Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homeschooling: How and Where to Start (Part 1)

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Insha'Allaah, over the next few weeks, I hope that Allaah will allow me to complete a series on How and Where to Start when you have decided to homeschool. 

Allaahu a'lam but it may be that the most common topic I receive correspondence and questions about is wanting to start homeschooling but not knowing where to start.  

This is a good question....Where do you start? 

The same sentiments and concerns are often mirrored in a similar question that is asked often: How do I start?

And, like its predecessor, this is another good question...How do you start?

A third and a fourth question are so intricately related that I will merge them into one post insha'Allaah. The two questions are: 

  • How do I begin to put together lesson plans?
  • What curriculum should I follow and/or how do I write my own?
The answers to these questions may be best discussed over a cup of tea insha'Allaah (and in parts) because they are not short answers *smile*. Tayyib, have you got your cup?

The first thing I will tell you is that I am not an expert and what suggestions will be made are only suggestions. It is hoped they will help and if they do then alhamdulillaah. All of the good is from Allaah Alone. The second thing I will tell you is something that may not provide the same comfort that your cup of tea is providing but it is very true: Where to start and how to start varies from family to family and from child to child. I do not know that one method prevails over all others and effectively suites all families and all children. But... not worry. 

Let's take one question at time and insha'Allaah, some of the suggestions listed may help you or fit the design or structure that you would like to see in your homeschool. First question:

Where do I start? 

To this question, the answer that I prefer is: not at the beginning. There is no hard and fast rule in homeschooling (or teaching) that says you must start each child at the beginning of each subject in the curriculum and then go page by page - in order - until the topic is completed. If teachers did that our students may find their learning community very boring places indeed. In classrooms across the country, teachers differentiate their instruction (you can learn more about differentiated instruction here insha'Allaah) because while children may be the same age or same gender, they are each unique individuals whose experiences and exposure to certain knowledge can vary greatly. Respecting this fact, you start where the child is at. Meet them where they are at and move them on from that point. What does that mean?

In classrooms, we assess our students to get an understanding of their existing or prior knowledge (i.e. what do they already know about a particular subject/topic). What knowledge is already with them? Rare is the student who comes to a teacher a complete blank slate. This being the case, as a parent, after Allaah, you are the most knowledgeable person regarding your child. Assess your child.

For the age group addressed on this blog, it is not necessary that a pencil and paper assessment be conducted. Although as a parent, this would be helpful for you when you get to the curriculum/lesson planning stage. So while not necessary, you may wish to consider it. But do not be alarmed, this does not mean that your 4 year old sits down dutifully at the table and is handed a pencil while a test is simultaneously placed in front of him/her. What this means is that, after locating or designing a skills/knowledge checklist (assessment) that you feel comfortable with, you observe your child and/or do activities that will answer the questions on the checklist. Does he/she hold pencils or crayons and "write" stories, "draw" pictures and colour? Does he/she try to dress him/herself in the morning without assistance? Does your child know the names of the primary colours and can he/she identify them on sight? Questions such as these will provide you with the knowledge you need to tell you "where to start" when you wish to homeschool. So perhaps the answer to the question where do I start is: Start wherever you child is at. If your child knows all of the items listed in an assessment (or the content in the preschool curriculum you may be considering) there is no need to drag them through formally learning information they already know- start with the next level. There is a thirst and love of knowledge and learning that we do not wish to dilute or extinguish altogether. Our goal is to nourish and deepen it. To guide it in the direction that pleases Allaah. Our goal is to quench that thirst with beneficial knowledge. 

