Advice to Homeschooling Mothers – Take Care of Yourself

June 29, 2010

Asalaam ‘Alaikum:

I’m sure I am not the first homeschooling mother to put her own needs aside for the benefit of the kids and family. You always wonder where you are going to fit another thing into your schedule – where are you going to get the time? Well, in case you haven’t already learned yourself – this will quickly lead you to a place where your own health and perhaps even your sanity will pay the price. Has anyone else experience this – or did you just start out already knowing the rules to homeschooling success? In the end – if we fail to take care of ourselves and lose our good health – we may even have to quit homeschooling our children (which was so important we were willing to sacrifice our own health for it).

Well, I am here to tell you that in order for you to successfully homeschool – you absolutely – positively need to take care of your own needs. This means sleep – this means physical health – and it also means your own spiritual health. If you are not healthy in mind – body and in iman – your homeschooling will suffer, your family will suffer and definitely you will suffer. I don’t mean to sound so dreary – but it is the definite truth.

My first year of homeschooling was difficult, masha’Allah. My child and I worked so hard and somehow we were still behind at the end of the year. We were grateful when school let out for the summer. The next year got slowly better – but I always felt like I was chasing after everything with little time left for myself. The next year I had two to homeschool. This pace kept on for the next year until I finally became ill. Alhumdulilah, sometimes you can really find a blessing in those difficult moments. Alhumdulilah, sometimes you can finally realize what things are important.

In order to get well – I needed to exercise and eat healthier (no more running for fast food on the way out the door to an appointment). Now – it wasn’t always easy – but I have slowly learned that keeping yourself healthy is the only way you can continue to contribute to your family. Without good health, it is very difficult.

In order to teach your children how to take care of themselves – you also have to show them. You have to make them realize at this young age how important it is to take care of your health (not only exercise, but eating healthier as well). You are the one that needs to be a good example to them (for all the words that you speak – it is nothing compared to how you live as an example to your children). You also need to show them that even though you may be busy – even though you can’t imagine having another minute to squeeze something in – YOU MUST TAKE TIME TO GROW ISLAMICALLY. This doesn’t mean to only pray five times a day (though that definitely helps a lot, masha’Allah) – but you must also take the time to read Qur’an – to learn more about the religion – and to share that knowledge with your children. You cannot do a good job raising your children Islamically – if you are not taking time for your own iman.

I know what you are going to say – how can I possibly fit anything else into my day? The dishes are piling up and the kids are messing the house, etc., etc. I know it is hard – and I also know that your time is limited – however, when you take the time to take care of yourself it seems to make things easier for you, masha’Allah. How is that possible – you ask? Well – I have found that when the kids and I actually take a break – go for a walk or I go to the gym – I return (and so do they) refreshed and more energetic than I was before. So, even though I took time for myself – it gave me something back – double the energy when I returned to my tasks at hand. Besides – if you think it through – if you are healthier – then you have more energy and stamina – and you can only be healthier by taking care of yourself – right? If you are not sleeping well – if you are not eating well – if you are not taking time for your own priorities – you can’t possibly give all your energy to your day – you have no energy left. The other nice thing about getting out – taking a walk or going to the gym – you have time to rest your mind – you have time to let your mind just wander aimlessly. I know that sounds strange – but when you are surrounded by little ones all day – mommy – mommy – mommy – it can wear you thin. It really is nice when you can just stare off into the distance and think any random thought that comes to your mind without any interruption. Try it sometime!

Now – before I go on I do want to add – (1) I do not have anyone to babysit the kids so I am with them all the time aside from when they sleep (2) I do not have anyone come to clean my house (3) I do not have anyone else to cook for my family. Why did I mention that? I just didn’t want you to think that perhaps I am having it easy over here so it is easy for me to say “hey, take a break!” Been there – done that – and I have survived (so far) to tell about it. Everyone’s home situation is different – some people are fortunate to have a husband that can help them out (Masha’Allah) – some husband are willing to look the other way when the house is a little less than perfect (they realize all the hard work you do – masha’Allah) and still others may even be an only parent. However – it is my own personal opinion that it truly is important for all of us to take care of our health and well-being as much as we possibly can to successfully homeschool.

