Today’s Homeschool Chat is with Mariya Khan, a homeschooling mama of 4 , residing in the U.K. Mariya and her husband are the creators of the popular Islamic picture book, ‘If Allah Wills’ and the new, practical parenting blog: https://www.theyareourfuture.com/
Their aim is to empower Muslim parents with practical tools and resources that will help them raise their children to be strong and confident Muslims.
1. Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
Assalamu alaykum and Hello !
My name is Mariya, mum to 3 boys (aged 12, 8 and 2) and 1 daughter aged 10. Originally from Pakistan, I was born and brought up in the UK and married my husband when he was still a student back in 2006. We’ve been settled in Birmingham for over 4 years now – a record amount of time for us, as we’ve always travelled and have lived all over England including London, Liverpool, Cheshire, Preston, Staffordshire, Milton Keynes and Luton too. I’ve also lived in Pakistan as a child when my father decided to try moving us back there in 1998, (it didn’t quite work out and we returned within a year) and in Cairo, 6 years ago, when I went to follow my dreams and study Arabic. I’ve always home educated my children, though I never in a million years imagined I would!
2) What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children?
I had just given birth to my 3rd child whilst my first born was still only 3. It was a challenging time as my husband was still a full-time student and we didn’t have any family support. Needless to say, I had my eldest signed up to nursery and eagerly awaited the start date. But then came 3 small, yet life-changing experiences.
There was a fundraiser at the nursery my son was meant to start at but on spending more time and chatting with the nursery nurses, who were friendly and jolly, I returned home with a heavy heart… When my eldest was born I had formed dreams and hopes for the character I would help him to build, and the skills, talents and self-esteem I would nurture in him. Now out of desperation I was handing this still very tiny,beloved son of mine, over to strangers who wouldn’t be able to give him the time, energy, attention and understanding a small child really needed. He was just too young, his mind so undeveloped and his individual needs too great…
We took a 2-week holiday to Ireland soon after and it gave me plenty of time to think about what I really wanted from motherhood and how I really wanted to nurture my children. And then I met the teenage sons of my dear friend, mentor and veteran home educator, Sara. I distinctly remember observing her older sons with their younger siblings; how gentle and connected they were. Wow, I had thought, what has she done differently to achieve such harmony and respect between her children? I had not seen or met teenagers like them before, ever. That was enough for me, I prayed for guidance, felt comfortable with my decision and committed to internally and personally grow by continuing to raise and teach my children at home.
There’s a wonderful saying in Arabic “A mother is a child’s first school”. I’ll do it until they reach 7, I thought, then they’d be ready for formal education. For now, it was all about developing their mind, sense of self and core foundations for the future…
To be honest there is no typical day. We’ve been learning at home for nearly a decade now and every season I switch up the schedules and routines to accommodate normal life changes.
There is only one constant no matter the time of year; as soon as breakfast and clear up is done, we all sit down to learn Qur’an for an hour.
Currently, after Qur’an the kids have a little snack break (yes, they’re hungry after an hour!) followed by read-aloud learning which we try to do altogether, as often as possible.
By 1pm we’re ready to have a break, so we stop for lunch and prayers.
Maths is the last academic session of the day, which is quite autonomous for my older 2; whilst I sit with and assist my 8 year old. Of course, no 2 days look the same, even without educational trips, social meet-ups or library visits, my toddler is sure to get his hold of the day where ever he can 😀
4. What type of a home educator are you (structured ,semi structured , unschooling , Steiner , Montessori etc ) ?
You know, I’ve been doing this for a fair amount of time now, and though I’ve heard of and briefly looked into different methods and styles, I think I always aligned our home education style with my children’s needs and abilities plus my own understanding of the primary curriculum.
I’m probably naturally inclined to the semi-structured style, as it gives routine for children which they thrive on and makes family life a whole lot easier. But saying that, I’m not the most organised of people, it’s been a continuous journey of self-development and personal growth for me.
I do know that over the years with big life tests, home schooling was put on a back burner at points. Out of fear for the children ‘falling behind’ I would routinely have them completing workbooks and text books. Our once joyful and exciting learning style had become mundane, lifeless and unmotivating. And then when my 3rd child appeared to have zero ability to sit down and learn from books and paper, I knew I had to radically change things up. So back in December (2018), after meeting the most inspiring, gentle and patient primary school teacher turned home educator, (who had won the heart of my 8 year old) I purged our educational resources, stripping everything right back to basics and began our new organic learning style. Plenty of read-aloud sessions of various texts, subjects and levels, accompanied by natural oral comprehension, literary analyses and dictation, copy work or creative writing.
I love having my children close to me. In a world where families are so disconnected, dysfunctional and orientated around the individual, I know, by being able to facilitate their learning, I can show them the beauty and wonder of the world by preserving and nurturing their innate innocence and curiosity.
