and/or work in just plain amazement. However, like many things, I didn’t get around to writing it for a while. You can just call me Mrs. Slacker. I was reminded by a random internet search when I ran across a forum with people talking about it.
I could make this one of those posts with figures, statistics and graphs. I could cram information ‘down your throat’ about the benefits of homeschooling and all those wonderful College pages that accept and recruit homeschooled students. But I decided to make this slightly more personal.
Ultimately, there are many things I love and reasons why I homeschool. Basically I like to call myself an ‘accidental’ homeschooler because I truly didn’t intend to homeschool initially! We were just basically doing regular preschool preparation at home, but nothing solid, nothing concrete. Not every day. I started in January of 2009, officially with “preschool work,” i.e. colors, shapes, numbers, some very basic Spanish words, and advanced, I didn’t know that I was going to continue homeschooling and fall in love with doing so.
There is no one clear-cut reason why all people homeschool. Some do so to avoid their children falling through the cracks. Others do so for the intellectual advantage of the children being able to learn better, more, and faster especially with the one on one attention. Others, believe it or not, do so because they are NOT religious and don’t want their children exposed to holidays or other children’s beliefs rubbing off onto their child in school. Some families homeschool because they can’t afford private school. Many families homeschool for religious purposes. Certain families travel too much to enroll their children in school so they homeschool. There are many reasons why people homeschool. Here is a link online to different people and their reasons.
Initially I just started home educating so that I could prepare my daughter for kindergarten. I just wanted her to know how to get along with the other children, how to answer questions from her teacher and know some basic stuff. When I was working in Head Start, I knew we had a problem with getting the children to listen and understand simple instructions so I wanted to teach my daughter the basics. I wanted her to know how to follow two and three-step directions. I wanted her to know her colors, address, parent’s names and how to find the letters of the Alphabet not just recite them to the tune. Many of the children in head start were not used to being around other children, sharing, following 2 or more step directions or being in a learning/ fun environment. That was all my intention was initially. I just wanted to prepare her for kindergarten. I knew her birthday was a few days after the cutoff date. I wanted to make sure that she knew everything she had to know and be ready so she would able to enter kindergarten without any developmental delays.
However, when that day came, they would not let me put her in kindergarten. I was Very upset! As far as the Brigance and intellectual testing went, she was well into kindergarten level so I did not understand what a few days difference made. I did not want to hold her behind in her learning when she was already at Kg level by waiting another year just to send her to school to learn what she already knew. I was frustrated, mad, sad and hurt. While teaching her at home though, I did learn we loved it so we just kept homeschooling.
I figured I would homeschool her for kindergarten and then just “sneak” her into First Grade and continue teaching her after school or on the weekends. However, as we kept homeschooling and she turned five and I discovered I didn’t necessarily want to stop teaching her at home. I loved seeing her learning and sharing these moments with her. When she played or had homeschool field trips or lessons with other children-it made me happy to know what they ate, played and learned that day. It pleased me to know exactly what they talked and played about together. It pleased me to know what she learned in “school” without having to pry it out of her. I also noticed a significant, significant amount of learning was going on.
I started looking forward to the time I was spending with her more and more and discovering I couldn’t, nor did I want her to spend 35-37 hours a week with other people not knowing what she was doing. I din’t want her spending 35 + hours a week learning their values, beliefs, jokes, lifestyle and mannerisms. I loved noticing her little eyes, they just sparkled when she would “get something” and it was just such a great feeling. I continued with much love and conviction. I discovered I loved her far too much to just throw her in school. Even though I didn’t have patience nor the time, or so I thought-I made time. I mean this is MY child right?
I can’t explain it. It might come out wrong to those who don’t homeschool. I can’t really explain all the reasons without it taking up so much passion, love and energy. It’s hard to explain why I love homeschoooling, in all honesty without someone who doesn’t homeschool getting offended. It’s not a judgement call. I don’t walk around judging parents who send to school I just don’t see myself willingly doing it. There may be a day, for whatever reason, I will have to send her to school but I will hate every second of it if it ever comes. However, if I ever did send to school I will not be one of those parents accusing the Teacher for what my child knows or doesn’t know.
