“What school does she go to?” asks a well-meaning person about my almost 5 year old.
“She doesn’t yet. We are homeschooling at the moment” I reply in weary apprehension, expecting another tirade of shocked expressions and 5 minutes of a lecture on how they know what would be better for my child. You know, because, they have seen her couple of times and have children of their own, they automatically become self-proclaimed experts on my child too…(mini rant over)
To be honest, the above scenario does not happen as often as I claim it to but the after effects of such a confrontation and the willpower it takes for me to not respond in kind, has me agitated for a while, and thus, prone to a lot of dramatics.
Most people are genuinely curious about what homeschooling is all about and their questions are always welcome because they are merely asking without assuming the worst or telling me how “wrong” I am.
What exactly is homeschooling?
It is basically the education of a child at home, primarily by the parents.
Then what in the world is unschooling?
It is a more radical form of homeschooling where conventional school systems and curriculums have no place; the learning is experience based on each child’s preference.
Is it legal?
Yes, depending on the country you live in. Most governments require parents to educate their children but they do not govern what kind of education that would be.
Do you follow a syllabus?
Not at the moment, I pick up on my child’s changing interests and we focus on whatever that maybe.
So, you are unschooling?
Then you are simply being a teacher at home but for one child?
What exactly are you doing?
I am helping my children learn in any way that they want to, without allowing the constraints of a label restrict our learning.
That is what we are doing.
Going against socially expected norms and the “done-thing” is much harder than I thought it would be. The inner turmoil I face at wondering if I am doing right by my children keeps me up most nights. Then I Google. And I panic even more.
It is always scary doing something different, especially when it comes to your children; there is absolutely no way of knowing if you are doing the right thing till it is too late. There have been many days when I have wanted to throw in the towel and do what we are “supposed” to be doing but I always backed out after a frustrated husband finally looked about ready to agree with me.
After many prayers and contemplation, things started coming into better perspective.
Homeschooling was introduced to me accidentally through a video from a lovely site called Rahmah Muslim Homeschool . Intrigued, I started researching on this since providing a wholesome Islamic education was absolutely important for us. After sifting through a whole plethora of information on the net, I was muddled as to what I should be doing. I decided to pick a site, and start off from there. Although I am unable to remember the site, it did have quite an extensive list of homeschooling activities that included teaching sight words. Jumped right on the sight word train and spent a night cutting and pasting words intended for my then 2+year old little girl to memorise and start reading because a certain list I picked up on another site claimed she should be reading by the time she was 3 years of age.
Needless to stay, sticking to a rigid schedule whilst trying to tick off everything in my “list” took its toll on us and I felt it was just too tough because I was not a qualified teacher. After audibly questioning my decision to move into finance instead of education after leaving school, I started looking for online education degrees. Long story short, I came to my senses before paying for a full degree programme that I never would have completed.
Then I began to look into local homeschooling families and to my surprise, there was a whole community in Muscat! I began this journey in trepidation with absolutely no support system but meeting this wonderful group helped by reassuring me that we were doing just fine. One mother in particular fascinated me with her attitude towards learning and living, and she helped me finally figure out how to let go of social expectations and focus on what would be best for my family. You can follow her journey on Raggamuslims.
I have been meaning to chronicle our journey but kept putting it off till I read a well thought out piece in Happiness Is Here and realised how our journey could help another family make their decision to create their own path.
Homeschooling for us is now merely a loose label that we use for sake of ease when having to answer a question about school for our children.
Our learning journey at the moment is about listening to their (now 4+ and 2+ year olds!) interests and learning about them with them. However, I am a firm believer in the power of reading and the vast knowledge accessible to one with the ability to read, which meant that I could not adapt the relaxed method of “letting them learn”. Instead I looked into Jolly Phonics method and took their online course in order to teach reading. We do not focus on traditional mathematical lessons because it simply does not interest them; they learn that through play. I cannot draw to save my life and so, skipped over teaching them how to draw. Instead, I made sure they have easy access to crayons, colour pencils and paper, and now, I am amazed by their creativity. My 4 year old wants to try out school at one point and we would let her if she is sure that is what she wants but for now, we are enjoying the journey with a lovely unicorn learning her letter sounds and a curly-hair ball of sunshine with an interest in shapes and a love for gluing things.
I have stopped worrying about what education should be and I am focusing on letting them decide their learning experience. Shedding all the preconceived notions of education that I was taught all my life is still a work-in-progress but I am slowly but surely coming out of that state of mind.
Our journey is not about schooling nor is it about not-schooling; it is about learning naturally and developing a lifelong love for learning.