- Some things are blessings in disguise: Although I wanted the best for my children, and a tiny voice told me that it might mean having to take the plunge to homeschool, (and a big voice too, which would be my husband lol) I was terrified of the idea. With 4 kids, I was already struggling with helping them all with their homework, how could I possibly school them full time? Well, what I didn’t know was that homeschooling wasn’t that much more work than what I used to do. So what did I used to do? I guess the better question would be, what I didn’t do? When I think back about those days of transporting kids to school, I just remember how constantly tired I was, which was odd, because I had thought putting them in schools was supposed to give me the much needed break, right? Well, not really, when I actually stop to think about it. So this is what my “checklist” looked like when I used to send my kids to school….
- Spend more than 2 hours each day on the road, fighting traffic. Check.
- Fill up on coffee to stay awake on the road. Check.
- Get the jitters all day because of all the coffee I ingested. Check.
- Go nuts in the morning trying to get everyone ready out the door, so we can avoid the traffic. Double Check!
- Nag and lecture my kids in the car when we didn’t make it before the traffic. Check.
- Volunteer in the classrooms to “enhance” my children’s education. Check.
- Worry about whether my kid had a proper lunch. Check.
- Be an active member in the PTO, and bake cookies for bake sales, as well as participate in other fundraisers. Check.
- Go to parent-teacher conferences, and try to suck up to the teacher. Check.
- Wait afterschool for an hour with 3 kids, while one of my child was in an afterschool intervention program. Check.
- Spend 1-2 hours helping kids with homework. Check.
- Fall exhausted on my mattress each night. Check.
Now, even though I am responsible for teaching all the subjects that someone else was teaching before, I actually ended up with more time on my hands. We could also wake up when everyone was ready to wake up. The two hours on the road, and the time I spent helping them with homework and projects, and volunteering in the classrooms actually took more time out of my day than what I spend now schooling. I know whether or not my kids had a proper lunch (and elimination as well for some kids, ok I admit, it’s too much information, sorry) And I no longer worry if my children are picking up compromising habits from other kids, have been bullied or teased, or have been sitting alone in the play yard that day watching other kids play.
- You are capable of more than you think: I run into a lot of parents who tell me that they commend me because they would never be able to teach their children. Well, I am here to tell you and sorry if I sound like Martin Yan, but… “If I can do it, so can you!” Actually one of my biggest fears, before I started homeschooling was that I wouldn’t be able to teach my children. I thought that even if I had always wanted to be a teacher, I wouldn’t be able to teach my own children because there is a thing called emotional attachment which gets in the way. For some reason, (and I seriously hope its not just me!), it seems that parents often have less patience with their own kids. They have higher expectations and get upset, when their kids don’t meet them. I was guilty of sighing out loud, when my kids didn’t understand something right away in their homework, and guilty also for not providing the most positive feedback (“How come you don’t know this? What have you been doing all day in school?!?”).
So I thought to myself that if I couldn’t remain calm (and professional) now, how would I be able to handle homeschooling full time? While I do still have these moments from time to time, it doesn’t mean that I can’t teach my kids. By default, parents are already their children’s teacher from the moment they were born. When you think about it, we are always teaching our children. Whether it is teaching them how to first walk and talk, to teaching them manners, and proper Islamic etiquettes, there is not a day go by that we don’t teach our kids something. Now that I have to teach my children other subjects, it’s not really that different. The best part of being the teacher is that you can relate things which are applicable to your child, since you know your child more than anybody (“Remember last week when we went to the forest, and we saw that leaf that looked sort of like a hand, well that’s Poison Oak”).
- If you want to learn something, teach it:Well, Learning is fun, and teaching is just another way of learning. Obviously, I didn’t start off knowing every subject before I started homeschooling, and just poured the knowledge into a cup in my kid’s brains. It’s been a while since I studied Ancient history or the Fundamental theories of physics. I had to learn alongside with my children. While “teaching” material that I have just read for the first time in a long time, I learned it in a way I never did decades ago. They say that “If you want to learn something, teach it.” I learn, the kids learn, everyone wins 🙂
- Don’t be afraid of changes.I have to admit that our homeschool looks unrecognizable from what it did months ago. It’s because we slowly evolved from what my idea of what a traditional school should look like to what actually works for our family. The fact is that nothing stays the same, and everything changes, so why shouldn’t our approach change. Your kids are constantly growing and changing by the day, so why not adapt to these changes to make things work better? The first year of homeschooling, especially, is a process of trial and error. No one will know what’s best for your children, but you. And you will get the answers when you see your child, and the progress, and lack of progress he/she is making. There is no “one size fits all,” and that is one of your most important job as the educator, is to figure out what does fit, or what doesn’t.
