Investing in Islamic Education

ILM Projects Blog

Investing in your Child's Islamic Education

Part of my journey in creating Letter Connector has allowed to meet amazing people who are working hard to make Islamic/ Arabic education fun. One person in particular is Hafsa from Mama Teaches Me who not only home schools her daughters but she goes out of her way to design and create awesome resources for teaching children Islam.

Supplementary teaching can only do so much for a child’s Islamic education. Ultimately parents play the biggest role in cultivating their child’s relationship with Allah. In my personal experiences I have seen parents who take iman for granted and assume that children loving Allah is a natural consequence of being raised in a Muslim home. 

No one can offload the responsibility of giving their child an upbringing that inspires a love of Allah and getting close to Him.

Having said that, I know it’s difficult. So I spoke to Hafsa about what parents could do to invest effectively in their child’s Islamic learning.

Hafsa's Story

Hafsa always wanted to home-school even before having children. After completing her degree and becoming a primary school teacher, she got married and had two daughters before moving to Saudi Arabia.  When she was in Saudi she started homeschooling and for a while, she had set up a private group for mothers to home-school their children together, before finally settling into homeschooling her 2 daughters alone. Prior to this Hafsa completed a 2 year Arabic intensive program and taught as a tajweed teacher.

Although Hafsa home-schools full time, her tips are applicable for everyone on how to give their children a healthy and loving Islamic upbringing.

1. Understand that your child is going to love Islam through you

You need to have a really good relationship with your kids because they’re going to see you as their main role model and they’re going to love Islam through you. Part of doing this is understanding your child’s needs. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to teaching. As a mother of two kids, Hafsa knows which child is more sensitive and which one is more extroverted and she adapts her teaching styles accordingly. 

Sometimes in an attempt to want children to love Islam parents will unknowingly impose it on children unaware of the negative consequences. This could be making your 3 year old stand in salah when he just wants to jump on your back in sujud, or making your 6 year old wear hijab when she’s excited to show off her new hair clips. Although the intentions may be sincere, instilling that love and motivation can be done indirectly. For example :

When it comes to prayer Hafsa prefers to say “mummy’s going to pray now” and let her daughters volunteer to join.

However that desire to volunteer is as a result of how Hafsa has taught her daughters about who Allah is. One way she has done this is by using the names of Allah to demonstrate How He loves and cares for His creation, especially children. Consequently,  Salah has been explained as an act of love to thank Allah for all the amazing things that He has done for them, and an opportunity to get blessings.

If children are grounded and consciously aware of what it means for Allah to be Al Rahman and Al Rahim, it will do so much for their character and resilience and build a natural love and appreciation for Islam. Love can’t be forced.

Exposure to an islamic environment is also important. Take your children to the masjid when you can, and expose them to Islam whether that’s playing Quran in the home, doing morning athkar together etc. Celebrate Islamic achievements in fun ways such as parties for Qur’an accomplishments.

2. Consider what is age appropriate

It’s important to limit the Islamic knowledge taught based on the child’s age. It’s not appropriate to teach a 5 year old that Ibrahim AS had to slaughter his son as a sacrifice to Allah. Not only is it scary but they can’t understand the concept of sacrifice. I cannot emphasize how crucial it is that your child loves Allah rather than fears Him when they are young. This isn’t to say that you must teach a pacified version of Islam. There needs to be a balance.

From a young age children are taught about the Romans and wars and create armor and swords. You can teach children about significant battles in Islam that took place. However, the more graphic details should be reserved for when they’re older when they have the emotional capacity and mental ability to appreciate the lessons.

3. Invest in creative resources

A printer is a must in every home. Invest in a printer with colour ink that is affordable. Some parents want the ease of a simple workbook which is fine. But sometimes, there are parents who avoid creative activities because they don’t see themselves as naturally creative. One of the great things about creativity is that there is no right and wrong. There is no fixed definition of what is good art and what is bad art. It doesn’t have to be pretty and patterned. Ultimately it’s about expression and the skills gained from the experience.

Creativity is very important because it allows children to express themselves in loads of different ways. Education doesn’t start with abc and just doing worksheets. Learning comes with doing things together, like sharing or holding scissors to develop fine motor skills like hand eye coordination.

Having said this, not every day needs to be an elaborate activity creating life sized cardboard animals. Having a balance of craft activities that can stimulate excitement is important.

The mess 

One thing that stops parents investing in creativity is the mess. Everyone hates it but it’s something you need to get used to. If the result of the mess is a priceless memory and learning experience for your child, then it’s worth it.

