My 12 Questions to Homeschoolers [Part1] .

Education is an important element in our children's upbringing. As parents we have a strong desire for our children to excel in this dunya, we are excited from their first words and first steps to their first award from school and it is of the up most importance that we show this enthusiasm to the education of our beautiful religion, Islam which involves teaching our children good morals and beautiful manners. One thing that has been going through my mind for a while now is, is mainstream schools the best form of education for my children? How is it possible to maintain a balance, between giving my children an academic education as well as keeping them grounded in Islamic values when they spend most of their waking hours in schools where whatever Islamic education you may give them at home maybe undone or opposes Islamic teachings? 
So I have been looking into alternative forms of education, one of them being homeschooling. The idea of homeschooling my children is so alien, up until now all I ever knew and know is mainstream education, so naturally it was a very daunting concept that came with many questions. Alhamdolilah I have been introduced to a few groups on Telegram and one of them is all about Islam and parenting, quite a few members are mothers that are successfully homeschooling their children. I contacted a few of them and from that I have 3 different interviews regarding their homeschooling experience. Here is the first interview of the 3. I will be posting the rest each Wednesday  inshAllaah.
 بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

A'salamau alaikum, Jazak’Allaahu khair for agreeing to participate in this short interview. I hope bi’ithnillah to share your experiences as a homeschool educator and to enlighten other mothers and parents with information on alternative forms of education. I also hope to remove any misunderstandings pertaining to homeschooling that I may have as I am sure I will have many.

So please tell us a bit about yourself .

As salaamu alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
I am Mai, a full time housewife. I’m British, married to an American. I have lived in Bahrain for 16 years, Madinah, Saudi Arabia for almost 6 years, and we have a 51 acre farm in New Mexico, where we plan to have a sustainable homestead and Islamic educational retreat.

While we have always intended to homeschool, we have moved through different levels and stages along our 10+ year homeschooling journey. We started using cyber schools in Pennsylvania, moved on to curriculum books and online resources and sites, used a full time online school for our older children for a couple of years, and have finally taken the plunge to establish our own Islamically compliant curriculum, with greater weighting on the Islamic studies than the life skills subjects of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.

 Why have you chosen to homeschool? 

Because it is the best way to educate children according to their own individual needs and abilities, while ensuring that they learn about their religion and the manners and morals central to our beliefs.

How many children have you homeschooled or are home schooling? What are their age ranges?

I have homeschooled 4 children, and currently homeschool the following: 26 month-old boy, 9 year-old girl, 12 year-old girl, 15 year-old girl.

What did you do to first prepare yourself for homeschooling?

I attended college for elementary and early childhood education. I went through home cyber school programs and talked with other families who were homeschooling. I looked at my children’s personalities and strengths, to see how best to approach their learning path. My husband has played an active role in developing the curriculum and teaching certain subjects or special focus classes to the children. He has a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction.   

What are the hardest challenges you have dealt with?

Motivating the lazy child, discipline/work ethic, teaching to different levels.

You hear a lot of people saying that homeschooled children are socially deprived or are somewhat lacking in social interaction. What would you say to this?

I would say that it is the exact opposite. Studies have proven that homeschooled children are far more mature, responsible, and motivated. Because my children interact with their parents for schooling and very select, hand-picked family friends, they have far better manners and can relate to others with more confidence. Rather than develop the insecurities associated with peer pressure and bullying, they talk to peers and adults with ease and have far more interesting things to talk about.

How do you find the balance to do everything else such as worshiping Allaah, cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.?

Everything is included in our homeschooling schedule. It isn’t just a schedule for the classes, but a schedule/system for the whole day, every day of the week. In this way, nothing suffers bi idhn Illah.

What has been the most successful part of homeschooling?

Seeing the abilities and creativity of my children flourish and reach beautiful heights al hamdul’Illah. Teaching what we, and Islaam, say is important.

What are the negative elements of homeschooling and how do you combat them?

Establishing a strong, independent work ethic and motivating the lazy child. I make dua’ and try to find incentives and psychological tactics to motivate and guide.

What teaching methods do you use and where do you get your materials and resources from?

We teach, assess, test, and cross over curriculum so that connections are made between the different subjects. We try to focus on student-centered learning, where the students express, implement, and apply what they learn through their own, original work. This can take the form of posters, essays, speeches, self-improvement plans, etc.

Materials come from selected books for each subject and online resources. For example, 40 Hadith was done in conjunction with the explanation of 40 Hadith (book) and the online quizzes from Islaamthestudyguides. We enrolled in a Herbal First Aid Course, so everyone can learn for science, as well as using the Permaculture Handbook. We chose a teach-yourself book for accounting, which is this year’s math curriculum for our girls. It is relevant because they will have their own business selling homemade, organic natural bodycare products when we move to our farm in the summer inshaa Allah. All the curriculum is geared to meet the needs of our life, maashaa Allah.

We also actively work at developing our chlldrens’ critical thinking. For example, my husband is currently doing classes with them using the book, The Fallacy Detective. This will be a 1-2 month course aimed at teaching real-life, logical thinking, maashaa Allah. We do not use any canned curriculum or follow anyone else’s school program.

Another worry people have with homeschooling is the cost. How realistic is it to teach efficiently on a tight budget?

I don’t think it has to cost much or anything as there are enough downloadable free books and resources to be able to teach. The cost of school stationery and your time is really what is needed. At present we don’t have any libraries in Madinah, but any families with libraries at their disposal could easily borrow books for their curriculum. They could even do some of the homeschooling in the library, so the children can avail of the reference section for research and really explore topics thoroughly.

What advice/tips would you give for parents who want to start homeschooling their children?

Homeschooling is an educational adventure you will embark on WITH your children. Be prepared to learn a whole lot while teaching them, and together with them. It is an opportunity for you to learn together, and this is especially pertinent to Islamic studies. If you want to learn about the 99 names of Allah, it can be part of your Islamic studies curriculum and you can learn with your children; everyone benefits. We are currently learning the science of hadith, something I've wanted to learn about for years but didn’t have the personal time for. Now, it is a win-win situation, as I am teaching the children and learning myself, al hamdul’Illah!

Not everything has to be as entertaining as a cartoon or as visual as a big craft exhibition. That is not the teaching of the Salaf at all, radhi Allahu anhum, and we don’t want to inculcate that primary focus on fun and elaboration to learn things that must be learned.

Are there any forms of reading that you would recommend for those who are interested in home schooling their children?

Read about how the Sahaabah learned and the form of studying for Muslims in different parts of the world. Read books about child raising, particularly Raising Children in Light of the Qur’aan and Sunnah, by ‘Abdus—Salaam bi ‘Abdillaah as-Sulaymaan so you have a set of ground rules to follow. Also, go to the well-known Islamic homeschooling sites/blogs, such as Taalibuddin, Our Precious Sprouts, AbbiHomeschools Me too, etc.

I would recommend reading online about the teaching philosophies and approaches of Montessori and Waldorf, John Holt, and Charlotte Mason. Charlotte Mason’s set of books is particularly useful, even though she writes from a religious perspective as a Christian. It is a set worth having, as it aligns with Islamic principles in many aspects and covers the whole child – from birth, parenting, health, schooling, and socialization – and Allah Knows best.

you can find more about Mai's homeschooling methods on her blog