Thursday, 9 February 2012

Why the Decision to Homeschool?

Bismillah...

Over the years I have had many people ask about my choice to homeschool. Some admire the choice, whilst others think I am mad for wanting my children at home with me every day. Others think I am holding my children back from being part of the 'real world'. The only thing that most people have known (or assumed) about homeschooling is that homeschooled kids will 'lack social skills' or 'grow up to be anti-social'. It's pretty sad and frustrating at times when I have to defend this misconception to every second person I meet.

You'd be surprised to know that research shows otherwise.

Here is are a few examples of some of the research done:

In July 2000, the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank, published an extensive report on homeschooling written by Senior Fellow Dr. Patricia Lines. She describes several controlled studies comparing the social skills of homeschoolers and nonhomeschoolers.
The homeschoolers scored as "well adjusted." In one study, trained counselors viewed videotapes of mixed groups of homeschooled and schooled children at play. The counselors didn't know the school status of each child. The results? The homeschooled kids demonstrated fewer behavioral problems. Dr. Lines' conclusion? "There is no basis to question the social development of homeschooled children."


And:


"Home schooled children are, on average, more academically and socially advanced than public and private school students, according to a new study, "Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream", released last week by The Fraser Institute.
Contrary to the concerns of the educational establishment, the typical home schooled child participates in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, including afternoon and weekend programs with public school students, day-time field trips and co-operative programs with groups of other home schooled kids. Ninety-eight percent of home schooled students are involved in two or more outside functions on a weekly basis.
Research also suggests that home schooled students are more sociable than their school peers, as well as more independent of peer values as they grow older. "Popular belief holds that home schooled children are socially backward and deprived, but research shows the opposite: that home schooled children are actually better socialized than their peers," says Claudia Hepburn, director of education policy at The Fraser Institute. "Some studies have shown that home schooled children are happier, better adjusted, more thoughtful, mature and sociable than children who attend institutional schools."
The study is available on the Fraser Institute website at: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/publications/pps/51/homeschool.pdf 


The choice to homeschool was made by my husband and I together, although it was me that suggested it as the best option for our children when my eldest child was approaching school age. After discussing our own experiences with schooling my husband strongly agreed that homeschooling could definitely work better than school and until today he has been 100% behind me (despite not being able to help teach as he works every day.) Might I add that even if you don't have a spouse that is able to help or maybe is not supportive you can STILL DO IT. Homeschooling only takes one dedicated parent, and although it may be tiring at times, it is extremely rewarding Alhamdulillah.

You might feel that this choice is only mine and my husband's and what about my children, however I have always been open to my children going to school if they really felt a need to go and experience it. My eldest child (who is now in 'Year 4') is simply not interested in going to school. I've always asked her every year if she'd like to continue to homeschool and she is quite happy to do so. She hears a lot about things happening at school from cousins, friends and relatives and quite frankly I think it has put her off the thought of even trying school out. Not to mention the school kids that she hears loudly (and rather unashamedly) proclaim at the end of holidays 'I don't want to go back to school, I hate school' and once the year has started the 'I hate homework!' complaint as exhausted children spend their spare time after school doing the very work that they are being sent to school to do. Maybe the people I know do not represent the majority, but I'm mentioning this because these are the things that cause my daughter to not want to go to school. I seriously question, since when has learning become such a negative experience for our young ones? This is truly sad indeed.
So here are some of my reasons for choosing to homeschool. .

1) My children are a trust (amaanah) from Almighty God.
When my first child was born, I was exposed to a different kind of love I had never experienced. It was a deep and absolutely selfless love for this precious, pure and innocent little soul. My mothering instincts kicked in right away and I felt protective of my baby. We were bonding as I stroked her little face, held her close to me and gazed lovingly into her eyes. I would wake in the middle of the night and turn on my bedside lamp, just to look at and admire her. I felt and did the very same for my other 2 children as well. I felt almost overwhelmed at the thought of raising this child in such a messed up world. I felt guilty for bringing her to the filth and corruption around me. I eventually decided that I had to change this way of thought and that whilst the world might not be the best place to be, I have been blessed with this child and blessed with the chance and opportunity to try to raise her to become the best human being she can be. I, as her mother needed to nurture, protect and educate this precious child who was indeed a gift from God. It was only by His Will and Mercy that I was able to have her, and He could just as easily take her away. I was on a mission to fulfill the trust that God had given me so that when it was the time for accountability I could say that I had truly done my best. It was from these thoughts and feelings (amongst other life experiences), that my desire to homeschool began to take hold. Alhamdulillah.

2) I'm not satisfied with what most schools (both public and private) have to offer. We only need to hear about the appalling literacy rates and take a look at what the sorts of young people our highschools (public and private) are putting out into the world after 12 long years of education. Do they all complete school with sufficient literacy or numeracy skills, life skills, good interpersonal skills, self esteem, Islamic identity etc? Whilst some students do fantastically (due to great teachers, parents, being naturally high achievers etc) there are many that do not. What happens to them and who is held accountable for the 12 years of education that was spent and paid for without adequate results?

