Happy, Havocked HomeFront: Riding The Home Education Wave and Lovin’ It

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

My daughter is now 6 years old and my son will soon be 4, اِن شَاءَ الله. Since the past 11 months, I have been homeschooling them and, contrary to how I anticipated this journey to be like at the point when I was about to embark upon it, it is I who has probably learnt the most in this interim, excitement-ridden period of enlightenment and realization.

I have been traditionally schooled all my life. It was not surprising then, that when my firstborn was a mere baby, I started the typical frantic search for a Montessori for her. I had never even heard of, much less considered, the possibility of educating a little child at home – and the immense impact and importance of that learning which takes place in an informal setting in those initial years of a child’s life.

My daughter was in school at the age of 2.5, when my son was 6 months old. For some parents in Pakistan’s contemporary pre-school culture, even this age of admission was “too late”. They were the ones who would express surprise at my complacent, not rushing around to register my as-yet-unborn fetus in the “top” local primary schools during pregnancy.

When my son was just a baby, I was a somewhat harried Mom going through the initial adjustment phase with sibling rivalry and frequent tantrums of a so-called “terrible-two” toddler. I admit that the hours my daughter was away at school gave me a breather, so to speak, and allowed me to bond with my second one. However, guilt gnawed at me when I went to pick her up and saw her herded in a line along with other perspiring children under the intense sun.

I disliked the whole school routine, but mutely acquiesced to the delusion that it is a “vital” part of every mother’s life: ironing the uniforms, laying out the clothes, shoes and socks at night; packing the bag according to the timetable; forcing the child to finish off her homework; making and packing the lunch in the mornings, forcing a few mouthfuls down a reluctant mouth, then sending off a sometimes mildly sick, or screaming toddler with a tear-ridden face, to school with a heavy heart and a shackled mind that never “dared” to question the necessity of this so-called “must-have” system of education.

At about this time, I met by chance a few mothers who were homeschooling their children in Karachi. The idea of homeschooling in our country was intriguing to me, especially since these ladies had initially sent their children to some of the local schools, and had also taught in these schools as teachers.

I was immediately attracted to their peculiar choice of education for their children, wanting to know why and how a woman who once had school-going children and who had taught in the schooling system herself would opt out of it to homeschool them.

Wasn’t it sheer stupidity? How did they manage? Didn’t they crave personal privacy and “me-time”? Didn’t they have doubts about what they were doing? Didn’t they worry that their children would turn out to be socially deprived, unconfident ‘weirdos’?

In addition to meeting these ladies regularly and asking them questions, I started to avidly read up about home education online. I read and read, mostly as a hardcore skeptic and critic.

It is amazing what one is able to achieve and experience when one tears down the self-imposed shackles around one’s brain – the barriers and obstacles that we erect around our own thought-processes to filter out new ideas and possibilities that lie right under our noses; ideas which can help us achieve our goals more easily.

I have seen that as modern-day parents, even though we may have an easier, faster alternative right before our eyes, most of the time, we are blinded to reality because of our beliefs based on our own past experiences and because of our blind faith in the opinions of our peers (other parents); not to mention, our mute, unquestioning acquiescence to become part of the rat race as soon as our baby makes its grand debut in the world.

Now that it has been some time since my children have been “studying” at home, I would like to share with you what I have learnt and noticed during this time:

The best learning is that which is is self-motivated and self-driven

Surround a little human being, even a few-months old baby, with different materials, and watch how she tries to discover them on her own. A baby will experiment, touch, test and play. But before all of that, she will observe how the people around her use that material.

Allah has created the human baby with an amazingly relentless, innate drive to learn: they are pre-programmed to acquire, pursue, test, observe, feel and experiment. Every new experience for them is a step up the learning curve.

It is absolutely preposterous how modern marketers of early learning products delude parents of little babies into thinking that they need to invest in expensive plastic toys, phonics books, flash cards, or flashy computer software to make their baby pick up a language, skill or ability earlier than necessary. I don’t think it is as important for a child to start reading at age 2 as it is for the same child to be reading avidly, willingly and enjoyably at age 8 – without being forced. Is the means more important than the end?

Think about it! Do we force our toddler to walk at 10 months if s/he doesn’t? Do we question why some babies crawl for many months before walking, whereas others almost directly transition from crawling to walking without taking so long? Why do some babies teeth early and others sprout their first tooth after the age of one? Why do some babies talk when they are one year old and others don’t start babbling even after the age of two? Did you ever wonder why, at a certain age, a child will learn to use a spoon to eat on their own, even if they are not taught? Or how they will automatically learn to climb stairs without being trained?

The answer to all this is that each human being learns and achieves different skills, abilities and milestones at different times and rates. He or she she comes pre-packaged with DNA in their chromosomes, which determines when they will start to do what. As parents, while we can facilitate their learning and gross motor progress, we can never, ever make our children accomplish something they are not yet ready to do. And that is not even fair!

Those of us parents who incessantly try to push our children into achieving something before they are able to, only set ourselves up for disappointment.

Lack of structure works for our family

People ask me at what time I teach my children.

I have seen, through the initial months of unschooling – a term used to describe the process of getting the child who was initially in school completely and naturally deprogrammed from the daily school routine – that an almost complete lack of structure works best for us.

Sure, I have a curriculum for my 6 year old: the official OUP textbooks of grade one that she was studying at the age of 5, when we pulled her out of school. However, when I sat her down to teach her chapters from these books ‘officially’, the way it is done in school, I saw her interest start to wane. At some times, she even told me that she didn’t want to study.

