We are eager to start putting our role of motherhood into action and can't wait to bring the mountains of precious knowledge to our little darlings.
We want our children to be successful; in both this Dunya as well as the Akhira. We are desperate to do something....anything to get the education journey started....because everyone else is and we don't want our child to end up being left behind!
One of the most frequent questions I get is from mothers with pre-school age children who want to home educate, but don't know where to start.
My children are still too young for me to be counted as a veteran home schooler (my eldest is only 9) ... I am by definition a novice myself!
Our "official" home schooling adventure only begun 5 years ago, so we are still in the midst of the fog trying to find the way out to the sunshine filled valleys inshallah!
However, with that been said, I know how much thicker that fog is when you are just about to embark upon the home education path. It can seem so thick that the fear this blindness stimulates could easily send you running back into the safe haven of the well lit school!
Well, let me assure you, while I think the fog may not clear until we do indeed get to the end (graduation!) it certainly does begin to disperse as we wade our way through.
So what would I say to those who are peering into the window of home education and wondering where to begin?
First just note.... take what I offer with a pinch of salt. I am only one of many home schoolers; and all of us have our own take on what an education should be....just as you will find you do too.
I'll address the how to start home schooling question from a generally secular point of view, since this is what is often asked. People want to know the mechanical process of starting out....
Depending on where you are in the world, you will have different legal obligations, so its important to know your responsibilities as well as your legal rights.
If you are in the UK, I'd recommend visiting the Education Otherwise site where you will find a wealth of information regarding the legalities of home schooling in the UK inshallah.
At the time of writing this, in the UK children are of compulsory school age once they reach 5. If your child has never attended school, then as the law stands today at the start of 2016, there is no legal obligation to inform your Local Authority that you are home educating. However, if your child has been registered into any school, then you will need to write a letter to your school to request your child be deregistered because you will now begin "educating otherwise". I recommend you take a look at the deregistration letter template offered by Education Otherwise.
Once your Local Authority is aware that you are home schooling, then you will be expected to show what educational provisions you are making. In most cases, this will involve visits from your Local Authority who will want to see example of work. You can choose to meet at home or in a neutral place such as library, with or without the presence of your children. Alternatively, you can also submit a report together with examples of work.
Hearing from different people, it seems that in the UK each Local Authority works differently, with some seeming to be more pro or anti home school than others. I would advise you to find out exactly what information you will be expected to provide as well as understand what your legal rights are. (you will find details of this from Education Otherwise)
In terms of following curriculum.....the world is your oyster! There is no legal requirement to follow any curriculum. So long as you can demonstrate that you are providing an education suitable to your child's age and ability then you can choose yourself how and what to teach.
For full details on what you are required to do and not do then refer to the Education Otherwise website because really that is where you will find the most up to date information surrounding all the legalities of home ed in the UK, and it is your responsibility to find out.
If you live elsewhere in the world, then you will have to enquire where you can find the necessary information you need inshallah.
What is home-schooling?
Lets get one thing clear right from the start: home education is not school at home. You can not replicate school in your home...and if you don't want to send your child to school then why would you want to replicate it?
Your home is just that: your home. A place of family, love, peace, security, happiness, memories. Incorporating a school education into your home will work differently to traditional schooling.
Typically what a school covers in an average day, can easily be covered in a much shorter time span when educating at home Alhamdulillah. So while you may find the school down the road begins at 8:30 and ends at 3, don't panic and think you need to fill the same amount of hours!
You don't have a classroom of 30 kids to attend to....you have maybe just 1 or 2, 3 or 4.....some of you may have a couple more but even so, you are still working very closely with each child on an individual basis. That individual attention means you can translate a lesson much quicker.
The younger the child, the less time for "formal instruction" you will need. For example, an early primary aged child may only need 1-2 hours of quality learning each day, and this will gradually increase with age.
In my household, we generally spend around 3-4 hours on formal studies, 4 or 5 days a week. Some days a little more, some days a little less. But that is our personal benchmark right now. I firmly believe that with support and nurturing, learning happens all the time with children; by their nature they are curious.
Its also important to note, that learning doesn't have to take place Monday to Friday. You can school at any time and day that works best in your situation.
With those of you with pre-school age kids, take a look at them and remind yourself....they are pre-school age! Many countries across the globe do not begin formal studies until the age of 6 or 7. Please do not expect that because you have decided to home educate, that means that your 3 or 4 year old must now be able to sit at the table to learn effectively. You will only set both of you up for failure! Children learn best through play...and they need that freedom to be able to do just that. Believe me, there will be plenty of table sitting time to come inshallah!
Educational philosophies and finding curriculums
There are so many different approaches to home education; some you will like, others you won't, and some education styles no matter how much you like them you will find they just don't work for your family!
Take some time to ask around, look online at what people are doing and do some research!
Popular education styles amongst home schoolers include Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Project based learning, Unit studies, and Eclectic just to name a few. Whatever approach you find works for you, you can tailor it to meet your own family's needs. I would love to be able to direct you to something with a one-size-fits-all philosophy, but it doesn't exist because we are all just too different Alhamdulillah!
A word of advise, don't go heavily investing into any materials or curriculums immediately. Take your time, because you don't want to put all your eggs into one basket only to discover everyone hates the maths curriculum you purchased, or the Montessori materials end up never being used (I speak from experience!).
Home educating is a learn on the job role for most of us!
One of the most challenging aspects of home education is that most of us have no personal experience of it. We went to school, and it is school that we understand. We have no childhood memories to draw from nor do we have any official job training on how to teach. We are literally thrown into the job role of teacher, along with dinner lady, teacher assistant, cleaner, cook, personal shopper, first aider and on top of all that: mother!
There is no course in the world which teaches all this stuff! Instead, we learn on the job so to speak. We get our training through on the job experience. And that's just the way it is. Our skills will grow with our experience bi'ithnillah. We will pick up all the strategies and skills required inshallah, don't worry about that!
One thing I have learnt, is that when you speak to other home educators, everyone panics. Everyone worries. Everyone works hard! And almost everyone thinks everyone else is doing it better! You are not alone!
Research shows that home educated children often out-perform their school peers. I don't say this to put down school education. School education has its merits. But I say this to prove to you that despite a lack of formal teacher training, (responsible) parents are in one of the best positions to educate their children.
I put in brackets "responsible", because it is a great responsibility to educate your children, and when we decide to take on that role, we have a duty to fulfil it. Our children have that right from us to fulfil it inshallah.
Which ever education approach we take, whether that be a type of learning which we set up with rigid time tables and schedules to stick to or opt to completely unschool; then if we do so with the knowledge of responsibility, and combine that with the dua, love, support and nurturing of a parent, we will rise to the challenge with successful long term results bi'ithnillah.
Give yourself time, don't expect perfection and don't be afraid of change. Allow yourself and family to grow.
Recognise the individuality and uniqueness of your own house-hold and remember that no matter what educational choices you make, whether that is to school or to home school, you must do what is best for your family and situation...and no two families are the same.