I’ll tell you what though…. I don’t homeschool to keep my child away from “the real world” or unsocialize her. That is just frankly an annoying excuse and statement. In this day and age you’d think people would come up with something more creative. As a matter a fact my daughter is far from sheltered. She see’s, plays with, and works with different children from different homeschooling families and even faiths. She can hold a conversation with children her age and adults. She thinks rationally while still maintaining her childhood innocence. She “socializes” with different children and families all the time. She is with them in different cities, libraries, McDonald playlands, homes, and museums. She is not trapped at home writing words 99 times a day. Homeschooling does not equal a prison sentence.
The issue with homeschooling myths are just that, myths.
It’s jus like people who are bashing other races, Countries, religions, lack of religion, Islam, niqaabis, or being racist based off of what they heard or think, and we all know that is usually disastrous, unfounded or misinformation most of the time.
People shouldn’t base their opinion on homeschooling off of what they think and ‘heard’ but off the facts.
Fact is: Harvard and other universities seek out homeschooled children.
Fact is: very little parents choose to homeschool because they hate Teachers, or want to shelter their children.
I, myself, am what you call an accidental homeschooler who discovered they joys of parenting and teaching and the benefits of it.
I don’t bash non homeschooling only families. I don’t homeschool because I hate Teachers or because I am trying to keep my child from the “real world”. I only get annoyed when people assume that I do so for that reason. I also get annoyed at the whole socialization excuse.
I don’t judge people who don’t homeschool as lazy or not caring about their children or their religion. I DO say that as parents we should remember to teach and guide our children at home as well. Teachers are NOT solely responsible for our children. We have to work with them at home regardless if we “homeschool” or send to school.
It reminds me of a facebook post I wrote a while back:
“Saying that people & children should be exposed to ugly, bad, and ‘the real world’ because we have to live in it, experience it and grow that way, is as dumb as saying you want your children to go in a hungry lions den to learn to run and be safe from it. It’s like saying you want them to play with fire to learn how to handle it, it’s like saying you want them go in the ocean filled with sharks to learn to swim from them. Being a Muslim or believer in God and saying it, we must think of what we are saying, you want to expose yourself or your children to sins just for the heck of it.”
My issue is mostly with the false so-called belief people love to share: that homeschoolers are all anti social religious nutcases who imprison their children at home. Especially within the Muslim community. We should know better than to spread this type of stuff. We are always the target of instant judgement but how are we better by doing this to homeschoolers just because we don’t homeschool? Homeschooling is a very healthy, loving way to raise and teach our children. The fact is they DO “socialize” but the catch is they socialize with whom we allow them too. Socialization= the process by which the norms and standards of our society are passed from one generation to the next. Well I certainly don’t want nor need other people’s children influencing mine negatively. We don’t have to worry about them being bullied, shamed, harassed, taught sex too soon and in bad ways and other such things. Yes, eventually they will go into the “real world” but by then we should have taught them these things though and it will be correct not a 8 year old childs interpretation of it they shared with you child. Just because a child might be exposed to ugly things should not equate to us forcing them to see, hear, live and be in these environments just because of that. That should not mean we strip our child’s innocence away just because they have to be in “the real world”. I homeschool because I love her and I love spending time with her. I homeschool because I love that our learning is not confined to a desk in a room. It’s in the car, the playground, the YMCA, the Mosque, the grocery store, the library, a friends house, the kitchen table, in arts and crafts, real life experiences, in books and online. I homeschool because learning can be fun, interesting and yes; even what the child wants to learn about. I homeschool because my daughter loves to learn when she is awake and comfortable. Regardless of the fact if she wakes up at 7 or at 8:45 she will be ready to learn when we get started because there will be no forcing her to rush and leave especially in cold early winter weather.