I decided to take full advantage of the flexibility afforded by homeschooling to allow her to do what she wants, and to help her out only when she comes to me. What resulted was no less than an epiphany for me.

I discovered that there is no such thing as “boredom” in the dictionary of little children. They just do not get bored. And yes, this is coming from a parent who has no television, video games or outdoor play area in her residence. My children never complain of being bored, even if they do not go out for three days! The reason for this is that, when left on their own surrounded with books, toys, and other random materials, they find ways to keep themselves constructively occupied. 

So when I stopped teaching my daughter according to a set time-table with fixed learning slots for different subjects, I witnessed how often she returned to her books, picked one of them up, and approached me for basic guidelines about what to do in a specific chapter. Also, here is the clincher: she ended up reading, studying and poring over many more books and materials (such as storybooks, newspapers, magazines, grocery lists, bills, and receipts) besides her official grade one curriculum books!

I do leisurely read out to her and my son for a few minutes, but again, not every day, and never at a fixed time. I realized soon that, being blessed with an excellent memory, a one-time reading was usually more than enough for A’ishah. Without my prompting, but on her brother’s incessant requests (who loves to listen to stories), she’d read out the same story to him again and again, until – all praises to Allah – they both had it memorized by heart! This includes both simple English, as well Urdu, storybooks and the shorter surah’s/chapters from the last juz of the Qur’an.

Innovation, ingenuity and initiative

As of now, a typical day starts off with my daughter A’ishah rising early and leaving the bedroom. She starts her day doing things on her own before her brother emerges and joins her.

A scooter colored by A'ishah using water-color paints

She uses pencils, colors, water colors, scissors, and paper to unleash her creative imagination.

Sometimes, she plays with toys and other materials to set up a make-believe kitchen or simulate any scene or event that she has witnessed.

It might seem from my children’s handiwork that I am a very hard-working mother who makes an extra hard effort to buy wonderful art and craft materials, storybooks, textbooks and workbooks to keep them busy.

However, wallahi, I am not. I testify that it is primarily Allah’s help that comes to me.

A small wooden box painted and decorated by A'ishah

Masha’Allah, my children are given many gifts by sincere close relatives and many of my friends (remember, even though we do not celebrate their birthdays!), such as the wooden flower chest shown here ->.

All I ever do is facilitate my children’s work on these materials, by providing them basic verbal guidelines, sometimes a small helping hand that demonstrates to them what they have to do, and last but not least, tons of background encouragement and positive reinforcement in the form of truthful, concise, and unexaggerated praise.

Since A’ishah turned 5, she has an increased interest in Arts and Crafts (don’t all girls?).

An engine and carriages made out of paper

These carriages of a paper train were the result of finding a craft book by chance at a sale at the Liberty Books clearance outlet on Boat Basin, Clifton.

The book had to-be-cut-out pieces of hard paper that had to be folded along dotted lines and glued together to form these carriages.

The craft gems below are all from a collage book gifted to A’ishah by her aunt on Eid.

Collages of a butterfly and a field of flowers made from crafting materials as instructed by and provided in the Collage book
Collage of a "tropical island"

The book provided all the physical materials as well as detailed pictorial instructions for making each collage.

I tried to ensure that A’ishah makes each one herself, as much as possible, no matter how supposedly “ad hoc” or sloppy the first few attempts might be.

Homeschooled kids don’t get a lot of discouraging “Oh no! What have you done?” comments when they make mistakes. 🙂

If they do something wrong, we can gently correct them and show them how to do it right. Its not like we, as adults, have stopped making mistakes, have we?

This is a collage of a tropical island ->

There has been steady and good progress in A’ishah’s reading, writing and Math, as well, alhamdulillah. 

Another gift from a friend that my children ended up loving, and learnt much of by heart, was this book of Muslim nursery rhymes ->

I read them out to them both a few times over a week and eventually, A’ishah had them learnt by heart.

She would then read them out to Abdullah.

Therefore, it is obvious that one thing that my children never do, alhamdulillah, is complain of being bored or having nothing to do.

As for Abdullah’s progress, since he has never been to school, he has literally turned out to be the first prototype of my practical, homeschooling “laboratory experiment”.

Abdullah started writing in a straight line himself, without being forced, taught, or instructed how to hold a pen

It is easy for a parent to fall into the trap of comparing one child to the other, especially if one child achieves milestones earlier. I have been conscious of not doing that with Abdullah. I just let him be – to see how he progresses by learning on his own.

Not once have I taught him how to hold a pen, or how to write!

Yet, as you can see in this picture ->, he started trying to write letters and numbers himself, basing his designs and shapes purely on his visual observation.

Because of hanging out with his sister most of the time, and albeit by also voraciously poring over pictures, papers, books; messing around with play-dough; scribbling wildly with pencils and crayons, and thrashing color about on paper with paintbrushes – he has learned a lot simply by observation and experimentation.

Abdullah scribbling away randomly

He has started writing rough letters and drawing other shapes all on his own, which reminds me how it is ultimately Allah who teaches the human baby how to write:

الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ

The One Who taught by (the use of) the pen;”

[Al-Qur’an – 96:4]

Even though, right now, he is a month short of turning 4 years old, Abdullah can still not write Urdu or English letters on his own properly. However, I am not worried about that at all, because I know that just like his oral vocabulary, which went from almost non-existent at the age of 2.5 to an undeterred gush of new words at 3.5, when the time comes, he will start writing on paper properly, insha’Allah.

Abdullah correctly matched the finger-counts to the bird images

<- He has started to grasp the concept of basic counting, alhamdulillah. Again, this is without any formal instruction viz. learning numbers by heart.

