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