“A virtuous intention is the source of all goodness,” my teacher says.
More than the act, more than its impact or the results, the intention itself is what must be pure.
My intention in our homeschooling journey is to foster love, and nurture and preserve the kids’ fitra. That has been our intention from the beginning. As much as I complain about the lack of institutional and systemic support for homeschooling families, the lack of this and that, and wishing there was a community of practice around our homeschool, I did not intend to be a great teacher.
I did not intend to be a teacher at all.
But somehow I became a teacher to lots of kids over the course of the year.
I was asked by our family friend and my daughter’s teacher to help teach the beginner Arabic group at the masjid, NBIC. Four days a week, for 1 hour each day, I showed up to the same place, at the same time, for this commitment.
I had a few beginner students, who were just learning to recognize their letters. I had one student who was automatically my favorite student because he created the most trouble for the other adults and students. I had one student who was 12 who picked up Arabic very quickly, but was so much older than everyone else. One day I remember he asked me if he could learn sura Fatiha. It made me feel so sad that there is a child out there that does not know his fard ain (obligatory knowledge). I brought games, puzzles, and toys for the 4-6 age kids. I had so much stuff that neither of my kids had used that I was grateful to finally have kids who wanted to learn. On days that I was reluctant to go to the masjid, I just thought what would these kids do without my bag of tricks?
There are elements of teaching that are wonderful.
I love the random hugs.
I love the attention and focus of my students.
I love the creation process — putting the slidedeck or craft together. I love up-cycling, and making things out of the recyclable stuff we normally throw out. I feel like I have gained a Waldorf education alongside my kids. I feel like there’s so much I have learned about educating –not education as an institution or a system–but educating as a fundamental piece of learning and self discovery.
I love the actual teaching.
The truth is I don’t always get around to the “teaching” part of homeschool. I don’t formally stand at a white board with my eldest and present. I teach informally throughout the day, conduct Q &A, or prompt them to write or draw their thoughts or feelings. I teach in a way that feels very intuitive.
Anyone who knows me well says, you are meant to do this, you are a natural, etc. etc. But I always pushed back on this sentiment.
The world of work did not need my poor excel skills, or a my haphazard timeline management.
It seems that my kids accept me 100% as the mom who doesn’t always know where she is driving to until she arrives.
It’s sorta freeing, to belong fully and be accepted fully as you are. I don’t think I ever felt that in public school. I was always performing — performing the identity of excellent student, hiding behind high bouts of social anxiety. I dreaded lunch and PE class. I dreaded the interactions with peers because I felt so different as a kid from my peers, as the only brown kid that isn’t black in my schools; or feelings for boys that did not share my religious or social background. I think 95% of school was wasted time. The places where I got to shine were probably the out of school activities I did — speaking at a student art show, painting murals, going to fundraisers as a high school student, getting exposed to different career paths. So much of learning happened outside of my classes. I was always book smart — and I am sure my kids might be like that too one day — but I was completely incompetent when it came to social, emotional learning.
Three years ago when I started teaching at home, I felt so uneasy, nervous, and scared to teach my own kids, let along other peoples’ kids.
God answers prayers I did not know I had made because now I am teaching not only my own kids, but other peoples’ kids and it feels good.
Truthfully, it’s easier to teach other peoples’ kids than it is to teach your own.
Maybe my own kids see me as their mother, the one who holds them when they cry, or cooks their meals, and cleans up their messes (with inconsistency).
But with my students, I am “Ms. K”– a persona that is much more asserting, demanding, and fun than the person that I am on most days in a house-turned-school.
I am grateful we got to do the marshmallow experiment with the kids, and all 10 kids were able to wait the 15 minutes to get their 3 marshmallows. We made mosaics, played on the zipline, and talked about delayed gratification. Our entire school day from 11 to 5 was spent outdoors.
I could see myself doing this teaching thing for a long time iA on a good day like this.