What If My In-Laws Don’t Want Me to Homeschool?

I would request my knowledgeable and veteran homeschooling sisters to help, guide, give advice, suggest to me as to what I should do. In my quest for understanding the homeschooling journey, so far I was alone by the will of Allah and have been gathering all information all by myself. Where I’m from, I have never heard of anyone homeschooling their children. It’s completely a new thing. In spite of all this I have been trying to work out my decision whether I can homeschool or not. I have been informing my spouse and he too supports me 50-50%. I also have been praying and asking Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala to guide me. I also prayed Salat al Istikharah twice in this month. So now my dilemma is after the Salat.

I have faced quite a few tricky and difficult situations regarding my decision to homeschool or not. To those of you who may not know, in our Asian culture the in-laws play a crucial role in all major decisions, whether or not the husband or wife approve of it. I am in this situation. My in-laws are quite dominant and try to create difficult situations for me. Even though my spouse says he supports me, eventually he gives in to what his family tries to convince him to do.

I ask you, sisters, how I  should  interpret the guidance from Allah? I am unable to decide whether to homeschool or not. Do the negative situations that I face mean anything? 

I am residing in UAE and currently my in-laws have come to visit us. My sister-in-law lives close by and is also quite involved in most decisions that my husband and I make. If I homeschool they will continue to question my capabilities, they will use tactics to prove that I am doing something wrong and am ruining my children’s educational future. I have already started to see their tactics as my mother-in-law was questioning me about how I’ll teach them at home and my husband too was accusing me of purchasing homeschooling books and resources, saying that I am just wasting money and the children are not learning anything. The kids are 7.5, 5 and 2 years old and [it is occurring] in front of them, but l’m not sure they are understanding anything.

I want to start homeschooling with my daughter who is 5 years old this September. She will be going to Kg2, but is already reading at home with me whereas that would do the same in school only by the end of the Kg2. But because my husband’s sister’s son, who is just 2 months older than my daughter, got a Certificate of Merit my in-laws think I am just a fool. ‘Why didn’t my daughter receive a certificate if she was so smart?’

*This question has been modified for clarity.  

 

Dear Sister,

As salaamu alaykum.

Thank you sharing your dilemma with us.

The decision to homeschool or not is your’s and your husband’s. In the process of this response I will not be telling you what to do as I do not believe that I know what is best for you and your children. You (and they) are the expert in that field. However, what I will try to do is examine your questions and attempt to provide you with explanations for your situation as well as explore ways in which you might deal with the concerns and negative feelings of the in-laws towards homeschooling so that you might be better placed to make a decision.

Your main enquiry seems to be around making the decision of whether to homeschool or not.  Just to make things a tad more difficult I would like to add that there is a third option: you can do both. My understanding of salatul istikharah is that once you have prayed it you are meant to follow through by doing what necessitates the choice you are inclined towards: for example, if you want to homeschool you will start doing the things necessary to provide that or if you are unsure of what to do you seek the counsel of someone you trust in the matter. Istikharah is a derivative of the word khair and it means “to seek goodness or a guiding to righteous deeds and actions from Allah (SWT).”

From your correspondence it appears that following your isthikarah you are struggling to understand what it is that you are meant to do. On the one hand you can see the benefits of homeschooling your children and it is something you very much want to do. On the other hand the people around you seem to be against the idea. We hold on to our viewpoint, too tightly sometimes, because we believe that we are right. My belief is that life is not about being right but about doing right. Your dealings and interactions with Asian culturally attuned in-laws are conflicting with your wish to homeschool. A technique I often recommend to separate out the noise from the knowledge and understanding is to still our minds and to open up our hearts.  Following an ordinary prayer or another istikharah or when you have some quiet time available to you: sit in a comfortable position ensuring that the soles of your feet are flat on the floor … this is to ground you … Then focus on your breathing and bring it to a slow calming pace … Allowing each in breath to provide you with clarity and each out breath to release confusion … once you feel you are at a steady pace and feeling still turn your mind to your heart and what you know … there insha’Allah (God-willing) lies your answer.

Often we know the right thing to do but fear or a lack of courage holds us back: what if we are wrong? What if they are proven right? Everyone is scared, whether they admit to it or not.  Sometimes we cannot get rid of those scary feelings and so may have to take those feelings with us and do the very thing that frightens us. Once it is done we feel better – whether it went badly or well. The thing to keep in mind is: Alhamdulillah (All praise and thanks belong to God) in all circumstances but what can I learn from the experience?

Asian cultural practices can feel interfering. Particularly in regards to marital relationships and raising children. Firstly, it is important to recognize that people will do what people are used to doing. They don’t necessarily mean ill. Secondly to keep in mind that if you and your husband can come to the same page on all (or most) matters then dealing with the views of others (be it your family/friends or his) will be easier. Thirdly that ultimately everyone is thinking of the children and hold the believe that their stance is what is best. And finally Allah (SWT) knows best and He is the best of planners. So if the children go to school or are homeschooled or indeed both … it is what is right for them. Actually even if children go to school it is essential that as parents we continue being teachers to them. Sending them to school does not mean we have no say or input into their learning. If they are at school, we need to keep a dialogue going with our children about what they are learning and experiencing there.  For the same reason we need to develop good communication and relationships with teachers and schools.

I don’t believe that I have answered your question, certainly not – perhaps – in the way you might have wished. We often want others to just make the choice for us because it feels so hard to make the decision. I think that we can only give advice based on our knowledge and experience and so the advice we give to others only really suits us, if we were in that situation … because we will be lacking some key facet that the person seeking the advice has.  Through your handling of these difficult relationships in your life you will bi’idhnillah be modelling for your children how to behave with others.

I pray that my response has been of some value and that Allah (SWT) guides you to the best for yourself and your children in terms of Deen, Dunya and Akhirah.

Wasalaams

Your Sister in Faith,

Khalida Haque

Khalida Haque is a qualified and experienced counselling psychotherapist who has a private practice, is a clinical supervisor, group facilitator, freelance writer and counselling services manager as well as founder and managing director of Khair khair-therapeutic.com. She is a mother of three with an on-off homeschooling tendency, having been guided by her and her children’s needs.

This question and answer originally appeared in Fitra Journal- Muslim Homeschooling Kindergarten to College along with several others.