Children can learn anywhere.
They don’t only learn within the four walls of a physical classroom. The classroom can look like a living room couch, or a child’s bed where he and Mama or Baba are snuggled together talking, or a patch of soft green grass leaning against a tree outside, or the inside of a car. Homeschooling takes place everywhere.
One example from my own family is this: we have one specific class that we always do in the car. I know that sounds crazy, but we’ve been doing this for about two years now alhamdulillah.
I drive a lot with the kids. It’s almost always to the park for the daily outdoor free play, and sometimes it’s to run errands and go to appointments.
When the kids were much younger (in the baby and toddler stages), the commute to and from places was my “me time.” I’d put everyone in their car seats, strap them in, and then listen to whatever I happened to be listening to that day, whether an Islamic lecture, a psychology talk, etc. It was something for me to listen to, not intended for the kids. They were just playing with one another and doing their own thing in the back as I drove around.
But as they got older, I realized that they were starting to tune into what I was listening to. My oldest son started to ask me questions about what the shaykh was saying in the dars, and what certain big words meant. So I’d pause the lecture and explain.
So I shifted my thinking: now the car ride is an audio homeschool class. It’s not for me anymore, but for the kids. We have two tracks that we switch between Quran and seerah.
Some days, we listen to the surah the kids are memorizing during the commutes. Listening to Quran being recited is a great way to solidify children’s hifdh mashaAllah! I have noticed a huge improvement in their retention and memorization since we started reinforcing their surah by listening to it in the car!
The second track is a seerah/ Islamic history class. We have listened to the entire life seerah of Khalid ibn Al-Waleed in Arabic on audio. This is a 13-hour lecture that we split up over many car rides. My kids loved it so much because alhamdulillah the shaykh has a fantastic storytelling style with vivid images and small details that make you feel like you are seeing these events with your own eyes! Both the kids and I were riveted, following the narrative closely.
Every now and then as we listened, I would pause the talk and have a discussion with the kids. I’d ask them to narrate back to me the events that just took place. Who was the military leader of the Romans? What was the name of this battle? Why was it callled that? How many soldiers were in the Muslim army versus how many Persians? Why did Khalid choose this strategy and not that other one? Where is Iraq vis-a-vis Ash-Sham (the Levant)? What was Abu Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah famous for? What are الغنائم (spoils of war) and why are they fair?
It is also a good exercise for vocabulary building. I would define unfamiliar words in Fus-ha, Modern Standard Arabic, and quiz them on the words later.
After going through the seerah of Khalid ibn Al-Waleed, we are now in the middle of the beautiful seerah of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. I pause the lecture to answer their questions, have discussions, and quiz them to make sure they are following the story. What is Al-Isra wal-Mi`raj? Who was the ancestor of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم who built دار الندوة (Dar An-Nadwah, the central meeting place of Makka)? Why do Arabs care so much about الشرف (sharaf), honor? What are some good traits the ancient Arabs had? (generosity, hospitality, bravery) What are some negative traits they had? (Tribalism, a tendency towards superstition, vices) Why did Abu Bakr cry when Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم told him that he will be accompanying him on the trip from Makka to Madina for the hijrah?
This not only teaches the kids about the specific events of the blessed prophetic seerah, but also about elements embedded into the Arab culture and mindset and its relationship to Islamic values. Some of these cultural values and concepts are almost nonexistent today and certainly are not talked about in western societies.
For example, yesterday we discussed the idea of العار (an embarrassment, a scandal that one cannot live down, an egregious breach of honor and dignity). This discussion was prompted by something said by the young men of Quraysh who stood surrounding the house of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم as they waited to assassinate him. One of them jumped the fence and into the courtyard of his house عليه الصلاة و السلام , and a woman saw the strange man and screamed. He jumped back over the fence and stood outside. The young men said to one another, “If the Arabs were to hear that we of Quraysh are trespassing into our homes and barging in on our women, it would be عار الدهر!”
“It would be the scandal/ embarrassment of all time.”
Why? Because women cannot be seen casually by strange non-kin men. A man cannot enter upon another man’s home and family. This goes against Sharaf, honor. The other Arab tribes were they to hear of such a breach of their code of honor, would taunt them with it afterward.
This morphed into a discussion of the concept of الحياء, haya’, modesty.
Learning can happen anywhere, and as a busy homeschooling parent, you can be flexible about where and when to teach your children!
We have to rid ourselves of the rigid constraints of the western public school system, which forces us to envision education in a very narrow way. Learning is simply part of life and cannot be contained. Teach your children wherever works for you!