If you have to – make a list of all those things that you so enjoyed before homeschooling. Did you love photography – did you love writing or crafting? Whatever it may be that you used to enjoy – make a list. Then, try to reward yourself at least once a week – if you can (if not, then at least every other week) by doing that one thing you enjoy. This way (1) you have something to look forward to when you are really having a tough day and (2) you are still giving yourself priority even though it may be on a more limited basis. I don’t know about you, but I think you might enjoy doing your hobby more – by knowing that this was a special time that you rewarded yourself for taking care of everyone else. Why don’t you just give it a try and see?

I used to worry a lot when homeschooling the girls – you can just ask about anyone who knew me. I worried a lot about everything. Now – I don’t worry even half as much, alhumdulilah. I guess experience makes it a bit easier for you. What you have to realize is that the world is not going to come to a crashing halt if you don’t – whatever it may be. For example, when one kiddo was in second grade – they had to learn skip counting. I worried and worried because it was much too hard for this child. We tried everything and I stressed about it. I also worried because the next lessons we had to do were about counting money – and I though, if we can’t even skip count, then how can we count money? Somehow we got through the lessons and no – the earth did not come to a crashing halt at any time during our struggles. A few weeks later this child just woke up one morning and announced “I can skip count” and proceeded to count by 2’s, by 3’s, by 5’s, by 10’s – just like that, masha’Allah. The information had sunken in – but connections were only finally made weeks later. Masha’Allah!

If your child struggles with something – don’t fret so much. It will happen – they will “get it” at some point, insha’Allah. Now, if they don’t “get it” you might not want to just give up like that – but do what I do – try to learn other methods of teaching the subject – try a video instead of the lesson or read a book about it. You never know what could finally help make the connection for them. The main point I am trying to make is – DON’T SWEAT IT! Don’t stress yourself out – don’t worry – and don’t keep pushing harder while puting a square peg in a round hole. Smooth it out – make the square peg round and then try again – it doesn’t fit? – then shave away a little bit more – but don’t keep pushing and don’t stress yourself. Really.

Have a problem with some lesson? Just walk it off – put your child’s shoes on and go for a walk. Can’t go walking – then play a game with them. Can’t play a game – then have a tickle fest. Go outside and sit in the shade of a tree – go watch the movement of the clouds in the sky – listen to the birds chirping – just do something other than keep trying to do the same lesson! I know it seems like you can’t do anything else until you achieve your goal – but guess what – what could possibly happen if you just didn’t? Really – think about it – what could possibly happen? Just walk away and let the steam blow off and you will see how both you and your child perform better when you return. Stress is just not good in a homeschooling environment – and all of us (I would think) sometimes have to work on that one. Truthfully, I feel more success – not when my kids “get it” but when I find myself tried by something difficult and I learned to accept it – not let it stress me out – and I get through it. To me, that is success in homeschooling.

Now – some people are fortunate to have a little help around the house – masha’Allah. However, even with a little help – a woman’s job always keeps her busy (doesn’t it?) – especially if she is homeschooling. For those of you – like me – who do not have help – insha’Allah at some point you will realize (if you haven’t already) that there are no awards out there given to the perfect homemaker (at least, I don’t think so). I was very picky before having children – and even before homeschooling – however I have learned to finally let go. Now, don’t let that sound like the dishes are always piled high and toys are strewn around the house – I still have my standards. The main thing is that I realized that it’s okay to not be perfect – really, it is. Strive to do your best – and if you just can’t get the dishes done before going to bed – I give you permission to rest – you deserve it. Tomorrow will be another day and the world will definitely not come to a crashing halt if you don’t do them RIGHT NOW. What was that – did you feel something shake the ground beneath your feet? Nope – and it won’t, insha’Allah. My dh had a hard time learning that lesson as well – any other sisters out there who have a husband who is used to having things a certain way? It is not easy – but over time they will see “the light”. At some point they realize how hard you work and realize how important your job is – and, even they will realize that it’s okay for the dishes to wait until later. If you doubt that day will ever come – I highly recommend making dua.

That reminds me of another point – while I may seem like I “have it all together” – it would be nice, but it just isn’t true. I still have hard days – really! I even still have days when I wonder what in the world I was thinking when I decided to homeschool (can’t help but giggle a little about that one – it’s true – but when I think of all the blessings that have come about by homeschooling – the thought seems so funny to me). Just don’t tell me that when I’m having a bad day. There is one thing that can really help in making your homeschooling successful – ask Allah to grant you and your family success. Really – dua is so important, masha’Allah. If you are having trouble with your spouse because they feel you aren’t doing enough around the house – make dua – ask Allah to help your spouse see how hard you work – how much you contribute – ask Allah to help your spouse be more understanding. If you are having trouble with stress and worries about homeschooling – make dua – ask Allah to help you be successful and ask Allah to help you feel more at ease with all that you have to do. Have any problem? Just make dua. Trust me, it does make a big difference – not always overnight – but the answers and prayers always come through, masha’Allah.

