Fortunate to be Homeschooling
Alhumdulilah – I am so fortunate to be given the opportunity to home school. Aren’t you? I know many people would think I am crazy for saying this – although none of them home school themselves. However, I’m sure that most of you that home school feel the same way. Now, if you are new to the game of home schooling, I am sure you are also scratching your head. I remember when I first started – I didn’t doubt it was what I should be doing but there wasn’t a week where I wasn’t stressed at least once (if not more) and searching my way through it all. I didn’t know if I could ever be at peace with homeschooling – but everything fell into place soon enough. Alhumdulilah – there is hope – things do get much easier once you get through that first year. You learn a lot (and so do the kids too, Masha’Allah) and you grow a lot as a person – as a parent – as a Muslim – and as a family. I truly believe there are a great many of life lessons to be learned through home schooling. This is true not only for the children – but also for the parent, Masha’Allah.
One thing I am truly grateful for – as a result of home schooling – is the amount of time we get to spend together as a family. Masha’Allah – we are very close. Now, don’t think things are perfect in a home schooling family (that would be a disservice). Sometimes the dishes are not done immediately – sometimes we are sitting in front of the computer doing school while in our pajamas and morning hair, and – the kids don’t always get along. However, we are close – really, Masha’Allah. The kids have had to learn to get along with one another – as they spend all day together. It not only teaches them to try to work together, but they are also learning how to deal with conflicts as well. Now, most kids learn this – even if they are not home schooled (at least I think they do). However, when I see many kids today – there aren’t as many tight-knit families as there once were. It seems that once kids get sent off to school they fall into their own cliques and they find their own self-importance gets in the way of meaningful relationships within the family. Mind you, I don’t think this is true of all children – but I have seen my share of kids who just live at home – but that’s not where their heart is. They are yearning only for the support and acceptance of their peers – above (and despite) their own value as a person. They don’t necessarily do things because they want to – but they do it because “everyone is doing it.” They chase whatever it is to be “cool” and don’t really think about who they are or what they can achieve. They try to be something they are not – in order to receive acceptance – and don’t always feel as comfortable in their own skin.
I remember when I was growing up, my parents did everything with us as a family (for the most part). We went out to dinner together – watched movies in the theater together – played baseball together in the back yard, etc., etc. Now it is difficult for many parents to get their kids to do anything willingly with them (it’s just not cool) – times really have changed. Now, my kids do not always get along – trust me – but it is “not always” – not “most” of the time. Alhumdulilah, my kids are best friends to one another. We are very fortunate, alhumdulilah. They do have other friends – but they really have grown close over the years and enjoy each other’s company. Personally, I feel like a different person whenever I go somewhere without them – they are such an important part of my life, masha’Allah.
After getting through the first year’s worries and struggles – I truly have found inner peace that I have not known before. I don’t know if everyone feels that way or if it’s just me. However, I am glad I have gotten to this point in my life, Alhumdulilah. This is one of those important lessons I did learn through homeschooling – believe it or not. I have learned to slow down in life. I have learned that having a completely neat and tidy house is not always the way to peace and tranquility – sometimes we do need a little messiness in our lives. [Mind you, my husband doesn’t always agree with me on this one 🙂 ] I am learning how to stop and smell the flowers – how to enjoy the feel of warm sunshine on my face – how to enjoy the silly giggles of the girls and sometimes to overlook their annoying habits to see the beauty in it all. My kids – especially one of them – loves to make noises (trying all the different kinds of vocal sounds she can think of) – another loves to sing all the time (“Oooooh, I’m taking a shower – I’m taking a shower – I’m taking a shower and then I’ll be all clean”) she sings about everything – it’s like a musical around the house. The youngest just loves to get into trouble – make messes (lots of messes) and whine. I kinda draw the line at whining – however I have found that usually she just needs guidance on what to say and how to say it. Trust me when I say it takes a lot of patience on that one – but it is so rewarding when you finally see her speaking her mind, masha’Allah. I remember the first time she was mad at her sister – she raised her voice and rattled off a bunch of words – none of which we could comprehend. However, she felt great release by finally having something to say. Her words are coming in much clearer now, Alhumdulilah. Anyway – the homeschooling life is not without its challenges – however I have truly started looking at these challenges in a different light. I try not to always demand quiet – I realize the need to express oneself. The other day I asked my Mom what annoying habits I had as a child (thinking perhaps I was also a noise maker). She quickly said: “you never shut up.” My parents encouraged me to talk early – they always spoke to me and encouraged questions. After that – I went crazy – talking – talking – talking. I used to talk to strangers on the bus and subway – inviting to our home for tea. “Don’t worry, my Mom doesn’t mind!” My parents used to say (and sometimes still do) that if they could change one thing, they wouldn’t have taught me to talk so early 🙂 Things have not changed much. Subhan’Allah.