I bought books, read, wrote with her and played with her. I bought her art supplies and signed up for homeschooling groups with other parents (that was a hard one trying to find and travel to them but we did) figured that when I didn’t have any ideas on what to do, I would just google it, and I would look for groups online, and it was kinda hard back then in 2009. I had that nagging thought at the back of my mind “Am I doing this wrong? What else should I be doing? Am I doing too much? Am I doing too little?”
I just took it day by day, I made the common mistake of wasting tones and tones of money the first year, buying supplies and buying curriculum. I did not just learn to be a great homeschooler right away. Being a homeschooler does not mean I am automatically extremely smarter than I was the week before. I am not the queen of creativity nor am I the most patient person. I didn’t read a book and become the Martha Stewart of homekeeping nor am I the wonder mom who has homeschooled 3 + kids who are successful and homeschooling as well. I did not swallow a happy, super teacher, super mom, super religious pill and become the perfect pictures of patience, Islam, parenting and homeschooling. Quite the contrary. I work part-time, take 2 classes here and there which make me whine like a 2 yr old brat and more often than not I am trying to play catch up with both housekeeping and religious learning. Aside from my being Muslim it honestly had no part what so ever to do with me starting to homeschooling and was and is NOT the sole focus of my teaching. Of course, our being Muslim I do teach her what I know of the Religion and learn with her. I did not become super mom, know it all once I did my research in how to and why to home educate.
I did become free though. Free from sending my child away to school 30 + hours a week and still having to teach her and help her with homework 10+ extra hours. Free from worrying who her peers are, trying to teach her how to defend herself without teaching her to be a tattler or a bully, and free from wondering how to make time to spend with her Teacher what my child is like in school. Free from her learning FALSE history and false politics. Free from her picking up bad traits or getting in trouble for talking in class, free from forgetting her homework at home, or being tardy to her next class. Free from having to rush her to school on time regardless of if I’m sick, tired or the car broken down. Free from worrying what kind of food she is eating, what kind of jokes she is hearing. Free to stay in our pajamas some days. I have learnt in the last 3 years to take it easy, go at my pace, and be humble enough to ask for help if and when I need it.
If you are homeschooling, planning on it or just started I have some tips or advice for you. My advice for you is, if you are considering homeschooling, do your research, try not to let others influence you negatively or too positively. I mean, positive is good, but don’t let someone make you feel like you are not doing enough, because they are over the top awesome. Evaluate why you want to do this. Write down what you love, enjoy and how you all manage the day better. Take advantage of the Library and other homeschooling parents blogs!! Free resources and tips are THE BEST!! I look up what other people love and look for it as a free download online or at the library. Don’t let yourself get too down about others either. I’ve met many awesome parents, mashaa ‘Allaah, many awesome homeschoolers. They just seem so great, they’re all around awesome at it all!! They’re cleaning, their religion, their teaching, their children, their house, everything alhamdulillaah, seems perfect on the outside. But, not everyone is perfect, and Allaah knows best.
Another tip is don’t overburden your child-however don’t underestimate them! Just because they are in “First Grade” doesn’t mean they can’t understand a “third grade” story or Math. Limit outside commitments. Do not try to be the family’s (aunt/uncles/cousins) contact for every single thing. Do not try to be your best friend’s contact for every single thing. Don’t try to homeschool and answer the phone and Facebook and read a book or watch a TV show at the same time. Try to limit your commitments. You cannot do all these things at once. You can’t try to do everything during the week as well as homeschool. More Advice for you is learn with your child. Read the books they will be reading, brush up on your skills. I myself discovered I need to improve my grammar, writing, math and computer skills. Which I will be doing in the Fall Semester. I have to be the best me I can be to help my child. This does not mean you need a Bachelors to teach your child it just means brush up on your learning and seek help, a tutor or a class to supplement what you don’t yet know. Another thing that I wanted to say is learn to say “Yes.” If somebody is offering to help, if somebody is offering a co-op, if a parent wants to help you homeschool or teach your child, or somebody wants to come over to cook you a meal; if your husband asks if there is anything I can help you with, or an older brother and older sister do…. Say “Yes!” Learn to say yes in those instances. Learn to accept outside help and have other people help you so that you can be the best homeschooling parent that you can be. Spend the best amount of time with your child. Time when you guys are alert, calm and at peace, and ready to learn. For example, if your husband is better, I know mine is, alhamdulillaah, at Qu’ran, delegate your husband to teach your child or your children Qu’ran, or recitation or Tajweed, If there is a website you can sign up for, that can help you on those days that you are sick, or you are busy do it. For example, I have a subscription to http://www.timeforlearning.com. While it is not free, it has been a savior on those days that I ‘m just sick, need a long bath, or where I have my own responsibilities to take care of that for some reason or the other I can’t get to. You know, it’s a great tool to have around to teach her while when I’m busy for that moment. It’s a great learning site for her to have something to do. Don’t forget to be open, accepting and inviting don’t react angrily when your child asks a question you don’t like. Tell them you will find out and research a good age appropriate answer for them.