This brings me to the last (but definitely not least) tool for successful homeschooling – and that is setting aside time to help yourself grow as a Muslim. Yes – we actually do need to grow – we don’t just stop one day and say “Aha, I’ve finally made it!” If you are homeschooling to provide your child with a good environment to raise them as a good Muslim – you must know – you must live it – and you must show your child that as a Muslim it is always important to continue to grow in knowledge and in faith. This is not only important for your child – but it is ever so much more important for you. Take out the Qur’an and set aside time to read it – even if it is only for 15 minutes a day. You will never regret it. On days that you take the time to do extra acts of worship – whether studying about Islam, reading the Qur’an or even listening to a lecture – you will realize how much more blessed your time will be. It seems as though – even though you took time out from your day – how much smoother and easier your day goes. When you set aside time for the sake of Allah – the rest of your time is so much more blessed, masha’Allah. The added benefit is – the more you learn about Islam – the more you have to share with your children. Everyone wins, masha’Allah.

Like I said – although you cannot imagine how you could possibly find a way to add one other thing to your already busy schedule – you will realize that when you make time for yourself – you get rewarded in several ways:

  • You feel more energized to take on the tasks of the day.
  • You feel more relaxed and less stress.
  • Your time is more blessed, insha’Allah.

You don’t have to take my word for it – but I thought I’d share anyway – in the hopes of even helping just one other person have an easier time at homeschooling. No – it isn’t easy – but it is so rewarding, masha’Allah. May we all learn to take better care of ourselves – because in the end, it will truly be a wonderful journey for both us and our family.

Asalaam ‘Alaikum,
Sumayyah Umm SAA

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9 Responses to “ Advice to Homeschooling Mothers – Take Care of Yourself ”

  1. Dawn Muhammad on June 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    As Salaam Alaikum,

    Thank you for this very inspirational and much needed affirmation about caring for ourselves as homeschooling moms. May Allah Bless you with continued success in all that you do in Islam.

    Peace.

  2. Brandy Salman on June 30, 2010 at 5:52 am

    As salaamu alykum and jazzakiallahu khyrun i too have come to this realization. I only wish my husband would support my homeschooling desire but he requires they go to school out of the home….. i did try 2 yrs but it wasnt enough for him…. may allah protect our babies and keep them in strong eman and help us to help them and ourselves while we still can ….Mom of 7

  3. misala on June 30, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Assalamu alaikum sister Sumayyah

    Thank you for being courageous and stating things the way they are. Everything you said can be found in my family life too. As much as we try our best, we can not ever be perfect. Accepting that we are only humans who strive for Allah’s swt pleasure in whatever we do should always be our reminder. I know exactly how it feels when you give and give all the time but do not have time for yourself and do not almost believe you have time for yourself because you belive ( or made yourself believe) that you should sacrifice everything for your family.And at the end, as you indicated you have no more fuel ,no more energy, no more passion for accomplishing your super model of a homescholing muslim mother. Thank you for reminding us about our need for setting time for our own Iman growth, health and sanity. I have been thinking about it recently and trying to find time for it( Maybe early after Fajr or around that time when the kids are still asleep would be a good time in my case). I did try it for a couple of times in the past and it felt wonderful, I felt energized , more focused and less stressed out around my children. I only have to be consistant and belive in myself and always make dua to Allah swt to help me and any other mother on the way. I feel that this blog has set our minds free in many ways and one of them is that we do not have to hide or be ashamed of not being perfect and always mechanicaly pretend everything is going smooth! InshaAllah , I pray for all of our success in this and next world , I pray that Allah swt make us of those mothers whose Jannah is under their feet, and I pray to Allah swt for sincerity in everything we do.
    wa salam

    Misala

  4. Azra Momin on June 30, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Salam alaikum, Sister:

    I just discovered your blog through the blog FruitfulFusion.

    Jazakallah for sharing your thoughts and insights on the challenges of homeschooling. I’m a newbie at this, although I guess I’m technically not homeschooling, but unschooling. My LittleOne just turned three, and I’m learning to take it one day at a time. Even so, being in the same situation as you (no help with anything, and seldom any time away from being Mommy)it can get taxing, especially if you’re always concerned if you are putting in 100% at all fronts.

