Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatau ladies,
It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post; life has been really full lately, alhamdulillah. But I really want to address today’s topic because it’s most definitely one of the most common questions I get asked from sisters. And I feel its a really important one to address because although social media can be a great tool, it can often paint a very one-dimensional picture of homeschooling which can throw you off as a new homeschooling mom too, especially a homeschooling Mama of young kids.
So let’s get to it.
You’ve made the decision. You’re not going to send your three-year-old to nursery. You’re going to homeschool. Or you gave public school a go, but realised it wasn’t a good fit for your family. Or another scenario; you’re a pregnant mama who hasn’t given birth yet but has already made her mind that she will be homeschooling, come rain or shine!
You browse blogs, surf social media accounts, invade IKEA (the kiddos table is a must..), and passionately plug into podcasts. This is IT – you’re officially starting on Sunday…LIFE IS GOING TO CHANGE!
It’s Monday morning and everything is ready; posters hung on the ball, pencils sharpened and the Jellyfish unit study neatly laid out complete with a sensory jellyfish activity that glows in the dark (I blame Pinterest..).
You’re excited to see the look on your toddlers face when he dives right in. He happily colours in the pictures with his chunky crayons, has tonnes of fun making his jellyfish ‘pet’ now aptly named ‘Jello’ and listens intently as you read facts about what jellyfish eat and how they don’t have a heart.
And twenty minutes later, it’s all over. And you wonder..‘ is this it?’.
Surely this can’t be; how can the teaching take less than the planning itself!!?
Well, I’m here to reassure you, you haven’t done anything wrong. And yes, that’s usually it for ‘structured’ learning. For your three-year-old, is still a three-year-old, regardless of whether you homeschool or not.
So what can we focus on with our kiddos in the younger years, when their concentration span is little. We want to take an active role in their learning early on, but what should we focus on and start with? Here are a few suggestions.
THE Most important thing; Knowing Allah and His Messenger (may Allahs peace and blessings be upon him)
Subhan’Allah, I cannot emphasise this enough. Raising our children, knowing and understanding the very essence of their being isn’t something we need to ‘delay’. Teaching our children about Allah by strenghtening their Tawheed, referring to His favours upon us daily, thanking Him for our blessings and making the remembrance of Allah needs to be the foundation of anything we do, and homeschooling is no exception.
Furthermore, instilling a love of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) must be something we encourage from young. For as parent’s we must strive to give our children positive role models to emulate from a young age, and who better to emulate in example than the most beloved to Allah! It is our obligation to tell our children about the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, through speaking about his life, his family, his purpose, events in his life and his beautiful characteristics. Of course, this goes for other Prophets, may Allah’s peace be upon them all, as well as the sahabah and the pious predecessors.
Consciously connect their hearts to the Qur’an
And what better way to know and love Allah Azzawajal than through His Book. We often strive to make our kiddos fall in love from a young age with the hope to raise independent life long learners, but we need to ensure there is a greater effort with building that attachment for the Book of Allah. Let the children be used to hearing its recitation daily, seeing us as parents spending time with our mushaf, reading it out aloud to them as they cuddle on the sofa with us; let the Qur’an be weaved into our day, and not limited to specific day or time. When our kiddos see us take delight in the Qur’an, they will too. Let the Qur’an be the only Book that never gets rotated from our morning baskets. For more tips on how to instil the love of Qur’an in your children click HERE.
Connect things back to Allah
Kids are naturally curious and love to explore and ask questions about the world around them. To fulfil and fuel that curiosity engages in rich conversation with them, and reminding them of Allah’s favours constantly. When they enjoy looking at stars, remind them how perfect Allah made his creation, how He made the planets and seasons in perfect alignment, and how even the fish in the deepest darkest part of the ocean receive their provision from Him. Ponder and reflect in awe together, and throw a little light-hearted nature journaling in too if you like!
Create a welcoming learning space
By creating a space that invites curiosity, you don’t need to spend copious amounts of time ‘planning’ learning. Rather than stacking books high on the shelves, store them in a basket or a shelf that the kiddos can easily reach. Have Arts and Crafts supplies in reach, Legos and building blocks at an arm’s reach. You will soon find your young one learning without much input at all. After all, play is learning! And remember, a ‘homeschool room’ is NOT a must, a cosy corner of the living room will even do.
