This interview was originally posted in December 2015. Bilqees is a co-founder of TMH and remains connected to the group. She is currently running her own business, Zuhoor designs, continues to homeschool her younger two children. Her three elder children have moved on to University and High school.
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have five kids. My eldest Yaseen, is nineteen, Jibreel is seventeen, Bilal is fourteen, my daughter Maysara is eight and a half, and my youngest son Idrees is five and a half.
How long have you been homeschooling for and do you follow a particular method?
I have technically always homeschooled. My kids have never gone to school. However, last year, my eldest attended grade twelve, which was his own decision and something he felt he wanted to do. He is back to homeschooling this year.
I started off following the classical method. Soon after, someone lent me the book “A Well Trained Mind.” I read the first five pages and never touched it again. Then over time I evolved into eclectic because this suited my personality much better. I found it easier to collect my own material, dabble into different methods, and do things according to the need of the individual child.
Fast forward a few years, and we had a house fire. I was just pregnant with my youngest and we lost almost everything. Alhamdulillah, no one was hurt but it was a changing point in our lives. Prior to the fire I began looking into unschooling and after the fire, I had no choice but to leave my old methods as we were very limited with both resources and space. We moved into a condo for six months and were only able to save a few books (which still smell like smoke!). So I officially became an unschooler.
For me, academics come secondary. I prefer to have more of a relaxed approach when it comes to this aspect. I have always wanted to focus primarily on the principles of character and behaviour.
I am still evolving in my methods. Homeschooling families are always changing. The child in the family, as well as their style of learning, will also always be changing. For example, when I wanted to start unschooling, this worked with my other kids, but not my eldest so he remained more classical inclined. But for me, heavy structure does not allow me to relax, and, relaxation is longevity in homeschooling.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR LIFE
Why does your family chose to homeschool?
At the beginning, I decided to homeschool because I did not want my kids to go to public school. Mine and my brother’s experiences in school really turned me away from the public system, so when I had my eldest I knew I wanted different. I turned to Islamic schools but there was a waiting list so I figured I’d homeschool in the meantime.
I had done ECE so I was familiar with how and where to find resources. It was when I was looking for things for my eldest that I started learning more about homeschooling. In fact, my own mother homeschooled my siblings and I when we made the move from Saudi to California. So I had some idea about homeschooling, and then met a few sisters who had also just started.
By the time I had my third child, who was again a boy, I made a conscious decision that I would not be putting my three (black) boys into the public school system where I feel my brother was very disadvantaged, and fully committed to homeschooling.