Friday, March 2, 2012


Before my son was born I had big plans. As we prepared to homeschool our children, all the grand ideas of goals and accomplishments started to come out.  I was preparing for him to be a genius before he could read.  While I still hope that my children will grow up to be exceptional Muslims, I have had some time to let experience and reality kick in, and cool down a little bit. 

One of the problems that I faced in my initial stages of homeschooling, which I think that many others my fall victim to, is allowing their hopes and aspirations for their children be the very roadblock that stops them from achieving those very hopes and aspirations.  The problem comes in when our ambitions combined with our lack of experience sometimes causes us to do too much too fast.  I would liken it to the new Muslim on his first day of Ramadan, at his first iftaar, at a 5 star buffet.  His excitement inevitably allows him to take on more than he can chew, and pays for it later.

Our experience with the Quran

Teaching Quran has been one of my more difficult experiences in learning this lesson. We started quite slow and he would initially just listen to the cd play of جز عمّ.  Once we realized that he was picking up things relatively quickly, we became too ambitious.  Over a short span of time we developed a program of memorization and review.  Our son would learn a new page a day and review six.  By age 3 he had all of جز عمّ  and تبارك memorized, or so we thought.  We later realized that his memorization was weakening, as not enough time was allocated for review. Not only did this program prove too much for him but It also became too much for us to keep up with our own schedules. Over the summer when we both began working this program fell flat on its face.

The end result was often we did not had enough time to get through a whole lesson, so we started skipping lessons completely.  Within a few months we found ourselves going back to the beginning teaching الإخلاص all over again. We thank god for having learnt this valuable lesson early on. After a long period of stagnation, we started up again and decided to go at a much slower pace. He is improving each day and his memorization is now solid. My wife goes through Quran with him in the morning, and then I review with him in the evening. We do not move onto a new chapter until the last one and all of the previous ones are memorized without any flaws.

My experience with Arabic

I’ve been using a book called قصص النبيين which has been excellent reading for my son.  The language is graded and the words repeat themselves throughout the stories slowly building up.  You can see an example of what one of the chapters looks below.  Many of are no more than a page. 

Watching my son whiz through English books with my wife I thought “we can do that”.   I didn’t think it was too much to ask to go through two chapters a day.  Again we were troubled by the inability to get my son to sit through a full lesson, and two not being able to fit the time required to do so into my daily schedule.  The result was that the book was left on the shelf for a good period of time.

My new approach

Admittedly It took a bit of time, but finally I came to the realization that one needs to be realistic about certain realities.

1.     Your child’s ability;  Out of love for our children we want to see them reach their maximum potential however every child is unique and their lesson planning should be catered to the them, and not to the idea of who you would like them to be.

2.     Your child’s patience level; Your child might be brilliant, but he or she is still a child.  Some children really love reading, but it just doesn’t compare to running around and playing.  Asking your child to sit through lessons that are past their attention span will make them dread the experience.

3.     The amount of time you can consistently give each day;  Just as you have to be realistic about the amount of time your child can handle you also have be realistic about the amount of time your schedule can afford.  Requesting too much time from yourself is a classic road to giving up.  Allocating a certain time each day that you can accomplish helps build a routine that you can keep up with.  It’s better to spend more than your allotted time and sit longer than have to cancel the day altogether because you cannot reach your stated goal. 

Now after putting these three things into perspective my lesson plans have completely changed and we’re not only sticking to the program but we’re making more progress each day than when we had bigger objectives.  Our ambitions are still high but we have instead opted to finish the marathon one step at a time.   If you looked at what I do in a day with my son it’s quite small, but it’s the consistency that works.  I teach my son for no more than an hour and a half on any given day.  Many times we can even finish in a half hour.  Using this method we are finishing chapters and it is painless.  He is memorizing Quran and it is sticking.  

The best advice that I could give to anyone who is starting out homeschooling is the advice of the Prophet peace be upon him when he said “The most beloved actions to Allah, are the most consistent, even if they are small”.