I love being able to feed their characters and nourish their souls in addition to formal academic education. To me education, or ‘learning’, as we like to call it, is entirely holistic. Within every hour of their day, they are learning and growing. Life skills – through preparing a meal and clearing up afterwards or putting the shopping away, taking care of a younger child, or being able to open a book and learn for themselves when I am occupied. And people skills through spending time making conversation with and assisting our lovely, elderly Irish neighbours or sibling negotiation and cohesion at all hours of the day, and being confident enough to arrange their own returns, lending, reservations and questions with librarians or paying for and asking for assistance from shop keepers on a regular basis. This, for me is education. Instilling in my children a love of learning and awe for the world and setting them up to successfully navigate and get the most out of life when they’re adults, God-willing.
I don’t think of it as teaching. We learn together. I think I enjoy learning about social and historical topics with them. Being able to read, watch or listen to something informative and discuss what we’ve learnt on so many levels and how it affects us, is probably the most satisfying.
If you want to know whether I’m a Math or English kind of girl, then you should know I’m all for Maths, though through our new read-aloud journey, my children are showing me how incredible and powerful language can be, so perhaps I’m beginning to be both… Who knew?
For me, it has to be the exhaustion. Home schooling is hard work. I’m quite a mentally in-tune and passionate kind of human, so I regularly tire myself out just by a read-aloud session. And there’s all the hats you have to wear as a homeschool mum every hour of the day – mummy, teacher, friend, cook etc… You always have little people depending on you, and as they get older, the physical work takes a back seat whilst the mental workout moves to the front.
I do struggle to keep my cup filled, as it empties very quickly being me. A wonderful instagrammer called @mindfulmuslimah reminded me though that getting personal time in the morning is so vital in keeping us busy, child-centred mamas going. It goes hand-in-hand with the Prophetic saying “My people (will find) blessing in the (early) mornings”– so I’m trying to make that a routine now,
Being in our 10th year of HE now, we’ve gotten used to knowing not everyone, even your closest family, will agree with your choices, especially home schooling.
I say to anyone starting out or finding it difficult to deal with comments and remarks etc. to come back to yourself. Do you fully believe in what you’re doing? Write it down – it really helps. Get your heart firm on your goals, principles and reasons for home schooling so that when anyone questions or comments on your choices, you don’t need to defend yourself and try to win them over through words – let the actions do the teaching. Focus on nurturing your chicks, keep your team strong and don’t expect others to agree or even be respectful (it’s a sad world.)
What we are achieving together as a family is so rewarding, and worth any difficult hour we ever struggled through, but people are strange and different, some have come on board and some haven’t. Honestly it doesn’t matter. Take joy in the goals you’re working towards and surround yourself with like-minded people – spend more time with them than with the unsupportive ones. Lastly, don’t give weight or significance to any form negativity, it will just jeopardise your success. Be fierce and brave – kill them with kindness!
Wow Eva, these questions are pretty heavy. I’m feeling almost half guilty to say that my eldest will be starting secondary in September. Though that was difficult to type, we’ve been working towards this milestone for 2 years now and I am fully confident that it’s the right decision, God-willing.
It is difficult knowing my first–born’s full time home education is coming to an end, but at the same time I know for him, it’s the best next step in his journey.
Having been able to home school for 5 more years with him than I had originally intended has been highly rewarding, and I am grateful to have achieved this.
So in another 5 years, I expect he will have completed his GCSEs, whether whilst being at school or at home (we’ve always maintained with him that even though he loves the idea now, if he wants to return to HE then he’s perfectly welcome to.
I don’t know what the future holds for my other children, my 10 year old wishes to continue being home schooled and my 8 year is probably more inclined towards practical learning, so I don’t know what he will choose. My toddler will be 7 so starting his formal education, God-willing.
I guess whatever choices we make over the next 5 years, my main hope is to always have the children’s wishes and best interests at heart. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, God-willing.
Give yourself 2 years to decide whether its right for you or not. When you start, whether you’ve deregistered a school-going child or are continuing on from toddlerhood, do not rush into over-scheduled, workbook-filled days. Focus on building your connection and bonds with each other. Follow your child’s lead in what topics they like, sit together, read and talk. Get out and about in nature and in the world, and slowly and naturally learn. Don’t set yourself any academic expectations or targets, start by enjoying being with your child. Educate yourself on gentle parenting techniques and simple child psychology. Always keep it relaxed and fun. Then start to understand how a child learns and identify the skills and knowledge you would like them to acquire. Keep it simple and know that there is no right or wrong way. Know that when you choose to home-educate your child, you’re signing up to educate and develop yourself too – work on your own struggles whether they’re academic or mental, allow yourself to grow and bloom alongside your child.
And lastly, believe in yourself – you got this mama !
Mariya Khan – https://www.theyareourfuture.com/