Chronicles of the School Seeker I

I recently embarked on a grand journey of epic proportions, mind you, and it may finally be coming to an end. I made the preparations, consulted experienced travelers, and kept logs of my travels. What is it, you ask, am I referring to? To find the perfect schooling for my first born son. (Go ahead, laugh!)

I first thought of beginning this journey when my son turned four years old. “So will he begin school this year?,” many people asked me. “School?” I thought, “So early? He’ll have the rest of his life to go to school”. In any case, to put my mind at ease, I drew up lists of schools to look at and visit. Cooperative preschools, Waldorf preschools, Montessori preschools, an Islamic preschool, riding center day school, you name it, I checked it. After istikhara, visits, family discussions, and checking my good ole’ maternal-instinct-“omometer ,“ we decided to delay schooling for another year and create our own brand of school-at-home (oh, what do you call it, right, homeschooling!). At around this time, Allah (swt) blessed us with rizq in the form of another like-minded mama with children the same age as mine and we decided to collaborate for their pre-K year together. And so, I packed my bags and returned home from this brief trek to the unknown.

That was a year ago.

Now let’s update the situation at hand: our third child is born last winter, our daughter hits the “terrible two’s,” and I am one frazzled mama! We had a nice thing going with our pre-K program at home in cooperation with my “soul-sister-mama,” (a term she lovingly comes up with). It unravels itself and falls into shambles for a couple of months after I have the baby. We settle down and reinvent life as we know it with three kids under the age of five!

And then my panic sets in as spring comes around and our son is going to turn five by summertime. I start looking at my old travel logs. It’s time to begin this journey again. I inform my friend, who is solid in her decision to homeschool (which I wish I were!) and she encourages me to explore my options, but expects me to come to my senses and continue together the following year.

I begin making calls to book tours at different schools. My first trip is to an Islamic school. I talk to the KG teacher, see the curriculum, pick her brain with questions. Nice, I think to myself. Small class size, loving atmosphere, Islamic setting. But (and there’s always a ‘but’), will it stifle his creativity, will it ‘box’ him in? I start feeling a little separation anxiety (a little premature, you think?). My answer comes in the form of a new job my husband gets which takes him in the opposite direction to the school. It would be too much for me to trek twice a day with all the kiddies. And so we think our istikhara is answered – logistically this won’t work out.

Okay, so it’s homeschooling then, right? I slowly begin to gain confidence in this new life-altering decision when I pick up a book, Boys Adrift, about how and why boys are falling behind in school and in life. Among other things, it talks about how early emphasis on reading doesn’t align with boys’ brain development because those areas of the brain simply aren’t fully developed yet at that age. Okay, I think, we continue more play-based learning at home and outdoors, a lot of library time, nature center programs, the freedom to look at any and all topics he’s interested in.

My friend is thrilled, I’ve wavered long enough, we can get to the task of planning out the fall.

I keep that decision, oh, about a total of 15 minutes! What happened you ask? I buckled. I think to myself one day, in the midst of cleaning up a third potty-training mishap and trying to salvage an almost burnt dinner, wait, I can barely make a trip to the restroom at home and now I have to be a kindergarten teacher?! I was looking forward to the time, as the kids began getting older, when I could pick up with my own studies and begin building my career again. With homeschooling, haven’t I completely given up on this?! I’m truly amazed and in utter admiration of women who are so at peace with their decision to homeschool and they relish in the experience. Can I really do that?! And it is true that whenever we ask our son about school, he says he’s interested, an answer he’s never given us before. So maybe we have to keep looking…

Fariha Khan

Fariha Khan lives in Maryland and is blessed with one daughter and two sons. She loves reading, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends.

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  • Amane

    ” I’m truly amazed and in utter admiration of women who are so at peace with their decision to homeschool and they relish in the experience. Can I really do that?! ”

    I hear ya! May Allah reward you! I hope you find the best solution soon and are peaceful with it.

  • http://oldmuslimwomanintheshoe.blogspot.com Aishah

    Asalaamu Alaikum

    I’m having almost the exact same experience right now right down to making the salatul istikhara prayer. Still not sure what to do when fall comes. We shall see what Allah has in store for us.

