Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Special moments of homeschooling life

Assalamu alaikum,

I wanted to share with all of you a special moment of our homeschooling life.

A bit of history first. :) When I started out homeschooling with my kids, I wasquite up-tight about the goals I wanted to achieve with them. We followedcourse-books quite strictly, I planned their activities for every subject onweekly basis, I recorded in a diary their daily progress and tried to keep ourhomeschooling life on quite strict tracks. Well, needless to say, soon Irealized that such strictness was but only a burden on kids and on me. So as thetime went on, I relaxed about the requirements, scheduling (plus the rest of'official' stuff) and slowly drifted towards a more child-centered learningenvironment.

I've always been reading with great admiration the stories of families, who havechosen to do away with any kind of curriculum and let the kids themselvesdetermine, what they want to learn, at what time and at what speed. Although Iknow that this completely child-directed learning model is not quite fit for thetype of family that we are, from time to time, through daily experiences I'velearned to trust my kids more and more regarding what they are able to achieveon their own.

With all the long intro in mind, what I wanted to share with you is my thismorning's experience with my kids, which once again proved to me that kids CANdo great things. When I woke up this morning, I found that my 8 yrs old son isnot in his bed. As I was wondering, where he could be, he came into the room allfresh and happy to announce to me that he has done 3 pages of his grammar book,2 sections of his Arabic practice workbook and has read a chapter from hisreading book! He topped it all with a happy smile and announcement that he'sdone with his studies for today. Well, what could I answer? I had to say OK. :)

My 5 yrs old daughter is not reading yet. She's been doing lots of writing andreading related activities but so far hadn't expressed any wish to start to readon her own. I had decided to leave her alone (struggling with my wish to'teach!' her how to read) and see, when exactly she would decide that she needsto learn to read. Today, I wanted to give her a slight push for starting toread. So I picked up the first book of Mr. Rayed's published MAZE readersseries, gave it to her and said that I was sure she could read it all byherself. She had previously looked through the book together with me many times,but had always preferred not to read it JUST YET. :) Today, she decided to giveit a try. So she got sarted and slowly read the first few pages with some smallhints from my side. Then she realized that she actually CAN read it and kept onreading, reading and reading... till the end of the entire book AT A FLUENTSPEED! The vocabulary of the book consists of merely 22 words, of course, buther effort and determination to get through all the 23 pages of reading trylyamazed me! Subhanallah! The best thing about this her reading experience,though, was her genuine excitement of being able to do it and the empowermentshe felt about finally mastering the words all by herself.:) Now I have to add to this that I've never bothered her with endless pages of phonics exercises orany other 'official' school stuff of how kids are 'supposed' to learn to read. I helped her to learn the alphabet, time to time tried to draw her attention tohow words look like and how to sound them out and, of course, read a lot ofstories to her. And this proved to be quite enough, Alhamdulillah.

Now to finish all of this, I have to admit that mornings like these are notusual in our home. Just like any kids, also my kids have their ups and downs,when it comes to studies. But it is mornings like these, when I see the joyabout learning in their eyes, that make me more confident about the choice tohomeschool. I'm just happy they can go at their own pace, speeding up, whennecessary, and slowing down, when required.



  1. From sister Maryam:

    phew :) that is encouraging to hear mashAllah. When teaching children, often we are too eager to meet goals we have set in our minds, not caring for the child's interest, pace or mood. i sometimes find myself reading to my little one, wanting to "finish" the book whether he's bored or interested. i guess it'll take some time to unschool myself.

    what helps me sometimes to deal with children is the hadith the gist of which is "you are not a believe till you want for your brother that which you want for yourself" and i think this applies to children too.

    too often we threaten kids by saying if you don't listen to me, you won't get to watch cartoons. or if you clean up the mess ill buy you an ice cream. we do not realise how frustrating constant threats and rewards can be. i felt this when once my 8 yr old neice was in karachi. she had some puzzle of the world map which i was really eager to see. we were at the breakfast table and i told her to bring it. at the same time my mother asked me to change out of my night clothes. i was dilly dallying and not going. i kept asking shanze "dikhao na puzzle" and then she said, "no, not till you go change". i felt such helplessness at that moment, that my eagerness to see the puzzle died down.

    children must feel this way about learning, when we are constantly tying one task with either a threat or reward. it's a slow, painful process to teach kids the need to do a certain thing for itself, or abstain from it because it is wrong, without having to attach unrelated consequences.


  2. From sister Sabheen:

    Walaikum assalam,

    Firstly, reading your email was a joy Laila as I could truely feel what you might have been feeling.

    My 8yr daughter Imaan is being home educated since the end of the last school year.
    She has also been memorising the Quran, however without the 'typical' qari sahab ordeal.... where qari sahab comes home.....child suddenly develops a stomach ache and has all sorts of excuses to avoid that 30min session.

    Please don't get me wrong I have nothing against qaris. However most of the time, the spirit is lost in the manner with which the
    quran is taught and hence the child lacks developing the love and understanding of the Quran.

    Well, I don't claim to have the perfect methodology but currently since we are away from home, my daughter is continuing with her memorisation through a quran memorisation CD from Egypt.

