My first "official" day as a home schooler, I'm sure I remember standing over my then 4 year old as she sat because that's what *teachers* do.....cringe!
Next month we'll have completed six years of home education and starting our seventh inshallah! Those six years have flown by subhanAllah. My eldest is only 10, so I am still a novice when it comes to home-schooling. However, I have learnt a little over our journey thus far, and so I thought I'd share 10 things I've learnt that I didn't know (or didn't believe!) when we started out.
Home school is not the same as school-at-home
First things first, this is your home. Its a place of sanctuary and rest away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
What works in school, doesn't work in the home. You want to know why? Because those kind of lessons are designed for school, to be used by the masses! Not a few kids around the kitchen table with Mum.
What schools get done in several hours, you can do in less than half the time.....seriously.
Its really easy to think, unless we are spending a whole hour on maths each day, the kids aren't learning, but yes they are!
You don't have to run to the chime of lesson bells, you don't need to stand in front of the kids like a teacher! Sit with them, at the kitchen table, get down on the floor, be Mum! ....and don't put performance over relationships.
What you see is not what you get
All over Pinterest, you find perfectly carved photographs of amazing projects and ikea clad home school rooms. Home schooling bloggers share their brilliant lesson plans and prodigy children who are reading Mandarin at age 4 never mind English!
Let me tell you, behind the layers of filters used to enhance those pictures, and away from the eloquently written post by the home school super-mom of 15 who shares her daily do-it-all schedule, there is chaos. Not only is there chaos, but there is mess, tantrums, sticky floors and probably a lot of chocolate!
What you see is not what you get. The blogging, pinteresting, instagraming world of home schooling families is an illusion. Yes, those things you see have and do happen. But its only a carefully positioned snap shot into the whole reality......a one second glimpse into the other 86399 seconds that fill the rest of the day. No one shows you the whole truth because showing a sink full of dishes or a 7 year old melt-down doesn't show a pretty picture...no matter how many shiny filters you lay on top of it!
Play is learning
Children really need to play. The younger they are, the more of that play is essential to their healthy growth. My 10 year old still sits on the floor with her 8 year old sister, building made up cities across the bedroom carpet, inspiring an imaginary world where they are teachers, mummy's or whatever they want to be.
I didn't let them do enough of that when they were younger, instead we sat at the kitchen table "learning", or hiding the toys out of reach because I didn't want the house to look like something had exploded!
Children learn through play, they honestly do. Play is their work. They will get older inshallah, and then they won't be building castles or making mud-pies.....not pretend toy ones at least anyway.
Read more to the kids
Of course I read to my girls....but I wish I had read more. I saw recently a quote from somewhere, which said something like reading is the best curriculum money can buy.
Sharing a book brings a huge amount of closeness and joy. Whether cuddled up together on the sofa, reading aloud so the kids can listen while they play, or a bedtime story at the end of the day.
Reading develops so many ideas and inspiration, builds vocabulary and teaches no end of topics. It offers a richness of discussion and brings the whole world right to your fingertips.
It is easy when you start home schooling to be all systems go, and dive right into education and your kids. Everything becomes about home schooling, you eat, drink and breathe home school! Nothing else seems to matter! We run partly on the excitement of this new venture and partly on anxiety and fear that if we are not "on it" we will mess everything up!
Stop. We have to take care of ourselves. If our tank is half empty, we can not expect that we can fill up some one else's! ....and as mothers and wives we know we need to be able to do that!
Don't put yourself last each and every single time. Do something which makes you smile. Do something which nourishes every bit of you, physically, mentally and most importantly spiritually. Whether that is something as simple as having a cup of tea in a pretty china tea-cup, running a bath with some essential oils or inviting a good companion over to share that cup with. Look after yourself.
A big part of self care in my own opinion, is taking care of our religion. I see this as the biggest act of self care we can give ourselves, truly.
Spend time with the Qur'an, find solace in our prayer, learn about that which Allah and His Messenger have left us with, because no one can run if the iman tank runs dry.
Don't judge your family by other peoples standards/expectations
You are unique. Your children are unique. Your home school is unique. What your friend does won't always be right for you, just as what you do won't always be right for her.
Don't judge yourself and your children by the expectations of others, if you do it will only end in disaster....and its the kids who will bear the brunt of it.
I have been there frantically trying to mould my kids (due to my own lack of self esteem) so that I would not loose someone else's approval and acceptance. I've hushed my own children when other kids have hurt them, when really I needed to let them be heard....eventually those hushed up kids bite back and it isn't nice for anyone when they do!
Let go of everything outside of your family, and do what is best for them inshaAllah. Don't do something differently just to fit in with what so and so does. Don't pressure your kids to follow a program they really hate or struggle with just because no one else's kids seem to have an issue with it.
Likewise, don't judge others. Don't look at your friend and see she does something different and see that as a bad thing either.
