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Back To School And Home Learning Success: The Muslim Edition


Back to school

As autumn creeps closer, parents across the globe find themselves preparing for the upcoming school year. Choices about education have been made, school supplies and resources are purchased, and uniforms or home learning schedules are sorted. Amidst the visible preparations, however, lies an often overlooked aspect: the invisible load our children carry when they enter a new learning year. This invisible load encompasses their understanding of themselves, their environment, and their identity.

From birth to the age of two, children lack a full awareness of their identity and place in the world. As they venture into school and public environments, they do so with an incomplete sense of self, facing the challenge of understanding who they are, what’s expected of them, and how to navigate their emotions all while holding onto their Islamic principles. 

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we sometimes forget to address these critical aspects until issues arise, and by then, it might be too late. Our children enter spaces and environments that may not always be welcoming to their Islamic identity.

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In this article, we aim to shed light on this invisible load and provide guidance to Muslim parents on how to best support their children as they embark on a new academic year. Drawing on recent research, we’ll explore seven key areas of concern and offer practical insights to help parents navigate these challenges effectively.

1- Identity 

Research has shown that children begin developing their sense of self at a very early age. According to a study conducted by Grossmann et al. (2013), infants as young as five months old start forming a rudimentary self-concept. This development continues as children grow and interact with their surroundings. It’s essential for Muslim parents to acknowledge that being a Muslim in today’s world can be challenging, with many perceiving Islamic values and principles as outdated or peculiar. Whether your child attends public school or is homeschooled, it’s imperative to reinforce their Islamic identity at home first and foremost. Role modeling alone may not suffice; children’s brains undergo synaptic pruning, meaning they lose certain learning pathways if not consistently used. Therefore, practicing daily affirmations, incorporating dua’s (supplications), sharing Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet), and discussing real-life case studies can help solidify your child’s Islamic identity.

2- Peer Pressure


PC: Ben Wicks (unsplash)

Peer pressure is a familiar part of growing up, yet we often underestimate its significance during the early years. Regardless of the educational path chosen for your child, peer pressure inevitably weaves its influence, whether within the classroom, on the playground, or in today’s virtual learning spaces.

Preschoolers and adolescents alike tend to align their behaviors and viewpoints with their peer groups, even when they possess independent judgments.

A noteworthy study conducted in 2011 sheds light on this phenomenon. The research observed 24 groups of 4 children, aged between 4 to 9 years. Children from these groups frequently conformed their judgments to match those of just three peers, even when these peers had recently made erroneous and unanimous public judgments.

These findings underscore that peer pressure begins exerting its influence at a remarkably young age, with children in preschool years already showing sensitivity to the opinions of their peers as a primary social reference group.

It’s crucial, however, to recognize that peer pressure isn’t inherently negative. In fact, healthy peer relationships and friendships play a vital role in a child’s social and emotional development. The critical distinction lies in whether this peer influence is positive or negative.

To navigate this, role modeling, storytelling, and practical case studies can empower children to think critically and make sound decisions when interacting with peers. 

As the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ wisely reminds us, “A person is on the religion of his companions. Therefore, let every one of you carefully consider the company he keeps.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 4833]

3- Personal Safety 

With years of experience spanning both the private and public sectors, I can attest that personal safety is a subject often overlooked in a child’s upbringing. The roots of this issue often lie in children not having a clear understanding of their personal space and boundaries in developmentally appropriate ways.

Studies have shown that the developmental progression of children’s grasp of personal body safety is usually weak at first due to their naivete. 

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for children to encounter situations involving personal space violations within their own homes even before they embark on their school journeys.

The concept of personal safety, however, evolves within the home environment and takes on a different dimension outside the home and both need to be taught and discussed. Children should not only learn but also actively practice maintaining a healthy personal space at all times. Equally vital is equipping them with the language to articulate their boundaries and practice protocol for both inside and outside the home when they feel their personal safety is compromised.

 4- Personal Hygiene 

For parents of young children entering Pre-K or Kindergarten (3-4 years old), the transition from potty training to using public washrooms independently can be daunting. To ease this process, consider implementing practice runs during the initial month of school. These practice sessions allow you to supervise and guide your child as they develop this essential life skill.

However, it’s crucial to engage in a dialogue with your child’s teachers and school staff regarding accident handling procedures. Don’t simply assume that the designated teacher will handle such situations. Take the initiative to understand the school’s policies and clearly define your family boundaries. This communication should encompass both written and verbal agreements, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

For older children, it’s an opportune moment to discuss the principles of purification in public spaces. Explore how they can maintain cleanliness in a way that preserves their ablution and purity of their clothing when using public restrooms. Equipping children with a pouch containing wet wipes, a small towel, spare underwear, and clothing not only reinforces their Islamic values discreetly but also empowers them with the understanding that upholding these values happens everywhere. 