    She independently listens to the recitation over and over again with her mushaf asking me for help when needed, and then proceeds to memorizing it herself. The excitement she shares when she's memorised ayats that she had aimed for that day is wonderful to share.
    Once she's done memorising some ayats or the surah, she then speaks with her father on skype where she recites to him and he guides and corrects her where necessary. Subhanallah, the joy on her face when her father says "Masahallah!"

    Just a few days ago, she had an idea where she wanted to write down the translation of Surah Fatiha in her personal diary. Again, the feeling of ownership she displayed upon completing the goal she had set for herself.

    Alhamdulillah. ....our Rabb has placed so much joy and satisfaction in sharing the learning that they do as a natural part of themselves.

    Secondly, I couldn't agree more with Maryam's reflection on the hadith. I witnessed that with my 5yr old daughter, Huda. For example, she enjoys telling her stories at the dinner table and hence is one of the last ones to finish. Hence, my logic tells me that I should sternly tell her to finish her food completely and then talk. What ends up happening is that I want to share my thoughts at the dinner table and no sooner is Huda ready to remind me that I asked her not to talk, yet I'm talking!

    What helps is remembering our childhood feelings and using those feelings to help us negotiate with the little ones. Thus developing a sense of trust between us .....inshallah.

    Allahuakbar! ......the list goes on and on....as I have a 21/2 yr old daughter who already knows her colours and concepts of big and small, etc without the monotonous workbook methodolgy where knowledge is detached from the real world (at this age).
    Just interacting with her siblings and the rest of the family, allows her to learn these things in such a natural manner..... rather than a class room full of other 2-3yr olds and 2 or 3 grown ups, forcing them ALL to say things that they can't relate to in that setting..... . and hence totally defying the purpose of 'learning'!

    In conclusion, may Allah swt guide us to that which makes our children the future Ummah that is swaleh and values the importance of knowledge with 'aml and thus strives for the establishment of His Deen - Ameen

    Sabheen Khan

  3. Jazakillahu khairan for sharing this experience with us, Laila!

    I hope all homeschooling parents will continue to share such miletones/special moments with us in order to inspire us to take the leap towards Home Ed.

  4. By Umm Adam:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Jazakillah khair Laila for sharing your moments with us. I absolutely agree with you on everything u said. I started out homeschooling the same way as u did but soon tired out. We are learning the real n easy way now. Mashallah though my kids Adam 5 n a half n Muhammad 3 n a half might be behind their fellows in one thing but ahead of them in many other things as well. For instance Adam knows how to operate computer, write on Microsoft word, play his favorite CD of Quran, write and send messages from my cell, even drive our car! Believe it or not but when I’m driving (he’s very nosy and sometimes gets time-out for that) he insists that he do that indicator since he knows the way right or left, and the shift (we have automatic) handbreak, lights, wiper, when we go for gas filling he opens the filler cap, loads and unloads the trunk, and knows almost as much abt cars as me!. He goes to buy groceries n mashallah does the calculation on his calculator very well n quick. And last week when I needed to remove some plants and change their location he did the digging n the transplanting all by himself so well, although the plants were a bit taller than him and the roots quite deep.

    I heard him talking with his neighbor friend farooq the other day. Farooq was obviously surprised and proud that he goes to school n knows so many things that Adam doesn’t. I wish I could tape their argument so u could listen. Farooq is in 3rd grade but mashallah I never feel that Adam is embarrassed or shy abt not going to school. Once I gave him some sums n he was hiding behind a tree from me(I want him to do them on his own) working them on his calculator, Farooq saw it n was interested. He had never seen a calculator before and so when Adam was showing him all the functions like plus minus n times he taught him like a big boy n then with a grin ended. “u never get to see calculators in schools do u ?” it really made me laugh.

    Sabheen Im really happy abt ur daughter memorizing Quran at home. I memorized Quran at madrasa in my very early childhood. I finished when I was 8. BUT I soon forgot pretty much n the years have left a scar on me against the hifz madrasas. No offense, Iam a madrasa teacher myself. And when I started teaching my kid n had a Maulana come, the very first day he asked Adam ( at that time he was 2 n a half)whether he wanted to be a chicken in case he forgets his lesson. As Adam looked at him incredulously my niece chirped. “He doesn’t know how to be a chicken but I can show u how to be a frog” n on she went hopping.

    I rememorized Quran later by myself when I was 12 n that’s when I really LOVED it. I used to read n write the meaning under the ayah and the effect it had was amazing, I do the same thing with Adam, he learns much faster if I tell him the meanings also. I have bought a Darus salam mp3 with Quran n English translation n we listen to it all the time. The voice is very good n clear and the kids including lil Muhammad just love it. So im teaching Adam at home n mashallah he has memorized the last 11 surahs and a few ayats from Surah Yaseen , Mulk n Kahf. My mother is quite AGAINSt homeschooling. She insists that her kid (that’s me) learned so much from Madrasa n school, having finished Quran so early and all that, but I insist that inshallah my kids (that’s Adam n Muhammad n others inshallah) r going to LEARN much more than her kid!! Fair competition eh? J hope Allah helps. Ameen.

    May Allah accept our efforts and enhance them for the benefit of Islam and Muslims. We have no power or talent if He is not there for us. Ameen.

    Asslamu alaikum