- Learning opportunities are everywhere.While sometimes I “forage” within the vast number of learning opportunities at our disposal in the Bay Area, other times I run into it by coincidence. Recently, I took my kids to Crab Cove for recess, and as I know the staff there very well, we stopped in the visitor’s center to say “Hi.” One of the naturalists had a severely swollen face, and was explaining to my kids that it was due to an allergic reaction to Poison Oak. Although, I try to caution my kids from different types of dangerous/harmful situations, my children mashaAllah are the type that like to “test theories”, and this experience was an eye-opener for them. That day at recess, they learned the reason why you don’t want to touch poison oak, in a way that they will never forget. For this reason, I try to take my children to different settings often, because they learn something new each time. Maybe, they learn a bit about construction from watching a building being built from ground up, or maybe they can learn about different habitats and ecosystems from observing nature in a state protected park. The Bay Area is also filled with museums, libraries, and parks which hosts different programs, from making tote bags, to creative writing, to learning about the food chains. Alhamdullilah, there are so many learning opportunities out there that won’t even cost a dime, so you don’t have to feel like you have to teach your child everything.
- You don’t have to necessarily be “qualified” to teach your children. If it’s one thing I learned, it’s that Homeschoolers are a diverse group. You have homeschoolers who are taught by stay-at-home moms, working moms, dads, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. Then you have homeschoolers who are self-taught, and I think this is the direction I would like to be heading (lol). Everyone will have to find their path, but they can make it work despite of any time or skill limitations they may have. Many of my immigrant friends want to homeschool but feel that they are not “qualified” to teach, often times because of language barriers. Maybe English may not be your first language, but that shouldn’t stop you from homeschooling, as there are still a myriad of ways to make sure your child gets a good education. For example, there are online programs that does all the teaching and lays out all the lesson plans, taking all the guesswork out of homeschooling. Additionally, most charter schools also offer additional tutoring for students who are English Language Learners. Time should also not be an issue as I have met moms who work full time and still homeschool their children, and they find a way to make it work. I have met homeschool moms who are expecting, and have toddlers, as well as homeschooling dads, and grandparents. Some families have also adopted the “Robinson method” which is teaching your child how to teach themselves. What I am saying is that if you are absolutely convinced that homeschooling is the best option for your child, don’t let anything stop you!
- Go easy on yourself. Relax! Maybe you may have a bad homeschool day or two, or maybe even a long stretch of bad days, but you shouldn’t for lack of a better word, “freak out” about it. Homeschooling is a journey, and there is always time to catch up. Although in other schools, this is not the case as you need to keep up with the pace of everyone else, for the most part, homeschooling allows you to set your own schedule. Some days we skip homeschooling because we have to prepare for our dinner guests, while other days we may get 2 days of work done in one day. Some days are not so productive “just because,” and we have work left to do at night. Some weeks, we may have to homeschool on the weekends because of that trip to Tahoe we took. The beauty of Homeschooling is it allows you the flexibility to finish your work whenever you find time to, and compensate for any other setbacks.
- You define what it means to relax: I used to think that if my kids were home all day, something really bad would happen (and it would make the headlines of CNN!) Yes, I love my kids, but at the same time, I thought that there was a special limit, a threshold, before something would snap and go haywire. I even went as far as to think it was “unhealthy” to spend too much time with your kids (Every mom deserves a break, right?) Well, I couldn’t be more wrong. My relationships with my children have gotten stronger as a result of homeschooling. There is something so gratifying about seeing your child learn, and reach milestones. Seeing my kindergartener progress in her reading, or my 3rd grader breezing through 4th grade math, has been so rewarding for me as a parent. I guess teachers get a similar feeling, but when it’s your own children, the feeling is so much more intense.
Having been on the run for many years because of back to back pregnancies, and all the overwhelming responsibilities of being a student parent, and a caretaker to so many people, I had always secretly looked forward to the time when my kids would be at school, and I would finally get a few moments of peace. I even envied grandmas, and wanted to fast-forward the time when I would be one inshaAllah, just so I could bypass all the years of terrible twos, and struggles in general of raising children. And when I finally reached to that point, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It wasn’t relaxing at all, and instead, I found myself running even more, and rushing to pick my children from school, feed them dinner and put them to bed early enough so we would be ready for the “grind” the next day. The worst part was that I was missing so many precious moments of my children’s lives, moments that I now cherish and know that once it’s gone, I will never be able to get it back. In less than 10 years, many of my children won’t be children anymore and it will most likely be too late to push them on the swings, do Arts and Crafts together, and spend some quality time in general. Homeschooling helped me to regain these moments as well as appreciate them.
And who’s to say that homeschooling mom’s don’t get a break? The other day we were “beachschooling,” and while my kids were exploring the sandy shores and building structures, I had the most beautiful view of this beautiful place, and the most beautiful beings to me in it. It was a blessing, alhamdullilah, and I couldn’t help but think, this is what the real “break” is, and not me in some spa, getting a pedicure (even though I won’t turn down the offer if the opportunity arises 😉 just kidding)
While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.