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Mom Talk: Why I Chose To Homeschool

Written by Shahidah Zareef

Photography by Photograph courtesy of Shahidah Zareef

We’re back with another round of our new “Mom Talk” column, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Shahidah Zareef, co-founder of BossMom Nation, shares on her decision to homeschool her brood. -JKM

If you asked my thoughts on homeschooling two years ago, I’m pretty sure my response would have been something like, “It’s not for me.” But, here I am, a proud and devoted homeschooling mother of three! I grew up in a very close-knit Muslim community and attended a small, private Muslim school from preschool until 8th grade. My school, along with others in various states, was founded by Sister Clara Mohammad. She was the first Lady of the Nation of Islam back in the 1930s, a mother of eight, and ​established what’s considered one of the nation’s early versions of religious homeschooling. So, I think it’s safe to say that the concept of homeschooling is very much a part of my early educational history. Sister Clara Mohammad is currently my “shero” in my personal homeschool journey.

My children are eight, six, and 19-months old. The oldest is a girl, and my younger two are boys. I decided to homeschool for multiple reasons. First, I wasn’t impressed with the test scores at the schools near my home. So, I filed for my children to attend school outside of their district. Initially, this seemed like a promising idea, but once the thick of the school year began, I realized how much of a drag our morning routine and commute had become. It really sucked to say the least. My youngest son was just a few months old when school started. My husband, being the breadwinner and having to leave early in the morning, left my waking three children by 6 a.m. to be clothed, fed, with lunches made, and out of the door by 7:15 a.m. in order to make it to school by 8:30 a.m! To some, this scenario is no big deal. To me, this was not the morning routine I had envisioned. I basically turned into scary mommy every morning just to have my children to school on time.

In addition to the routine and commute, I began to feel as if I were losing precious time with my children during the important foundational years of development. I realized that I was becoming less of an influence while they spent more hours at school during the week than they did with me. The thought of this made me feel kind of sad, with a weird sensation washing over me each time I dropped them off at school. It was like some sort of detachment issue that was hard to explain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the overprotective, shelter-my-children-from-the-real-world kind of mother. My children are very socially active, but I want to be the number one influence in their lives for as long as I can. I want to dominate what establishes their character—the habits they form—and build their confidence levels before they’re placed in environments that will try to break them down. How can I do this when they spend more time in the school system than they do at home? They say home is where the heart is. I like to believe so. And, during this essential time for my children’s development, I want to pour into them the goodness of having strong faith and character, not just how to do mathematics, language arts, and other traditional education. Although those things are key, raising good humans over rules it all!

Now, we are more than halfway through our first year of homeschool. The experience has been very rewarding, but also challenging in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Each day is a new opportunity for my children and me to work together as a unit. As I am teaching them, they in return are teaching me. Nothing reveals and mirrors our character flaws the way our children do. My children have given me the vision to see myself and recognize where I need to change. In the beginning, I viewed homeschool simply as school work being done at home. Now I know homeschool is a lifestyle based on learning. I’m able to take on the role as teacher, yet understand when it’s my turn to be the student.

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