Today’s Tuesday chat brings you Sarah from A bit of pink. Sarah is a 30 something British Muslim mama of 3 wild girls and they home educate in London, UK. She is passionate about respectful parenting, writing, community and nurturing creativity. Through her blog https://www.abitofpink.co.uk/blog, she invites you on a journey through motherhood. If you would like to follow their home school journey, Sarah can be found on Instagram @a_bitofpink.
1 Tell us a bit about your family and child/children
Hello, My name is Sarah, I am a British Muslim mama originally from Manchester but for the last 16 years I have been living in London. I am married to Hamid, my hot blooded Algerian other half (if you know, you know!) and we have 3 beautiful girls aged 5.5, 4 and 14 months. My background (because I think its important to remember and honour who we were before our kids) was in the arts and alternative education. Ironically (as I have now taken the route of home ed) I used to mentor young people who were excluded from the mainstream and design bespoke packages of education that were better tailored to their specific needs. I used the arts as a tool to empower them and to support them in their emotional and social development.
2 What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
I never made a conscious decision to home educate, I just got less and less comfortable with the idea of sending my eldest to school. She seemed so young, so spirited, so free and I didn’t. Something in my gut said, the school system would crush her. As I looked into it more, I started reflecting on my passion for child led learning, the desire to have flexibility and a life that centred around family and togetherness rather than us structuring our days around an institution that I wasn’t convinced could offer more than we could offer in the nurturing environment of our own home. Now, I am more aware oF things like my children’s right for consent, the importance of play and extended time outdoors, delaying formal studies and focusing on character building and emotional intelligence. With all that children are exposed to in schools and in western society at large, I want my children to have a firm and solid foundation in their faith foremost, but also in their morals and values. I believe that in order to learn about the world they need to be in it rather than detached in a system that presents learning as something that happens during specific times of the day in a specific building.
3 What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
Until very recently I probably wouldn’t have been able to answer that question because our weeks were very spontaneous and things could change each day. But I realised that there was a little too much freedom and things were getting chaotic. I realised that my children needed more structure and predictability so now (on the days that my husband is at work) we follow a 3 hour work cycle in the morning 9 am till 12 and then we have lunch 12-1 and we head out for the afternoons. We currently have 2 routine sessions per week which are our weekly co-operative group and poetry inspired Muslim Ballet (yes that’s a thing!! check out @graceandpoiseacademy)
4 What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , Steiner , Montessori etc )
I don’t particularly like to label us because I feel like there are things from all philosophies that resonate with me. I would say we are more Montessori inspired at the moment and I do think this approach is really beneficial for 0-6 yrs but I am really interested in Charlotte Mason and Waldorf and I am currently on a mission to learn more and see how we can adapt our current routine. Right now I would say that we are semi-structured, we have a rhythm but I am willing to be flexible and ultimately if the children aren’t in the zone, very little will be achieved! I love dropping everything to have a fun and spontaneous day, if the mood calls for it.
5 What do you love the most about home schooling ?
Most of all, I love that I get to spend every day in the company of my children. It is an honour and a blessing to get to witness their development up close. I love that I learn with them and that through this whole experience they are challenging and stretching me as an individual. I know that their childhood will pass by in the blink of an eye, so I am grateful that we can share these moments together.
6 What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
It’s funny because I really don’t see myself as a teacher, I really feel that we are exploring things together and I am guiding them and in a sense, curating materials and environment, I get really uncomfortable whenever I feel I am slipping into ‘teacher mode’ because it is not how I would like to be. That being said, I am much more comfortable with literacy and at school I detested maths, so I am really aware that I gravitate towards literacy and this is something I have to watch myself on. I also find it so hard to inspire anything to do with history although we went to an amazing exhibition this weekend on the Muslim fallen heroes of World War One and the narrative surrounding the brotherhood and relationships that developed out in the trenches. I was absolutely riveted. It goes to show that conventional curriculum is not always the thing that sparks curiosity to know more.
7 What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children?
I would say that two of the most challenging things for me are 1) managing sibling rivalry which I think often gets fuelled because they have next to no time apart. 2) Dealing with my own sense of doubt and overcoming the frequent feeling I have that I am not doing enough and I should just give up. I really feel that you have to be extremely strong to tread the road less travelled and we are very conditioned by the traditional approach. It can be hard to break free and get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
8 How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
If I know that someone is going to have a negative attitude towards how we educate our children then I generally don’t speak to them about it. Interestingly some of my closest family members have never even acknowledged it and I am sure that it is either because it challenges them or they just think I am plain stupid. I tend to share my experiences very openly through my instagram (@a_bitofpink) and my blog and I make sure I put relevant messages there so that they can gain more understanding indirectly.
9 Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years time ?
I honestly don’t think I can answer this because I really feel we will take it one year at a time. I would love to see my kids right through to the end but whether that is what they will want or need is another matter. There may come a time that they really want to experience school and I don’t think it is fair for me to deny them that opportunity (although I would like to avoid this before age 7!) I think we have to weigh up the children’s development, our family circumstances and my mental health!!! It takes a huge toll on us and we have to be in the best place to offer them what they deserve. I think we will know when the time is right to make some changes.
10 What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
I would say that knowledge is power. Read and read and educate yourself so that you feel confident in your decision and you have the strength to stand by it when things are tough. Write a mission statement at the start of your journey about why you want to do this, what you hope you will achieve, goals and aspirations etc and re-evaluate it annually. This will remind you why you started when you feel like giving up. The most important thing of all is to find a support network and USE them….. don’t be shy to reach out, you need to be surrounded by like minded people who ‘get it’ whether that’s on or offline. If you have a connection with someone and a shared vibe….make them your tribe. They will be your people, your life line when you need that additional support and they will also share in the joy, inspire you and most importantly, be part of your memory making.