Just like he learned to master the skills of climbing atop tall objects, speaking new phrases in English (I talk to my children primarily in Urdu, silly ol’ “paindoo” me), jumping down from a height, and drinking steadily from a full glass without spilling – without my “forcing” him to do any of these things, I know that he will learn how to read and write letters on paper too, insha’Allah – when the time is right.

This image shows that he can also associate pictures with their basic shapes ->

Neatness might not be his forte yet, but his scribblings show his efforts to write the capital letter “P” or “D”, and to make the “tick-mark” that he sees me make when I check A’ishah’s work. He has also tried to color into the shape at the top.

My “me time”

I have just one brother with whom I shared my room until the age of 11. As a girl who has not shared her bedroom with a sibling since the age of 13, I have been used to having my personal privacy, to the extent of being a tad selfish and spoiled!

Add to that my innate love for solitude, peace and silence, and I would think of myself as the last mother on earth who would have decided to homeschool two naughty little children who are always up to some new prank!

To tell you the truth, I was ambivalent about homeschooling for a long time primarily for this reason: that homeschooling would mean always having my children around me at home. It would mean disturbances and distractions; havoc and mayhem; my stress level hitting the roof and making me a permanent mass of nerves. Right?

Well, the practical experience has proved otherwise. Alhamdulillah.

When your children start staying at home after being pulled from school, it is very important to perceive their presence as a blessing, not a burden. After all, they are your children.

Secondly, remember that little children are very easily trained with time to adapt to their environment. My children quickly picked up cues about my likes, dislikes and preferences e.g. doors are to be closed softly (not banged shut), any spills or crumbs are to be immediately wiped clean or swept away into the bin; toys and papers that are sprawled over the table or floor have to be cleared up and kept away; every afternoon they have to nap/lie down for two hours; and after eating, the crockery and cutlery have to be transported to the kitchen sink without being told.

Within a few weeks, four little hands were eagerly helping me out in my daily tasks, be it hanging up or folding the laundry, replacing tissue rolls on their stands, or clearing away the mess created during play – all without my forcing them to.

Keen observers, when children are not coerced to “Stand straight!”, “Form a straight line!” or “Don’t talk!” daily by tight-lipped school teachers, they instead copy and imitate the behavior of the adults around them, subconsciously adopting the latter’s habits, mannerisms, behaviors and attitudes.

You won’t need to enforce rules upon them the way they are imposed in school, simply because you are their parent, and this is their home – a place where they are comfortable and “free”. Instead, your small little army of angels will turn into your helpers and comrades in everything you do, further strengthening your familial ties, in addition to excelling at companionship and teamwork.

Consequently, totally unlike the feelings of dread that are experienced by mothers of school-going children twice a year, at the advent of summer and winter vacations, a homeschooling Mom will never, ever negatively perceive the 24-hour, constant presence of her children at home. Rather, she will relish and appreciate their chirpy company, because homeschooling them automatically molds their behavior and antics according to your preferences and rules.

Children are akin to empty vessels; when they are young, they can be molded into whatever the parents desire.

Its not always rosy

Do I ever shout at my children? Do they ever answer me back? Do they fight, spill food and drink, physically wrangle, break things, or disobey me? Do I go out in public secretly fearing that either or both of my children will behave in a way that will cause me embarrassment? Does my house look a mess on most days, strewn all over with paper, books and toys? Have I given up hope on having my home embody a pristine, impeccable aura of spotless, charming interior decor?

The answer to all these questions is a big “Yes!”

We are a real family with very real, human shortcomings.

We as parents make mistakes, just like our children. There are good days, when I feel absolutely calm and serene, unruffled and happy because everything goes smoothly. Then there are those days when I am a mass of nerves, cranky and short-tempered, snapping at the slightest provocation!

The whole point of realistic, grounded parenting is to appreciate and work on the good, and to overlook, forgive, and try to correct the bad. We parents should remember that it is absolutely imperative to constantly seek Allah’s forgiveness for our mistakes and sins, via sincere, heartfelt استغفار. This should stem from the recurring realization that we are fallible as human beings, and have inherent shortcomings that make us slip again and again.

In her own words…

So what does my daughter have to say about being homeschooled after spending 2.5 years in school?

She has not forgotten some of the incidents that happened there.

“Mama, you did the right thing by taking me out of school. The other children often laughed at me and once made fun of my clothes on white-color day, saying, “Look at A’ishah! Look at what she is wearing!”.

When I’d go to the washroom, there would be no lock on the door and the commode would always be dirty, and the pottery Uncle would sometimes walk in to wash his hands.

And once when I went somewhere from my seat, a boy in my class threw the cake in my lunchbox outside the window for the crows to eat!

When the electricity would go, we’d have to sit perspiring in the heat.

I am so glad I study at home now. You teach me so well.”

What can I say except الْحَمْدُ للّهِ that Allah guided me to take this step and unleash the wonders of His creation before my eyes in my home – our new center of learning; the place where my children don’t just come to eat and sleep, but where they live, love and learn.

Its not just “burka”-clad, ‘weird’ Muslim mums whose disappointment in the conventional schooling system has made them turn to homeschooling – even over-idolized, globe-trotting, so-called “A-list icons” of stardom and humanitarianism are doing it.

***

(An abridged version of this article was first written for HomeWorks – Pakistan’s first quarterly homeschooling magazine. You can read its first issue online by clicking here.)

