I get so excited every time a Muslim homeschooler releases a book on homeschooling. I’ve been homeschooling for sixteen years and to date know of three such titles, not including the Fitra Journals. None have ever disappointed, each bringing new ideas and loads of inspiration even to an old hand like myself. Recently I thoroughly enjoyed Jameelah Madyun’s new book 7 Steps to Start Your Muslim Homeschool: An Alternative to Traditional Schools. Madyun is a former teacher and has so much experience to offer as an educator and a Muslim homeschool pioneer. I’ll break it down for you chapter by chapter.
Chapter 1 Define Your Vision
This is a brilliant suggestion, one I only heard of a couple years ago even though I had known to write plenty of vision and mission statements for work purposes. I think that many of us approach homeschooling with a sense of urgency, throwing ourselves straight into the schooling part as quickly as we can and often having a tougher go of it than if we did a little warming up beforehand. I always suggest ‘deschooling’ a bit to readjust our attitudes about schooling, to calm down before jumping in. Now I see that deschooling along with crafting a vision statement can be an ideal way to get started. Many entrepreneurs and other leaders write vision statements for important projects, so of course doing so for homeschooling – maybe the most important thing you ever do? – is a compelling tool. If you’ve never done one before, no problem, Madyun offers a series of questions to guide you through the process.
Chapter 2 Plan Your Strategy
Next Madyun walks you through the major strategies or styles of homeschooling. I love her approach to this overwhelming issue, asking readers a series of questions about themselves to help access which style of home educating resonates best with them. She includes, Traditional, Unschooling, Eclectic and Charlotte Mason/Classic, then walks us through her experiences with different styles and concludes with how she currently runs her homeschooling – “a mix”. I believe this may be the first time I have heard a Muslim homeschooler point out what feels obvious about the classic approach. Addressing the suggested classics and “living books” list that the style promotes she says: “It was this list that caused me to reject this approach. The majority of these books were written by Caucasian European men. There is so little diversity represented here that I didn’t see a place for my African American and Muslim child. This approach is pointedly Eurocentric and frequently Christian. Although the approach itself has good points it is this over reliance on outdated western source material that I reject.” Personally I find ‘adapting’ the classics or needing to continually ‘correct’ their racism, xenophobia, and often Islamophobia exhausting. While I strive to direct my children well in understanding these prevalent injustices and abuses, there are simply so many other things to do in homeschooling than correct the classics!
Through reading Madyun’s further experiences you may connect to or reject some of these styles, insha Allah moving you closer to a good fit for your family with a little less firsthand discomfort. It’s always reassuring to know that homeschoolers will adjust and readjust along the way, as she says: “…Although your strategy may change, your vision will remain.” That vision keeps us steadfast.
Chapter 3 Gather Your Resources
“One of your biggest resources will be other homeschoolers.” Yes! There is no need to do this in a vacuum, especially while homeschooling is still such a new field, with so many varied approaches and new resources coming out all the time. Listen to what has and hasn’t worked for other homeschoolers. 7 Steps to Start Your Muslim Homeschool’s book cover boasts “With over 100 resources to help get you started,” and many are kindly directly linked in the e-book. Some of the suggestions are especially helpful for US families, as that is Madyun’s home, but aside from all the (many free) resources she links online, others are usually easily adjustable to homeschoolers in other countries and give great inspiration to frugally go about collecting these things.
Chapter 4 Building Your Team
Team? Yes! I’m glad to see Madyun addressing outsourcing in this book, which many of us don’t even consider is available to us, thinking we have to do it all as we signed up for this. She also talks straight about the fact that homeschooling is usually left entirely up to one person (the mom) and she offers suggestions for how to pull in other players. Again this is US-centric, citing things like the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club, but you may be surprised to know that many places offer activities to children which seem school-oriented, but are available outside of a school setting, and you may just need to work a little harder to find them. While admitting, “A common complaint among many homeschoolers is that of the three main resources, often our families are the ones who are the least supportive,” Madyun offers practical suggestions to to connect with and find support among our families, if possible.
She also reminds us:
As the homeschooling parent you are the core of your team. It is important that you include “self-care” as a vital part of maintaining your team. You must make sure that you take care of yourself. This means getting adequate sleep, staying healthy, keeping connected to Allah s.w.t., and taking time for yourself. (Either alone or with others.) When you are refreshed, relaxed and revitalized you will be a better teacher, guide, and a parent who will provide a better learning environment for your school.
Chapter 5 Get Organized
Madyun introduced me to a new and valuable concept that was difficult for me to initially understand: “looping.” She also does a great job to explain her schedule process in a way that helps readers to let go of rigidity and see the greater picture, especially with how to combine so much running around and out-of-the house activities, which really drained me in the early years.
Chapter 6 Stay Healthy
Finally someone addresses this thing that really caught me by surprise about homeschooling, but I will leave it for you to discover when you read the book. She also offers tips for meal planning and preparing, seeking affordable and realistic physical activities for your children, and also discusses spiritual health. Madyun rightfully insists, “If you are not blessed to have organized events in your community then you will have to start them. Yes. You!” This is something I learned after many failed attempts at finding various activities. If it’s not out there, you can create it. You can create co-ops, events, groups – there are so many things you will find you want to do and some things you will have to make from scratch, which is great role-modeling for our kids. Her last chapter closer addresses issues of spiritual health.
Chapter 7 Incorporate Faith
Madyun admits, “Creating a strong Islamic education in your home is not going to be easy. There are not many programs that comprise all three components equally. The three parts being Islamic values and identity, Arabic\Quran and Islamic studies.” This is true, and we know that even Islamic schools aren’t able to provide all of this, so that is why we homeschool. She explains some steps you can take to build a foundation for your Islamic education and to “Islamize” your studies.
A Quick Start Guide
When You need to start… now!
I hope a lot of readers come across this book either before or when they are at this stage as it is so helpful. Again, I think many of us hurl ourselves into the acts of homeschooling either because of our fears of falling behind or due to external sources pressuring us. Madyun explains, “I couldn’t afford to let the kids just sit around, while I spent time researching and gathering resources. As the old proverb says; ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop.’” This is the only bit I disagree with her on, as I’ve said before, I believe that some deschooling down time can be really beneficial to both parent and child before they embark on homeschooling. And parents could even spend that time learning about homeschooling while their kids “sit around” instead of doing what could amount to busy work. But of course few of us actually do this. So, But if you must start quickly, here is your guide! Madyun has very concisely crafted this section for you into: Quick Start Vision, Quick Start Strategy, Quick Start Team, Quick Start Resources, and Suggested Schedule – so helpful!
I greatly appreciate Madyun’s approach and insight into homeschooling with a Muslim point of view. 7 Steps to Start Your Muslim Muslim Homeschool is available as an ebook through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and ibooks.
Brooke Benoit is the editor-in-chief of Fitra Journal and a working unschooling mom of seven children.
This review appears in Fitra Journal #4 “There’s No One Way To Do It.”