3) I do not feel comfortable having my young children spend 6 hours + a day in an environment that does not agree with the Islamic morals, values and views that I wish for them to be instilled with (and which may even be in contradiction to them.) I don't want to elaborate too much on this point, but coming from my own schooling experience, the things I saw and that were modeled to me by not only my peers but actual teachers and administration was enough for me to not want to risk having my child exposed to such behaviours and conduct. I'm not exaggerating about this point, if you want to discuss further I'd rather do privately......that's how serious it is!

4) I want my children to live every day in an accepting, nurturing, empowering and peaceful atmoshpere that is free from teasing, bullying, negative peer pressure, inappropriate talk etc. Whilst I'm definitely no perfect mother (believe me I make mistakes, wake up grumpy and 'lose it' sometimes) I truly feel that my home is the safest place for my children to spend the majority of their day. When I make a mistake, I have to apologise and explain to them what I did wrong and why it was wrong. It is a known fact that bullying in schools is currently an epidemic and children are being seriously affected and traumatised by it in both the long and short term. We as parent really need to wake up and realise the impact that bullying can have on a child and not brush it off as 'toughening him up' or 'welcoming her to the real world' etc. Children are fragile and sensitive and are SUPPOSED to be that way. The last thing any of us should want is for them to become tough, cold, hard and insensitive! I have a lot to say on this area as it is something that really bothers me but I'll leave it at that! For more info check out http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/

5) I would like my children to have a wide range of useful skills and knowledge and to LOVE learning! There truly is SO much to know and learn in life and what better way to motivate a child and encourage their thirst for learning than to allow them to pursue skills and passions that will most interest and benefit them. Life skills are so important!

6) I want my children to feel valued, smart and have good self esteem regardless of whether they are good at maths, spelling, science etc or not. This point kind of ties in with the previous one. Intelligence should not only be limited to academia. Children have many different gifts, talents and interests that should also be used to as a means of feeling intelligent and proud of themselves - especially if they aren't so good with 'bookwork'.

7) I don't want my child to be 'tested' and 'graded' in order to know whether he/she is 'smart enough'. Whilst I always did really well and academically thrived at school, I do wonder how the children that 'didn't do so well' must have felt as they were called out as the 'last in class' or having achieved scores so low in their test that it couldn't be read out (or worse yet, if it WAS read out). I wonder what it must do to the self esteem of these children, to feel 'dumb' or incompetent in comparison to the rest of the class. I wonder how it must feel for a child that is put into the 'special class' - often referred to by other classmates as the 'dumb class' for maths or some other subjec they might be struggling in?

8) I want my kids to have much MORE than 30 mins of Quran & Islamic studies every day (or in some cases per WEEK!). As Muslims, our study of Islam and the Quran in particular are SUPPOSED to be central to our every day living. How then, might I ask would a teacher of 30 students, given 30 minutes to teach, be able to productively teach his/her student to read, let alone understand the Quran when they will only have ONE MINUTE PER CHILD? This is a real disappointment, especially for parents paying expensive school fees for their child/ren to go to a Muslim school in the first place. It is no wonder that after 12 years in an Islamic school, some of the young Muslims are still stammering in their recitation of the Quran and/or does not know the essentials of Islam or how to incorporate the Islamic teachings into his/her life! Please bear in  mind that what I write in this post is not made up in my imagination. As a student in the Islamic schools myself and from conversing with students who have spent 12+ years of their life in our Islamic schools I have a responsibility to share the worst-case scenario outcome with you all. This concern also emphasis on the importance on parents teaching their children Islam outside of school hours!
9) I want my children to have holistic knowledge comprised of secular knowledge that is infused with Islamic and Quranic knowledge. I don't think that there could be any better way of education than this. Where the teachings of Islam are at the core of all learned concepts, that all knowledge is ultimately brought back to the Glory and Wisdom of Allah SWT. Where children learn everyday in a way that brings Islam into their maths, english, science, art etc. Where everything they learn increases their love and consciousness of their Creator! Allahu Akbar!

10) My husband and I want to be our children's leaders, role models and influence in life. Again, we are not the perfect examples of human beings (nor Muslims for that matter!) however we do aspire to improve ourselves, grow and increase our knoweldge. By homeschooling we are reminded each and every day of the importance of changing ourselves for the better, for Allah's sake as well as our children's sake. Living in this way, allows our children to see that no one is perfect and that what matters is that one tries one's best to please Allah and become a better person. My husband and I want to become people that our children truly love and want to aspire to be like. Imagine hearing your child as a young adult giving a speech saying how you, their parent has been such a huge role model in his/her life? Imagine lying on your death bed and your children are telling you what an inspiration and example you have been? These visualisations are so important as they may verily become a reality for us in the near future!