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55 thoughts on “Happy, Havocked HomeFront: Riding The Home Education Wave and Lovin’ It

  1. Jazakillah khair for this article. I would love to homeschool too insha’Allah, but my primary worry was the lack of privacy and ‘peace’ being an only child who is used to my own space. I will be calling you long distance one day for advice and reassurance, I’m sure of it insha’Allah. 😀

  2. Assalam alaikum sadaf,
    You are definitely an inspiration to many! I have been reading your posts for a while and each offers hope that yes,it’s possible to be different and be good at it.Alhamdulillah,and may Allah make things easy for you.
    Ma’assalam

  3. I’m a skeptic just like you used to be sister and I wanted to ask you, how do you exactly teach your kids discipline and the importance of time management ? Also, what about the lack of social interaction with other kids ? How do you overcome that ?

    1. Well they are still too young to have to NEED to interact with other kids their age, especially Abdullah. They get along fine with cousins. They mix in alright in events where there are others kids or when they go to a kids’ party, alhamdulillah.

      The local home education group in Karachi also regularly arranges events for parents along with kids, such as morning get-togethers, an annual picnic, “field trips” to places where they can watch things being made, etc.

      Also, I think in the 2.5 years that A’ishah was in school, from age 2.5 to 5, she had more problems than improvement in her social “interactions” (fights and conflicts) with her peers. Sure, she got along well with some kids, but the problems she encountered were more than the smooth incidents. Every other day, there was some incident of bullying, either by her or with her as the victim.

      I personally think its debatable whether school improves social interaction. I think at the pre-primary and primary level, school actually curbs confidence, because such small kids really get to “socialize” with each other freely only before first class, during break and in the short time after school before they are picked up. The rest of the time, any endeavor to “socialize” innocently is strictly curbed by supervising teachers, and if continued, even results in that child being labelled as “naughty” and “disobedient”.

      When I look back, I recall not liking school until the age of 10-11. It was at this age that I started to make “good” friends at school and started to look forward to going every day. Before this age (i.e. class 7-8) I mostly remember a lot of “fear” associated with my school memories: fear of being scolded by teachers, of being late in the morning, of not being able to finish all the given homework before going to sleep, of not getting good marks in tests and exams, of being laughed at if I did something wrong in class, of being ostracized by other kids, of breaking any rule, of having to go to the bathroom while at school (which was always filthy). I don’t recall socially interacting with other kids except during break or free periods, and I do remember the bullying and the fights to this day.

      I remember as a kid aged 4-10 I loved nothing more than spending my vacations at home, especially during summer, because then I could read what I wanted, and play as much as I wanted. Mostly because I felt free and unforced to do things I didn’t want to do.

      Allah knows best.

  4. JazakAllah khair for sharing ur personal experience with us. I’ve been homeschooling my 3 year old for a year now but i was recently getting into the ‘comparing and competing mode’ without realizing. When i read “It is easy for a parent to fall into the trap of comparing one child to the other” it suddenly dawned on me that i was getting frustrated recently with the whole idea of homeschooling because i was comparing my child to my sister-in-law’s daughter who goes to school and thinking if she can write why can’t mine and u are so right that coercing and forcing only leads to the child’s interest waning in her studies. I love ur idea about using the flexibility homeschooling provides rather than just following the same method used in schools and just doing it at home…i guess it’ll take some time for me to get unschooled before i can properly homeschool my daughter!
    JazakAllah once again for this lovely article. Really appreciate it!

  5. Amazingly inspiring Masha Allah!

    I can’t believe a 6 year old reads grocery lists, bills and newspapers/magazines.. ?? Like, really???
    [I distinctly remember not reading anything like that when I was 6] :P. But MA if little A’isha can do that!

    So this means I shouldn’t get upset at the fact that my bhanja is still stuck on a few words garbled here and there and he’s nearly two now :P. Oh, joy 😀

    JazakAllah khairan for such a cool insight on something usually taken as quite negative in this country – home-schooling. I’m on the ambivalent stage!

    🙂

    1. Yes, masha’Allah, she is an avid reader of English. She tries to read Hiba Magazine, the DAWN Magazine on Sundays, and brings me receipts and bills when she cannot read a certain word. The words she cannot read yet, she skips, but nevertheless she tries to read everything.

      I am very keen for her Urdu and Quran reading to progress at the same or as good a rate as her English. However, despite equal efforts, she cannot grasp the joined letters of Urdu/Arabic as quickly right now. Since English letters do not join, and basically their shape doesn’t change when they form words, at the moment her English reading is progressing much faster, masha’Allah.

      And Allah is the source of all benefit.

      I too never read these things at age 6. But A’ishah’s interest in everything “adult” might be a topic for a separate post altogether. 🙂

  6. Salamunalaikum ..!

    Alahumdulillah me too have made my mind to home school mine, Inshallah.I’ve made my mind to homeschool mine when i discovered this site ( http://talibiddeenjr.blogspot.com/ ) two years back and when came to know that even Albert Einstein and few other prominent scientists were home schooled by their mothers.

    In fact , in today’s world a learned and educated mother can be the best teacher and her home the best place to learn.The present day modern schools and colleges their methodologies, culture, ideologies, philosophies,intention behind setting up their institutions etc is by no means a deceptive one. (for muslims) I have experience it myself and realized it.

    Truly, the best learning is that which is is self-motivated and self-driven and i feel that giving right kind of knowledge at the right time, at the right degree,in the right way,for the right purpose and by the right person and also in the right environment can take a muslim child to the heights of success which cannot be measured off.

    The learning order for tiny tots should be in this order Listening> Observing/Imagining> Understanding>Reading>Memorizing> Writing.