    We women in general are so caught up in giving of our best that we usually end up neglecting our own health and wellbeing, don’t we? I’ve done the same thing and am now paying for it (literally).

    Thank you for spelling it out so well! Really, without our health we might as well just quit our ‘job’!

    It was a pleasure reading your post!

  5. admin on June 30, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum:

    Dawn – Jazak Allah Khair and may Allah make us all successful in these endeavors.

    Brandy – I’m sorry you can’t homeschool – it is so difficult when one parent desires to and the other does not. May Allah make it easy for you and your family. Even if you are not able to homeschool – there are still many things you can do to make a difference in your child’s life – find those areas where you can make a positive difference – make it your goal, insha’Allah. Insha’Allah – with the right intention and lots of dua – it will be a blessing for you and your family.

    Misala – I was raised with the thought that everything had to be perfect – I had to do everything right. This has been such a different way of doing things (and no, I don’t do the opposite 🙂 and just do everything terrible) but I have learned to let go of the expectation of always being perfect. We are human – alhumdulilah, and Allah created humans with flaws. We cannot reach perfection – but we can always strive to do our best. Sometimes our best may not be good enough for other people – but Allah knows what our intentions were and how hard we tried. We have to learn to make that enough of a goal – instead of perfection. We should never be afraid of just being ourselves – this world is full of people trying to pretend they are perfect – literally killing themselves trying to be something they cannot be. Allah expects from us mistakes – that’s why there’s something called forgiveness. I am not perfect – but I am me – and every day I try to be the best me I can be. That’s the best I can do. And, I am more than happy to accept you the way you are – and we can travel this journey together with all our imperfections, insha’Allah. May we always strive to improve ourselves – and to live our lives for Allah’s sake alone – for only then can we truly achieve success.

    Azra – I am glad that you came by to visit, masha’Allah – it is so nice to hear from you. Being a newbie can be tough – but you will truly and quickly realize the rewards of homeschooling (unschooling). Trust me – most of the different types of homeschooling are in some way touched by unschooling – at least in my opinion. May Allah make it easy for you to successfully homeschool your child and may He make it a source of hope and blessing for you and your family. I know what you mean about paying for neglecting yourself – alhumdulilah, I was able to crawl away from mine unscathed – but I will be forever changed because of it. That is why I am so adamant that we have to let go – do our best – and still reach (from time to time if not more often) those things that bring us joy. “May Allah cure you as there is no cure but His cure, a cure that leaves no illness.”

    By the way – Azra – I cannot and will not under-emphasize the importance of dua while dealing with illness (or at any other time – but especially when you are dealing with a difficulty). There are two things that I did when I was struggling with my own health. (1) I made lots of dua and (2) I tried my best to follow the sunnah related to good health. I am happy to say that in a few short months my illness was gone. Allah knows best – and perhaps it isn’t as easy as that for everyone (depending on what health problems they may have) but I definitely feel like it can make all the difference in the world. May Allah help you through this difficult time and may Allah cure all that ails you, insha’Allah.

  6. farah on June 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    mashaAllah Allah sister.
    I was so desperate and thought that the world was too heavy for me to carry. And yesterday spank my daughter because she couldnt grasp what I was showing her over and oer again. And I regretted so much. I prayed and felt so sorry for what I had done. ANd been depressed and mashaAllah my prayer was answered cause Allah my Rabb guide me to your website. I cried when i was reading your testimony. May Allah reward you and give you courage to continue this marvellous work. AllahuAkbar! Thank You so much!

  7. admin on June 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum Dearest Farah:

    Don’t think that you are alone – many a homeschool parent has been frustrated. It’s not always easy and every day has its new challenges. I personally think that homeschooling has made me a better parent – although right now you are probably wondering about my sanity 🙂 Sometimes your burdens can seem so heavy and you are rushing to try to get through your day. However – we all have to realize that they are only children – and they love to please you (although sometimes it might be hard to see that when they take a black permanent marker and draw all over your couch while you are praying – don’t ask 🙂

    Truly – sometimes it is that your child is just not ready for what you are teaching them. If you can – set it aside until later. If you feel you need to get through it – then the best advice I can give is to try your best to find another way to teach your child. Are you teaching them how to read and they are having difficulty – try a different method. Find a video that helps with letter sounds – or perhaps play with your child in a sing-song way to get them to learn it. Truly, when we are pressed into a corner – we have such creativity that flows from us but we just don’t believe in ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is another way of showing your child for them to grasp what you are teaching. And – again – I can’t emphasize enough that each child learns when they are ready. If your child truly has difficulty grasping the topic – perhaps it is too soon for them. If it can wait – set it aside and try it again in a week or so.

