Homeschool

Unedited Thoughts #3: Homeschooling Experiments

Homeschooling Experiments

Homeschooling Experiments

As I said before, the school system needs to change. We need new methods of learning and education that are faster, more effective and longer lasting. Children need to keep their natural love of learning for life. It should not be kicked out off them with their first year of schooling. Something needs to change. Experiments with new learning methods are a must.

That is why I decided to utilize my homeschooling time to experiment with multiple education methods. With each method, I observe how the children react to it and how much information they retain in the long term. There are basically three methods of education I have being experimenting with recently: integrated learning, casual discussion, and unschooling.

Integrated Learning

I got the idea for integrated learning from this brilliant YouTube series by Mirza Yawar Baig. I highly recommend you watch it and get some ideas from it too.

Integrated learning is defined as a method of education in which students study across multiple subjects without separating them into subjects. This would usually mean focusing on a theme and discussing everything related to that theme.

Example 1: We sat together to read the biography of Ibn Khadlun. What subject would this fall under? Technically, his biography is equal parts history, science, social studies and Islamic studies. So we don’t call it any subject, and just focus on learning lessons from it.

During the study on his biography, we discussed the Islamic Golden Age, the countries he lived in, his theories on societies and economics, the state of the Muslim world at his time, the state of the Muslim world today, the importance of reading, and even a few lessons regarding friendship and jealousy.

Example 2: We looked at a map of Asia and the children pointed to different countries and asked questions about them. During that one hour, we ended up discussing World War I and II, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the immigration laws of various Asian countries, the populations of some of these countries, the different government systems that exist in Asia, the major religions of Asia, and which major companies are based in Asia.

Result: Integrated learning is now a standard part of my homeschooling system. At least 3 days a week we have an hour allocated to learning in this method. We will either look at a person, a place or a theme, and discuss everything related to it without trying to box the topics into subjects. One interesting result I found is that my children have a very strong retention of the information discussed during these sessions.

Casual Discussion as a form of education

In reality, this happens everyday for many of us. Yet for some reason we don’t look at it as a genuine way to educate children. I have actually merged this with integrated learning and unschooling, and they all flow together during class time.

My theory is that children learn more from casual discussions with adults, as long as:
1. Adults take the discussion seriously.
2. Adults do not dumb down the topic or the vocabulary related to the topic.
3. They talk to the children casually, and not in a authoritative voice.

This method might not work if the child feels they are not being taken seriously. Or that the adult thinks they are dumb, or if it feels like a lecture. It needs to have a casual conversation vibe to it, it must be organic conversation. It cannot be forced.

Example: One of my children asked me about what mazhabs are. We had a long detailed conversation in which he discussed the biographies of the 4 Imams, why people love them, the importance of Fiqh and following scholars, as well as the two extremes people go to in this area. We also discussed why there are different opinions in Islam, the importance of respecting these opinions, and how this differences are actually a mercy for us.

All of this would have went over their head if I had lectured them, not taken the topic seriously or tried to dumb it down. They appreciated getting the full picture, and learned many lessons from this discussion.

Result: Even if your children go to school, make time to have genuine discussions with them after school about topics that are important to them. This is one of the most important sources of learning for any child.

The Unschooling Experiment

When I first heard about unschooling, I dismissed it. It seemed like too radical a concept. For those who don’t know, unschooling means leaving children to learn on their own what they want when they want.

I’m sure anybody introduced to unschooling for the first time might roll their eyes at it. But then I read many stories of successfully unschooled individuals, and decided it what worth experimenting with. So began unschooling Friday.

From Mondays to Thursdays, our homeschool is heavily scheduled. We have time for English, Maths, Integrated Learning, Art, Reading, Quran, Surahs, Arabic and Islamic Studies.

Fridays however are a free for all. I didn’t tell the children that Friday is for unschooling. I simply said that Friday is a casual day and you can learn whatever you want. Then I sit back, take notes, and observe the magic of unschooling in action.

This is how this past Friday went:

I walk into the class and found the children divided into two groups. Both groups were taking turn drawing on tablets with their s-pens. They were immersed in their digital art, so I didn’t interfere. After a while, one child drifted off to read a book. Then another, then another.

They all chose books in different fields. One was reading a science book, another a leadership book meant for adults, and the third was reading hadiths about Dajjal. While they were reading, they kept taking breaks to show each other something interesting they read, and to discuss it. Again I just sat back and observed.

Then my ten year old decided to take out his ‘introduction to programming’ book, open up his programming software on the PC and teach himself to make a video game. He was immersed in the computer for over an hour, experimenting, following the instructions in the book, and learning the terms. After a while, he gave his brothers a turn at it too. They all took turns learning how to program, even my seven year old. A good two hours went like this.

