This interview was originally posted in November 2016. Shehnaz has a background in geography, professional writing as well as a teachers degree. Her eldest is currently attending Alhuda Taleemul Quran full time and she continues to homeschool her two other children.
How many kids do you have and how long have you homeschooled them for?
My kids are 10 (girl), 7 (boy) and 3 (boy). They have never been in school.
Do you follow any particular methods?
We are eclectic in our homeschooling. We take what we like from different methods and combine them to suit our personalities and learning styles.
What is your educational background and how does this affect your decision and methods in homeschooling?
I studied geography and professional writing and went on to get my teaching degree. It was while I was in teacher’s college that I was introduced to alternate forms of education and the idea of homeschooling. During my practicums I observed so many problems in the classroom (bored students, boring teachers, meaningless content, wasted time) and I became convinced that ‘school’ is not the best way kids learn.
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM ACADEMY
What is UIA?
UIA was launched in 2002 and is a project of the community organization, DawaNet. UIA’s aim is to make Islamic education accessible, affordable and relevant to the times. My husband had been volunteering for DawaNet for many years and when UIA opened its center in 2010, we had just started homeschooling. A few of us, homeschooling moms, wanted to start co-op classes for our kids so they could build friendships and socialize. We approached the UIA center and began using the space. We started off with one homeschooling class a week with maybe 10 students and are now at 12 classes a week with over 50 homeschooled kids in the center at any given time.
The UIA center has been unbelievably supportive of our co-op (despite our noisy children and talkative moms who love the center so much they never want to leave!).
How has your involvement affected your homeschooling journey?
The homeschooling co-op at UIA has been an immense blessing in my homeschooling journey. The friendships we have built over the years with other homeschooling families are invaluable. My kids have an amazing group of friends who they have grown up with. They talk on the phone, work on creative ‘ideas’, meet for playdates and share their experiences with each other. Recently the girls have started their own weekly halaqa and I’m amazed at the depth of the discussions they have with each other. Because of the co-op, I know and love who my kids’ friends are (and their moms too!). Benefiting from the skills and talents of other homeschooling moms (who are way more passionate and enthusiastic about their subjects than most school teachers) has been another amazing blessing of being part of a co-op. The kids can learn from other teachers at a reasonable cost and they get the experience of being in a ‘class’ where there is homework, group works, projects and presentations. Of course managing the co-op has come with challenges. I’m not a people-person and have always struggled and stressed over managing the needs and personalities of the homeschooling moms with the concerns of the UIA admin. I still dread talking to moms about fees or class sizes or discipline issues! Many times I’ve contemplated leaving the co-op over stressful situations and strained friendships but I have to constantly remind myself that if Allah has given me this role, I can’t give up so easily.
My daughter performing in a play about the Seerah that was performed for the community.
How do you juggle the demands of contributing to the community while running your own household and homeschooling your own children?
I never considered the two things to be in opposition to each other. Whatever little I was able to contribute, my kids would be with me while I did it and it was jus