  • Maliha

    Salamaat ya Fariha, I am sure your soul-sister-mama friend is yawning right about now, checking the time, and waiting for you to come to your senses once more so you can get on with the fun year ahead :) All it takes is about three good days in a row, and if you would just lower your expectations like *cough* some of us and make it three good *moments* in a row, we are all set…so there’s still hope yet :)

    But if you insist….I am pretty sure that soul-sis-mama friend of yours will always be around, texting you and harassing you to come out and play already!

    But then again, I wouldn’t know, would I? :)

  • fatima

    lol, i love soul sis mama and main sis mama. fariha, this is so timely for me. guess which boat i’m in? :)

  • Maha

    Maliha, three-good-moments-in-a-row! Yes, that’s where I am. Just trying to find those three good moments. And staying relaxed as possible when I can’t get them.

    Fariha, loved the post by the way. I think it describes what we all go through, at different points. I think one thing that helped me feel so comfortable with my decision was reminding myself that this isn’t IT. I can decide one thing, and a few months later decide otherwise. I can go with one solution this year, and next year, go back to square one. I think most of us will constantly be reevaluating our choices. It doesn’t have to be homeschooling or Islamic school or public school FOREVER. Just for as long as it works.

  • ummossama

    AA Fariha,

    Loved reading your post!! Insha’allah you will be guided to the decision that will be best for your child and family.

  • Fariha

    ya soul-sister-mama – ha ha, I knew you would give your ‘testimony’ here! Yes Maha, I think I’m also finding comfort in the fact that this isn’t set in stone….make duaa for all of our kiddies!

  • Fasiha

    I love it! As a casual observer of your decision making process and reading in the comments sentiments how your sentiments are echoed by others undergoing the same struggles makes me appreciate the thought and dedication you put forth towards your babies. May Allah reward all of you for your commitment :)

    We’re eagerly waiting for the next chapter…

    Oh, and if you at some point choose homeschooling, just know their kumama is all for teaching them history…of the world! :P

  • Fasiha

    I love it! As a casual observer of your decision making process and reading in the comments section how your sentiments are echoed by others undergoing the same struggles makes me appreciate the thought and dedication you put forth towards your babies. May Allah reward all of you for your commitment :)

    We’re eagerly waiting for the next chapter…

    Oh, and if you at some point choose homeschooling, just know their kumama is all for teaching them history…of the world! :P

  • Mombeam

    as-salaamu `alaykum. I have always homeschooled my kids, my oldest is 10 and I have 4 altogether. I want to assure you that as committed to homeschooling as I am, there have been MANY days when I second-guessed my decision, threatened to send the kids to school, even at some point almost had the decision made that I was done with homeschooling. But you know what, those were just the difficult days. When you begin homeschooling, most moms start out with the idea that they’re going to do “school at home” and that they have to be a “teacher”. Moms go and buy tons of curriculum, develop a strict schedule and then give up when they see that it’s not possible to do it that way. Over time, however, those of us who stay in the fray start to be able to tease apart what is really necessary and what can be accomplished through play, independent study, and what aspects of elementary education are really unnecessary– like, my kids don’t need to do worksheets on the characteristics of ocean animals. They can learn that through natural means. They’ll learn more playing blocks together. You will find the right balance for family of structure versus free time. We personally do school year-round to allow for weeks off during the “school year”. We use some structured curriculum and do some unschooling. So don’t think that all of us who homeschool are totally having an easy time of it. We all have our bad days. The trick lies in recognizing that things will be bumpy, and in having the flexibility to work with those bumps.

  • UmOsama

    i guess we’re on the same boat Fariha…..even with older kids we still are trying to choose the best option for our kids….may allah guide us all to what is right for our children….loved your post JAK

  • Maha

    School Seeker, I hope you post more of your chronicles!

  • Fariha

    Mombeam, never for one shred of a second did I think that homeschooling mamas are “totally having an easy time of it” — it’s quite the opposite I know! And that’s exactly where I am questioning myself — do I have what it takes, because it will test every fiber of my existence! Am so in admiration of you and your colleagues! :)

    Maha, coming soon…:)

    Fasiha, we know what happened the last time you tried to teach history of the world — it backfired!!


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