“Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. 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 manner of vital interest. “Charlotte Mason
Today’s homeschool chat brings you Shannen (@middlewaymom) ,who is a long time homeschooler to her four daughters aged 20, 9, 6 and 4. She currently follows the Charlotte Mason method for her homeschool, enjoying the outdoors when the Minnesota weather permits, and aiming to make their homeschool a joy for everyone involved. Some days are more successful than others. Shannen is also a student of sacred knowledge and a volunteer in her local community, speaking at local interfaith community events and volunteering at the Islamic Studies class in the state women’s prison. When she’s at home she enjoys knitting, reading, and avoiding housework. You can find her mostly on Instagram at @middlewaymom sharing in her stories of everyday life as a homeschooler, and you can find articles on her blog, www.middlewaymom.com about an array of topics and curriculum she’s tried over the years.
1)Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children.
Alhamdulilah, I’ve been married to a fellow convert for nearly 11 years now and I’ve been blessed with four daughters: 20, 9, 6, and 4 years old.
2)What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
As we have homeschooled for over 10 years now, the reasons have changed quite a bit. It first started as I didn’t think the school system was challenging my daughter enough academically for what she was capable of. Additionally, as I was a new convert to Islam, I had concerns about the social aspect of school and I didn’t feel like I was well equipped to manage that on the evenings and weekends only. I started homeschooling my younger daughters as I felt that I could give them a more well rounded, tailored education if we did it at home.
3)What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
Again, this has changed a LOT over time, but currently I wake up around 6am and work on my own studies and get things done that are hard to do when the kids awake. I wake up the kids around 8am so they can have breakfast, do their morning chores, and be ready for their lessons at 9:15, in sha Allah. As of this year, we’ve added in a social studies class (I teach it) and Quran class at a local Islamic private school, so we have to finish lessons by 11:30 so we can have lunch, do chores, and be ready to leave at 12:30, in sha Allah. We return home about 4pm and go right into our dinner prep routine.
4)What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc ) ?
I try to follow the Charlotte Mason method quite closely as I have seen great benefit to our homeschool atmosphere when we do so. As a Muslim it takes a little extra work to get materials that fulfill the goals of the Charlotte Mason method, and are not Christian, but when I have put in that work, I enjoy the great fruits of those efforts, mashaAllah.
5)What do you love the most about home schooling ?
What I absolutely love about home schooling and why I hold on to it even when it is extremely hard and I think I’m not doing a great job at it, is I love learning with my kids and I truly believe that my love of learning is a gift to them to see that learning does not end when you graduate. I joke sometimes that the one good thing I’ve done as a parent is instill the love of books in all my kids (I know I’ve done more than that, mashaAllah). It is just a part of our culture at home, and with homeschooling, we get to dig into books together and discuss them. A really close second to what I love about homeschooling, though I do think it is connected, is being able to take my kids to museums and plays numerous times each year. Again, we get to learn and explore together and it is just such a joy.
6)What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
It’s really hard to find a favorite… history comes to mind, but frankly, it’s very hard for me to find books that I really like that are honest about history yet child-friendly. Literature is another favorite just because it’s quite easy and it’s like we’re just sitting with a good book. If I’m being honest about my least favorite, it would in general be Islamic studies since I get anxious that I’m not doing enough. I have come to terms with the fact that my kids may have gaps in math or history, but if they grow up and they don’t have a proper understanding of Islam, I’d have a hard time dealing with that. Since I feel that pressure, that translates to pressure on my kids. So, what I’ve done is make sure I am not the only outlet they have to Islam, and they see Islam throughout the community and learn from people other than me, in addition to the lessons we have at home. Since I’ve been able to do that and I feel less pressure for every lesson to go *just right*, it’s been a lot more enjoyable, alhamdulilah.
7)What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children
Patience is a challenge for me, and getting overwhelmed with 3 kids close in age. Of my four kids, not one of them would tell you that I’m a patient person. Still, it’s something I’m working on and I think that the value of homeschooling my kids is greater than my own personal shortcomings.
8)How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
Alhamdulilah, our families have generally been supportive, or at the worst, neutral, about our decision to homeschool. It helps that my husband was homeschooled, so his family was obviously supportive, and my family got to see a “normal” adult that was homeschooled as a child.
9)Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years time ?
I guess I see myself just keep on keepin’ on with homeschooling. In 5 years I’ll have kids in 8th, 6th, and 4th grades, so what I picture is a lot of round table discussions, but what I’ve learned is that you just have to stay flexible, so it could look much different than that. In sha Allah I hope to continue supporting new homeschoolers in their journey, though, and I hope once I’m done with my own studies (should be done in 5 years, in sha Allah), and when the kids are older, I can start giving back a bit more.
10)What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
Homeschooling is not about memorizing facts. It is not about giving kids information and they keep that information in their brains forever. As Charlotte Mason says, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” RELAX if they don’t remember everything. Neither did we. Keeping their love of learning alive will bridge any educational gaps they are sure to have when they move on from you.
Make a plan, but stay flexible, and lower your expectations of your first year. That first year everyone is just getting used to being home, yet having expectations set upon them. Have that plan, but don’t freak out if things fall apart. Your first plan you’re making blindly, so be forgiving of yourself! PLAN PLENTY OF DAYS OFF. If you feel like you’re getting close to burn out, take another day off.
Everyone wants to quit in February. For real – everyone, even me, every year. Also, don’t spend too much money on curriculum until you know what really works with your family. Buy used or borrow when you can. Last, but not least, find what homeschooling method sounds best for you and use that as a guide for narrowing down resources. Your homeschool method is not a religion, you can take a little from here and a little from there, but it’s useful to narrow down what you’re looking at initially.