11) We want our children to have REAL social skills that involve sharing and caring for others, being kind and empathetic, and giving and serving our community. When I was at school the social skills I learnt were 'bully or be bullied' and teasing others (as modeled by one of my teachers who gave us all a derogatory nickname). At school I learnt be be insecure and put on a fake face and persona in order to survive the social environment at school. Do any of you relate to this?
Giving back to the community is something that is so important, particularly for Muslims living in the West wherein our fellow Muslims are really struggling in a lot of ways, with a lot of serious issues that need addressing from qualified members of our own community. Getting children into volunteer work from a young age is a really valuable teaching tool that can show them the reality of the struggles of others how many others live. Helping both Muslims and non-Muslims alike can really give our children the understanding of caring, empathy and selflessness.

12) I get to have fun with my kids every day. What can I say, we have a ball. The kids remind me every day to connect with my 'inner child' and not be such a responsible serious adult! My children often request for me and my husband to 'come and play'! Mashallah.
13) We can move or go on holidays when it best suits us and make life decisions together as a family. Alhamdulillah I really love the flexibillity this give us. Now.....where shall we move to next????

14) After reading into the history of 'schooling' I was surprised to discover the dark agenda of institutionalising the masses. Whilst that may not be the agenda today, I feel it is still important to be aware of the schooling history in order to reflect on what purpose they are meant to serve and currently aim to serve and if they are indeed fulfilling that purpose.

15) I want to spend as much time as I can with my children while they are CHILDREN. Let's face it, if you ask your parents or elders about how quickly lif life passes they'll all tell you that 'life just goes so fast' and 'children grow up so quickly'. If we look at our own kids, just yesterday they were newborns in our arms, cooing and smiling. Now they are boisterous, noisy, energetic little powerhouses of curiosity and excitement! Where did all the days and years go? Where have our babies gone? And before we know it they turn into cranky teenagers or are off into the world living their own lives.

In conclusion.....

Homeschooling allows parents to see their children grow and achieve each and every day. You get to be there as they discover amazing things and learn about the world around them. You are right there, at arms length as they learn to understand the beautiful and sometimes chaotic world around them. You are there by their sides to whisper words of encouragement and love into their ears. For me, it's these moments and glimpses that I value so dearly that keep me motivated in my pursuit to play an active role in my children's education.

Well I hope that these points have helped you to understand what might cause a parent to decide to homeschool their child. This post was not written to 'persuade' you. Rather it was written with the intention of sharing some of the deep feelings and reflections from my own learning journey that has led me to become a homeschooling parent.

Mind you, I have to mention that homeschooling is not for every family. We need to look at the individual needs of each child, each parental situation and capability, and each family dynamic. There are some situations in which the child is better off homeschooling due to some seriously detrimental things that might be going on at school. There are also some children who are better off at school as their home situations are not able to cater for their learning needs. Each circumstance is to it's own and families as a whole need to make the decision together and no doubt, almost all parents will make their decision based on what is truly best for their child.

Remember, from the start of their lives, all our children have and need is us, the parents, to be truly connected and dedicated to them.

If you are deciding whether or not homeschooling is for you and your family, then whatever decision you make, do it for the sake of Allah and He will help you and support you Inshallah.
May Allah accept from us as parents and guide us all to make the best choices. Ameen.
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Please note: The views in this blogpost are entirely my own and based on personal experiences of  myself and others. In no way do I wish to offend or put-down any particular individual or school. (So please don't throw your virtual shoes at me if you don't agree! lol)

If you have any comments or questions, please do so below or email me at calishabc@yahoo.com.au or find me on FACEBOOK.


"Peer obsessiveness and the clique mentality are the natural responses of children to mass schooling, which in essence removes adults from their lives or rather puts them there at a ratio of one to 30 and in an authoritarian role not entirely conducive to the forming of meaningful relationships." Guterson http://www.cambridgestudycenter.com/artilces/Mattox1.htm

7 comments:

  1. Very interesting post! I think home schooled kids do much better in life overall and make wiser decisions.

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  2. wow.. i wasnt sure about home-schooling my kids and after reading this 100 percent im going too.. thankyou for making things so easy sister may allah bless you and your kids in this life and in the hearafter!

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  3. MashaAllaah.May Allaah reward you with good in this world and Akhira. Ameen

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  4. Simply brilliant Calisha. Such a good insight! I learnt so much jazakillahu khair!

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  5. Mashallah you made the right choice I strongly believe children can learn more at home with their parents who are willing to teach them instead of teachers teaching them lets face most of them teach for money! They can memorize more without pressure, behavioural problems or being shy or bullied seriously I used to go to school just to play basketball go on excursions see friends I actually wag most of the time skipping classes was never really interested in education but when your child is home schooling the parents make it exciting for the child to learn also in future the child will respect and love their parents more creating a strong bond between both parent and child

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  6. Mashalah great article.
    Can I ask if you follow a particular timetable or format? What is the structure/curriculum etc that you use? Also does the government have any rules on homeschooling?

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    1. I design our own format/timetable and piece together a curriculum that suits us. The government will send someone from the dept of education once per year (in Perth) to see how you are going. Not testing or unnecessary pressure though alhamdulilah

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