Don’t let other people get you down. If somebody has a negative opinion, just remember, you’ve raised your children up until now. You’ve taught them everything they know up until now, just remind yourself to keep calm, keep your stress level down, inshaa ‘Allaah. Remember to ask yourself, who do you do this for? Who are you trying to please? Are you doing this to help your child, your family, your deen, your Lord? Why is it that you would like to homeschool? What is your purpose in your homeschooling? Remember to try and be cool with people, I tell myself this first as I get highly annoyed with the widespread ignorance about homeschooling. I have to remind myself I was once there as well. Take it day by day. Make it fun, light, interesting, but don’t forget to check and make sure you are following your state guidelines. You can do a homeschooling state guideline search on google or visit any of the sisters’ sites mashaa Allaah, their blogs are linked on here or on facebook. You can also look up my facebook page Homeschooling Muslimah Mommies, or my blog. I have a link for that webpage where it tells you the state guidance in the United States.
Try not to compare yourself to other parents. Unless it is somebody that you really admire and respect, and that has something feasible that you can do – a good technique, a good schedule that you would like to follow. Definitely follow that. However, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be the parent that gets down and out and say, “Oh I can never do that, I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough.” You are good enough. You have been good enough to raise your child how could you not be good enough now?
Read a lot. I cannot stress the importance of reading. Reading is fundamental. If the child cannot read, and comprehend what they are doing, there is no way you can continue to teach them. If this child is 8,9,10,11 years old and they don’t have the reading comprehension of a second grader yet, there is no way you can move on to bigger subjects, harder subjects. They have to understand and comprehend what they are reading. Start reading with them at an early age.
Start when they are very young. Read to them every chance you get. Have books around. family and children appropriate magazines and books around the home and accessible-Islamic appropriate materials, magazines, printouts, make your own word boards, let your child make a grocery list with you, make spelling words, make spelling bees, make games, put poster boards up with print. Make the areas attractive. Your reading corner, throw some pillows down so that they will be inspired to go over and read, or at least, look at a book and at pictures. Show them that everything is related to reading. If you have a bookshelf, put a post it on the back of it with the word ‘bookshelf.’ Put it in 2 languages, 3 languages if you must. Make poster boards with your child. Display their art and or writing work on the walls and refrigerator. Label everything. Let the children see print, live with print. They have to see the correlation between reading and writing. If you are in a bilingual or multi-lingual family, put it in all 3 languages. Let your children help you pay and shop at the grocery store. Review with them in the car or while waiting at The Dr’s office. We are learning to count by two’s and we practice that while waiting.
Another thing is don’t let uncertainty get you down. Don’t feel like you are doing it wrong. Don’t feel like you are a failure. Don’t worry too much about public opinion. People are going to have opinions about everything and everyone. Even within our own community, you are either not Muslim enough, or too Muslim; outside our community, people think oddly of Muslims anyhow, people think oddly of different races, different cultures, different religions. Basically people judge that they don’t know or understand it’s normal.
Remember to keep your head up, make du’a (pray). Make istikhara. Talk with your family about this. Write down and plan. Planning has been a lifesaver for me. Remember people always will be judgmental, defensive, and intrusive but anytime you’ve changed in life they have been.