There are numerous benefits of reading aloud to your children including building vocabulary. And introducing read alouds at a young age does something even more important than that-it fosters a love of books from a young age. Since read alouds can be enjoyed at all ages from your two-year-old to your twelve-year-old, it really is the one thing you can do with all your children together. Of course, younger kiddos may initially find it difficult to listen for more than five or ten minutes, and that’s fine; concentration will increase with age. Keep their hands busy whilst you read, by getting the Legos out or drawing supplies, or rustle up some hot chocolate. You’ll soon create a reading culture in your home that will continue to blossom over time. It becomes more than just about the books, but about the memories you create.
Get outdoors as much as you can!
This really is one of the biggest perks of homeschooling; the freedom to enjoy early morning walks, midday strolls and just hours upon hours of fresh air. Homeschooling does not mean you stay home all day long; quite the contrary. So make it a part of your daily routine to get outdoors, and enjoy unstructured free play, which kids NEED! It’s a good idea to follow read alouds after some outdoor time too, kiddos will be much more inclined to listen.
My personal opinion is that a limited amount of screen time can be an effective tool, especially in those particular seasons of life such as pregnancy or adjusting to a newborn. Since many of us would love for ourselves and our children to acquire the Arabic language with the aim to understand the Qur’an and books of , why not let that timed screen time be for some Arabic cartoons and educational videos (of course, ensure they are appropriate). Kids literally absorb information like sponges, especially language which can get harder to acquire as we get older so introducing it at a young age is something to consider. A friend of mines son, literally learnt a whole chunk Arabic this way, Allahuma barik.
Don’t be in a hurry to change what you are doing already
This goes back to the scenario we began with. One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to homeschooling young kids is this sudden feeling that things should and will change drastically (picture the toddler at the dining table surrounded by books and pens he can barely reach). That is simply not a reality. Successfully homeschooling young kiddos require that we cherish, savour and simply enjoy their childhood. The learning will come automatically when are relationships are being cultivated.
Let homeschooling feel natural
Again, related to the point above but seriously one that we need to bear in mind when we are bombarded with curated images learning. Homeschooling is simply a continuation of the things we already do for our children. Homeschooling is parenting; its messy, beautiful, ugly, pretty, happy and challenging all at the same time. It’s natural…there’s no need to turn this natural instinct into a forced performance. Make your intention strong, and savour the opportunity of raising your child in the manner you feel best.
Use the time when they are young to educate yourself
Seriously, this is one of the BIGGEST advantages of having young kiddos, but sometimes a blessing we miss out on. Seeking knowledge is a lifelong obligation, but having young kiddos can be the perfect chance and sometimes boost we need to really take our knowledge seriously. Read books whilst the kiddos are happily playing, or spend some time first thing in the morning or after the kids sleep to strengthen your basics fundamentals of faith. When Mama is learning, she is modelling the very essence of education which isn’t limited to a particular time, age or space. And she will be in a better position to educate her children, particularly when it comes to the deen. May Allah make us amongst those who cling onto the Qur’an and Sunnah.
As much as we as mothers become expert multitaskers and literally get pulled in all directions, multitasking can unintentionally sometimes lead to this idea that doing one task at a time is a waste of time. This is a destructive way to think, especially as a mother, whose children are relying on her presence and undivided attention. So of course, multitask and do what needs to be done, but don’t compromise those windows of time which are purely focused on being. It is those moments of being fully present that really make up the atmosphere of the home. Dishes and laundry will always be around, but childhood will soon be outgrown.
So there we have it, a few humble tips from me that can insha’allah help Mamas with young kiddos get started on the right foot. I struggled A LOT with this when we first began homeschooling (you can read more about that HERE) so I know how it feels to feel a little lost or feel because things haven’t changed much maybe its because you aren’t doing enough. But it really is enough, even though the interest in the sensory bin may only last a few seconds. And a reminder for myself first and foremost, that it’s easy for someone us to become complacent in putting in the effort, that we forget that ultimately it is Allah Azawajal who guides, not us. So let us be conscious of this as much as we can, and not neglect making du’a for them.