I guess what I am saying is that I am truly learning more about the meaning of life – instead of being bogged down by all the details and distractions. Does that make sense? Every day I try very hard to make sure that I sometime slow myself down a bit and enjoy the moment. I find myself watching my children and enjoying how they are growing. Truly, they amaze me – masha’Allah. When my child is reading a story for school, I sit with her and listen. Sometimes it really amazes me that a few years ago she didn’t even know the sounds for letters – masha’Allah – and I have been there every step of the way, while she struggled through it. My other child has practically skipped all that phonics stuff and jumped right into reading. No, actually her older sister loves to teach her everything she knows, masha’Allah and this has benefited her younger sister so much. On the sly they do phonics work together – no kidding! When my oldest was learning multiplication she started teaching her sister who is in 1st grade. As a result, the 1st grader is great at multiplication – without any influence from me, masha’Allah. I guess her sister is a great teacher (perhaps better than me!) When I was in college I finally found my way through math – I guess I finally stumbled upon a great teacher, masha’Allah. As a result, students in the class started begging me to tutor them. It was then that I learned that if you really want to strengthen some skill – teach others – there’s no better way. So, I am finding that when she teaches her sister, she also strengthens her own skills. This doesn’t mean I can sit back now and have her teach her sister everything – but when she takes the opportunity to share with her sister, I encourage her and they both benefit.
My kids also love to imagine – they can spend hours at a time just working out some storyline together – acting it out and then imagining more. You can tell there is growth there. When I first became a Mom all that hype of superkids was prevalent (I’m sure it still is, but I just don’t listen to that garbage anymore). If you read to your child in the womb – if you start school when your child is younger – etc., etc., etc. All that stuff is nonsense as far as I am concerned – and forces children to lose their childhood way before it is necessary. Children learn through play – they learn a lot. When they are children the possibilities are endless – they find amusement by searching through blades of grass for ants and examining their behaviors – they are in tune with everything. Nowadays, parents don’t have time for their children to be children anymore. They are always trying to speed everything up to keep pace with their own busy and often meaningless lives. Yes, that comment was harsh – but I guess everyone is entitled to their opinions, right? Kids are now scheduled for this class and that activity. Parents are endlessly shuttling their kids from one event to another. Whatever happened to spontaneous learning – learning just from living? When I first became a parent, I fell for it. I bought the toys that were going to make my kids smarter and successful. What a waste. Even then my kids knew what was better – they played with the empty boxes. They build forts and imagined a whole world full of people who lived there and interacted. Those “genius” toys gathered dust until I woke up and realized that they were just another way to get parents to waste money needlessly. I don’t know about everyone else’s kids, but my kids need stuff to spark their imagination (they thrive on it). They love playing with blocks – legos – dress-up clothes – and sometimes just their own imaginations. Subhan’Allah – when my kids were little (my youngest has just started this) they used to pretend their hands and feet were people. They’d play act using these “people” and entertain themselves for quite a long time. They’d allow their imagination take them places – learning about the relationships between these characters – resolve conflicts – expressing themselves and having just plain fun. Why does everyone think that complicated means better?
I just recently set up a writing blog for my two oldest. You cannot even imagine what that has done to their creativity! I set up the blogs so that no one can access them – they are just for us to see. It is mostly a portfolio of their current work – creative writing and artwork. The first day I spent a lot of time writing up their stories in their individual blogs. They have had writing journals for a year or so now and they hadn’t been used much. However, as I was typing up their stories, I finally noticed that no one was in the room. When I went to find them, they were laying across their beds writing in their journals. Since then – whenever I can’t find the girls – they are writing, masha’Allah. The oldest told her sister to “act out” a story she had in mind. While she is acting it out, the oldest writes the storyline in her journal. I think she now as about 6 pages written in her journal.
I have found one of the most wonderful parts of homeschooling is when you can find some way to encourage the kiddos to love learning – whether it is writing, drawing, or mathematics. I have always been told something like “teaching is preparing a wonderful meal and encouraging your children to eat.” Well, it’s something like that – my mind is drawing a blank to the exact quote. When I was a young child, I was fortunate to have a grandmother who was a Home-Economics Teacher. Not only did she encourage learning living skills and crafts – she also encouraged us to learn more about the things we loved. We used to spend each summer at her home. When we were there, she learned what we enjoyed – then she would encourage us to learn more and to develop our skills. I loved writing and she encouraged me. My brother loved drawing and she encouraged his art. She would pull out pieces of paper and scissors and ask us to create something – anything. Use your imagination. Those days and the many lessons she taught us will be with us forever – my brothers and I are extremely grateful for the experience. As homeschoolers, we also have the opportunity to do this for our children. It is not only to teach the basics – Reading – Writing and Arithmetic – but to share with them the love for learning and growth as a person. If we can do that – and help them to find a beauty within themselves – to help them reach for their dreams and to believe that they can make a difference – then we truly have done a good job to prepare our children, insha’Allah.
A child’s eyes, those clear wells of undefiled thought—
what on earth can be more beautiful?
Full of hope, love and curiosity, they meet your own.
In prayer, how earnest; in joy, how sparkling; in sympathy, how tender!
The man who never tried the companionship of a little child
has carelessly passed by one of the great pleasures of life,
as one passes a rare flower without plucking it or knowing its value.
~ Mrs. Norton ~
Sumayyah Umm SAA