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"My Lord, increase me in knowledge." (2:114)

Reflections of a Homeschooling Dad – Part 1|Discovering Homeschooling

Dad Home School 1

Rabbi Zidnee Ilman
“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3| PART 4| PART 5

“Save yourself and your family from the Fire,”
{Surat At-Tahrim 66: Verse 6}

My Unique Education
I never thought I would homeschool my children. Even though I completed high school from home through correspondence. I never considered homeschooling as an actual doable thing. Then again, we really have no clue how much we change as the years go by.
My childhood wasn’t normal. My father was murdered by robbers when I was 8 years old. After my dad’s death, my mum wanted her eldest to lead by example so at the age of 13, I left school to pursue full-time Islamic Studies.
While pursuing my Islamic Studies, I managed to complete high school as well through correspondence, hence I graduated from high school without ever attending one. I went on to complete a Bachelors in Islamic Studies through the Islamic Online University, so I ended up getting a university degree without going to campus either.
Despite all of this, I never thought of keeping my children at home and teaching them myself. For one, my wife and I were too busy, but more so, because we hadn’t really been exposed to homeschooling as a real alternative. I had studied from home because I was enrolled elsewhere during the day, not because I was at home all day. I couldn’t imagine my kids being at home all day.
In fact, the only person I knew who was completely homeschooled was a student in my class at the Islamic institute when we were teenagers. This student was really sheltered from the real world which affected his life in a very negative way. He couldn’t relate to the world, and was very unsociable. Because of this, homeschooling was something I never considered.

Introduced to Homeschooling
Then one day, everything changed. Sometimes all it takes is one book, one video, or one article, maybe even one Facebook post or tweet to cause a huge paradigm shift and change your life in a major way. For us, it was an episode of the Deen Show in which Zohra Sarwari was interviewed about homeschooling her children.
My wife and I listened intensively to every word. Right then and there we knew this was something we were interested in trying. But we still had a few years to make a decision. Our eldest was just three years old at that time, so I had at least two years to research the issue thoroughly before making a decision that would majorly impact my children’s lives, as well as my own.
I did a lot of research over the following years, which included reading many blogs and articles on homeschooling, speaking to many homeschooling parents about how they did it, and speaking to children at the local Muslim schools to gauge how beneficial the schools were.
However, there were a few things holding me back. One was the fear of what people will say and how the family would react to us choosing to homeschool. The other thing was that I was really busy with multiple Dawah projects and didn’t seem to have the time to homeschool.

The Experiment
In 2013, I decided to send my eldest who was five years old to school for just one year, as an experiment. Usually, people consider school the norm and homeschooling as an experiment, but I was sure about homeschooling being beneficial, but unsure about whether school was a good option.
So I sent him as an experiment and thought that if he benefited from school, they would all go to school. If school proved to cause more harm than good, then I will make the time and changes needed to homeschool.
Sending my son to school for a year was one decision I truly regretted and wished I could take back. I felt like I had wasted an entire year of his life. During that year, he learned so little that when I homeschooled my second child, we completed the same amount of work in three months!
Furthermore, even though it was supposed to be an Islamic school, it proved to be far from Islamic. I watched in surprise as they played music at the school sports day while making the entire school do a dance they had rehearsed. This was followed by 5 year old Muslim girls dressed as cheerleaders running around the field and dancing to cheer the other kids on. I was in shock, and wrote to the school to remind them that they were supposed to be Islamic.
I was left despondent when the school shot down any corrections, no matter how kindly it was worded. As the year went on, we had to deal with issues like bullying, teachers who did not believe in their students or give them hope, boring Islamic classes in which they learned many things which were not authentic, and so many other things that made me equally sad and angry.
For 10 months, my son was in an environment in which Islam was reduced to rituals and a name, in which his teachers did not believe in him, and in which actual learning was rare. In addition to one year wasted, the first three months of homeschooling the next year was spent undoing all the harms caused to his confidence and understanding of Islam.

Choosing Homeschooling
By the end of the year, the decision was clear. I had to homeschool my children, I had to make the time to do it. Yes, it would be difficult and time consuming, but their education and Islamic upbringing was my responsibility and I couldn’t delegate that to a school that I didn’t trust.
Would I still have homeschooled if I lived in an area with better Muslim schools? I don’t think so, but as a former teacher and student at the local Muslim schools, I was not prepared to let my children spend the next 12 years in that environment. Doing so would have been negligent on my part, it would have been choosing my own convenience over their right to guidance and education.
It has now been 20 months since I started homeschooling my children, and during that time the two older boys have completed two and half grades each. They are happy, learning well, excited, interested, and most importantly growing into good Muslims with knowledge of both Deen and Dunya.
Alhamdullilah, at the end of 2013, we moved into a bigger apartment and turned the extra room into a classroom and office. We were now ready to begin homeschooling. All that was left was to inform our family and friends and deal with the flood of emotions and questions.

How did I deal with family and societal pressure to not send my kids to school? Find out in Part Two, coming soon!

Zohra Sarwari on Deen Show

Authored by Ustadh Ismail Kamdar
Edited by Tahira Amatullah

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ - "Convey (knowledge) from me even if it is just one ayah" [Bukhari 3461]

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