Homeschool Rule #1: Patience and Perseverance
These days we are enjoying the warmer weather and no school work, masha’Allah! It is so nice, alhumdulilah, to finally have a break! The kiddos have worked really hard this year and have greatly improved in school, Alhumdulilah. That brings me to today’s topic, insha’Allah – patience and perseverance.
Now I have one kiddo that actually loves to read and has from the start. She was fortunate because while I was still figuring out my way with homeschooling my oldest – she was able to sit back and soak it all in. Also, her sister was quite sneaky – whenever she had the chance she would teach her younger sister everything she was learning in school. There definitely is something to be said for siblings teaching one another, Masha’Allah. So, when this kiddo started Kindergarten, she was told she tested at the first grade level. We ended up deciding to let her finish the Kindergarten level first – but she quickly completed it that year and was promoted to first grade level. So, for those of you who have a child like this – homeschooling can seem easy.
This is not to say that this kiddo hasn’t kept me busy, though. Some days she decides she wants to work hard and other days it takes her an hour to sharpen her pencil. So – nothing is always easy – no matter what kind of learner you have.
This brings me back to my first homeschooled child. We have struggled for years together, Masha’Allah. It has not often been easy – especially in the beginning – but it gets easier every day, alhumdulilah. I am a writer – I love to write and I love to read. To not love these things can sometimes be foreign to me (my husband doesn’t like to read or write either – go figure!). So, when I started out with my first child – even when she was still a baby – I would read to her. I found the most amazing stories to tell her. We spent time together at the library every week and we often spent time in the local used bookstores together. I would walk the aisles trying to find every book about homeschooling or education I could find and she would be sitting in my Maya Wrap on my hip – happily gurgling.
I still remember when we started homeschooling – it has been over four years now, Masha’Allah. Before deciding to sign up with our local K12 Virtual School, I tried homeschooling on my own for Kindergarten – but even before that we did Preschool activities together. I purchased the “How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and was so excited when we started to learn to read. However, that activity was quickly met with frustration – on both our parts. Even before a lesson was through, my dd would complain that she wanted to stop – just five minutes into the lesson. Then she started to complain that it was giving her a headache and she couldn’t think. Subhan’Allah – how she hated phonics (and still does . . . actually). I tried games to make it fun – I also tried other methods – and nothing worked. At some point in the year I decided to just stop and let her play. When she stared school that next year with K12, it was more of the same thing. Lessons that should only take 1 hour or less were taking much longer. She finally got through her Phonics coursework – but it was a great struggle.
She hated to read. I would take her to the library each week and pick out book after book. Then, each book would sit on our shelf – only to be returned the next week – unread. I tried picking out every book I ever loved – and many new ones that I found that seemed like something a young girl would like. The librarians knew of my struggle and even they tried to support her – giving her encouraging words – but it didn’t help much (at first). Finally, one day she was supposed to read a story in her Literature book but she just wasn’t interested. I was trying to figure out what to do next when I decided to print off a story from one of the science magazines we got from the library. I gave that to her to read and she read it through quickly and asked for more. She then asked me, “Why can’t you give me interesting things like this to read?” I was shocked. I explained to her that the library had an entire section of books like that (but we hadn’t really gone over to that part of the library yet).
The next time we visited the library, we went straight to the non-fiction section. She finally started to read these books – but still some books would sit on her shelf and others she would happily read. I was just grateful that she finally started reading. All during this time she was not doing well on the reading assessments that the school provided. Her teacher contact was worried about her reading skills. However, I do remember my own experiences in school – the last thing I wanted was for her to have to do more boring drill-work to try to improve skills. I knew there had to be a better way. Fortunately for us, the teacher was understanding.
I then talked and talked with my daughter – trying to figure out what books she would be interested in reading. There were several books that I was sure she would like – but she always refused to read them. Fortunately, one day I actually found one of the books I was recommending – in audio format. I was also fortunate that this audio tape covered 4 books by this author – and it was just a few stories from a huge series of books. So, I figured that if I could get her to see just how interesting these books were – then she would start reading them. I found a few other stories in audio format and we proceeded to listen to them often in the car while driving to appointments. One story we listened to was entitled “Alex and the Ironic Gentleman” by Adrienne Kress. It was actually an exciting adventure story – and it didn’t hurt that the heroine was a young girl. She was (and so were my other girls) amazed by this story. They begged for more.