    One of the things I highly recommend is make lots of dua – it seems you are already, alhumdulilah. Make dua for you to teach your child in the best manner – ask Allah to fill you with the patience needed to be a good teacher to your child. You cannot even begin to imagine how effective this can be in your homeschooling experience, masha’Allah.

    I also want to say – the fact that you felt bad about your actions – the fact that you turned to Allah and asked him for assistance is proof that you can be a good teacher to your child. Your love and care of your child will help you to later become a better teacher – insha’Allah. You and all of us, insha’Allah, need to learn patience and to learn to slow down. I know it is not easy – but it is a must. We need to be patient with our children – they will truly amaze us if we just give them the opportunity, masha’Allah. Also, we need to slow down. Life is such a hectic shuffle from one thing to another. It is difficult to not have that same feeling when dealing with our children. I remember how hard it was just for us to get ready and go out of the house, masha’Allah. I used to be so impatient with it all. However, I realized that my impatience was creating more problems – not only for myself but for my children. So, I had to learn to give up on my need to rush – rush – rush. I learned to realize the need for my children to be just that – children. They don’t have the same agenda as we do. If we are in a hurry and rush to the library just to pick up books – they are waving and talking to everyone – wanting to play games on the computer – etc., etc. They are trying to get the most out of the moment and have little sense about what time it is.

    I guess if there was one other key to success in homeschooling – it would be this: learn to enjoy every moment you have with your children. I know it is hard when life is a rush – but just sit there while your child is doing something – anything – and just watch them (even if it’s only for five minutes). I am sure you will be amazed at their beauty and their ingenuity. Watch them while they play – while they run – while they laugh and just get caught up in the moment. Don’t look at your watch or worry about washing the dishes for just a moment – just absorb yourself in watching them. Masha’Allah it is a wonderful experience. Since starting this – it has become a habit, masha’Allah – and I do this often throughout our day when I’m not too caught up in the shuffle. It truly helps me to remember how fortunate I am to have them – and how fortunate I am to be blessed to be homeschooling them as well. I know this may sound strange – and I am sure there are some people who may say “who needs to do this?” But, the lifestyle today is so fast paced that we are really missing out on what is important in so many aspects of our lives – especially our children.

    May Allah make this journey a blessing for us – and may He help us to raise children who will be Righteous Servants of Allah. May Allah help us to travel this road with patience, perseverance and the knowledge that anything is possible as long as we turn to Allah for assistance. We are traveling this road together – and we all make mistakes and we all sometimes feel like we are all alone. However, our sisterhood binds us – and I am here for you as well as many other sisters, insha’Allah. There are people who care about you – even if they don’t know where you live or your name – and that, is truly a blessing from Allah. Masha’Allah. If you ever need help – turn to us – there are so many homeschooling groups for Muslims and other Muslim homeschooling blogs out there, masha’Allah. There are many of us who want to share our journey – and want to continue to improve as homeschooling mothers. In time, insha’Allah – there will be sisters who will be able to turn to you for advice as well – it all just takes time.

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum,
    Sumayyah Umm SAA

  8. UmmH on July 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Salamalaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakaatuh

    MashAllah such heartwarming advice. Jazaakillah khair.

    SubhanAllah I’ve been thinking on similar lines. Sister, can u pls explain a bit about the average health-related things that we need to ensure for ourselves everyday?

    Specifically, what foods and how much of them should we include / exclude in our diet?
    What type and how much of exercise?
    How much of sleep?
    Something more on stamina please?

    (Abt excercise, I used to think that since I’m running after my MasHAllah very-active kids all day, and doing daily chores, I’m getting my exercise.. But I think I’m not correct on that, because I feel as if my body needs something more? Pls advise..)

    And if this is going to be another blog post, pls share it on the IHSU group. I think we’d all benefit.

    Waiting for your reply,
    UmmH

  9. admin on July 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum:

    I already have a new post in mind – I was thinking about it while at the gym today. I won’t send it out until this weekend or at least by Monday, insha’Allah. Insha’Allah I will try my best to answer your questions.

    Asalaam ‘Alaikum,
    Sumayyah Umm SAA

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