This interview was originally posted in February 2016. Madiha now has five children mashaAllah and is currently attending an Arabic immersion course inTurkey.
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Alhamdulillah I have been blessed with four amazing children. I have a 7 year old daughter and three sons who are 8, 3 and 1.5 years old.
How long have you been homeschooling for?
My children have never gone to school. Since I believe that teaching our own children (whether part-time or full time) is an aspect of parenting, I would say that I have been homeschooling since I became a parent 8 years ago.
Do you follow a particular method?
My homeschooling method changes according to our stage in life, the personality of my children and what my children are interested in learning. Last year, we moved to Turkey six weeks after my fourth child was born. As we navigated through a new family structure, new surroundings, new language and culture etc., unschooling was necessary for a great part of the year. This year, I have more of a routine in place for my older two and we have resorted back to using our workbox system (in a relaxed fashion). I mix elements of classical and unschooling methods with what I do with them. When it comes of Quran, math, reading and writing, I use a more structured approach and try to cover these regularly. For other subjects like science, geography, social studies, etc., I take a more child-led approach.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR LIFE
Why does your family chose to homeschool?
I decided that I wanted to homeschool even before I had children or was married. I had the opportunity to observe some wonderful families who homeschooled and read a lot about the benefits of homeschooling, the history of schooling, etc. I am also very fortunate to have parents who would encourage my siblings and I to see learning beyond the classroom through activities such as getting us into the habit of keeping a journal, making a weekly family tradition of going to the library and taking us on many family trips. These are the experiences that have had the biggest impact on my learning as a child. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to view the school system from the perspective of my husband who is an educator at both the high school and university levels. That perspective coupled with my own experience, has really opened my eyes into how children develop to become self-directed and life-long learners.
Homeschooling allows my husband and I to cater to each of our children’s unique learning styles and needs, with the hope, that we can instil in them a love of learning. Furthermore, we also believe that by physically removing our children out of the school system, we can better prepare them to become critical citizens that challenge societal norms, which are rarely scrutinized or questioned in traditional classrooms.
Homeschooling gives our children more time to experience and observe the world around them as well as the opportunity for us as parents to have important conversations around vital issues. This in turn provides a unique filter to our children’s understanding of the world that I really believe should come from the parents as opposed to strangers.
What does a good day look like in your house?
A good day for us is when myself and my eldest two children have taken advantage of the barakah of Fajr time and have started off the day early. When that happens, we get all of our academic and household goals accomplished and are left with tons of time to pursue our individual interests. A good day is also one in which we have expressed kindness, patience, gratitude and have learnt something new.
What does a bad day look like in your house?
A bad day is one in which we have started the day off on a bad note by waking up late, cranky and/or sick. This throws that whole day off and results in a lot of wasted time. A bad day is also one in which I have not maintained my own frustrations and as a result, have been unable to guide the frustrations of my children.
What are your three homeschooling essentials?
1. Daily Quran and Dua 2. Lots of books 3. Good company
What was your biggest homeschooling mistake or set back?
Ever since I began my journey of homeschooling, I have been surrounded by one of the most active Muslim homeschooling communities in North America. Furthermore, most of my and my children’s closest friends are homeschoolers. As a result, I have always felt supported when I doubted my abilities and needed help. Although moving to Turkey was a conscious decision that my husband and I made to enrich our children’s learning experience, it has been one of the most challenging tests that I have encountered with my homeschooling. Not being surrounded by other homeschooling families, facing a lot more criticism, feeling vulnerable due to being in a new unfamiliar environment and not being able to easily organize educational opportunities like I could in Toronto, have really tested me. On a positive note, however, I feel that this challenge has in turn forced me to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to teach my children with limited resources.
Have you ever had any ‘aHa!’ moments on this journey?
Last year, I felt a lot of pressure to send the kids to school so that they could learn Turkish. Speaking Turkish is essential in Turkey and it is very difficult to do anything without it as most people do not speak English. Struggling to learn it myself, I really felt that I was not equipped to teach them. What I forgot, however, was one of the most important aspects of homeschooling – the fact that learning happens naturally once one is motivated to learn. In my efforts to learn Turkish, I spent a few months struggling with an evening Turkish 101 course. In the meantime, my children were spending their time taking risks with the language trying to communicate with kids and adults around them and naturally observing how the language was being used around them. Not only that, but they were observing my struggle to learn Turkish and could see the importance of learning that skill. After a year has gone by, my children can speak Turkish very well and have far exceeded my abilities.
Whats the best part of homeschooling?
I truly believe that homeschooling is a privilege and I am very grateful to Allah(swt) that I have been given this privilege. So far, I feel like I personally have learned so much myself from this journey and have been forced to improve myself in many ways. When the pressure of school is removed, learning becomes so much more fun. I am so happy that my children don’t know what their ”levels” are and just keep on learning without the pressure and labels. I really hope that the love of learning always stays with my children. I also love the flexibility homeschooling gives. We are in charge of what suits our family as opposed to externally imposed restrictions. I also love that we have the ability to travel and enrich our children’s childhood whenever we want to. I know for sure that we would not have been able to make such a big step of moving to Turkey if we were not homeschooling.
Whats the worst part of homeschooling?
The never-ending mess. As much as I try to allow my kids to unleash their creativity at home, after a while the mess starts affecting my mood and ability to think. I also don’t like it when people put pressure on my children once they find out that they are homeschooled. For example, there have been times when some acquaintances have started quizzing my children to see how much they know.
