Here’s a confession of a first time homeschooling-mom. In a time when our country tries to navigate through the “new norm” of the pandemic, my family adds to that another new element to our lives – that is to home-educate our three children ages 9, 7, and 4 ourselves. What an adventure it has been so far!
We became a homeschooling family as soon as Malaysia went into its first lockdown back in March 2020. We wanted our children to be able to maintain their childhood during such chaotic times brought by the pandemic – that is, to be physically, emotionally, and socially engaged, and most importantly, happy. We felt that neither online school nor the volatile on-and-off physical classroom would afford them that. Homeschool was our solution.
Homeschooling is no walk in the park. We have our good and bad days. Ours has been a clumsy journey filled with mess, laughter, tears, and even insecurities. Here I share our top five life lessons learnt in our journey.
1. Homeschool is a Lifestyle
When we first started homeschooling, it looked a lot like school. We followed the same schedule, subjects, and even the homework.
I faced my children’s resistance and tears, followed by my own frustrations, not long into our homeschool journey. I was replicating school at home, and we were miserable.
I then came across Charlotte Mason’s words that became a game-changer:
“Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some moments of vital interest.”
Now, homeschooling is more than just doing academics at home. It is about mindfully and intentionally crafting a lifestyle that reflects our family values, fed our interests, and integrating every aspect of our lives into the joy of being and learning.
Since then, our family has created daily routines that involve life skills, pursuing our interests, and learning academics in unison. House chores, meal prepping, quiet reading time, arts and crafts, and even learning academics are now family matters and not an individual’s work.
We also incorporate the children’s opinions into how they wish to run their days. They have a say in what they want to learn also.
We set realistic goals and expectations, and we try our best to fulfil them.
When it comes to academic lessons, we study them as a family. While we do have three children of different ages, we learn the different subjects together and collaboratively as a single unit. This way, our children feel connected and they tend to help each other out. It’s amazing to see our older ones instinctively guide the younger ones, and the younger ones, in turn, pick up faster than expected. Sometimes, even I find myself a student too, learning alongside my children.
Homeschooling has set a gentle rhythm in our home. When it feels like the world is in a rush, our family slows down and sets our own pace. This process has helped in more areas than just academics. It has allowed our children to grow more empathetic and compassionate. And as parents, we are more patient and open to our children. These priceless lessons make up for the hard days we face during our homeschooling and the pandemic.
2. Experiential Learning
The best part of homeschooling is that I get to teach children and not necessarily the curriculum. Home educating your children does not have to look like school. As parents, we set the pace, cater lessons to a child’s needs and interests, and sometimes I take the lessons off the books and explore different ways of learning. And enjoy the process while at it!
In our home, learning became more engaging through hands-on activities and lots of play. We have fun adopting bits and pieces of the Charlotte Mason and forest school philosophies. We try using living books (books that are well written by authors who are well-versed in the field) instead of dry textbooks, learn science mostly through observation and hands-on activities, and spend hours with arts and crafts and the outdoors.
When it came to math, nothing works like a charm like getting our children into the kitchen or playing games. Through cooking and baking, concepts of addition, multiplication, averaging, fractions, started to solidify and resonate with our boys (and even with our four years old girl) once we applied them to real-life situations.
Play is a big part of our homeschool too. We play Hangman to replace spelling quizzes; Monopoly for money management and mental math; model making and carrying out experiments for science; recording our movies and dabble with video editing apps to narrate back what we learned. Yes, it takes more effort to do all these, but the outcome and satisfaction of learning through play have been immeasurable.
3. Outdoor Education
The perks of homeschooling are that we can take our lessons outdoors, be it at the park or on a field trip. We try to be outdoors often to keep physically active, and the outdoors is vital to our homeschool.
The outdoors is our gateway to both physical and mental wellness. Our regular walks at Taman Tugu trail and Bukit Kiara, trips to the waterfalls or walks within our neighbourhood, all fed us our dose of vitamin D, exercise, and grounding with nature.
Nature also serves as our “reset” button. On days when bad news of the ongoing pandemic bombarded us, our walks and quiet moments gave us a breather from our worries. On such days, we enjoy our outdoors (we call them nature school), hunt for creepy crawlers, read books on a picnic mat or paint outdoors. On such days, children run freely. These outings always returned us with renewed energy.
Fieldtrips are also an all-time favourite. Homeschooling gifted us the flexibility to curate our trips to a particular lesson we were covering at the moment. We granted ourselves the freedom of when, how long, and how frequent we wanted to visit a place. There were not many places we could go considering the risks of contracting the Covid19, but our few trips to the museum, wetland safari, urban farms, and local tours were far more enriching and they beat conventional modes of learning any time!
4. Lack of Socialising
Homeschooling during the pandemic has its drawbacks. Not being able to and mingle with other homeschooling families regularly – or meet with our regular friends and family for that matter – was a bitter reality. While homeschooling was the best thing that happened to our family during the pandemic, there were many days homeschooling also felt very lonely.
As a first time homeschooling mother, I would have liked to meet other homeschooling parents. My insecurities and stumbling blocks running our homeschool would have been less intimidating had I had a network of mothers that I could seek advice from. Forging relationships with others homeschoolers would have lessened my general insecurities to homeschool well. And, hey, a mom needs playdates occasionally too!
It would have also been nice to see children interact physically with their peers. While we did chose to homeschool for safety reasons and to allow our kids to thrive in other ways aside from online classes, by no means did we wish to isolate our children. However, due to the pandemic, we were limited to only a handful of playdates, group activities, and extra enrichment activities. Joining sports were intermittent, and there were no co-opts to join. It would have been nice to carry some classes with other homeschool families physically; it would have eased off the burden to teach my children everything myself.
For now, our children make friends through co-curricular online classes, and I find my homeschool support system online as well. The boys enjoy their online public speaking course, where they get to exchange ideas and do virtual collaborative works. As for me, I occupy myself with virtual support homeschool groups through social media platforms, follow podcasts, and even attend online courses. Until we can meet others physically again, for now, we make the best of what we have.
5. Where to Start
If you are considering to home-educate but not sure how to start, here is a list of places I recommend for you to start with:
- Our Muslim Homeschool [link: https://ourmuslimhomeschool.com/] – a great Muslim homeschool blog inspired by the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
- Malaysian Homeschool Tribe Newbies – a Facebook support group for new homeschooling families.
- [link: https://hslda.org/post/7-simple-steps-to-start-homeschooling] – a simple guide before you consider homeschooling.
Disclaimer: My homeschooling approach and views are based on personal experiences and are no guarantee for any results or outcomes. All sentiments shared are my own and not of the commonly shared opinions of other homeschool families.