The only one we need to impress is our Lord. The One who created us. The One who owns us. If we are seeking the approval of the creation, indeed we will never find it. If we seek the approval of our Rabb, then know that the rest will be easy.
Abu Hurairah رضي الله عنه reported: The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said
"When Allah loves a slave, He calls out to Jibril and says "I love so-and-so; so love him." Then Jibril loves him. After that he (Jibril) announces to the inhabitants of the heavens that Allah loves so-and-so; so love him; and the inhabitants of the heavens (the angels) also love him and then make people on earth love him."
[al-Bukhari and Muslim]
(Riyadh us Saliheen #387)Believe in your kids
Seriously, believe in your kids. Believe in them. **Believe in them!**
Ask anyone who has grown up with critical parents, and they will tell you that lack of support from them has led to a self-fulfilling prophecy of low self esteem, low self worth and little self value, resulting in poor adult opportunities (generally speaking).
If a child can not feel important, loved, cared for, supported, believed, nurtured or wanted in the eyes of his parents, he will grow up believing that of the whole world.
Our children need to feel honoured by us; they need to know we believe they can do anything they set their mind to with the help and permission of Allah. They need to believe fulan fulan isn't better than him. (but equally they need to know they are not better than fulan fulan!)
When they want to give up, don't let them think they won't make it! Be there for them, shine that light for them when they can only see the dark. Don't be the one to turn off that light and plunge them into the darkness.
Don't make home education take over your life!
Home education is not the be all and end all. It is one part of our lives. Our home is our home, our family is our family.
You are not just your kids teacher, you are Mum. And you are a wife. And a daughter, as well as a whole host of other things. You don't have time to let home education take over your whole life, and it really doesn't need to.
Don't prioritise peer socialisation or outside clubs
I don't think I should have signed up to every home school club I could find back when we started out. I was so afraid that my girls would miss out on friends that I made sure we went to clubs and meet ups. We were out 4 days a week.....madness when we need to actually home school!
When I look back now, especially at the young ages they were then (and indeed still are) those meet ups really were not as important as I had perceived them to be.
We are the most important people in our children's lives. We don't need to take on the public school belief of our modern era that peers are.
I do believe the older the children get, undoubtedly the more important good companions will become, and yes, I do agree that even at a young age they absolutely benefit from having peers. But they don't need peers at the expense of their parents. ....those early days when we were out almost every day of the week, was full of stress to get everything done and everyone ready so we could leave the house. I don't know why I did that to us, because a stressed out mummy does not make a happy little child.
Read more books (not blogs) about education philosophies
I think I should have spent more time reading and researching educational models before trying anything. I should have let my children play more, and I should have learnt....I think I would have been a lot calmer and put a lot less pressure and crazy expectations on us all.
Don't buy everything until you really know what you want!
I really was clueless when I started home educating. Many of the sisters around me at that time were into Montessori. And so I jumped right onto the Montessori train because it was the first thing I saw that showed me how to *teach* my kids, and I had no clue how to do that (or so I thought!) I spent a lot of money on materials, most of which really didn't get used.
Take your time, look around. Don't go spending everything on something straight away. Try to figure out what is out there, and what you do really actually need.
Home education honestly doesn't need to be expensive, and with pinterest you can find D.I.Y versions of almost anything Alhamdulillah.
You don't need the kids to put something on paper to prove they have learnt something
This is a big one that took me a long time to get.....and to be honest, I still have a little trouble putting this into practice.
I am going to drop a bomb on you with this one....are you ready....
Its not necessary to always have the kids produce some kind of physical work to show or prove they have *done* or learnt something. Period.
Its okay to visit somewhere, read something, run an experiment or whatever it is you have done, and leave it at that. You don't have to write a report, draw a picture or make a lapbook each and every single time you learn something!
It is perfectly fine to have a learning experience and that be it. You don't need to put something onto paper just for the sake of doing so.
If learning has happened, then guess what....learning happened I promise you!
Kids are expert learners! Look at them, they learnt to sit, crawl, walk and talk and you didn't for a second think they wouldn't....nor did you ever ask them to write a report to *prove* that they did! They are expert speakers, speaking their mother tongue better than any second language learner ever will. Inspire them, facilitate opportunities for them, and they will learn inshallah....they don't always have to prove it.
If it makes you feel better, then take a picture or write your own recount in a journal if you want some kind of documentation to remind yourself of later if you think you might forget and you want to be able to share it with your local authority or even just for the sake of a personal memory.
But for the kids, they don't need to write an essay every time they have come across something new or developed a new idea.
Sometimes the best ideas and best learning comes from just being able to enjoy and share a big juicy conversation.
So if you were counting, that was 12 things I know now I wish I knew starting out, not 10. But 10 sounds a better title!
I could add one last thing.....
Trust yourself, trust your kids and trust the process!