    This order is in accordance with the natural development of human faculties and as said and observed by child education specialists.

    We learn… 10% of what we read. 20% of what we hear. 30% of what we see. 50% of what we see and hear. 70% of what we discuss with others. 80% of what we experience. 90% of what we teach to someone else.

    The abilities of our younger ones must be tuned in to skills like seeing must be turned in to keen observation , hearing in to listening and talking in to communication and reading in to memorization.

    Home schooling in present times has lot of benefits besides many advantages .

    For example there is no donation, annual school fees,uniform, no transportation fee, no bag burden or of lunch box.No fear of being late to school or class, no class work or home work, no punishments, no mental stress, no social stigma, no home sickness, no harassment from students or embarrassment from teachers. No extra classes and more over no fear at all of getting less marks or of failing in exams.

    At home schooling parents must ignite their children’s passion, inspire their intelligence, motivate their mind, stimulate their soul, build up their confidence and encourage their efforts.

    To sum up, I would like to quote the words of an unknown homeschooling parent : My personal experiences suggest that by constantly pressurising a child and by constantly telling him where he is wrong,you only dent his self-image.This approach does not make anybody better.It only make them worse.Encouraging the positive side of a person,appreciating even the slightest of improvements in him, a soft hand on his shoulders, a gentle pat on his back, and little words of motivation will be the sure fireways to support any child.With this approach,even if the changes are slow,they will be lasting,permanent changes. Inshallah!

    1. Jazak Allahu khair for your beneficial comment.

      My homeschooling experience of only just under a year confirms most of what you have said.

      Another famous intellectual who has made a contribution in knowledge to mankind, who was schooled for the first ten years of his life primarily by his mother, was Imam Bukhari, whose father reportedly died when he was a baby. Imam Bukhari did not start attending structured classes to seek knowledge until he was ten years old. We all know about his memorization skills and the unparalleled written work he left behind for us to benefit from.

  7. Subhanallah! this is so inspiring, and a great way to beat the rat race that ensues both in and outside the class room for the kids and moms alike. However, i do wonder what level one can home school to.

  8. Assalamalaikum,

    Mashallah,an inspiring article.My children too live,love and learn at home.I am homeschooling them and find a perfect satisfaction ever since I left my own teaching job.
    I found Ayesha’s craftworks excellent.My daughter also shares a similar taste and hobby.
    Every thing is working out well but at times I am a little worried when I think my son would in a few years require LAB training and face Board Exams.What do you suggest?

  9. Assalamu a’laikum wr wb,

    Masha allah, Now you have become a Da’ee of Home schooling too, Inspiring many, and that is how your kids also become Da’ee’s since the Sohabat of good teacher in the form of you :). The very concept is good, suits our Islamic culture, especially for girls. In today’s era of Fitna, the most targeted are the Kids with all attractive things with wrong things taught unknowingly to the kids (From advertisements..Jingles..Pictures used to books). As far as the communicating with other kids, that happens now and then and that is not a big issue for kids I believe. Jazakillah for leading by example.

    May Allah Guide us towards real success in this modern world, save us from Riya and bless us with Jannah.

  10. it seems my mind is turning all around in favor of this, but i am still skeptical as to whether my children will be able to learn as good as urs if i dont help them at all or if they dont get any assistance, coz mashaAllah both of my daughters have done well in their academics. i agree there are a lot of “jhanjhats” in this traditional way of schooling, but i think i’ll have to do a lot istekhara before i take a final decision on this….main bhot keenly soch rahe thi is baare mein … both of my kidsare too fond of going to school, she loves being there and doesnt want to study at home…..well, but this article of urs was very good and mashaAllah it was lovely to see all that beautiful art and craft done by ayesha …my love to her sadaf, and jaldi jaldi likha karein…..ab ke aap ka article badi der se aaya…i hope ur doing well and all is gud at ur end…..

    1. Don’t worry Kishwar, homeschooling is not for everyone. It works for some families but that doesn’t mean it will work equally well for others. Each family is unique.

      If your daughters enjoy school and you think they will not fare as good at home, let them be at school and just work hard on them while they are at home e.g. encourage reading in as many languages as possible. Since you live in Saudia, insha’Allah I am hopeful that you do not have the problem that Muslims in some countries have regarding sending their children to public schools or secular schools.

      You can also do what I did for 2 years before I took the leap to homeschool: read about it online, perhaps meet other homeschooling mothers and their children in Riyadh, and most importantly, as you said, keep doing istikharah as long as you are undecided. Then leave the matter up to Allah and ask Him to decide what is best for the Akhirah and Duniya of your family. Insha’Allah everything will turn out fine.

      Even if you keep sending your daughters to regular school, you can still “homeschool” them in the time they spend at home, and bring up lovely, righteous girls, insha’Allah.

  11. “a homeschooling Mom will never, ever negatively perceive the 24-hour, constant presence of her children at home. Rather, she will relish and appreciate their chirpy company”

    I love that quote. Can’t wait to homeschool my son and watch him grow.

  12. Subhanallah! Very inspiring to read a detailed account of your homeschooling endeavors. However,as I’m still learning about it so obviously I’m a bit skeptical.
    How would home schooled children develop independent thinking from early on which may help them get out of difficult real life situations later in their life. Wouldn’t they become excessively emotionally dependent on their mother for decision making to an extent which will be detrimental for their growth ?

