How I Homeschool

There are so many ways to homeschool, and most homeschoolers will tell you that they don’t question whether or not to homeschool – but rather HOW.   I’m not sure exactly what to call what we do, although others have come up with “unschooling”, “learning at home”, “self-directed education” and “child-centered learning,” among others.  What we don’t do is have a school at our home.  Homeschooling, however referred to, and whatever the methodology, just means that parents are taking on the responsibility of educating their children rather than relying solely on a public or private institution.   It doesn’t mean that the child’s learning is literally at a desk in a remote corner of their home.

Parents not only have the responsibility of making decisions otherwise made by school officials, they also have the privilege of managing the content of their children’s academic pursuits and directing their social activities as well.  With parents in charge, children have the opportunity to explore the world around them and learn to act and interact in their environment at their own pace.  They are never ahead or behind.   Learning and living are meshed – just as Islam is with life, not separate from it.  We are not just Muslims at prayer time or on Friday or only on Eid, and children are not just learning from 8:00 to 3:00 inside a building down the road.

For our family, homeschooling provides our children with the opportunity to learn by living and experiencing the world outside of 4 walls.  They have regular and meaningful interaction with adults and children of different ages and from all walks of life.  Our time is not organized around the hours or holidays of the school.  We can visit places during the week that we otherwise couldn’t set a foot in on a crowded weekend.  We travel off-peak.  We can attend late night activities at the masjid without being concerned about unfinished homework sheets.  The kids can eat when they’re hungry, and move when they want, use the bathroom when needed, take naps when they’re exhausted – without waiting for an appointed time or special permission (other than from mom or dad, of course).  They can take the time they need to understand a concept or absorb information without having to switch gears at the sound of a bell.   Their learning is hands-on and constant.  

Other than the usual roundup of parenting skills, a homeschooling parent may just need a little extra patience, more active listening skills, and a keen awareness of their child’s educational development.  Beyond that, a degree of resourcefulness comes in handy too.  Our communities are filled with people and places to learn from, if we can just take the time and effort to find out.   Inevitably, taking on this task also takes accepting less “me-time” and living in a less than show-case-perfect home, as mom’s attention will surely be on other things.    A homeschooling parent’s work is also hands-on and constant.

Susan Assaf

Susan lives in Maryland and is a homeschooling mom of 4 growing munchkins.

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring the reasons that families choose different approaches to education. Read an author’s take on public education and stay tuned for other alternative approaches.

  • Marwa

    Salaam Susan :) Thank you for sharing your insights into homeschooling. It is very beneficial to get a glimpse into this perspective, especially for me, a new mother. I look forward to reading more of your reflections!

  • Dalal

    JAK, this post made homeschooling very appealing. I’m wondering if there are any comments about the downsides?

  • Maha

    Dalal, here’s my take on the downsides. There are downsides to every choice related to our children’s education, but you deal and tackle those downsides and turn them into advantages. The question is-what set of downsides and risks are you best equipped and willing to handle as a mother/teacher?
    The downsides of homeschooling have been listed so much that they are becoming cliche, but a lot of homeschooling parents attempt to avoid them all together compensating for socialization, immersing their children in all kinds of projects and activities, etc. The two biggest ones are probably isolation (which can be overcome by a conscious teacher-parent) and the effort-patience-attention-balancing required.

  • Sana K

    JazakiAllahu khayran for this! I’ve been playing with the idea of homeschooling my daughter and have recently become part of a homeschool co-op group with other Muslim mothers in the community. This is truly a wonderful experience and learning process for both my daughter and I. Please keep the posts coming, I’m eager to read your thoughts.

  • suma

    another downside and a reason that many do not homeschool is that it is not requires a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice on the part of the mom..delaying interests,hobbies,careers,…it’s a full time job. Only those that are totally convinced and committed to the idea will be able to hang in there for the the entire journey.

  • Anonymous

    Suma, what you are describing sounds like motherhood period. My mother didn’t homeschool us, but she sacrificed and put her dreams on hold and stood by us…and there’s still the hours of homework, and shuttling around town after school, and trying to insert religious studies in the margins of public school…Tarbiyya/nurturing/educating these precious souls we have in our hands, is hard no matter what option we choose.

    A mother would put in the same hours into a different school option but really minus the autonomy that the family and ultimately child has in directing their education to their interest.

    Motherhood is hard period. And these decisions are not easy. But let’s not conflate the sacrifices that any mother has to make with a homeschooling mother.

  • Susan

    JAK for your comments. I think no matter how we choose to educate our children, it takes a whole lot of patience and sacrifice and effort. The “downside” is different for everyone. Because we live in a bustling metropolitan area, our family doesn’t have difficulty with isolation – on the contrary! However, with children by my side from morning to night I have very little time for my own pursuits and keeping my house straight is like shoveling the walk in a blizzard!

  • OumAhmed

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  • Ambata

    Great article. I toy with the idea of homeschooling my two year old when he reaches school age because I feel there aren’t many good schools but I honestly don’t know if I have the patience for that and I’m ok with that. I think when we hear about homeschooling we get defensive if we aren’t doing it or pursuing it but as Susan says it requires lots of patience and having experience with teaching at different age groups I can attest to that. No matter which way you go, you’ll be teaching/supplementing their education. We are always our children’s first and most beloved teacher.