4. Invest financially

Hafsa has some free resources available on her website, however most of the resources are paid ones. And this sometimes causes debates where people believe that all Islamic knowledge should be free. The knowledge is free however the time and labour that went into creating a well designed resource that has saved you hours of work is not free.

Sometimes we need to reevaluate our priorities and what we are and aren’t willing to spend money on. For any non Islamic subjects we can spend money on tuition, for languages that aren’t Arabic we can spend money on books and tools etc but when it comes to Islam for some reason we expect to people to volunteer their lives to creating top quality resources without being recompensed. Investing financially and strategically is important for a child’s upbringing.

When someone designs tools and then charges for them, it’s not because they’re money hungry or heartless. It’s because they have bills to pay, or they want to save money to reinvest to create better resources. In Hafsa’s case the money she earns is used for either charity or its reinvested in more resources. 

On this note, I’d like to add something about intellectual property and theft. Taking someone’s work or distributing it without permission is theft. It is something you will be held accountable for. To take away someone’s right to be paid for their labour is inexcusable. If you generally believe that the paid resources are of no monetary value then why not create your own?

5. Understand that you will improve

Comparison is the thief of joy. 

Every child learns at a different pace and their learning is dependent on so many factors. Sometimes it’s easy to compare how “Islamic” your kids are to other kids and how much they know. Don’t do that. Focus on their learning and achieving the objectives that you set for them. With social media as well, it can sometimes feel like you’re not doing enough as a parent, and that someone else is a super parent who is getting everything done. There is no one fixed way to give your child the best Islamic learning. Everyone is a product of their upbringing and environment and will have different things to offer.

When Hafsa first started home-schooling, despite being a qualified primary teacher she was still flustered. It was with practice that her confidence started building. Only through experience do you learn what works and what doesn’t and how to build on it. Your only aim is to keep progressing and improving.

6. Focus on meaningful learning rather than filling up time

Children require a lot of attention and it’s so easy to give activities that are time consuming that don’t require active supervision. But time spent does not equate to effective learning. You are better off doing half an hour of focused learning rather with your child rather than making them do one hour of coloring to pass the time.

Plan the lessons and what you’re going to teach and the activities included. Especially as children get older more planning is required.

Given that Hafsa homeschools, her planning is structured around brainstorming a month in advance, and then from there breaking it down into the objectives and activities. She also plans certain activities according to the weather. So before the academic year starts she has an idea of what  she wants to do in each season to take into account outdoor opportunities.

When it comes to your child’s Islamic education, what milestones can you identify that you want them to have reached by a certain age? When do you want them to know how to do wuthu? How to pray? Memorise the short surah? How much Islamic history do you want them to know? Plan these in advance and schedule in activities to teach your children the things that a parent needs to teach their child.

7. Have a community

For Hafsa, the main support that she needs comes from the physical energy aspect. Sometimes having someone who can take care of practical needs goes a really long way, whether that’s babysitting or having a cleaner for the housework, or someone to help cook meals.

As well as that you need a circle of friends who are pursuing a similar thing to you. Create your own village of like minded people who are also active in investing in their child’s Islamic learning. 

And lastly, make time for social activities and arrange meetups. Cultivate friendships with people who can become a healthy support network. If you feel that your social network is draining or that there is an imbalance in the energy that you put in, then change up the dynamic or take a step back.

8. Never underestimate the long term impact of your efforts

The protection that a loving and healthy upbringing gives a Muslim child can’t be understated. Growing up as Muslims in a multicultural world where Islam is often on the defense, means that at one point or another many Muslims experience an identity crisis.

If you have taught your child how to take pride in their faith and how to harness Islam as a source of resilience and self confidence, the impact of that will last well into their adult life. The time you spend on their childhood is an investment in their future.

9. Focus on your own personal learning

The more knowledge you have on Islam, the more you can support your child. Before you get married, try to take up as much knowledge as possible be it in the realm of seerah, memorising Quran, tajweed or anything else. And don’t let this pursuit stop because of marriage or children. This is not dependent on whether or not you intend to home school. This is for your own spiritual growth.

Even beyond Islamic knowledge, just your pursuit of hobbies and learning should continue. I first met Hafsa at a calligraphy class that she taught herself after completing an online course because she thought it looked cool. Do something for yourself that inspires you to grow.

At the end of all of this, there is one thing that sticks out to me amongst everything Hafsa said. She loves learning. She always has and still does to this day and she credits it to her teachers and her mother because of how inspiring they were. In a world of information overload it is so easy to get burnt out overwhelmed with a lack of time. It is so easy to settle into stagnation when it comes to our own personal and spiritual growth but parents have such great power to shape their children into confident and wise young Muslims. 

I hope you found this post beneficial :). 

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