In the meanwhile, one of the children came to ask me about Spain. So began a casual discussion about Spain: its geography, history, the Islamic Golden Age, famous scholars, how Muslims lost it, and the current state of Spain. So the children were now divided into two groups: one group teaching themselves how to code on the PC, while the others were learning everything they could about Spain. And that is how our day ended.

Result: Maybe there is something to unschooling after all. Children seem to learn a lot more in a morning of self-directed learning than in an entire week of structured curriculum. This is where my idea for a self-directed learning center was born. But that is a topic for another time.

If you want to learn more about homeschooling, join our free online course by clicking here.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling, 0 comments

Unedited Thoughts #1: Homework, Homeschool and the concept of teenagers

Unedited Thoughts 1

A New Unedited Style Of Writing

I’ve decided to try out a new style of writing for this blog: unedited thoughts.

I haven’t been able to post on this blog for many months because my writing has been stunted by too many factors: political correctness, worrying about the readers’ feelings, SEO issues, and focusing too much on catchy headlines.

So I’m trying something new.

These past few months, I have found myself writing more consistently when I write to myself. My unedited thoughts flow much better when I don’t worry about sentence structure, grammar, political correctness or offending the liberals and extremists.

Eventually, I decided to start posting these thoughts. Thus giving you a glimpse into my unedited mind.

This is the first in a new series of articles which are simply my raw unedited thoughts on topics I care about. I will post them as a write them, without worrying about whether people will be offended or not. Instead, I hope people will engage with me in discussing these topics and developing new solutions to the problems facing the ummah.

So here are today’s unedited thoughts on three topics: homeschool, homework and teenagers.

The Happy Child

Happy.

That’s how I’d describe a homeschooled child.

Happy, excited, enthusiastic and loving life!

We really don’t realize how negatively school affects children until we meet a child who hasn’t been through the traditional school system.

Compare these two ten year old boys:

One loves to read, play, explore, and spend time with family. He can engage you on almost any topic: business, politics, history, religion, entertainment. And he speaks with confidence and excitement about a multitude of topics.

The other has only one interest: his videogames. He hates school, find life boring, is always stressed out about exams and homework, and just wants to play videogames. Videogames are the only escape from his stressful life.

The first child is how I would describe most 10 year old homeschooled boys I have met. The second is how I would describe almost any 10 year old schoolboy I have to teach or counsel.  

The first is natural. The second is not.

Stress and Homework

Homework is not what it used to be.

It used to be hard…now it is unbearable.

Homework has become a genuine cause of stress for many parents and children.

Why?

More importantly, why do we even have such a concept as homework?

My experience is that humans don’t need that much time to learn something. They do not need 6 hours of school every day for 13 years, along with 3 hours of homework. Nobody does.

A child learns a lot more with 3 hours of discussion, interaction and research a day, than with an entire week of school and homework.

Throw it away. Homework is a useless concept that is ruining childhood.

If society cared about children’s mental health, they would get rid of the concept of homework altogether. It is really unnecessary and serves no real purpose.

Let school hours be learning time, and home hours be recovery time. Children need space and free time to recover, recharge, and absorb what they learned during the day.

Get rid of homework and just let them be.

Stunted Development

The twelve year old homeschooler is considering starting his own business, and already has his goals and career mapped out.

The thirty year old who went to school and university still lives with his parents, playing videogames all day and is still ‘figuring life out’.

What went wrong with our education system?

Many things but I want to highlight just two:

1.      Too many years of schooling

Children do not need 13 years of school. I believe schooling from age 7 until 12 is enough to live a fulfilling life.

I wish I had a way to convince the world about this, and reform the world’s education systems accordingly. 5 or 6 years is enough to teach people everything they need to know about language, maths, life and religion.

After that, education should be self-directed and personal.

High School is one of humanity’s worst inventions.

Don’t believe me?

Spend a day in your local High School and ask yourself what is the point of everything you see around you. This leads me to point two.

2.      Lack of clarity regarding what is an adult

For the first time in human history, we have 30 year old children. Why? Because we have no clue how to define an adult, so some people just never grow up…ever!

In Islam, it is very clear: puberty = adulthood.

This is agreed upon by all schools of thought. Yet I have even had Muslim parents challenge me on this and refuse to accept this, because it isn’t what the dominant culture teaches.

What does the dominant culture teach is an adult?

18? 21? 32?

There really is no logical method to work it out, just arbitrary numbers.

