10 Facts about homeschooling (for beginners)

What is homeschooling like? why to homeschool for beginner

Assalamo alaykum.

After being blessed with the ability to homeschool for a few years, this has become my normality. I don’t do school runs. I never know when the half-term holidays are. But I must remember that, for the majority of people out there, we are the weird ones (do our kids even speak English? do we ever get out of our pyjamas?).

There is a lot to say about homeschooling, for the benefit of the novice, as well as give the seasoned homeschooler some fresh food for thought, insha’Allah.

And since downloading information from one brain to another hasn’t been invented yet (and I hope it never will. It hasn’t been invented, right???) here are 10 facts for you, who have home education on your mind.

1. It is legal

Unless you are seriously out of touch with current affairs, you will know that homeschooling is legal in the United Kingdom, as it is in a lot of other countries worldwide, alhamdulillah. Then why mention this? to remind myself and you that, on your worst day of homeschooling, you should be grateful that your family has this choice in the first place. The freedom to have a say in what, when and how your children learn is a great blessing (even on the days you wish you could send them to school in a different continent!). After a bit of research, I was unable to find out the legal status of homeschooling in all countries of the world… it seems that in some places the law is unclear (sadly most Muslim countries appear to be in that predicament in case you are wondering…). Anyway, here’s a map where you can see where else in the world we enjoy this freedom insha’Allah!

2. It is nothing new

Over the last couple of centuries, human life has changed more rapidly than ever before. For millennia children have been taught things; they have learned everything they needed to know independently, either with the help of their family members or, less frequently, through other individuals. Schooling has been institutionalised and made obligatory only at the end of the 19th century. Children have been systematically made to learn in classrooms as we know them for less than 200 years: Very little when compared to the span of human existence. But, as I said, this relatively short time in history has changed people’s life beyond recognition. School has rapidly become synonym with learning; in fact, it has been inculcated in our minds that is “the one and only” avenue to learning. However, it takes only a little reading or looking around to see that: a) school doesn’t always work well and b) there are some truly inspiring and amazing adventures to be had if one chooses to educate their children independently.

Brilliance, invention, ingenuity and a the potential for a fulfilling life were available before school was invented and insha’Allah they can certainly be achieved outside of it!

3. It is increasingly popular

According to the BBC, the number of homeschooled children in the UK has risen 40% over the last 3 years. It is estimated that there are 50,000 homeschooled children in the UK, but the actual number is probably a lot higher, since this figure account only for children who have been in the school system at some point. Anyway you look at it, there is quite a lot of us. This has its perks:

  • People will be more aware they have the choice to homeschool (and be homeschooled!);
  • It makes us look (and feel) less weird;
  • Prejudice against homeschoolers will be increasingly challenged;
  • More homeschoolers in a given place virtually means more activities organized for their children;
  • More parents in your same situation meaning more potential for reciprocal inspiration and support;
  • More children educated independently means more children (and, some day insha’Allah, more adults) that have not been through the social and intellectual constraints of mainstream education.

Alhamdulillah, it is good news all around.

4. It is doable

By law you are not required to have any formal qualifications to home educate and certainly you do not need a degree to be able to do an amazing job as a home educator. It will help if you have ever been in school (or been homeschooled yourself!) or if you have ever studied or learned anything… and who in the world hasn’t?! If you can understand primary school maths, then you can help your child to learn it too. And if you do not understand or remember primary maths (or grammar, or French… anything really) you can easily look it up and quickly prepare.

What you really need to be able to home educate – and you cannot do it without – is:

  • Seek Allah’s help
  • Be a committed and caring parent
  • Give a big chunk of your daily time
  • Be curious, willing to learn,open minded

If you lack teaching and organisation skills, don’t worry: they will come with time and practice, insha’Allah.

5. The whole family will learn

Picture this: mom doesn’t really understand chemistry (she never did… and – to be honest – she could live without it!…); her 10 year old cannot get his head around reactions between metals and acids. Mom looks it up (on books, Google, Youtube…) and – BEHOLD – she gets it! She shares her discovery with her child (ok, technically, she has not discovered those reactions… but you see what I mean. Don’t ruin her moment!); anyway,the child gets it too! They excitedly communicate their success to Dad, who gets to learn something new. Meanwhile the 3 year old, who has been hovering around and listening, is now pretend playing “stirring magnesium in a sulfate solution” in her play kitchen.

10 Facts about homeschooling for beginners

6. It is all about relationships

When you home educate, your relationship with your children changes. It is not something to maintain and then develop at the weekend and in the holidays, when you get to spend more time together. No. They are with you pretty much all the time, so the interaction is far greater in length and intensity. Plus – because you are now taking on the new role of teacher or “manager” of their education – they are sure to find new and “exciting” ways to test you to the limit. Not because they are evil and the want to see you fail; it is what children do. They test their boundaries.

I don’t really know what it is like to be a mom whose kids attend school, but of course I have close friends and family who are. I imagine that their relationship with their children is like a garden. A British one. Beautiful and well cared for. It takes a lot of work to keep it looking good and tidy, especially in the Spring and Summer. And at any time of the year there are jobs to do if you want those flower beds to be healthy and those trees to bear fruit.