YouTube Chanels: “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life in Space” on the Canadian Space Agency Channel along with “Art for Kids Hub” Blogs: There are tons of blogs that I am constantly referring to for inspiration and ideas. I would, however, say that the two blogs that have impacted my homeschooling the most are Handmade Beginning and Aasiya’s Homeschool. Along with being amazing blogs, what makes them so special to me is that the Evangeline and Aasiya’s homeschooling journeys are ones that I can relate to a lot. Our first-born children were born around the same time and grew up together in their early years. While I have always been passionate about homeschooling, I really needed a lot of guidance on how to get started in the early years. These two dedicated mothers (who also happen to be ECE’s) have really helped me to grow Place to shop for homeschooling supplies: I buy most of my homeschooling material second hand from fellow homeschoolers, kijjiji, library book sales, garage sales, etc. Children’s book: Two Pesos for Catalina by Ann Kirn (Although this is an old book and not very famous, I have very warm memories of my father reading it to my siblings and I when we were children) Book: In the category of parenting, I would say Raising Lifelong Learners by Lucy Calkins and Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate Family movie: Children of Heaven (Board)Game: Ludo and Chess
Looking back on your homeschooling career, what advice would you give to yourself when you first started?
I would advise myself of the importance of “less is more” when it comes to children. Ever since my older two were really young, I would take them to so many field trips and sign them up for every “enrichment” program or class possible. I even organized a Quran class for my son when he was three! Although I am happy with these experiences, a lot of my running around and pushing them to do certain activities was unnecessary. I truly feel that their best learning experiences have been ones that have come naturally and ones in which I have been lovingly and attentively engaged with them. Even when it comes to things like curriculum, the idea of “less is more” has proven to be very true as well. While my children were young, I was busy looking into so many different kinds of curriculum so that when it came time to use them, I would be ready with the ideal material. What I have realized now is that most curricula are good and do work. I just have to pick one and follow through with it, while still being flexible.
Have you ever thought about giving up? When, why, and what got you through?
Although I have had some moments of weakness, I have not wanted to give up so far. InshaAllah, I would love to homeschool our children as long as it suits them and as long as we can provide a learning rich environment for them.
Who or what is your biggest homeschooling support?
My husband is my biggest support, Alhamdulillah. As an educator himself, he is well aware of the importance of instilling the love and motivation of learning in children so that they grow up to be adults who are thinkers. Although I do the majority of homeschooling with the kids, it helps to have him as the “principal” of our homeschool who both disciplines the children and listens to my daily complaints and concerns. Another huge support for me have been playgroups and support groups. When I was in Toronto, it was my local playgroup and Toronto Muslim Homeschoolers groups. Ever since my children were born, we have been part of these groups from which both myself and my children have grown so much. Although we are currently not in Toronto, I still feel very connected to these groups. Now that we are in Turkey, our local playgroup “Kayseri Moms” has been a huge support for me. Last year, a friend and I started this group to connect with moms in our city and meet regularly for playgroups, field trips, mom’s discussion groups, etc.. Although there are no homeschoolers currently in this group, it helps to meet regularly with other moms and children as we are all experiencing similar challenges in trying to raise our children in the best way possible.
How do you manage to juggle all the demands of motherhood and housework while homeschooling?
It is an everyday struggle and I am always experimenting with new strategies to make it easier. The first and foremost is always asking Allah for help. I also try to mentally remind myself that this crazy time will only last a few more years. I know that I am going to miss the chaos so might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I am also trying to get my children more involved and take on more responsibilities. I am already noticing that my eldest two are becoming more aware of what needs to be done and are taking more initiative on things themselves. We are in the process of making a more detailed chore schedule so that all of us are clearly aware of what needs to be done around the house. I also plan to get help from online support groups such as flylady.com
What does your family usually eat for breakfast?
Thanks to usually having rush-free mornings, my children, especially my eldest, have been accustomed to expect a “champion’s breakfast” every day. My eldest actually gets a little offended when I give him only a bowl of cereal I am ok with this, as the expectations are not as high for lunch and dinner.
Where was the last place your family went to enjoy some quality time together?
Safranbolu, Turkey. We miraculously found a wonderful group of Turkish homeschoolers who planned a family trip there a couple of months back. Along with getting the chance to explore a wonderfully preserved UNESCO site, our family connected with some amazing families from all over Turkey. It was inspiring to see how much dedication these families are putting into homeschooling their children in a country where homeschooling is not an accepted form of education.
What is something you do for yourself to feel good?
I try to find opportunities where I can enrich my own learning through online classes, halaqas, book clubs, etc.. Being intellectually stimulated really motivates me to keep on going. Also, when I was living in Toronto, attending the Toronto Muslim Homeschooler meetings were the highlight of my homeschooling month. I literally felt that each meeting would give me a boost of energy to continue on until the following month. Although I have not done this in a while, keeping a journal is also something that helps me relax and stay focused.
Can you share a confession of something you let your kids do that others may not know or approve of?
I let my children do “dangerous” things once I am confident that they have learned the safety guidelines, regardless of their age. For example, I am ok with leaving my eldest home alone for a short period of time and let him go outside to play alone with his friends since I am confident that he knows how to safely do so. I also let my older two children cook with me in the kitchen as I have shown them how to safely use certain kitchen tools. Even for myself, I remember more of what I saw my parents doing, as opposed to the list of rules. Since my children are around responsible adults most of the time, they are in turn learning some important life skills at an earlier age than their peers. Even my younger children play with toys that are not recommended for their age group (ex. lego). Since they observe their older siblings playing with them, they know how to properly play with them at an earlier age.
If you were an animal, what would you be:
A camel. Since childhood, I have been fascinated with the amazing features of the camel and how Allah(swt) has given it the ability to be self-sufficient in a difficult environment such as the desert. As mothers of our children, I truly believe that Allah has custom designed us and given us the tools to be the best person to meet the needs of our children in this world.