Islam is clear and biologically sound: humans that have a sex drive are adult, humans that haven’t developed one yet are children.

Society must start considering puberty as the differentiator between adults and children again. Or else, we may end up with a generation of 75 year old children. (It’s coming…believe me)

What is a teenager anyway?

Throughout human history, humans post-puberty were considered young adults. They started working, went through rites of passage, got married, and started living their lives.

Then in the past century, we invented a concept called Teenagers. We took a bunch of sexually-charged young adults, threw them together in a prison (High School) for a few years, and decided to just make that a normal part of life.

I really believe one reason why teenagers are so rebellious and angry is because their bodies are saying one thing and society is saying another.

Their bodies are saying: I’m an adult now, treat me as one, and give the rights of one.

Society says: You are not a little kid anymore, but not one of us yet either. You are meant to be a problem, so we’ll just ignore you for a few more years.

Here is one simple tip for raising teens that are less rebellious: treat them as adults.

Treat a teenager as an adult, and he will behave more respectfully, more maturely, and more confidently. He knows what he is and understands the changes to his body better. This will ease his mind and help him find his way in life faster.

Want to learn more about homeschooling, join my free online course by clicking here.
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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling, 3 comments
Is homeschooling right for me?

Is homeschooling right for me?

This is an extract from latest e-book Homeschooling 101

This is a valid question. I do not propose that the entire world switches to homeschooling in one go. That would be impractical for most and not possible for some. Every human has their own struggles, limits, goals, and opportunities.

I am not here to tell you that homeschooling is definitely for you, or that it is not. I will simply tell you what it is, what it is about, how to do it, and then you can decide for yourself if it fits your vision for your family.

That’s really what it comes down to. In order to know whether homeschooling is for you or not, you need to first ask what is your vision for your children.

It may be something you never thought about. Many of us are so caught up in just following the norm that we don’t think about things life visions and goals. We just have kids, send them to school at age five, off to college once done with that, then work a job until you are too old to work any longer. We take it for granted that this is the only way to live our lives.

But there are many other ways to live, other ways to learn, and other ways to earn. And as the world changes and technology continues to morph the way we earn and learn, the opportunities that your children will have may include things that do not exist yet. Are we preparing them for that reality, or are we still stuck in the twentieth century model of life?

To make it easier, let me explain my vision: I want to raise children who are righteous leaders, people of strong moral character, people with the skills and ability to adapt to an ever changing world and find ways to earn well no matter how drastically the economics of the world shift.

I want to raise my children to be adults in a world that doesn’t exist yet, to be able to deal with technology that doesn’t exist yet, to work at tasks that may not exist yet, and to maintain their religiosity and moral character no matter which direction the world moves in.

The current school system is not adequate in preparing them for this. It is stuck in a twentieth century model that holds back potential, trains blind followers, and prepares people to spend the rest of their lives working for others. I want more for my children and so I decided to homeschool them, even though it comes with many challenges.

That is my vision as a parent. Yours might be similar, or completely different. Whatever it is, it will determine whether homeschooling is right for your family or not.

There are other factors to consider as well. Homeschooling may be more difficult (but not impossible) for single parents, families were both parents work long hours, and families were neither parent feels confident in their ability to teach.

Homeschooling may also be impossible if you live in a country were homeschooling is illegal. Although there may still be ways to do it within the system if you research it thoroughly. These are all things to consider before making a decision.

In each of these cases, homeschooling is still possible if you are open to the idea of doing things very differently from regular schools. There are homeschooling parents who teach their children at night, some who take their children to work with them, and others who have delegated the task to a relative who wants to help.

My point is that you should not allow your circumstances to determine whether you homeschool or not. Make the decision based on your goals and vision. If someone feels strong enough about their goals, that person will find a way to achieve it and make things work.

If homeschooling is not legal in your country, look for other alternatives. There are some loopholes in the system that would allow you to homeschool. For example, some countries may allow you to keep your child at home if they are registered with a correspondence school and assessed over there. In such a case, you can still homeschool without breaking the law.

Speak to local homeschoolers and find out how they get around it and what works best, the solutions are often simpler and more practical than you initially thought.

Make the decision based primarily on your goals as a parent. If time is a factor, there are ways to make time creatively and fit it in.[1] If you are not confident in your own teaching skills, or access to resources, then take a course in homeschooling or read some books on the topic (like this one) and you will realize it isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

Whatever your excuse, there are ways around it if you have a clear purpose and reason for choosing to homeschool. Where there is a passionate goal, there is always a way. So focus on your goals and that will ultimately help you decide whether homeschooling is right for you or not.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, Homeschooling, 2 comments