The first Interview is that of our former TMH Admins, Munazza (also a co-founder), Nichole and Sanna. It was originally posted in May 2016.
These three wonderful sister have all moved on as Admins and are pursuing other things to further benefit the community. Munazza resigned from her role as Admin in 2018 and remains connected to TMH by offering her continuous support and wisdom with our members. She continues to homeschool her youngest child who is now ten, while her boys have decided to continue to pursue their education at a local public high school. Nichole is currently pursuing her passion to teach the Arabic language and has recently launched her own website www.ArabicWithNichole.com. Sanna is about to begin her fourth year as a Midwifery student, all while continuing to homeschool her four children. We wish the best for these sisters and ask you to keep them and their families in your duas.
BACKGROUND / PERSONAL HOMESCHOOLING JOURNEY
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Sanna: 4 kids. 2 boys (8.5 &7) 2 girls (5.5 & 4)
Nichole: 4 children. By the year’s end their closeness in age will show more: 9, 8, 7, and 4. Three girls and a lonely boy.
Munazza: 3 kids – 2 boys (14 & 13) – girl (6)
How would you describe your homeschooling style?
Sanna: Unschool, very lax, lazy, and mix of different things.
Nichole: Eclectic and chaotic! There is no schedule or rhythm to our days. And we are usually out. We go on a lot of trips, attend numerous classes and workshops and love visiting family and friends. At the moment we do not use a single curriculum book. But books still take over our space and I’m so tired of paying library fines! As they get older, I do long for more structured days and when I can routinely teach my children the Book of Allah, with understanding. My educational method and style is my own, but I love reading about unschooling, a Thomas Jefferson Education and Project-Based Homeschooling as well as books by Charlotte Mason and John Taylor Gatto.
Munazza: A mix of traditional, unschooling and no schooling.
In one sentence, why did you choose to homeschool?
Sanna: To invest in our kids and raise good children.
Nichole: It was never a conscious choice. I see a mother educating her child as a natural part of motherhood.
Munazza: So I could teach my kids what I want them to learn.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a homeschooling mother?
Sanna: My biggest strength would be my husband’s support- not every mom has that.
Nichole: I am full of flaws but I think my strong desire to do things for my kids is one of my strengths. I love planning and teaching so my children benefit from the many trips I organize, classes I conduct, workshops I schedule and books and resources I order based on hours of research. I do things myself for my children rather than wait for it to come or complain that it is not available for them.
Munazza: I’m very open and honest with my children. I’ve never been afraid to share the realities of the world with them. Living in Toronto for years had exposed my boys to poverty at a very young age. Rather then getting weirded out by the panhandlers I would tell them stories about them, as sadly, they had been there for years already.
Three homeschooling essentials?
1. Vision/purpose: know what you would aspire for your child to become
2. Physical space to run around: gym, parks, etc. We love going to the Escarpment, hiking, camping….
3. Patience: still don’t know where to buy that
1. Time 2. Books 3. Help – in the form of patience and prayer (The Qur’an 2:153)
1. Personal love for learning
3. Faith in yourself that you’re doing the best you can and you can’t do more than that.
What do you feel is your biggest weakness as a homeschooling mother?
Sanna: Not enough minutes in a day, too much to do, too many places to go! No sleep, lack of patience and the list goes on.
Nichole: I am averse to noise!!! And I also over plan and try to do it all.
Munazza: Children’s sleep schedule. My whole family goes to bed late but only my husband and I wake up early. The kids get up way too late- not cool.
What gets you through the tough days?
Sanna: Knowing it’s gonna end. Everything is temporary.
Nichole: Ending it. The feeling of a bad day usually comes to me during its end when I reflect on the day and conclude that it was not as productive as it should have been. So, I’ll call it quits and hope and pray the next day is better.
Munazza: Chips, pop and laundry.
What is your favourite hot (or cold) drink?
Sanna: Water? Club soda. Herbal tea with honey
Nichole: TEA – but not any, I’m very particular. Moroccan or Somali is nice depending on my mood, although I’m always down for PC’s Honey & Ginger Green Tea And if the employees at Tim Hortons get the order right, a large ice coffee with a flavour shot.
Munazza: A good cup of java.
ADMIN RELATED QUESTIONS
How long have you been apart of TMH and why did you join?
Sanna: 2 years to date. I was naive When I was asked to join, I was confused – I didn’t know many members and I just begun homeschooling. Then I thought, I could bring my organizational skills and experience to the group, not realizing how much time is required.
Nichole: Almost 6 years now; two of which I have been on the Admin. I joined TMH for the support and to connect with other homeschoolers for myself and for my children.
Munazza: I’ve been an admin since the beginning (10 years). A few of us decided that we wanted to homeschool and the best thing for us would be to start up a support group hence the birth of TMH.
What does being apart of TMH mean to you? What kind of things does it entail?
Sanna: Being apart of TMH means that I am not alone. Great network of superwomen and support with tons going on. I always know I can check my email to see a new field-trip happening somewhere. Makes me feel very blessed to be in a city where there are like minded families with similar goals. I am very fortunate that my children have opportunities we never had.