*A word of caution before proceeding to the next question.*

I do not know if, as a teacher, it is easier to be impartial when the job of assessing students is at hand (many teachers love their students and like parents, they genuinely wish to see their students succeed). A teacher cannot afford to mark off that a student knows something when in reality the students knowledge, while not absent, has not developed to a level of mastery. That would be a great disservice to the child. So when teachers ask a student to please place one sticker in each box and the student for the most part does that but several boxes have several stickers in them and some have no stickers at all, the teacher does not mark down that her student has mastered one-to-one correspondence. The student certainly shows that they are on the road to mastering it, but the student has also demonstrated that he needs more exposure to this topic to help him master it insha'Allaah. With this knowledge the teacher, when designing math activities for this child, will not start at the beginning for one-to-one correspondence because the student has shown that he does have existing knowledge of it. The activities this child will receive will simply serve to help him master one-to-one correspondence. Taking this example, this child might receive an activity that involves him using a pointer and talking his way through placing stickers in the box (i.e. student uses a Popsicle stick and points to the first box and says, "Just one box, just one sticker" - moves to the next box and repeats - "just one box, just one sticker" and continues in this fashion until all boxes have one sticker only). So the teacher, no matter how much she desires to see this student perform flawlessly on the assessment, cannot cheat the student by not accurately recording the level of knowledge the student displays. As parents we must use this same objectivity and be impartial when assessing our children. If your child does not know the material....alhamdulillaah...she does not know. Not a problem insha'Allaah...teach it to her...

Insha'Allaah, the next post will address the second question: "How do I start homeschooling?" This post will, insha'Allaah, answer questions such as: 
  1. What materials will I need?
  2. With all of the pre-prepared information/worksheets/etc. available, how do I organize it all to start teaching my child?
  3. How do I know what to teach and when to teach it?
  4. How long should each lesson be?

  Comments from sisters who have homeschooled are most welcome but I will ask that any advice be limited to the current topic in each of these posts insha'Allaah. We may also have some quest posts from sisters who have been homeschooling for a while and will share the structure/curriculum that works for their family. Also, if you wish to ask questions about this first question: "Where Do I Start?" please feel free to do so by leaving a comment insha'Allaah. 
So dear sisters, when you decided you wanted to homeschool your child(ren)...Where did you start?


  1. wonderful post as i was just thinking of it...wud be waiting for the next post

  2. Assalaamu Alaikum Ukhtee, Masha Allaah great series! Can I just link these posts to my blog sis, I get the same questions almost every day and I feel this would benefit them Insha Allaah! Please do let me know!

  3. Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatullaah,

    @Anonymous: alhamdulillaah. Next post coming soon inhsa'Allaah.

    @Umm Maimoonah: of course dear sis, this is no problem at all.

  4. Assalamy Alaykum,
    Iv been thinking of home schooling and looking forward to your next post.

    Just one qs, my daughter is 2.8. What skills should i expect from her? coloring inside the shapes? painting and cutting out shapes? I feel lost because she doesn't sit still and when i try to do any activity with her, she takes charge and does her own scribbling and messing and the end result is nothing but a big I feel so lost and I don't know what to expect from her?

  5. Bismillaah

    As Salaamu Alaiki!

    OoO *eyes light up* Mashaa'Allaah. I will get my ice tea *giggles* and read...........please believe my questions are coming lol Inshaa'Allaah
    So that lets you off the hook for google *smiles*

  6. Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatulllaah

    Dear sis jAv, please see this chart to see if that helps:

    Insha'Allaah, I will try to come back and answer the second part of your comment regarding how your daughter responds when you try to do activities with her.

    Jazakilllaahu Khayr

  7. Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatulllaah not worry...the Google was not a hook *smile*. Please do send your questions that may really help with this series...waallaahu a'lam.

    Ice tea??? I had not thought of that *smile*, you are creative masha'Allaah.

    Oh, I saw your blog yesterday....hmmm...*smile*

  8. Bismillaah

    Na'am I will ask questions. I think i could still patch up some odds and ends with home school. Baraka'Allaahu'Feekum for such a nice series. May Allaah put this on your scale of good Ameen

    Lol yes I drink mainly ice tea- even in the winter season.

    Hehe@saw my blog. I know your busy so I hope you do participate. I really do look forward to your response ma'am *hugs*

    To answer your question at the end of the post (which was a good one! Mashaa'Allaah)

    When I decided to home school where did I start?

    Well I started with guessing lol. I had no idea what to do- so i started with basics- abc's, numbers, colors, and some reading. I had no clue what I was doing- as I had no example- it wasn't until I got online and found blogs - that I started to see that there was a lot more that i could teach- and i'm still learning

  9. JazakAllah khair! MashAllah...ALWAYS so helpful! I love your blog and since mine just started public school, I feel even more pressured to continue the Islamic activities that we do! I will be waiting with bated breath for your upcoming posts! MashAllah 3leky!