5- Prayer and Islamic Studies

Through personal experience, I’ve come to realize that amid the busyness of the academic year, prayer and Islamic studies often take a back seat. The reality is that genuine success lies in nurturing one’s connection with prayer and Islamic knowledge. 

It’s important to establish prayer as a non-negotiable aspect of your child’s daily routine. Assisting your child with their prayers is not a choice but an obligation that extends beyond the age of ten. To ensure the seamless integration of prayer into your child’s schedule, review both their school and home learning timetables, and plan their Salah (prayer) accordingly.

Furthermore, engaging in a dialogue about how Islamic learning will persist within the home and after school is of utmost importance. Begin by selecting a specific Islamic topic to explore, in addition to Quranic learning. 

Always bear in mind that Islamic learning should continue within the household, regardless of your choice of schooling. As Allah reminds us in the Quran, reminds us,

“And enjoin prayer upon your family [and people] and be steadfast therein. We ask you not for provision; We provide for you, and the [best] outcome is for [those of] righteousness.” [Surah Taha: 20;132]

6- Academic Success


PC: Annie Spratt (unsplash)

Here is an irrefutable fact: success rarely occurs without planning. Conventional schools and many learning environments often fall short in teaching children how to learn—they simply anticipate learning to happen.

The new academic year presents a golden opportunity for parents to reevaluate and reinforce healthy study habits while nurturing their child’s individualized learning journey.

Consider the proactive measures you can implement now to evade the unwanted daily parent-child chase. Delegate responsibilities and establish clear boundaries in terms of academic expectations. Define what success signifies within each realm of learning.

It’s crucial to remember that you need not adhere to the school’s conventional criteria for academic success. In typical school settings, high grades are often regarded as the sole measure of achievement. However, within the sanctity of your home, accomplishments like praying on time and demonstrating effort and dedication to academic subjects are equally deserving of recognition.

Take a moment to reassess your priorities and formulate your distinctive criteria for success for your family. Prioritize attributes such as grit and resilience, for they are the bedrock of life accomplishments.

7- Mental Health

Many studies have shown that children are showing signs of anxiety as early as infancy in this day and age. The need for early interventions to foster emotional well-being has propelled a new field of study categorized as Infant Mental Health (IMH).

In the early stages of childhood, it’s incredibly important to provide children with spaces for respite, allowing them moments to break free from the daily rigors of expectations and learning. Free play, in particular, emerges as an essential component for nurturing a child’s mental, physical, and emotional faculties.

Additionally, it’s valuable to curate interludes of mental health practices throughout their day. For instance, incorporating Quranic recitations during car rides to and from school can provide a soothing backdrop, giving children moments of tranquility. Similarly, allowing children the autonomy to unwind after a day of learning—whether through self-directed activities, extracurriculars, or leisurely board games—becomes a conscious checkpoint for their mental health. Bedtime can also be transformed into an opportunity for children to share their daily experiences, promoting emotional well-being.

Older children, particularly those aged 10 and above, often witness a reluctance to openly discuss new challenges, regardless of parental encouragement. Therefore, having a trusted mentor or companion that the parents handpick can be highly beneficial. These individuals can provide an alternative outlet for venting, offering diverse perspectives and opinions that can enrich a child’s social and emotional growth whether in a school or a home setting.


To this end, let’s remember that education involves more than textbooks. Our children’s identity, resilience, mental well-being, and personal safety are hidden yet crucial aspects. Reinforce Islamic values to fortify their identity. Guide peer pressure positively through open discussions and role modeling. Teach personal safety and hygiene discreetly. Make prayer and Islamic studies non-negotiable. Academic success should encompass grit, resilience, and upholding Islamic values. Prioritize mental health with moments of respite and trusted mentors. By addressing these hidden facets, we equip our children for success in the school year and beyond.

[If you need further support like this and you’d like to follow my work, please subscribe to The Elite Family Newsletter for weekly posts on educational and controversial topics faced by the modern Muslim family. Together, we can navigate the complexities of raising our children with strong Islamic identities.]



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Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Eman Ahmed is a digital educator on a mission to help simplify and elevate the Islamic parenting experience in the modern world through carefully curated high-quality online programs designed for today's Muslim parents and children during the early years.

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