    1. Assalamu alaikum,

      I’m also a homeschooling mother of a 9 yr old and a 6 yr old and have been homeschooling for nearly 6 years now, Alhamdulillah. I wanted to comment on your iquiry about emotional dependence on mother. From my observations of the families that homeschool in Karachi, I would say that in most cases it is exactly the other way around – home educated children are more independent and better decision makers for themselves than their school-going peers. The encouraging and free atmosphere of homeschooling fosters their natural disposition to decide things for themselves, instead of following the peer-pressure of classmates, obeying the directions of teachers, or submitting to the discipline imposed on them by the school.

      Regarding decision making in difficult situations. School situation is of the kind that you throw your child in the water and tell him to learn to swim. May be he learns and may be not. At school, kids are faced with difficult situations without anybody by their side to guide them through. If homeschooled kids face such difficulties, parents are there by their side to guide and instruct them about the better course to take. In other words, kids are still in water but receive the necessary directions for learning to swim. I do not think I have to put my kids through unnecessary hardships, which may harm them, just in order to make them learn to be rough and tough for living in this “big, mean world” – instead, I believe in letting them explore it for themselves but with my guidance available whenever they may need it.

      Wassalam,
      Umm Uzair

  13. Assalam u alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh ,

    Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! SubhanaAllah! The most awaiting article! A very big jazakAllah u Khairan Sadaf . If u would be in front of me , I would given u a big hug ! Smile. Anyways ! 

    I wanted to reply to Annus , the previous commenter , Homeschooling doesn’t demands to let your children depends on parents. It actually demands that what you teach right and wrong ( prescribed by Allah SWT) to your children , gradually when they grow up , they will make decisions according to what their parents and of course what Allah wanted a human being to be !

    I homeschool my child since my daughter was 2. MashAllah now she is 2.8 . For us , believe me , this world is our class room . We learn everywhere at its suitable and allotted time to be learnt. I am so much amazed by the abilities I have seen in my daughter mashAllah , she has already known the sounds of letters and she can read three letter words. She reads words from logos of shops , billboards etc. She tries to pronounce them without my help , on her own. See , I do not pressurize her to read and write through a schedule , as it happens in traditional schools. Otherwise , child gets sick of school and doesn’t want to go anymore . And remember , in majority of the cases , if a child wants to go to school , he / she goes for fun . Nobody likes the daily routine , same faces everyday, I have personally experienced it. That was just my view.

    For Islamic brought up , it’s not an another subject , it’s a base for all subjects, which lacks in our schools curriculum sadly. 

    I have been doing Islamic preschool curriculum , u can see at my blog to get ideas with what u can do with your child at home. Introducing Allah , Quran , Prophet Muhammad SAW , HAdith etc .   Check out here for details .
    http://www.ummisubhana.blogspot.com 

    MashAllah , I just read once , twice or thrice , the numbers 1 – 100 to my little girl. She followed them through repetition after wards. 

    Don’t worry , there are lots of resources in the homeschooling world. 

    I see a difference in my child from other children . She is keen to learn more and more whether it would be plants or fishes or shaitan or prophets stories . You name it! MashAllah QadarAllah

    Yes , from the very early age plus the toddlers needs their mothers. At this small age , mothers can work wonders, but they actually dont want to. And unfortunately ,in every society majority of the parents are dependent on whatever schooling system. According to them , ” bachey school chale Jain , zara sukoon ki neend mile ya tv dekhne ka time mile” . Always remember , madrassah begins at home. In a mother’s lap .  I sometimes wonder , how can a mother send her small child to a stranger of whom she does not know??? I don’t know Who said this statement , but it was really well said. And that was ” give me good mothers and I ll give u a good nation” . How true that is ! A child’s base must be made by a mother . She is the only one who can understand her child’s feelings . Whether she is educated or not , she can teach her own child at home , instead she send him/ her to school because this world is following this phenomenon of schooling. Indeed , homeschooling is a blessing , specially in this fitnah age. One thing I would like to add here that u have u noticed ( because it happens a lot in our society ) . Mothers are teaching in schools but do they not teach their child at home ( rather their child is on tution by someone else in evenings) , how fair that is ?

    http://www.ummisubhana.blogspot.com

  14. i have two children and i live in egypt. My son is almost 7 and my daughter is 3 years old. Even though I love homeschooling and read lots about it and tried it with my son for some time, we ultimately came to the decision that for his outgoing, very social personality, school worked best.

    And when we had him at home during the summers, we realized unstructured time simply didn’t work for him. This summer he’s in a summer school that’s part time and also only 3 days a week and it gives him that social stimulation we know he needs and also the down time he needs to just chill out (i.e. free play).

    My daughter on the other hand is a bit different. Her social need is less and she is able to play by herself for longer periods of time than my son ever was. He always seemed to thrive in being/learning in social settings. And now we’re seeing that to be true also with his tutoring: quran tutoring with his freinds has no issues and goes smoothly. With one on one arabic tutoring he’s simply not AS motivated.

    Also I think it really depends on the schooling too. For my daughter’s age I don’t feel the preschools are going to give her anything substantial that we can’t give her at home. In fact, i think we’re probably doing a better job but i also SEE that compared to my son, her psonality is simply an excellent match for homeschooling. Allah knows best.

    for my son, his school has a very balanced islamic atmosphere that enforces alot of islamic behaviors and it also provides opportunities for plays and competitions that we’d be hard pressed to provide at home.

    Interestingly i have another freind who is very knowledgeable about parenting matters..a very knowledgeable muhafaza sister mash’allah with 3 children of her own(a 9 or 10 year old of hers is a hafiz mashallah) and she felt the same(through her own experience and the experience of her freinds) that at some point the boys need to go out ..

