Why do we homeschool? Such a simple question, but it’s such a hard answer to narrow down for the simple, curious passer-by. My two-minute answer has evolved to something like this:
The public school wasn’t challenging her enough, and we wanted to alleviate the social pressures that full-time school created.
If you are a convert to your religion, like I am, answering why you homeschool feels similar to answering why I chose Islam. There’s so much back story, so much history, that unless we really sit down to have coffee and chat about it, I feel like I’m giving you only one slice of the pie. But, if you’re the person ringing us up at the grocery store, then you’re likely not going to go out for coffee with me.
Why we homeschool: the extended version
Homeschooling never crossed my mind until I learned that a few coworkers homeschooled their kids, and until I learned that a well-mannered, intelligent coworker was homeschooled (hehe, and he became my husband later on!). In truth, I never, ever considered being a stay at home mom either. I just always pictured myself as a woman in the corporate world, but then I got laid off, and we decided to take another turn. All those details are a tangent we can save for another day, over a latte, of course.
I was relatively satisfied with how the school was doing while Kira was in kindergarten and first grade. Also, I was very happy with her teachers through all of Kira’s years in public school (through third grade). Where I started to become dissatisfied was when I started seeing Kira slip toward the center of the standardized tests after she started her school career at the very top. Each year she moved about 10 percentage points closer to the center, and her teachers all the while raved about what a great student she was, and what a pleasure she was to teach.
What dawned on me is that she wasn’t being challenged to her potential, and instead she was learning that she could give 50% effort and still get stellar grades. In all honesty, I still struggle with the after effects of being able to pass exams with little to no prep work, and I notice that we are still battling it a bit with Kira as well. Don’t get me wrong, Kira, nor any of my kids, need to be at the 99th percentile in standardized testing to make me happy. If 100% effort means they are below grade average, alhamdulilah, I’m celebrating they are giving 100%.
I’m not okay with school being an experience of just showing up and getting praise. I want there to be exploration and stretching of the mind.
Secondly is the social pressure from the kids around her. In Kira’s younger years, she strived to make everyone happy, all the time. With a split home, this meant she had to adopt a split personality. This also translated to friends at school, and never being able to walk away from unhealthy friendships. We spent the first couple years of homeschooling working on how to respectfully decline friendships, and even how to respectfully disagree with her own parents (myself included). We drilled time and time again that we would rather be unhappy with the truth than fooled by a lie.
Without homeschooling, we simply did not have the time to dedicate to working on building a strong character. In a split home, she needs that strength.
I normally leave our religious reasons for last in regards to Kira for two reasons:
- In her split home, my religious choice is not matched with her biological dad’s. Homeschooling for religious reasons wouldn’t have been an acceptable reason to start.
- Many people assume a religious motivation for homeschooling, so much so that they may overlook the educational and social reasons. I like to start with the unexpected so I avoid people tuning me out when I mention the secular reasons.
Without a doubt, because we homeschool, I definitely feel we have more of a fighting chance for Kira to live her teen and young adult years with high moral standards and with Islam as an influence, even if it’s not something she openly practices on a day to day basis. Peer pressure is a strong thing, and being surrounded by your peers for the majority of your week makes it hard to walk a different road. Given Kira’s father chooses a more pop-culture, secular lifestyle, I have little reason to believe she’d choose the “restrictive” path from my influence – someone she would see a fraction of her week.
Of course, there’s the bonuses of having a strong relationship with my 14 year old daughter (how many people can say that?), and she has a strong relationship with her 3 and 1 year old sisters. This family bond is hard to come by if I’m splitting the week with her dad, plus she’s gone at school all day.
Patricia “UmmAyana” Milton says
Agreed, it’s not a question that can be answered in a casual, in passing kind of way, but I find it common for people to ask the question in that awkward setting.
Our main reason for homeschooling is religious, but I too usually save that for my last point of reference when speaking to non muslim family and strangers. That is if I mention it at all.
I love how you mentioned the grocery clerk, I can imagine that happening while you’re out with the kids during school hours.
S Susan says
Salam! Thank you for explaining! Here in Sweden it is not possible to homeschool (against the law) but it is interesting to read about your experience and how you do it! Since we have girls the same age I benefit from from your writing with that in mind!/ S Susan
Sakeenah UmmiZu says
You’re right, it’s not easy to just answer this question in two sentences. I used to say I wanted to homeschool to avoid certain things, now it’s a little of that but I like the family closeness and start focusing more on the positives mashaallah.
Shannen Espelien says
You’re right, it’s good to focus on the positives, in sha Allah. So often, homeschooling is portrayed as people trying to hide from the “real world” and talking about what we’re trying to avoid just digs that in even further.