They’re Driving Me Mad! How To Stay Sane Whilst Home Schooling!
Home schooling or home educating can be an extremely rewarding and enriching experience for parents/carers and children. However, it is often painted as this serene experience where everything is in its right place and little attention is given to the stresses and strains that many parents may incur. Depending on your situation, some parents may be the sole educator of their children and have to juggle between being a full-time parent and a full-time educator.
Organising yourself and looking after your own wellbeing and sanity is therefore essential! A calm and happy parent means a calmer and happier child and home InShaAllah. Below are some tips and suggestions to help you move towards creating a state of calm both in your external environment as well as internally within yourself InShaAllah!
An Islamic Routine
One of the beautiful things about home schooling is that you can set your own agenda and educate in line with our Islamic teachings. Having a structure to your day and week can dramatically alleviate stress and helps children feel secure within the predictability that having a routine brings. As Muslims we have a natural structure to our day that is oriented around prayer times. Try devising a routine that segments the day into chunks between prayers and then allocate the time in-between to specific activities you’d like to focus on depending on your approach to home educating. E.g. in the morning you may focus on lessons or online learning then break for Dhuhr and lunch, and then in the afternoon plan an activity before Asr and then do something else after Asr. There is also a saying by Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib (as) to “divide your day into three parts: worship, work and leisure activities”.
So ensure apart from work and educating, that you allow time for you and your children to engage in some halal fun activities and that you each have some time alone, to make duas and spend time contemplating etc. For younger children you can always give them an activity such as colouring in one of the Names of Allah etc.
Physical: When your home is also your child’s ‘school’ and depending on your approach to home educating, it can help alleviate stress if you have clearly demarcated areas for learning. This will be dependent on the space you have, but if you have a spare room or a section of a room designated for more formal learning, that can help children settle into the educational routine more easily. It will be important for your own mental wellbeing that you also have areas of the home that you do not associate with educating and a place where you can go to relax and take some time out when you need it.
Parent and/or Teacher: It can sometimes be confusing for children to differentiate between a parent who is a parent one minute and a teacher the next and they may well start to test the boundaries to see what they can get away with. Depending on where you are (home or outside), and your approach to home educating (formal or casual), it may be helpful to find a way to help children understand when you are ‘educating’ them rather than being a ‘nagging parent’.
This may sound a bit silly, and you can treat it as such … and it will depend on the age of your child/children, but often having a visible marker such as a badge, a hat, certain top etc, that you wear when you’re formally teaching may help younger children differentiate between when you’re in teaching mode and parent mode. If they know you’re in teacher mode, then they are hopefully more likely to listen and settle down to work. InShaAllah.
Meet Up with Others
Home schooling can be an isolating and stressful experience if you are on your own all day with only your children for company (although for some this is also a pleasurable experience). It is therefore important to build up a network of support – either family and friends but also with families who are home schooling in your area. Meeting up with others will alleviate stress and provide you with company, give you a bit of a break, and allow your children to play with or meet new friends. You can also discuss the challenges you are facing with other parents, as well as share ideas, experiences and gain much needed support. A support network does not only have to be in person, it can also be online. If you are interested in joining an online network please get in touch.
Form a Home Schooling Community
If you live in an area with other home schooling families you can arrange to come and educate your children together for only a couple of hours a day. It will help share the burden and provide more socialisation opportunities for all involved. Most areas also have afterschool or weekend Islamic schools and sending your children to these will also help you feel part of a community InShaAllah.
Arrange Time Off for Yourself
In many families home schooling falls on the shoulders of one parent who is with the children most of the day. It is imperative that you arrange a way to have some time off. Negotiate with your spouse, another family member, neighbour, friend etc a regular time in the week, where they will look after your children so you can have a break. You can always repay the favour and have their children another time, but at least you will have a time scheduled, preferably each week to look forward to. Establish this time as a regular occurrence so that everyone knows this is your time off and they don’t encroach on this boundary!
Get Outside & Into Nature
Try and get outside everyday with your children to take some exercise, preferably in and around nature. Exercise and fresh air is good for everyone, especially if you have been indoors for much of the day. Nature has also been found to reduce stress and improve our overall wellbeing. Being in nature can take on various forms depending on what is close to you – visits to the park, a forest, city farm, wildlife sanctuary, the beach as well as gardening or having an allotment will enhance your health and help protect your sanity! In addition, the natural world provides a great learning opportunity and most subjects can be adapted to a nature-based theme e.g. write a poem about the forest; weigh/measure/count the seeds for a flower bed, studying the life cycle of an ant etc. It is far easier to feel connected to Allah (swt) also when in nature and you can get your children to reflect on His creation to help strengthen their Imaan InShaAllah.
Stress Management Techniques
If you are feeling overwhelmed there are various coping strategies and techniques you can use to help you calm down in the moment. The below techniques (click on to access) were written with children in mind, however they can just as effectively be adapted and used by adults. Please also keep checking the Mental Health Matters page as new relevant articles including techniques will be added InShaAllah.
Teach Responsibility & Independence
You may often feel that you do not have enough arms, eyes, legs etc to do all you need to do and it is easy to slip into the habit of trying to do everything ourselves. Islamically, especially from the age of 7, children need to learn discipline and responsibility. However, children can be taught about becoming independent and helping out at any age provided they are capable of performing the task in question, including household chores. If you have older children, maybe get them to help teach their younger siblings certain things such as basic maths etc. By teaching your children to help out at home, it will alleviate you of having to do everything yourself as well as increase your child’s sense of responsibility and confidence in themselves.
Maintain a Sense of Humour
If you’re tired and stressed it can be hard to see the lighter side of life but if you are able to notice the small and funny moments in the day that will inevitably occur, it can make things easier to cope with. Humour and being able to laugh at ourselves or the situations we find ourselves in, or put ourselves into, makes everything feel more manageable. Children naturally love things that are funny and laughing together can ease tension and strengthen bonds. Look out for the funny moments in the day and thank Allah for blessing us with a sense of humour.
Remember Why You’re Doing It!
Everything we do should ultimately be for Allah (swt). Children are a trust and responsibly from Him and we are answerable on the Day of Judgement as to how we raised and educated our children. Struggling is also part of this temporary life. As long as you’ve set your intention to please Him, then know that He is aware of all your struggles and sacrifice for the sake of your children. He Will reward you and bring you the help you need at the right time InShaAllah. Remembering this, will help you refocus and give you the strength and fortitude to keep going InShaAllah. Also check in with yourself regarding your values and other reasons for choosing to home educate. As Muslims we are instructed to spend a portion of each day in reflection. Try and make this a habit to help you connect with your Creator, refocus on your values and realign you intention. Make duas for what you need from Him to help you move forward InShaAllah.