This is my story about how I managed to get my husband to agree to homeschooling our children, something I had wanted to do for many years. He was firmly against me homeschooling due to how he saw schooling. We come from different backgrounds. Schools in his native region of North Africa were very strict and he had to pass yearly tests before he moved up to the next class. It was very regimental. In the school system I was brought up with in the United Kingdom we were always in the same class as those of the same age no matter the ability.
Through personal involvement with my own children’s school experiences, I noticed how the system was struggling to cope with different children’s needs. My son (first born) was a September baby and very advanced for his age. He struggled in school and became disruptive because the work was too easy for him. A school psychologist was brought in to see him at age four at the end of his first year of two years of nursery education. They told us that the issue lay with the nursery and not my son. The nursery was not meeting his needs and they warned that we would struggle with this issue throughout his education if the schools were not prepared to properly engage with him.
As new parents this was quite a shock to both me and my husband. We looked for a school with smaller class sizes as UK school class sizes are about 30 children to one teacher. We found a school with only 15 pupils in the class and we thought that this would work. He still continuously struggled depending on which teacher he had for each year. Some teachers loved his keen interest and flawless assignments, yet some disliked that he struggled to stay patient when he found things boring. These combative teachers expected all children to have the same work and be satisfied with it. We tried the school for five years and then he moved into the secondary school where it was back to 30 pupils in a class. Every year had its challenges and I saw myself visiting the school for different issues. My son deeply hated school but his father insisted that it was the only way to be educated.
I approached the topic of homeschooling many times but my husband always said no, I guess he was fearing going away from the norm, as he had never heard of anyone doing this before. In addition to my son we have two daughters who didn’t really have any major issues at school, they fitted in quite nicely. When I had my first daughter, while my son was in nursery, I went to college to study and get a certificate as a teacher’s assistant. I had to work in a school environment as part of the course. This opened my eyes as to how the school system works. I realised how many flaws there were in the system and that even if you have the best, most motivated teacher they do not have the time to assess and monitor every child in the classroom due to workload and distractions. This is when I first realised why my son wasn’t coping well and believed there must be another option. I went home, did some online research, and found out about homeschooling.
I approached my husband with the possibility of homeschooling, but he was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen. I did this yearly. The moment that it really hit me that I couldn’t let my children be in school anymore was when it was time for my eldest daughter, then 11 years old, to start secondary school. My son, who was then 14, told me all of the horror stories about what happens in school. Not just the teaching problems, but children involved with sex, drugs, bullying, etc. My son knew that at his age his dad wasn’t going to change his mind about homeschooling him as he was already prepared for his exams, but my son really thought it was a good idea to keep pushing for me to homeschool the girls. I had weeks of worrying about what would happen to my daughter, especially as where we live there are no other Muslims and she would be the odd one out. This hadn’t really bothered her in her primary years but the transfer to secondary would mean mixing with more and different people.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy approaching my husband after all these years of him refusing, so I joined many online homeschooling networks and looked for advice as to what I could do to change his mind. I eventually came across a new approach. I printed off many reports, more than a hundred pages- too many to read. These were about all the good points of homeschooling and to be fair I printed off a list of cons too just to keep him happy. Also following advice, I decided to ask for a trial period so at least then he felt as if he had some control in the decision: I think this is important to some men and was crucial for me.
I told him that I needed to have a serious talk with him. We set some time aside when the children were in bed so as not to be disrupted. I gave him the huge pile of reports and said to him that I was really serious about homeschooling both our girls, but especially the eldest and that I did not want her to start the secondary school. I have to be truthful and say he wasn’t impressed. I then explained that I knew he had doubts and that, to be honest, I might start this path and not be able to make it either, but I had to at least give it a try. I told him that if we both agreed to a trial period for the children that even if it didn’t work out, it really wasn’t going to be a big difference in their schooling as they are both fairly bright girls anyway. He still wasn’t too impressed, but he did seem to like the trial part of the deal. I then gave him an ultimatum, too. Yes, I know I was a bit naughty, but I had to let him know I was very serious on this matter. I told him if he didn’t agree then I would refuse to take the girls to school in the morning and refuse to collect them from school too. This is something I have always done and many parents will know it isn’t a easy job, especially in the rain and snow! I told him to think it over but not make me wait too long.
After about three days he came back to me and said that he only looked at a couple of the pages, as I guessed, but that he would agree to a trial of two or three school terms to see how it goes. You can’t believe how happy I was after all these years of asking! All I had to do was put the ball in his court and make it look like he was in control. I so wish I had thought of that approach years earlier. I told my daughters the good news. He did say that I hide to follow the curriculum as part of his acceptance, which I agreed on.
When the time came in July for school to end I handed in the de-registration forms, which is a requirement in the UK. I was so relieved and my daughters were so happy. They did enjoy school, but they also wanted to try homeschooling and they suspected the benefits of it.
When September started my husband expected them to start their school work at 9:00 am just like in school and finish at 3:00 pm. He was at work all day and didn’t know what was happening. At first, to keep him happy, I did make sure the girls kept busy with their studies most of the daytime. My husband was still very apprehensive about our decision and he refused to inform any of his family abroad that we had taken the girls out of school. He also didn’t tell his friends about it as he probably thought it wouldn’t work out. So as best as we could, we kept it a secret. And he didn’t like the girls coming into his workplace (he is self employed) during the day in case any customers started asking questions. Once the end of the year approached I was getting myself a little stressed wondering what he was going to say. I was still ready to tell him that if he wanted them in school he had to do everything including prepare packed lunches, and buy uniforms!
However, I shouldn’t have worried as after the year was up and he saw that we were coping fine and he was happy with the amount of work they were doing, he was relaxed. He saw how happy the girls were and how it was nice to also not worry about them missing any work. At school if the girls were off sick, they never got caught up and simply missed large portions. At home that doesn’t happen and as well if you don’t understand something you have all the extra time to go over it until you do.
My husband agreed that we could continue with homeschooling after the first year. He also eventually told his family and friends. I have to say, he didn’t just tell them, he would tell them how marvellous it was and how great this option is and that the girls’ were doing brilliantly! In the second year he let the girls come to his business and didn’t mind telling customers that they are homeschooled. I am actually shocked myself at how much his view has changed in such a short time. I honestly thought I would have a battle on my hands every year, but now he doesn’t question us and lets me take control. He still doesn’t help to homeschool them, it is all left to me, that was part of his original deal too, but to be honest, I prefer it that way.
This past year I also had the chance to prove to him that I shouldn’t have any problems getting the girls to sit their end of schooling exams (IGCSE/GCSE). My son had wanted to take the option of studying French at school but the school said there wasn’t enough interest and only Spanish could be taken. He had spent three years studying it at school and now they denied him to finish! My son was so upset and I knew he could do it. Knowing the exam system for homeschoolers, I approached the school and asked that if I teach him French at home could he sit the exams in the school and have assignments marked by the school’s French teacher. The school agreed as they knew he was capable. So I taught my son French at home, I followed the curriculum but doing it in my own way as he preferred, an option not available in school. The school marked his assignments and entered him for his exam. He passed with a grade A. So now I feel much more confident myself and it also proved again to my husband that homeschooling does work!
Karima is a homeschooling mum of three from the UK. She enjoys spending time with her family and doing anything craft related which she loves sharing on her blog karimascrafts.com
This article appears in Issue One of Fitra Journal. The entire issue is available on Amazon or here.