It was at this time that she finally said she was willing to try other books. I guess she decided that books had something to offer and she realized she needed to give reading a chance. While Adrienne Kress had written another book – dd was only willing to listen to the audio version. She wasn’t ready yet to read the book herself. Remember – even though she was in second grade – she was still an early reader. In second grade she finally started to find books – with my help and on her own – that she liked to read. She was reading – Alhumdulilah – but not as much as her younger sister. I was just thankful, alhumdulilah, to finally have her reading. You cannot imagine how much we have struggled with this and it actually took years to make progress, not months!
This year we finally found some books that she really enjoyed. She found some authors that she likes and she also found some book series that she enjoys. There is one thing that I cannot help but find funny. Her younger sister reads at her same reading level – but they get their own books at the library (they didn’t like the same authors). I was amazed (and happy) to find that while my oldest daughter would not read the books that I remember as a child – or those books that I found interesting – my youngest loves them. So, both girls go to the library each week and we find different books for each of them. Here’s the part that makes me laugh. One day this year my oldest looked at her sister and said, “Hey, what are you reading” and my youngest explained the book to her. Her sister took the book and started to read it – I don’t think her sister got the book back until she was finished reading it. My oldest turned to me the next day and said, “Why didn’t you ever give me this book to read? It was great!” It was actually one of the first books I tried to introduce to her and she refused to read it because it was boring! You can’t imagine how happy this made me – finally – she gets it! After that happened – my oldest finally got her sister to read some of her books (my youngest didn’t like the type of books her sister liked). Now, both girls get their “own” books from the library – and when one of them is finished with a book – they put it in their sister’s book box. They now share all of their books. So, when we go back to the library each week – the books have been read twice, Masha’Allah!
Now I can finally get to my point. We have struggled with reading since starting school four years ago. It was truly something that I thought might never improve. The teacher was worried because her scores were still low for reading. She had great comprehension, but struggled with other aspects of reading – especially reading speed. Now, while you may say – so – this was all for just reading – what’s the big deal? But reading really shapes her abilities in all of the other courses. Also – it has always been my impression – that learning to read is the beginning of a wondrous journey in gaining knowledge – without reading, it would be much harder to learn other things. That’s why it was so important to me – to share my love of reading with all of my kids. Alhumdulilah, now even my youngest is starting to love reading time!
While it was suggested, we never did much overkill on reading practice. I did not pull out textbooks or reading books – specifically designed for struggling readers to practice, practice, practice. I cannot tell you how many books and scholarly journals I read, however, on this topic myself – trying to find the answer I was looking for. Instead, I just kept trying to teach her that books are wonderful – I tried to get her love reading by reading. I would get books to read to her – I would get audio books for us to listen to – and I would try and try and try to find books that interested her. Another wonderful tip that I tried – and it worked (sometimes) was to start reading a book that I knew would interest her – and then leave it unfinished. The next morning, she happily told me the end of the story – she had read the rest of the book, because she just couldn’t wait to find out what happened.
So, with all that – JUST DON’T GIVE UP! No matter how impossible things seem with homeschooling – or with a certain topic your child might be struggling with – DON’T GIVE UP! With patience and perseverance you can truly make a difference in your child’s life. That’s one of the main reasons I homeschool, Alhumdulilah. It is never too late – and it is never impossible.
My daughter just finished taking her reading test last month and her teacher also did not know what to expect (she was a bit worried). Alhumdulilah, at this point my dd had already started to love reading and was reading a lot more. At the beginning of the year she scored somewhere around 40 points (the expected score was about 60 or 70 – I’m not really sure). At the end of the year the kids were expected to have a score of 90. I am happy to say that she actually received a score of 110. Her teacher’s jaw dropped. I am not kidding. So, you – as a parent – can make a difference in your child’s schooling. Don’t let all those who say you must have a degree – or those who say you have to be a teacher to teach – to let you feel like you can’t do it. I know one thing is for certain – with patience and perseverance a parent can make a lot of difference.
I feel so fortunate to have had this journey – and to continue on this path, alhumdulilah. I have been able to watch my oldest struggle with her coursework. I have been fortunate enough to have been there and to try to help guide her to the answers. From one step to the next I have been able to see her make great progress. Masha’Allah -it is such a blessing to be there for them. Now, looking back I can definitely say I am so glad that I was given this opportunity. I know – from my own experience – how people can give up on you and you get labeled with one problem or another. I’ve seen it time and again while I attended school and things have not improved. You get left behind and you feel like you are the one with the problem.
All I can say – and it is the same thing I have been saying for a long time now – it is the teacher’s job (no matter who the teacher is) to make whatever they are teaching interesting to the student. If they are not learning what you are teaching – then you have to try harder and try different methods to make it appetizing to them. It is not always easy – it is not always successful right away – but with patience and perseverance – anything is possible. Insha’Allah.
Sumayyah Umm SAA