I come from a dual-income family – my mother was a nurse who worked shifts and my father was an Assistant Commissioner of Public Health in Singapore. During early childhood, my siblings and I had a helper who took care of us when my parents were at work and in later years, we became latch-key children when the much-loved nanny left to start her own family. It was inevitable, due to their work commitments and our school schedules, that we would often be left to our own devices.
I did not mind being independent, but I always had the feeling that there was something missing in our lives…
I do not blame my parents in the least – they had done the very best they could. They grew up during the Japanese Occupation and tightened their belts in the difficult post-war years. Their personal aspirations had to be shelved for more pressing considerations. When they had my siblings and me, they made sacrifices so we could have choices.
I believe my parents’ hard work and esteem for knowledge opened up horizons to me alhamdulillah and gave me the opportunity to choose homeschooling for my children.
It has been an exhilarating journey that has enriched us as a family. My husband and I love having Mars and Bear with us every day. We are their confidants and they are each others’ best friends. We have also been able to train them to take responsibility in our household’s daily operation. The girls have learnt to tackle laundry duty, meal-time preparations as well as cleaning and tidying daily. Alhamdulillah, homeschooling has enabled us to work as a team.
Homeschooling has allowed us to maintain close ties with our family. Whether we were based in Singapore or Pakistan, we have been able to make decisions to meet our children’s and family’s needs, without having to worry about school policy and classroom schedules. We were able to be with my father-in-law during his last days and were able to comfort my ailing mother during her kidney treatments and surgeries this year. It has been a blessing indeed that we have always been to make family – rather than school – a priority.
Our children are treated as unique individuals – their strengths are celebrated and honed and their struggles, identified and worked on with love and due consideration. The one-on-one attention they each receive enables them to get through their material in greater breadth and depth. They set their own rhythm, but rather than create indiscipline or inertia, this has made the learning more efficient and given them more time for other pursuits and interests.
Homeschooling has also given us the freedom to choose our preferred approach and resources. At our home, we focus on knowledge and good behaviour rather than on grades. Credit is given not for cleverness, but for good conduct. We encourage striving, but not for self-glorification and competition is tempered with compassion for our fellow learners.
The best thing about homeschooling is that my husband and I have been able to impart and incorporate Islamic morals to our children without compromise. Our faith is interwoven in our curriculum so our children have no need to leave their values at the school gates, set aside their worship or downplay their Muslim identity. Home education has given them a stronger sense of character and self-esteem. They have been sheltered from the bullying, teasing and negative peer pressure that is common in public schools.
A few months ago, a sister I met marvelled at the fact that I am a homeschooling mother. She declared, “I could never do what you do!” I assured her that it has neither been a sacrifice nor a great feat on my part. Being with my children has helped me find what was missing before – joy in togetherness and faith.
I thank Allah every day, for I have learnt more than I have taught and truly taken more than I have given.
This article was originally written for HomeWorks Magazine.