    Also, in pakistan it may be that bathrooms are always an issue etc. this may not be the case everywhere..at least its not an issue at his school alhamdulillah and in many schools in egypt alhamdulillah..and the same can be said for several of the other issues.

    Although so often i wished that i could somehow homeschool my son, i realized that for his personality school simply works for now.

    Another intersting point i can share is that my son’s personality is alot like how mine was growing up: i realy enjoyed school. i really needed the social outlet it gave me to be around other children even though at time it was stressful. as for my sister who was much more shy as a child, she hated school and now we all think she woulda been an excellent candidate for homeschooling. too bad we didnt know anythign about it then.

  15. Assalamualaikum! Thanks for posting. Was a very informative read.

    Is there any way I can get in touch with the Mums & Tots organizers…Id love to be a part of it.. am considering HS my 1.5 yr old and still in a dilemma. I posted a comment in your ”about” section.

    Will wait for your response.

    1. وعليكم السلام
      So sorry for not replying earlier!
      You can get in touch with the sister who organizes the Mums N Tots sessions by emailing her at: mauvium@gmail.com. She is Umm Muaz.
      Hope you can join our group and learn from us, insha’Allah.

  16. Assalamu alaykum dear Sister,
    Get your work published in book-form. Those who love books, know that books which you hold in your hands, have a warmer, deeper, more lasting impact than online reading. You will reach more people this way, in sha Allah. And before publishing it, do show your work to righteous, knowledgebale persons so that their feedback may enhance its value.

    1. وعليكم السلام
      I am honored by your suggestion.
      Indeed it is a worthy one. I will definitely see what I can do, insha’Allah.
      Jazakillahu khair for your support.

  17. Asalamalaikum Sadaf Baji,

    I remember when you told me that Aisha is home schooled I was kind of surprised because homeschooling is rare in Pakistan (or that’s what I think),
    I was just wondering till when do you plan on homeschooling your children and won’t it be a problem for her to get admission in a school or college, because from what I think, a report card is required to get admission?

    1. وعليكم السلام
      I hope to homeschool them till grade 8 then enroll them into private tuitions to prepare them for O levels or Matriculation, whichever is a more suitable option at that time, for which they can appear as private candidates.
      If a report card is really needed for registering for these examinations, they can be tested for all the subjects. Hopefully homeschooling would be very common by then even in Pakistan (at the rate at which it is increasing and the school system is collapsing), and I pray that Allah will make an easy way out. Some Ivy league universities in the West already prefer homeschooled teenagers for undergraduate admissions.

  18. Assalamu’alaykum sis..

    Allahuakbar. I’m so amazed with your efforts in doing ‘homeschooling’! It’s so inspiring! MashaAllah..

    Have been reading and still am doing research and learning more on this method of teaching/educating/nurturing children. (Eventhough i’m still single-LOL)

    SubhanAllah. Beautiful insights. Looking forward to learn more from you in this matter inshaAllah!

    ps: once spoke to friends wanted to do homeschooling one day to my (future) kids. Some of their response: negative. Reason-it’s not a norm here in my country. But i believe it’s the opposite! It depends on the parents(knowledge, experience, akhlaq, etc)+close family members+helps of peer parents+supportive surrounding+environment at home itself. But this is my personal observation (still learning!).

    May Allah bless you and your family! Aamin 🙂

  19. very nice mashallah. i myself have 3 kids age 5, 4, and 2.5 yrs. my elder 2 r going to school, nut i am thinking to homeschool them. I am also afraid that i will not be able to handle it properly. would love to hear from u yur daily routine and also how do u manage to get time for yurself.
    we have still about 1.5 months of summer vacation left so will give it a try in this time to see if this is my cup of tea.
    but mashallah u r doing such a great job with yur kids, want to learn so much from u. Hopefully u will write more about it for beginners like me.

  20. asalamualaikum,
    If you could kindly tell me, how did you decide the curriculum for your kids? I’m really stuck on this one. I don’t know where to start.

    1. Wa alaikumus salam,

      I was using the Grade 1 curriculum that my daughter’s school had prescribed for her when I started homeschooling her. This curriculum was by the local Oxford University Press. That is the “official” benchmark by which I “judged” her progress.

      However, the beauty of homeschooling affords us the flexibility to incorporate many more useful books and activities into our children’s “curriculum” in an informal manner, allowing them to learn more in a fun way.

      For that, I visit nearby bookstores and browse websites and blogs. I skim through the books available and then pick and choose according to my children’s interests. My children also receive many books as gifts from relatives and friends, which automatically get added to their informal “curriculum”, so to speak.

      Hope this was of help to you.

  21. Thanks so much! That was helpful. Do you have your kids take exams at some school or do you “pass” them to the next grade yourself? I’m seriously thinking about homeschooling my daughter inshaAllaah.

    1. I think they are too young to take exams, aged only 6 and 4 right now.

      The plan is that once they pass the age of 10-12, I will insha’Allah start training them to sit exams, or they can practice taking exams themselves by revising the official curriculum of matric or O Levels (whichever option we choose then) and by attempting past papers at home by timing themselves.

      If you read up articles about what educationists and school teachers today themselves have to say about the testing and grading system, you will discover that they think that the pressure of taking exams and getting good grades is actually detrimental for a child’s creativity.

      I personally do not think it is important for my children to take or “pass” any exams before the age of 10-12. Allah knows best.

  22. I too don’t believe kids that little should take exams because it’s too much pressure for them and on the parent as well. I just thought that going up to the next grade required them to go through some sort of a test or something.

    I had read A LOT about homeschooling previously but talking to someone who’s doing it really put my mind at ease. JazakAllaah! I hope you didn’t mind me asking the questions and can I contact you again on your blog later?