Nichole: Being a part of TMH means being a part of a real social community. TMH connects Muslim homeschoolers, provides (too much) social interactions for the children, is a platform of knowledge and experience that people can benefit from and gives continued support and encouragement to its members. Many bonds and friendships have been established from this network. MashaAllah.
Munazza: TMH means a lot to me and my family; it’s been apart of our lives for a decade now. It entails a lot of time and brain usage – something that is slowly depleting in my life. My children have sacrificed a lot for me although they don’t realize it yet. Insha’Allah this sacrifice will be accepted and they too will give up their time and brain usage for the community.
What is the biggest challenge of trying to moderate a group of homeschooling families with such diverse situations?
Sanna: Trying to find topics and venues that please the majority. Everyone is at a different level, have diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well as geographic constraints……our exponential growth has been our biggest challenge.
Nichole: I do not see the diverse situations as a challenge. The diversity is what I like most about TMH members. This group is about educating our children at home, so I feel as if a lot of things are diffused by focusing on this and avoiding fatwa-wars and politics. The biggest challenge that affects me personally as an Admin is the members who complain about what TMH does not offer, who have expectations of what I should voluntarily do for them, as well as the forgetfulness that I, like them, am a homeschooling mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend with the same struggles and responsibilities to fulfill.
Munazza: I actually don’t find it very challenging as diversity is something I have dealt with all my life. I grew up in Toronto amongst a plethora of cultures and social classes so dealing with diversity has become second nature to me.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an admin?
Sanna: Members telling me they benefited from an event. Best reward ever.
Nichole: It’s rewarding from many aspects: For the group – helping TMH continue with its current constants (annual conference, Eid party, monthly meetings, signing on members, etc) For myself – knowing that you have touched many lives and hearts in meaningful ways And for the Hereafter – hoping that you will be rewarded for your intentions and efforts
Munazza: To know that our members feel supported. But if I may add, it makes me sad when some of our members don’t feel supported.
Looking back on your journey as an admin, are there any moments that stand out?
Sanna: Nothing- can’t think of anything
Nichole: Yes, my first year, in which I single-handedly managed the email account, helped plan every TMH event and moderated most of the monthly meetings. That was very brutal. But now I have a deep appreciation for the Admin ladies who worked the email account years before me. At present, we all take turns signing on new members, responding to questions, corresponding with third parties, and other tasks associated with the email account.
Munazza: I remember I said to my husband and the boys one day that I was thinking about resigning…their reaction was shocking. They were proud of all my accomplishments and that removing myself from TMH was just NOT an option. It was weird because I thought they would cheer me on and be glad that TMH was finally out of our lives. You see, my family gets neglected quite often and I always thought they would resent me for it but their reaction to my suggestive resignation proved otherwise.
How do you balance your own responsibilities with admin work?
Sanna: Very difficult…Something always suffers…..your own kids, your sleep, your sanity, your husband. Impossible to find a balance because being a homeschooling mother already requires 100% of my time. Usually just stay up late with my laptop when the house is asleep.
Nichole: I don’t. Not a day goes by that a TMH thought, task or dream does not occur. I try to do most of my admin work in the early morning when the children are asleep or at night when they should be asleep. Although our families have sacrificed a lot, we still draw our boundaries. A lot of our ideas and goals have not come into reality because of the time we know we would have to invest to make them happen. This year we have requested more members to join the Admin so that the load is shared, inshaAllah.
Munazza: Alhumdulillah my husband is a good man. Without him and his support I could never have striked the balance. He’s patient, low maintenance, easy to feed and is my personal chauffeur. Along with being blessed with him, my nights are long and my days start early – so far so good, Alhumdulillah.
What are your vision for TMH? What do you hope people get from it?
Nichole: I envision TMH as a more professional organization with efficient operation and management of the group. I would also like to see a very functional and versatile website. I hope as time passes, people realize the gem they have and all the networks, friendships, information, trips/classes/workshops they have access to that is not found anywhere else. Munazza: My vision is to be able to facilitate programs for our members in hopes that our homeschooled children turn out to be well rounded human beings who will help make a difference in people’s lives and not just their own.
After interacting with many different Moms, what would be the most important piece of advice you would offer?
Sanna: To homeschool, get OUT of the home. This was the advice given at the first TMH meeting I ever attended. I see the importance and relevance of it, and the benefits on my children. Go to a park, go to a workshop, a field-trip, a grocery store……if you have an opportunity to explore, take it. Learning can happen anywhere, doesn’t always have to be inside your home.
Nichole: Relax and enjoy this moment. Put your trust in Allah and stop trying to do it all! You existed before your children came into existence – do not forget yourself, take care of yourself and spend time doing that which you love.
Munazza: Homeschooling is a radical decision; it goes against a very big norm: institutionalized education. We will be constantly questioned and scrutinized. With this in mind, we must remain calm, confident and always smile from the heart. Homeschooling has brought a certain warmth and simplicity to my life. It also makes me realize how temporary everything is. You see, when you have your kids around you 24/7, life happens all in one setting. This one setting in the temporal world simplifies things and makes eternity all the more greater; leaving my husband, my kids and myself with beautiful visions of life after death. I request to all moms to love their choice and do it with sincerity and let Allah take care of the rest. Jazakillah khair Sanna, Nichole and Munazza for the time you invest into the community and for sharing your experiences with us!