Homeschool (1st) year review: Enjoying our little world 🌎

I was extremely scared in the weeks before September 2021. I was pregnant, tired and trying to keep up with a 4 and 2 year old. Musa had just come out of nursery. He had enjoyed it, but I could see where the play-based learning had taken a backseat and ‘getting school-ready’ had almost completely taken over the sessions. Also, when we used to pick him up, of course he had enjoyed his few hours, but he was the happiest to be out of there and back to his place of comfort – home. And I was still worried about the socialising element. He has plenty of family, but I was worried about taking him away from his peers.

Something that really helped with that last concern was a talk on YouTube by Gordon Neufeld, who wrote the book ‘Hold onto your Kids’. Everything he says on the topic made me see that peer connection is not important at all at this stage. What is vital for a child’s development is their bond with their parents, especially the parent who takes the role of the main carer.)

So much was behind my reason to homeschool: knowing I could give my kids an education to suit them, knowing I could facilitate the enrichment of their day to day lives, have better control over the things they’re exposed to, keep them away from socially learned bad behaviours, focus their minds on Allah and their deen, give them open play and self-led learning etc.

What really led me away from my confusion and second-guessing of whether or not to homeschool was understanding this: We follow the path that we believe will lead to where we need to be. And school is not that path for my kids. I want them to be raised differently. Those who believe school is the best approach – good for them. They know that they’re raising their child a certain way, to be ready to enter into mainstream society. As Muslims, we know where we have to break from that and we decide to which extent.

Expectations:

Looking back at my planning for our first year, I think I hadn’t quite understood that Musa was still too young for formal learning. I was slowly coming to this understanding though, as the Charlotte Mason philosophy stresses that formal education starts from 7. And along with this, I read an article written by Julia Bogart from Brave Writer on letting children in the early years enjoy being kids.

So I had these expectations that Musa would be reading a little and writing a little by the end of the year, also that he would be well into his Arabic Qaida and reading joined letters. That Maryam would know her ABC’s, and have started on her Alif Ba Ta. That we would cover so many subjects, including a Natural Science curriculum meant for First Grade. I thought we would be somewhere entirely different by the end of the year than where we are.

Observations:

There’s a reason why curriculums have age recommendations. It’s not always because the content is difficult. In our case it was more the fact that the ground work hadn’t been laid to introduce Musa into the world. This is why Charlotte Mason recommended to start from the child and work outwards.

I’ve called this year ‘orientation’. Musa has learnt about the seasons through observing seasonal changes, he’s learnt about the way the world is shaped including its countries and climates. We started off the Natural Sciences curriculum and I thought we would get through it at a steady pace, but I quickly realised that he had no connection to the subject matter so we had to take a step back.

The Nature curriculum was perfect. I stopped even thinking about trying to teach subjects like English and Maths and decided to focus only on Nature Studies. The best thing that kept the worry and guilt away was knowing that Musa was still too young for formalised learning, according to the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and so everything we’re doing is just an extra. And I had to keep telling myself that some homeschoolers literally do nothing with their kids at this age so I can relax. It helped so much to take the pressure off and let us enjoy!

At first we were also using a workbook for his Arabic Qaida, and Musa has completed that textbook – mostly with his dad. But I think his dad and I both realised that this learning isn’t suiting the rest of what we’re doing with the kids and so we’ve backed off. We go over the Alif Ba Ta at times, but it’s a lot more play based, usually through song and reading. We’ll get rolling with this and the other traditional subjects in a couple of years, or when Musa seems developmentally ready for formal studies, in’sha Allah. The idea is that when that time comes, he will pick up things very quickly.

Musa began not being into the Nature Studies much to gradually getting very interested, to counting down days to certain weeks. Maryam, our free-spirited fairy, has been in and out but slowly engaging more. She learnt that she loves butterflies. The kids have gradually started doing nature studies together, although Maryam sometimes joins in and sometimes doesn’t – and it’s all good because I know whatever she’s doing, she’s learning (and that girl is definitely one to take initiative, Masha Allah).

So we picked back up on the Natural Sciences curriculum and Musa began to love it. Our end of year big project was looking at the River Nile. We definitely finished strong with that one because there was so much to do. I can see why homeschoolers tend to go in deep with Ancient Egypt (something we’ll come back to when we look at History).

At the end of this year Musa has not learnt how to read, though he can write his letters. And Maryam doesn’t know her ABC’s. But I know they’ve both done a lot since September 2021!

I’ve also decided not to send Maryam to nursery. The more I’ve read Home Education Volume I by Charlotte Mason, the more I’ve realised nursery is not the place I thought it was. It’s not a necessary step in a child’s life, neither will it teach them how to socialise, nor should I rely on it as a place to keep my kids busy and engaged! We’re doing everything we need to for the kids’ development at home, Alhamdulillah.

Changes and improvements:

We’re continuing with the Nature Studies and Natural Sciences. Although, this time I’m going to try and put together a plan for activities beforehand so that it’s not a last minute thing (as it has been some weeks) getting everything ready and thinking of themed activities.

I’m going to also be a lot more organised with our projects on important Islamic days because I feel like some groundwork has been laid this year and I can spend time thinking of more ways to engage with our history and Deen. Rabi al awal will be about how the Prophet ﷺ lived, including a construction of his home. I’m hoping to do a timeline of the message of Allah, looking at the order of the Prophets in Ramadan and also a project on cleanliness (of the physical and spiritual body).

One MAJOR change is to have more Maryam-friendly activities which she can do if she wants. I’m also going to bring in daily/three times weekly Montessori activities for her because she is a Montessori child through and through.

This coming year will not be academic heavy. It’s really a continuation of the last year for Musa, exploring more of what he likes and letting him take the reigns on things too.

For Maryam, this coming year will be more about her active participation because she’s showing signs that she wants to engage and she’s become aware of what we’re studying each week. I want dedicated time with her to do things she loves and help her develop her interests. This is an absolute must. It will be tricky juggling things but children make themselves heard as they get older and I can see Maryam doing just that.

Final thoughts:

Alhamdulillah, we have been blessed with the opportunity to create our own little world and live in it, choosing our own paths everyday. Not everyone is able to do that and I am so grateful. We have a humble home and all the means Allah has blessed us with. I’ve seen that where there are less material distractions, there is ample space for warmth and happiness to reside, may Allah always show us what’s important in life. May Allah guide us on this journey, align our intentions towards Him and correct our missteps. Ameen.

Alhamdulillah.

Resources and activity themes we covered:

• Natural Science curriculum:

Blossom and Root: Wonders of the Earth and Sky (First Grade Science) https://blossomandroot.com/first-grade/

• Nature Studies:

Exploring Nature with Children https://raisinglittleshoots.com/buy-exploring-nature-with-children/

• Rabi al Awal:

A Sunnah a day

Mawlid at home

Making the sandal (nalayn) of the Prophet ﷺ

See my Instagram for all the things we got up to this year!

http://www.Instagram.com/ummmusahomeschool

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