Ages and Stages of Homeschooling: A Focus Guide

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After 15 years of homeschooling, I often get asked, what would you have done differently in your homeschool or what worked for you? What should I focus on and when should I start certain subjects? Here are some guidelines for areas of focus.

Grade K-2: Focus on Play

  1. Immerse in free play, especially outdoor sensory play in sand, water, mud and forest environments. Nature provides the best playground.
  2. Read aloud, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry books in a variety of formats. Keep books strewn around the house.
  3. Provide a variety of craft materials and tools to create freely. There’s no need for structured art projects at this age. Leave the materials out and let them design and explore.  
  4. Provide loose toys and parts for pretend play and building, ideally in the company of other children. Natural materials like sticks, rocks and sand provide the best creative opportunities. 
  5. Choose open ended toys like mini cars, lego and dress up materials.

Gr 3-7: Focus on Exposure

  1. Now it’s time to expose your kids to a variety of classes, activities, field trips, book clubs, competitions and project fairs to help them discover their strengths and interests.
  2. Create or join a co-op and learning pod. Large co-ops are great for extra curricular subjects and building a homeschool community. Small learning pods are best for academic learning.
  3. Choose a curriculum if you want structure for certain subjects in your homeschool.
  4. Incorporate project based learning. Pick topics your kids are interested in and immerse in them through books, videos, research, writing, experiments and field trips.
  5. Continue reading aloud and fill your home with a variety of books and written material. Keep a writer’s notebook and a nature journal.
  6. Create a social network. Meet regularly with families you and your kids connect with.
  7. Get involved in a masjid or social cause so your kids can volunteer and build community.
  8. Attend fun swim and fun skate sessions at the local community center with friends. With regular, fun practice, kids can naturally build mastery in these skills without expensive and tedious classes. 
  9. Provide high quality materials and tools for things they are interested in. Invest in sports equipment. Allow ‘dangerous’ tools like knives, saws, axes, fire tools, etc with guidance and supervision.
  10. Go on challenging experiences and adventures such as advanced hikes, water sports, horseback riding, rocking climbing, outdoor survival challenges. 
  11. Allow time for ‘risky play’ in outdoor settings in all weather – climbing, jumping, sliding, wandering, fire building. Let them get cold, wet and dirty. Risky play builds resilience, perseverance, foresight, self confidence and independence.

Grade 7+: Focus on Real Work

  1. Find resources, mentors and opportunities for kids to pursue their passions.
  2. Invest in intensive classes or tutors for skills or subjects they want to learn
  3. Enroll in a sports league if your child asks for it.
  4. Encourage Volunteering or working outside the home
  5. Find a leadership program for your kids that provides skills and training for the real world. 
  6. Travel as a family
  7. Conduct regular family meetings and do shura with your kids
  8. Encourage independence. Train and encourage your kids to:
    • Be responsible for household chores
    • Take care of their personal hygiene and physical activity
    • Set goals for themselves
    • Schedule their days and weeks
    • Cook meals for themselves and the family
    • Take public transit on their own
    • Budget and shop for their own clothing and personal items

Throughout the Journey, Focus on:

  1. A knowledge, understanding and love of the Deen
  2. Good character
  3. Physical and mental health
  4. A strong family relationship
  5. Life Skills
  6. Academics comes last because without all of the above, academic and career successes are meaningless.

By Sr. Shehnaz T.

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