  10. Asalamualaikum sister,
    Jazakallahkhair for taking the time to do this. Very very very beneficial MashAllah

  11. Assalamu Alaykum,
    Have you been able to write the rest of the parts? and I am still waiting for you answer regarding by daughter who loses focus and takes control of any activity I try to do with her.. please help.

  12. Waalaikum assalam wa rahmatullaah

    Sis JaV, jazakillaahu khayr for your comment. No, I have not posted the last part of the series (Lesson planning) but I have also not forgotten about it alhamdulillaah *smile*.

    During the school year, the ability and time to blog is limited.

    With regard to your comment, I apologize for not answering it. I think I may have accidentally not seen it b/c re-reading it, it does not sound familiar to me.

    You may wish to read from the following links that provide information about what to expect from your three year old:

    Allaahu a'lam but your daughter's behaviour sounds quite usual and not at all uncommon. At this age, children are often apt to redirect activities that are either a). too easy for them and therefore do not hold their interest b). to difficult and therefore do not hold their interest c). not what they would like to be doing at that moment (i.e. there may be a distraction in the environment that is competing for their attention so they are unable to completely focus on the task at hand.) d). they may be tired, hungry, etc.

    Does this happen with any and all activities you try to do with your child? And when you say "take control" what do you mean exactly? If she takes the pencil from you and begins scribbling then you will need to stop her and explain to her that her behaviour is not acceptable and that we do not take things from others without asking, etc. If it is that when you explain the activity and then give her the pencil/crayon she insists on colouring instead of doing as you ask then you may wish to look at the type of activities you are introducing to her, the time of day you are introducing them to her, and the amount of time each activity will take. At three years old, her activities need not last long. When she learns to sustain her focus, she will be able to sit for longer periods insha'Allaah. But keep in mind that three year olds are very active and like to move. Try to make most of her activities those that involve moving (jumping, running, skipping, etc.).

    You may also wish to take some time and just simply observe your daughter. Note the type of things that interest her, the type of things she returns to over and over again. Are there things that she does focus on for long periods of time? Do this observation (informally and not so she knows you are observing her) and if you can make small notes to help you remember what you observed insha'Allaah. If, for example, you notice she loves playing pretend tea parties, make her counting, colouring, reading, literacy, etc. activities centred around that theme. Also, on some occasions, ask her what she would like to learn about. This will help her feel involved in her learning and may help her say focused because it is an activity that she helped choose. Of course, you will ensure the activity is appropriate - Islaamically, age wise, etc. - but it may give her a sense of ownership of her learning when she has input into the process.

    In all cases and before anything, make dua' and ask Allaah to help you on this journey and to guide you to that which pleases Him.

    If I have not answered your question or have misunderstood, please do not be shy to mention this and I'll give it another go insha'Allaah *smile*.

    Jazakillaahu Khayr

  13. JazakAllah! You have answered my question and InshaAllah I will try this out. She does focus Alhamdulilah on certain she wants me to read this one page from certain books over and over again! so its like everyday we are reading the same page! how about that??

    I do have another question. she was in pre-school from Aug to mid dec and her teacher told me that she is shy, not confident, does not interact much or speak much in class where as at home she is the exact opposite. I was quite surprised. so her teacher recommened not to homeschool her as she needs to be very social to gain confidence. So what shall I do?

  14. Wa iyaki,

    Wishing to read a page over and over again is very normal (and good). This is one of the ways that children become familiar with language and begin decoding it (learning that certain words refer to certain objects, feelings, etc.). This also helps children build fluency in the language. Reading experts believe that a child wishing to hear a book or page over and over again is very beneficial for the child and they encourage parents to read the page/book over and over and over again..waallaahu a'lam.

    The decision to homeschool or not is one that is made by the parents of the child. After praying istikharah, you and your family may wish to discuss the pros and cons of homeschooling vs. schooling in your area with someone of knowledge in your city/locale...waallaahu a'lam.

  15. Do you recommend an Islamic homeschooling curriculum for preschoolers?

  16. Alhumdullah, for this blog ya ukhti I really do appreciate all that you are doing for our community.


In an effort to reduce the amount of spam comments left on the blog, Anonymous posting has been disabled. Insha'Allaah, this will not be inconvenient to any of the readers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...