I have read a lot about homeschooling long before my eldest child reached school age. Full time public schooling is optional from 4 years old and compulsory from 5 in the UK. There are religious, philosophical and other reasons for our decision of homeschooling. But, ultimately, husband and I believe we can offer a more suitable education for our children at home. I will explain how we reached this decision and why I pulled my 4 year old out of public school after 3 months of trial period.
Firstly, I read a lot on homeschooling when Sumayya was still a baby. I was greatly influenced by some 19th century educators such as Montessori, Charlotte Mason who emphasize the importance of home education. I read lots of books on early learning and children’s development between the age 0-5 by authors such as Waldorf, Doman, Montessori. I have really enjoyed to participate in my children’s early learning and was able to teach Sumayya how to read and write, early Maths and beginner’s science before she reached optional school age (which is 4 in the UK).
However, when the time arrived to send Sumayya to school in September 2011, I was not ready to conceive the idea of full time home education. My main questions being a) Till when do I homeschool? b) And how about her socialization and English? With these in mind, we have sent her to school.
Another thing that made me comfortable with full time public schooling is that we live in catchment area of good schools and she was allocated one of the really good primary schools where we live. Plus, I was aware of flexi-schooling arrangements being legal in the UK and thought would try to arrange flexi-school for her later on.
I naively believed that I would be able to combine our home curriculum with her public schooling. But she was away from home from 8:30am till 3:30pm. 7 hours away from home and family is too long for any 4-5 year old. She would come home exhausted, not willing to join in any of her regular learning activities we would do before she started attending school.
But in addition to dropping our home curriculum, we no longer had the time to do all the things we have always been doing together. These would include visiting the old neighbours, trips to local library on afternoons, trips to local parks, swimming, gardening, cooking and baking and the list goes on and on. There was just not enough time. She would come home just in time to see the sun set and do her homework. She was missing out on all these fun family activities and lifetime experiences because of school. I would often question myself “Is she learning anything worthwhile to give up all these?” and Sumayya being ahead of her peers academically, I was already in doubt.
I couldn’t believe how much the school was affecting our relationship and bonding as a mother and daughter. So I took the time to research and learn more about education system in general and homeschooling from an Islamic point of view, in particular. I and hubby watched tons of documentaries, read articles, discussed the matter extensively, both between ourselves and with family/friends. I have read and read and read and was convinced that even the best school can not compete with homeschooling which is delivered on 1-1 basis by a MOTHER who knows the child best. And the curriculum is carefully designed, tailor-made lol, to suit our faith, belief, home-environment and my child’s needs, interests and character.
Suddenly my worries began to fade. After trying public school and as a result of my extensive reading and research, I was more committed and more confident to continue home educating Sumayya. Her English seems to be Okay. She can read any children’s picture story books in English and getting better at narrating. And I will continue to homeschool so long as Allah wills. If anything I always have the option of putting her back into public school, though it would be harder the older she gets. But, so long I am at home full time with my other two children anyway, why not make the most out of full time motherhood by home educating all three at the same time. Alhamdulillah, it is such a blessing that I dont have to work and am able to assist and facilitate my children’s learning 24/7.
And I was convinced that she does more socializing at home than at school. One has to look carefully at what is meant by socializing. If you mean a child’s one-on-one talk and conversation, she gets it mostly at home and mostly from a mother. But in a group of 20 children teacher spends most of her time disciplining and does most of the talking. Children at this age (4-5) doesnt do much socializing among themselves. That’s what I felt after my teaching experience of 6 girls at home, subhanAllah.
Finally, we always give extra value to ‘home-made’ products. Would it not be nice if I want to make ‘home-made’ children? It is definitely a commitment and it is time consuming. Like I always say to friends “My life revolves around my children”. But I honestly feel my day has been accomplished when I do something meaningful and enjoyable with kids. We usually cover 2-3 subjects a day with my nearly 5 year old and 3 year old. It is fun learning together and I always reward them by giving them a bubble bath, taking them to park, taking them to library, museums on the weekends, inviting their friends over for a meal, letting them play with neighbour’s daughters, letting them play in the garden, letting them watch something educational on youtube (we never had TV). They accept all these as a treat for their hard work.
We plan our days around salah. There is no conflict or dispute or mixed messages coming through regarding our deen and the knowledge of deen just being established in children. And it is always nice to think that what I am doing is to please Allah swt. Hence our children is our sadaqa jaariya, our ultimate goal is to make someone who is pious, righteous, knowledgeable and “better than myself” Muslim whose good deeds and dua might benefit me and hubby in the grave inshaAllah.
In conclusion, I am re-educating myself in so many ways in order to educate my children at home. I would have never had this chance if they attended public school. I am also blessed with a supportive husband who takes active part in our homeschool journey. Every day we struggle for a better day and for a better “self”. Every day we are looking for new ways of learning. Every day we are adapting our topics and subjects based on children’s current interests and experiences. Alhamdulillah, it has been going great and we have all been enjoying Education at Home. May Allah make our home-learning continuous, amin.