Reena is a former homeschooler and TMH member and currently has her children enrolled in school. She has an educational background in Public health and Counseling Psychology . She is now a licensed mental health professional in Ontario. She work with individuals who need support with various issues such as trauma, anxiety and depression as well as supporting people to become the best versions of themselves. Be sure to check out her website piecepsychotherapy.ca. This interview was originally posted in February 2016.
Tell me about your kids, their names, ages and a brief summary of their personality.
I have 2 boys, ages 12 (Amaar), 9 (Suhayb) and 1 daughter Aisha who is 5. Their personalities are dynamic and entertaining mashallah. But they do fall into the birthing order stereotype – Amaar the precisionist, overly inquisitive drive me up the wall, first born.. The middle Suhayb, easy going, self directed, empathetic little, charmster that always knows the right thing to do or say in not so good moments of life. The last is my little girl AKA Ms Mommy, is the over- protected dame of three guys in the house scenario. She is somewhere in the middle of her brothers trying to figure out her own personality.
What schooling method have you chosen for your family at the moment and why?
At the moment we are in a mixed situation of both Islamic Schooling and Homeschooling. It’s what’s working for our family right now.
What are your past experiences with other schooling methods and what did you learn from them?
Well I’ve experimented with all three methods: Public, Islamic and Homeschooling. We can spend a day debating the good, the bad, the best, the worst, the hardest and the easiest. But really, everyone has a different experience with each system. My difficulties or success in any one does not have to mirror yours.
I’ve learned a lot from all three methods that has really helped me open my mind. My journey through all three has given me an insight: if you are an involved parent, and advocate for your child then whatever system or way you choose, it won’t be an easy one. If you educate, guide and inspire your children from your heart all three methods pose a set of challenges you have to overcome to reach your goals. I have been through the ups and down in all 3 ways and it’s given me the ability to be grateful of the blessings in the situation I am in today.
In terms of homeschooling, the flexibility, catering to my child’s needs, being with my child all the time, and watching him unfold right in front of my eyes beats any method. The other moms have talked about this at lengths and I can second them too :). However, it’s something not everyone is able to experience for various reasons. I’ve cherished our moments at home, and I’ve kept education special for my other children who are not with me. I always wanted my children to love playing, learning, and gaining knowledge, and in all three methods of education and or of raising them, I’ve constantly had to keep myself growing in order to keep this perspective alive.
I always tell sisters, homeschooling is a privilege. And if Allah swt has bestowed you with successful homeschooling than you are truly blessed. Or even if, through your struggles, he has given you the strength and support to continue than that too is a blessing. I say this because I work in the healthcare field, especially Mental health, which lets me see the intimate inside to sisters lives which is blind to the rest of the world. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
I truly believe the best choice depends on the combination of many factors: one’s current life situation, physical health, mental health, support, financial situation family dynamics, child needs etc.
What is your educational background and work experience?
I specialized in Psychology in my Undergraduate studies, and then Health Promotion in graduate studies.
My work experience has been in the hospital, school and community settings.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR LIFE
What does a good day look like?
In the past couple of years I’ve noticed my sons learning goes hand in hand with the sunshine! So it’s a good day when the sun is shining bright and we’ve had some productive indoor and outdoor time.
What does a bad day look like?
When we’ve had no indoor or outdoor accomplishments. These days come every now and then.
How do you cope on those bad days?
I do nothing! I stop doing everything and let my children do nothing too. We just let the day pass. We all have bad days, don’t get caught up, just accept it and start again. I usually will make it an outdoor day, and spending time in nature turns the “bad” into a “good”.
Any confessions you’d like to share?
Yes, when I first decided to homeschool, I over watched youtube videos and read blogs on homeschooling moms who were homesteading-which is what I initially was inspired by and had planned on trying this with my family. I didn’t really know the differences…. Well it didn’t take long before I realized it wasn’t really working, especially living in Big City Toronto. It made my dream a little bit impossible! And OMG did i go through a hard time. Don’t ask me why please, I can now laugh at it, that’s all that matters.
What are your three essentials in keeping emotionally healthy?
Quran word to word
Staying silent in times of chaos (that’s my new one – I ’m really really trying this one out, I’ll keep you posted).
I escape into nature, parks, water, natural rinks, anything outside of four walls.
Scent: Lilly of the valley Hot drink: Chai Tea Dessert: Every and any! Book (for yourself): on my gosh it’s like asking me to pick one dessert. I just can’t, I’d be hurting the others. Book (kids): Amaar – Wings of Fire series, Suhayb – Robinson Crusoe, Aisha – If you give a mouse a cookie Game: We are all into monopoly right now. We’ve even created a sadaqa fund, no interest allowed, we forgive loans and celebrate Eid on it. It’s an awesome way of getting some islamic principles with some real life financing lessons. Pastime: Reading Website(s): too many Ayah:Again can’t just choose one. But this one has been my pillar –
Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? Surah Ankabut, 2.
How do you strive to make your home environment more peaceful and relaxing, physically speaking?
Honestly, you can count our furniture pieces on your ten fingers or even less. That’s how little I keep in my home. You’ll be surprised at how good that is for your mind.
How would you explain mindfulness?
Khushoo in life.
Do you have any suggestions in terms of helping kids deal with stress / promoting mindfulness?
Be an example. Do it with them. It’s okay for them to see you stressed, but it’s always better to let them see you work through it actively.
With mindfulness and children, just let them be, let them play. They are mindful already. I learn it from them especially when they are playing Lego. I’m the monster that comes and destroys it with my to do’s and to go’s. If I leave them alone, it’s’ exactly the space they need to be in.
With your experience in the mental health field, do you notice any common themes when it comes to Moms who are ‘stressed out’? And is there a general advice you would give?
In a few words, I try and practice and teach moms to learn to say “It’s OKAY” to themselves. To be more forgiving, and loving to themselves. If you are going through sadness, struggle, challenges, just say to yourself it’s ok, it’s a part of life and it will pass. I love the quote “Remember to be patient with yourself, nothing in nature blooms all year long.” That way you create clarity to come up with solutions, otherwise you just create panic and despair that keep you in a rut.
Also, don’t do it alone. Get your supports up – family, friends, community. There is so much you can do to alleviate that stress. Many times, when we step out of our regular and do something for someone else in need, our stress starts to dissipate or become manageable.
Homeschooling, in particular, can cause extra weight on a mother’s shoulders, is there any advice specifically for homeschooling mothers?
Mashallah I have met some of the most passionate women in this journey, I need their advice. You’ll have to get those veteran homeschooling moms for this one.
As for my two cents – Do what works, stop what doesn’t. It’s not the resources that do the trick to a child learning, it’s your persistence and support. Also once again use your community homeschooling support, we are blessed with TMH, awesome moms out there with a wealth of knowledge and advice!
How would you address the statement that someone with depression, or struggling emotionally has weak emaan?
This is a hard one to explain. Weak emaan can be a factor in depression, and depression can be a factor in emaan weakening. Islam gives us solutions to negative feelings, sadness and hopelessness, that means its a recognized issue, a real one. To say someone who is battling depression is doing so only because of weak emaan – I can argue that. I’ve met women with very strong faith, that battle depression or other emotional issues.
Some of the strongest women I’ve met are fighting a Mental Health condition. You haven’t seen strength until you’ve met a mother raising her children with a condition that has the ability to tear her down.
Depression is real, It exists Muslim or non Muslim! With the proper steps and support it can pass. Have faith in Allah first and foremost, and trust in the fact that with illness He has sent cure. Strengthening your emaan is definitely a solution to any of life’s ailments including emotional issues. Jazakillah khair for your time Reena.