Yay! We are starting a new series of interview style posts where we ask other Muslim Homeschoolers about their homeschooling journey (their highs and lows, resources tips and much more!). MashaAllah, many of our sisters in the blogosphere do phenomenal work with their children, and it’s so inspiring to hear their stories, and at the same time, learn from their experiences. If you are a homeschooler who learned a few tricks along the way that you are willing to share, we would love to hear from you! Or if you have suggestions on who we should interview next, then please let us know by commenting below. This week we are kicking off with Shannen, an amazing homeschooler and a blogger over at the Middle Way Mom.
Please introduce yourself and tell us what motivated you to start Middle way Mom?
Assalam alaykum, I’m Shannen, a revert of 10 years, and homeschooler of 7 living in the US with my husband and four daughters. I’m a life long student, currently taking classes ranging from seerah, aqeedah, herbalism, and holistic baby care.
I originally started Middle Way Mom because I saw a need in the Muslim community to have a voice for homeschoolers in the upper grades. Resources and blogs are abundant for elementary children, but there’s almost nothing available for middle or high schoolers.
While I don’t make many printables, I have tried to share resources I’ve found valuable that still align with our Islamic values, or are easy to adapt.
Now that I’m no longer homeschooling a high schooler, but instead a Kindergartener and two more young children coming up the ranks, I try to still share resources we find valuable, and offer advice since I do have hindsight now that my oldest is about to graduate, in sha Allah.
You have been homeschooling for a very long time mashaa Allaah, what would be the number one advice you would give others who want to embark on this journey?
Academics and check boxes aren’t everything. Honestly and truly, please put down that giant list of curriculum and focus on nurturing their love of learning. Yes, teach them how to read, and make sure they have a good foundation in math, but your 7 year old does not need to know all the capitals of every country around the world.
Let your day have margin, so you can enjoy this precious time of their life. Let yourself have time to explore, to drop everything and head to a museum if you realize your child is highly interested in something that’s offered there. Let them feel that excitement to learn something utterly awesome without the weight of deadlines and due dates.
Once you’re in the high school years, it feels like some of that freedom goes away because we’re trying to check the right boxes to make our kids college-ready. Take advantage of the freedom you have while you have it.
And how about those who are homeschooling but are overwhelmed, tired and just want to throw in the towel because they are worried that they may not be providing their kids with the “best” education?
First, be really honest with yourself and truly consider if the grass is greener on the other side. Is a traditional school all you make it out to be? Will it solve the problems you have or will it just move them to a different time slot?
Second, reassess what you’re doing at home. With homeschooling we have the freedom to choose curriculum, and that means if it doesn’t work, pick something else. For instance, a friend of mine was using IEW as their writing curriculum, and having trouble keeping her daughter focused. They switched to Brave Writer and her daughter flourished!
Choosing curriculum is not just about what information we are presenting to our kids. It’s about guiding them to learn some of the basics, and possibly open up ideas for them to explore further. If you were to want to learn gardening, and didn’t enjoy the book you got from the library, would you continue with it because someone else said it was the best, or would you find something that works better for you?
Also, not everyone agrees with this, but I do think that annual testing is a good tool to get a feel for how you’re measuring up. You can measure if they are making progress from year to year, and while it isn’t perfect, I do think it’s one tool in your toolbox.
I could go on and on, but there’s a book I contributed to that might be helpful to anyone in this situation called Homeschooling: what to do when you want to quit. In sha Allah people find it helpful.
What are the intangible qualities that have helped you succeed?
I have a DIY mindset for many things. Before hiring out work, I always consider what it would take to do something myself, and the thought of that type of project excites me.
I think also while I’m not terribly organized, I do tend to think about things far in advance. I’ve been slowly planning our family Eid camping trip for about a month, and it’s still nearly 4 months away.
Lastly, I believe I’m adaptable, but not flaky. I will adjust things as needed, but I won’t scrap a curriculum overnight without a solid plan for something else. I like to have continuity in our homeschool so my kids know what to expect, generally, on a day to day basis.
What are your favorite books or resources for homeschooling?
For brand new homeschoolers, I still refer to an older book by a conservative Christian woman, Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling. All those quizzes like, “What kind of homeschooler are you?”, “What’s your real homeschooling goals?” and the like are in this book, and I think she does a great job at getting you to see the bigger picture so you have a better idea what day to day tasks are actually a priority. Just look past her curriculum recommendations and the couple times she mentions Islam.
For parents with younger children, Charlotte Mason’s first volume, Home Education, is invaluable. It is hard to read through since it was written over 100 years ago and the writing style is a bit antiqued, but get a cup of coffee and settle into it. This is a book that will fortify your feeling of purpose in your homeschool.
There are so many more, but one that’s a bit less known and another I’ve contributed to is The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas, both Volume 1 and Volume 2. This is the perfect book to answer all of those family-specific questions like:
- How can I homeschool with babies and toddlers in the house?
- How can I homeschool with my ADHD child?
- What resources are there for Dyslexia?
- How learning styles can help your homeschool.
- How to earn college credit in high school.
- Creating socialization opportunities for teens.
Then there’s the most common recommendations of 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and The Well-Trained Mind, both are indispensable for wading through all the curriculum choices out there. If you’re brand new to homeschooling, make sure to get your hands on these to give you more confidence in your curriculum choices.
I have a lot on my reading list on Goodreads, so in sha Allah in coming years I’ll have some more books to recommend!
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