Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman
Homeschooling is a choice that many families have decided to make. For some, this was a conscious-decision long before the Pandemic; but for others, the state of world affairs has pushed them into this role and opened up a can of worms in trying to navigate it. It is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed by all of the resources and information out there on how to homeschool and make your children academically successful as homeschoolers. The truth is–just like there is no one educational institution that is better than another, the same is true for homeschooling. Each school is unique in what it offers, the curriculum it follows, and how it seeks to achieve its goals as a school. Give yourself permission to take this same philosophy with your homeschooling efforts. The choices, curriculums, experiences, and lessons that you choose for your family are perfect, if that is what works for you. I want you to start to gain confidence in the choices that you are making in your homeschool and understand that it really doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think!
My children are 2 and 4-years-old at the beginning of our homeschooling year this year. For me, this means that we will have some subjects that are important for me to introduce them to, along with a lot of fun and play. When I think about a formal lesson, I consider how I can make it fun, independent, and not stressful. Below are a few ideas:
We like to commence our homeschooling day with a short “circle time,” where we sing songs, recite duas and Quran, state our intentions for the day, review the calendar, and read some stories. This is a great 15 minutes or so to ground our day, connect with each other, and provide some structure in a fun, but meaningful way.
Our curriculum subjects are: Math, Language, Islamic Studies, and Quran. Math consists of a ton of counting and number recognition. This can happen by counting the toys in the playroom or trees along our walks, finding numbers in the newspaper coupon ads, and following a recipe while cooking and baking. As a Montessori teacher, we also use the manipulatives (which can totally be DIYed) to introduce some new concepts in a hands-on manner as well.
Language is constantly penetrating the air. Children are learning vocabulary at rapid speed just by conversing with us in normal ways. Selecting books with interesting vocabulary, strong messages, thought-provoking content, and beautiful imagery are great ways to introduce language in natural ways. We also enjoy listening to audio stories, which attunes the ear to a different means of acquiring information. Using the white board or chalk board to practice writing letters and words is a fun activity for youngsters, along with reviewing phonics during walks (ie: let’s name words that start with the “f” sound).
For us, Islamic Studies right now is: learning duas, learning about Allah through His names and attributes, and learning about excellent character traits as embodied by the Prophet (saw). This is typically achieved through reading books, doing hands-on projects, and watching short videos of Islamic content geared toward children. My children are primed to remember Allah through the duas that we recite throughout the day and gentle reminders toward goodness, because that is what Allah (swt) loves.
We make time daily for engaging with the Quran. We found some lovely resources on YouTube for learning the tafsir of a surah and memorizing with correct tajweed. We take memorization ayah by ayah until it feels comfortable to move on. We also like to set up Zoom calls to memorize with a friend, which has been great encouragement and motivation. We also practice on our walks and use Thursday evenings to share the newest ayah or surah we have each been working on.
Outside of these formal “subjects,” we are doing a lot of playing, sensory exploration, art, movement, and outdoor time. We are navigating relationships at home and regulating emotions that come up naturally as part of our social-emotional curriculum. We are acquiring practical life skills by participating in the smooth functioning of a home, and most importantly, we are enjoying each other’s company through family time.
With the rise of daycare centers and early childhood education institutions in response to two-income households, education has become pressurized into making parents feel that their children are missing something or will not be academically successful, prepared, or ahead if they are not reading by age 2 (a joke, but seriously)! Let us not forget that prior to the daycare era, many, if not all of the skills now taught in preschool were acquired at home or in grade school, and that some of the most successful education systems world-wide do not start officially “teaching” children until seven years of age, the years prior to that being spent in play. Believe in the importance of play and the lessons that are learned there. Independent play is essential to learning, AND as adults, we can structure learning opportunities that are taking place whilst playing, ex: scoop the letters out of the sensory bin.
Still worried about academic success? Check out my post on “Success: Are Grades Necessary?” Until then, enjoy a simple version of homeschooling that elicits fun, natural learning, and exploration that leads to individual understandings and life-long enthusiasm for learning!