1. How are children going to learn what they need to know?
A child with safety gear, left on his own in a pool of water will gradually learn the body movements required to swim. Similarly a child spending active time with his/her mother in the kitchen will learn the many nitty gritties of cooking real fast. Same goes for a child who accompanies family members in business and manufacturing concerns where he learns the tricks of trade first hand. Plus the real life skills that we need to learn from early age are never taught at schools. Who taught us frugality, compassion, anti-competition, budgeting, giving, positive thinking, home organisation, cleaning etc? So depending on the educational goals we set for our children, not everything will come from textbooks and lectures. It will be a combination of living within a like-minded community, a good collection of books at home/library, setting examples, answering questions, purposeful conversations and allowing the child to do things on their own.
Homeschooled children are usually at a higher and faster level of learning from their school-going peers and most of their learning is led by the love of learning, not external pressures like exams and grades.
2. How am I going to teach my child six hours a day?
Even schools don't teach children six hours a day - and with 30 plus students in each classroom, think about the average time a single student gets one to one with the teacher. Considerable amount of ‘school time’ for a child is spent in waiting for his turn, ‘busy work’ or other unproductive activities.?At an early age, there is no need of structured teaching or long hours of homeschooling. When homeschooling families do start structured learning, usually between 5 – 7 years (depending on the readiness of the child), they experience that only a couple of hours daily from the parents/teachers/guardians end for facilitation in learning, works wonders for a child and he/she can spend rest of the day in exploring, investigating, creative rumbling, science experiments, reading and writing, etc. The purpose is to turn the child into a self-learner instead of spoon-feeding and pressurizing him.
3. How can children of different ages be taught at the same time?
Infants learn to talk, sit and walk as a result of having adults around. Their speech, eating habits and interests, all develop after they get exposed to people of different ages within their family/community. So having children of different age groups in a homeschool setting is more of an added advantage than confusion. The younger ones gain knowledge and tactics from older ones while the older ones get a chance of learning to be responsible, tolerant and inspiring. However, constant interruptions of a younger child, toddler, or infant can stress out most homeschooling mothers when they are teaching an older child some serious subjects. It just takes a small change of perspective to improve the situation. Distraction and diversion is the key to solving this problem. Small children demand attention when they are idle and when they feel ignored or isolated by their parents and older siblings. If they are given an activity similar to that of the older child, allowed to sit nearby, and made to feel like they are being involved in the learning (e.g. by being handed a book that is appropriate for their reading level, or given a pencil or marker and asked to scribble randomly on a paper sheet), they will not feel ignored by their parents and siblings, and will hence stop demanding attention through interruptions and outright hair-raising tantrums. Another way to effectively handle different age brackets is to ask the older ones to teach what they know, watered down in version, to their younger siblings. This will kill many birds with one stone: encourage sibling bonding, entrench what has been learnt firmly into the minds of the older siblings, engage the younger ones’ attention, and best of all, enable the younger ones to learn things higher than their level or age. If the support of spouse / family / friends is available, it can be utilized to solve this problem. For example, the younger child can be made busy with the family elders, the father may take him/her out to Masjid or an outing, or a trustworthy household helper can provide supervision to the younger child, when the mother wants some uninterrupted time slot to engage the older children. Another possibility is to take turns teaching the older children, while one of them plays with their younger sibling(s). Young children will usually sleep late in the mornings, or take naps in the daytime, which provides an exclusive time slot for older children’s uninterrupted study, if the mother does some wise time management.
4. I also wonder if I can have the thoroughness, the follow-through demanded, the patience, and the continuing enthusiasm for the diversity of interests they will undoubtedly have?
If there is a will, you'll find many, not just one way to educate your children satisfactorily. At lower levels, expertise of different subjects is not needed as such. In early years of your child, the only qualification needed to educate him and build his sound Islamic foundation is 'parenthood'. As your child grows, you can easily teach basic skills like reading and writing if you are literate yourself. It does take personal enthusiasm and determination to follow the homeschooling route, but if you fix your vision on the greater benefits of Aakhirah, the hard work can be taken up easily. Once the love of learning and self-confidence is instilled in children and they are equipped with the tools of learning (reading and writing), you'll find them independently pursuing their diverse interests, without requiring much effort on your part. Many homeschoolers have been turned into self-learners this way. The history of our Salaf (early generations of Muslims) is full of such examples, where great scholars, physicians and scientists were a result of self-driven learning, not school-fed education. One thing you will constantly need to improve on is patience, and guidance from Sunnah can be taken for this, but remember that greater patience threshold will not only improve your homeschooling life but also life in general.??For higher levels of study or subjects that may be out of your reach, you can always hire tutions, take online help and contact learned people in family / community.
5. What if my child wants to learn something I can't teach?
If a child is exposed to learning methodologies from the very foundational years, he/she will not face difficulties in areas in which the immediate family members have no knowledge about. Parents are supposed to facilitate learning – look for relatives, friends, associates, fellow homeschooling parents and experts in relevant fields who can help teach a particular subject / skill that you can’t teach yourself. Homeschooling mothers/fathers who meet regularly can help each other’s children in subjects they are good at. Libraries, workshops, summer activities in neighborhood, home tutors and coaching centers, all can help children in learning various subjects of their choice. Above all, Internet is a whole world of knowledge - quick and easy to benefit from. There are numerous websites and learning resources in the form of lectures, videos, worksheets and even virtual tuition centers that can be used readily and mostly free of cost.
6. How do I know if my child is learning?
As long as the child's day is filled with productive activities, he/she is learning to manage time and resources well, enjoys being in the company of people around to satisfy his curiosity; asks questions to gain knowledge, and yearns for more, learning is taking place. Testing is not usually a measure of learning and retention, as widely believed. When children learn out of interest and a sense of responsibility, they usually retain more than expected. Their learning becomes evident in different subjects / areas as they become capable of handling advanced topics / skills related to that subject / area. In younger children, learning may not become evident immediately. But they act like ‘sponges’ observing and internalizing all that is going around them, and the adults may get many happy surprises if they trust and respect a child’s natural learning mechanism that Allah has implanted perfectly in everyone.
7. Should I test my child?
Testing children is a parent's personal decision in homeschooling. Most of the mothers usually know their child inside out –what they are capable of and many things where they cannot be tested. Some parents find the use of workbooks in different subjects enough to find out where their children stand while some make sure they make an attempt at regular schools' exam papers which they get from any support school their community is linked to. On the other hand some find living a learning life with their children far better than testing them.