How We Homeschool
By Aminah Abdul Latif
After being in the preschool industry for a decade, I questioned myself, “I spend so much time and effort educating other people’s children. What about my own child? I should be the one educating him, shouldn’t I?” Then something crossed my mind - homeschooling. Back then I was still working and my then only child, Umar, was in a childcare centre. He was about 20 months old when I first toyed with the idea of homeschooling him.
At that time, the school I worked at had a teaching philosophy which was aligned with mine:: the belief that children are competent and are able to contribute meaningful ideas in a “child-originated and teacher-framed approach”. The school was a beautiful Reggio-inspired international school in Singapore. Being in a supportive teaching and learning environment had me wishing that my son could be in a similar setting. That was when I started to hope and prayed that I could homeschool him the Reggio way one day.
Little did I know, my prayers did not take long to be answered.
At work one afternoon, I received a call from my husband. He said, “We’re going to Turkey. I’ve taken up a job there.” My heart jumped for joy! I was elated beyond words. This was the perfect opportunity to homeschool my then 18-month-old son, Umar! I prepared myself mentally and emotionally for this new journey which my son and I would undertake.
The strongest push factor for homeschooling was the fact that I wanted to experience the delight of watching my son grow and learn right under my wing. Every moment with him could be an opportunity for both of us. Homeschooling would also allow me to set my child’s learning pace. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that children who spend a lot of time engaging in meaningful activities with their parents, appear to be more informed and well-rounded. They are also more articulate and confident when expressing their thoughts. Most importantly, who knows my child better than me? I know his preferences, his personality, what excites him and how he stays focused on an activity. I knew I was the best person to nurture and educate him.
HOW DO YOU START HOMESCHOOLING?
I’ve been approached by friends who have expressed interest in homeschooling but needed guidance on where and how to start. I usually recommend starting off with art activities. The Reggio approach gives a lot of focus to the aesthetic dimension and it views art itself as a discipline. In the book, The Hundred Languages of Children, Dewey and Malaguzzi believed ‘that scientific thought and imagination are not separate mental operations but are different points within the complexity of human intelligence that work to build our knowing of the universe, as well as the identity and meaning of our lives.’
Concepts such as patterns, shapes, colours, causes and effects, can all be discovered through art experiences. The child subconsciously realises that working on an art piece requires some kind of formula: estimating the proportion of paint to water, figuring out the angle of the brush and the amount of pressure to apply to achieve the desired shade of colour.
Beyond that, I also believe that art allows children to appreciate and embrace the various forms of beauty.
WHAT DOES A HOMESCHOOLING ROUTINE LOOK LIKE?
I would like to share with you how homeschooling is done in our home. You may design yours in a different manner, one that fits the dynamics of your child and the environment.
(1) MORNING ACTIVITY
Umar engages in one activity after breakfast. Here are some activities he engages in:
This provocation was set up after observing that Umar had been painting with only black paint for a week. I felt that it was a good opportunity to share with him a technique which uses only black paint. He was fascinated by this technique and thoroughly enjoyed creating different strokes. Through this activity, he discovered different shades of black and grey as he experimented with various proportions of water and black paint.
• Loose parts play on the light table According to Simon Nicholson, an architect who developed the theory of loose parts, loose objects and materials can be manipulated in whatever way the child chooses.. He also believed that it allows more room for creative engagement as compared to static materials and environment.
We love using natural materials even for activities like this. It is a sensorial experience for Umar and it also teaches him how materials can be reused for other purposes. Here, we have used a placemat (from IKEA), an egg carton and pebbles (from the Red Sea, courtesy of my sister who visited Cairo).
(2) BATH TIME
After our morning activity, Umar proceeds to have his bath. During this time, he chooses either water play or painting in the bathroom.
(3) MORNING SNACK
Subsequently, Umar takes a break and has his morning snack which usually consists of dates, bread or biscuits with milk.
(4) EXPLORATION TIME After snack, I start preparing lunch. This is when Umar chooses to either play with dough or sand, or to engage in mark-making activities.
I would like to take this opportunity and share with you Umar’s interests from the past six months. He has really taken to mark-making! He uses markers with tips of various thickness, paint markers from Crayola, pencils as well as crayons. In his initial stage of mark-making experience, he made exclamations such as, “Look! Letter ‘t’. Look! This is letter ‘u’. Look, it’s a ‘Q’” (he discovered the letter ‘Q’ while mark-making on a doodleboard). Over time, Umar independently figured out that when lines are written in a certain direction or angle, they form letters. In order to support his ‘discovery’, I provided activities which helped him focus on letter formation: • Alphabet-matching activity: uppercase and lower case
• Letter copying: Umar initiated to copy the letters in the word, writing them carefully and independently.
After Umar has his lunch nap, he goes outdoors!
Remember that the way you homeschool your child may look totally different from what I have shared with you. You may choose to spend time in the kitchen (introducing children to different types of measurements, reading recipes and estimating their capabilities throughout stirring / pouring), or you could pick a day or two to explore with your child the endless aisles in the supermarket. Homeschooling allows you to create an extensive learning approach to cater to your child's individual needs. Needless to say, it's a whole learning world out there when you adopt a child-led philosophy in your family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aminah Abdul Latif worked in the preschool industry for ten amazing, enriching and emotional years - seven years as a preschool teacher, two as a principal and one as a supervisor. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Early Childhood Education as well as a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Leadership. Aminah is thankful that she has been given the opportunity to spend her days (and nights) with her two lovely boys aged 3 years old and 3 months old. She is homeschooling her elder son, Umar. It keeps her passion burning and helps her stay in touch with her knowledge and experiences in Early Childhood.