In a homeschooling setup, on the other hand, the relationship you get is like the jungle: a tangle. It grows in such ways that it cannot be tidied and managed aside from hacking a path through it. You have to forage for spontaneous fruits, which it gives plentifully. Sometimes they are colorful exotic things you have never seen before. Its greenery is such that it is perfectly capable of gobbling up whole cities (huge pyramids and all!). It is hot and humid and bothersome. Its abundance supports more life than anywhere else. And, although some of its fruits might give you the odd bout of diarrhoea, it is the place where tremendous things are waiting to be discovered.

You tell me, which one of the two scenarios holds more mystery, more interest and more life?

7. It is flexible

Glorious flexibility: one of the main factors in many people’s choice to home educate. What not everybody considers though is that, while it is generally speaking an advantage, in some settings the lack of a given framework can turn out to be a liability. It is down to us to enjoy the freedom of homeschooling: it is a good “power” and one that must be employed wisely if we want to harvest its fruits. Too much structure kills the enjoyment and excitement of learning; it must also be said though, that complete anarchy is not very conductive to learning either. Homeschooling allows you to choose what to study, when, where, how… and in certain cases even “if”. However, to avoid education and family life spiralling into mayhem, some organization skills and sticking-with-it-ness are needed. You don’t have to have a schedule, but having a routine in place can be very helpful (If you are wandering what’s the difference between “schedule” and “routine” watch this video or this one by Julie Bogart from Brave Writer). Some families are very comfortable going with the flow, and that too is absolutely fine, as long as you “go”!

8. It comes with multiple rewards

The lightbulb moments you will witness on your children’s faces will abundantly make up for all the time you felt overstretched, over tired, over everything! But there is another side to rewards, a deeper, more meaningful and more lasting one: The reward from Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

{One who guides to something good has a reward similar to that of its doer.}

[collected by Muslim]

Be the one who directs your child to beneficial knowledge and action upon it: he gets rewarded and so do you.

Be the one who who teaches your child do pray salah: everytime she prays she gets rewarded and so do you.

Be the one who teaches your child to read Arabic: everytime he reads Qur’an he gets rewarded and, (you guessed it) so do you.  

Be the one who teaches your child a hadeeth from the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) and clarify to her what’s the use of it and how to apply it in her life. Her good deeds will pile up and so will yours, insha’Allah.

Let’s not underestimate this absolute bounty from Allah and consider: Why share it with a teacher if we can do it ourselves?

9. It is part of the job description

I am not saying that all parents whose kids go to school are failing to fulfil their parental duties. There are families whose circumstances genuinely make it impossible to do.

What I am saying is: Let’s not be of those Muslims that just automatically dump their kids in whatever school is around the corner without giving any thought; or of those who hink homeschooling is great in principle but, because they are not qualified teachers or don’t have a university degree, they are somehow “off the hook” and school is their only option.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

{O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire whose fuel is men and stones.}

[surah at-Tahreem 66:6]

And our Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

{Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. […] A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them.}

[collected by Bukhari and Muslim]

The scholars of our time have also guided the Muslims to avoid letting their children being educated in the schools of the non believers for fear their nature and their faith would be corrupted.

Knowing the above, the least we can do is to think and consider what options are really available to our family when it comes to the upbringing of our children.

Academics are not the only aspect that must be weighed in the decision: the priority should be the quality of the environment we consign our kids to for 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 14 formative years of their life; years in which their characters are at their most malleable and their minds at their most susceptible. If you have looked around and we are not happy with the local schools, do not accept it as an inevitability that your child must attend public school. Why not consider taking charge of their education yourself?

It is not mandatory for every Muslim mother on earth to home educate, but it is part of her duties – and a big part at that – to give the highest priority to raising her children well, even when some personal or professional ambition may need to be scaled down or put on the back burner for a while, to make space for this new job.

10. It is a job

Have you ever met or listened to someone who truly loves his job? I remember an elderly scientist in a documentary, in a jungle somewhere, hanging from a rope up in the canopy, chuckling with the utmost delight as he collected what – to the untrained eye – looked like the umpteenth, unremarkable, little bug. He was grinning from ear to ear as he explained the absolute wonder that was that bug; I wouldn’t say I envied him, but his passion was quite infectious!

This all consuming passion for learning is what we all aspire to and work for in our respective homeschools. But even the most passionate and committed worker sometimes has a “bad day at the office” (or in the canopy, in the factory, in the kitchen, etc…). The homeschooling mom will have to face plenty of those, but the believing mother knows that:

  • She is not helpless: she knows she has a Lord who is can do anything and listens to even the faintest whisper of the heart; she supplicates Allah for guidance, patience and ease.
  • She is not unprepared: her kids haven’t just suddenly dropped from the sky, she expects challenges in parenting.
  • She is not alone: in her city, maybe even in her same street or block of flats, another woman is facing the same difficulties.

While it is true that sometimes you might feel like hiding in the bathroom for a good sob, most days – around your dining table, on your floor, sofa or wherever else you congregate with your children – there will be contentment, warmth and excitement; and learning will ensue.

If you are an experienced homeschooler, what would you add to the list?

Are you are thinking to start home educating? which aspects do you find the most exciting and which the most worrying?

But most importantly: do you ever get out of your pyjamas???

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

10 Fact about homeschooling for the homeschool novice How to start homeschooling for Muslims