  23. you are suchhh an inspiration mashaAllah. i was just wondering is it possible to home school your child living in a joint family system? where u are just restricted to one room and every one else has a routine and u have to go by it and there are other external factors that affect ur child and interferences. my husband and i are religiously inclined alhamdolillah but my inlaws arent. t.v is watched regularly in the house and all of those things, how do u manage all of these things? i am 20 and expecting my first born and all these things freak me out really bad. cuz one thing i dont want to mess up in life is raising my baby.

    1. Well, I think living in a joint family can definitely make homeschooling more challenging, depending on two factors: (i) The number of other people/children living in the house, and (ii) the level of support the in-laws give for homeschooling the children.
      TV and in-laws (or any other relatives living in the same home) can make homeschooling difficult for parents, as they facilitate distractions and diversions, as well as undermine the level of control the parents have over their children’s routine, habits and daily schedule.
      Allah knows best.

  24. Asalam Alaikum wa Rahmatu Allah wa Barakatuh,

    My dearest dearest sister,

    I am so grateful to Allah subhaneh wa t’ala that I found this blog!

    I am a 20 year old recent graduate (who is, sadly, not yet married, or have anything of that sort on the horizon) but I have pledged to myself that I want to, one day, home school my children. InshaAllah.

    And I wanted an insight from an Islamic perspective, and Alhadulillah I found your blog 🙂

    Jazake Allah Khair, and I wish you’d put up more tips and experiences. It is really lovely to read and get a realistic view of things.

    One question, have you received any ‘teacher’ training? Or anything that I may need to help me?

    Jazake Allah Khair and May Allah bless you 🙂

  25. Salam,
    Jazakillah for sharing your experiences and methods with us. And above all, may Allah reward you for the effort you put into your children, by making them a source of sadqa e jaria for you.

    No TV! No videogames! Mashaa Allah. I pray that Allah helps me to establish married life and motherhood without these things, inshaa Allah. My question is, what do you do when your children encounter these things in other people’s homes? Still, I suppose that using these things for a little while in someone else’s house is better than having them available in your own home all the time. I guess the key is to get children used to healthy alternatives from the start, so that they don’t feel “deprived”.

    My mother is a primary school teacher and she says that it is VERY obvious which children have parents who are involved in their education. The slow, lazy or uncooperative ones are the ones being taught by hired tutors or by nobody at all. Either that, or they have family problems at home due to which they are too disturbed to learn. She tells every parent to be involved in their children’s education. Parents somehow think that education can be purchased at schools and that they themselves don’t have to participate in it. You don’t need to be a PhD in child psychology to educate your child. You just need to care. The mother of one of her students is uneducated, yet her son tells her how to pronounce the words he needs to learn, then he learns them and repeats them to her and she tells him whether he got them right. And it WORKS. He doesn’t need his mother’s brain, he just needs his mother’s heart.

    The main issue is with parents who had children “as a matter of course”, not because they wanted them. So they just want to engage them in “automatic babysitting” activities like TV. Even early admission of children to preschool is not for their education, it’s for “daycare”. If you have children, then PLEASE take responsibility for them. You’ll only get back from them what you invest in them in the first place. If you don’t invest yourself in them, they won’t invest themselves in you.

    Whoa. I wrote a mini blog post myself, here. I guess I got carried away.

    1. My question is, what do you do when your children encounter these things in other people’s homes?

      They watch for a while but then leave it of their own accord (perhaps they find it boring? I hope so), especially if there are other things to occupy them there, such as toys or a cycle or other interesting objects that they can touch and explore, because it is this latter activity they are more used to, than watching TV. They also like hopping outdoors to explore whenever we visit anyone’s home that has an outdoor courtyard or garden.

      Whoa. I wrote a mini blog post myself, here. I guess I got carried away.

      Thank you for sharing your insights in your comments. Jazakillahu khair!

      I especially found the below part from your comment very valuable:

      You don’t need to be a PhD in child psychology to educate your child. You just need to care. The mother of one of her students is uneducated, yet her son tells her how to pronounce the words he needs to learn, then he learns them and repeats them to her and she tells him whether he got them right. And it WORKS. He doesn’t need his mother’s brain, he just needs his mother’s heart.

  26. MashaAllah truly amazing and praiseworthy, Sadaf Ji i was searching for homeschool groups when i saw this post 🙂 carried me away …… really , u r an inspiration !! I was working on various projects that could benefit all the homeschoolers. Presently designing online Montessori Training programs, maybe you could tell me where to launch …. hoping to talk soon 🙂

    1. Thank you, nj. 🙂 Glad you stopped by and read it.
      May Allah grant you blessings in your endeavors. I am so glad that a talented Muslimah like yourself is contributing to the betterment of the young ones of our ummah. I heard your family recently had an addition, masha’Allah. Wanted to say mabrook!
      Email me at sadaff@hotmail.com with details of your training programs and I might be able to help. A branch of our local homeschooling community is increasing its activities in Islamabad. Maybe you could attend their ladies’ and kids’ events and introduce your work to them?

  27. Greetings from Mansehra. We are also a homeschooler parent and this is our contact detail: Faraz house, D-237, Ghazikot-Township, Mansehra. Tel: 0997-303601 (Nazli & Hidayatullah).
    We would like to have a close contact with all those homschoolers in Pakistan for expierience sharing and motivation.

  28. Asalamualikum,
    I wanted to know if there is a support group for home schooling in lahore. I have a 3year old girl and i want to home school her.

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