” The Development of a child’s body, mind and spirit best happens in a secure , loving enivoronment. When their foundational development is properly in place, their education occurs much more readily. They cannot be rushed or hurried, or we shortchange the process.” Durenda Wilson
Today’s Homeschool Chat brings you Reja from @razandrej , who together with her husband created their Instagram account, to share parenting and homeschooling insights from the perspective of a Muslim mother and father. They have also recently launched their razandrej podcast, where they hope to share and discuss different issues related to parenting from the point of view of a Muslim couple. They aim to tackle some of the struggles parents face today and share their experiences.
1) Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
Assalamu Alaikum and Hello ! This is Reja, homeschooling mum of three children aged 7, 5 and 1. We live in a small town near Cardiff, Wales. I’m originally from Pakistan, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia. I’ve always homeschooled my kids, although before having children , this was a totally foreign idea to me! Alongside homeschooling , I’m currently pursuing my passion of studying Islam; I recently completed my degree in Islamic Studies and I’m about to start another diploma in Arabic language inshallah. My husband is a doctor and also currently completing his pHD, so we are both very busy pursuing our individual studies in addition to raising our children!
2)What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
When my eldest son was a toddler, my husband suggested the idea of homeschooling. I was initially aghast as I had never heard of this concept! I started researching and I spent countless hours reading about different education systems, the history of schooling and about how children’s brains learn best. I was surprised to learn that schools were not necessarily the most effective way for children to learn! I spoke to many school teachers here in Wales , who admitted that schools these days do not always focus on nurturing pupils because they simply don’t have enough resources.
At the same time, the idea of sending a young child away from me for so many hours didn’t settle right. I felt I would be able to fulfil my Islamic duty of tarbiya ( upbringing) of my children much better if at a young age they were physically present with me most of the day. As time went on I realised that homeschooling gave me the flexibility to allow children to learn at their own pace, rather than conforming to a rigid school curriculum. I could focus on fostering their creativity and passion for learning, and give them individual attention to help them thrive.
3) What does a “typical”home school day look like for your family ?
I used to try and have all the kids awake, fed and ready for work by 9 am, emulating a school day. This never seemed to actually happen and I would feel like a bit like a failure. Over the years, however, I’ve learnt that one of the biggest blessings of homeschooling is being able to adjust our routine to suit our family’s needs- and in the mornings we all like our own space! The kids play with their Lego or some other independent play, keeping the toddler busy while I have an uninterrupted half hour with my coffee and a book to ease into my day. This is a really essential part of my homeschooling routine and often I find if I haven’t had this time to myself in the morning the whole day starts on a sour note! Once I’m ready I give the kids breakfast; we used to have a huge morning basket of books to read at this time, but lately the toddler is too disruptive and so we have to limit it to one book I read them while they eat.
We usually sit down between 10 and 11 am to do our work. The children review whatever Surah they are currently memorising, and work on new ayahs. Normally one child is playing with the toddler while the other does Quran, and vice versa. We try and have maths and spelling done before 12:30 , because that’s when the toddler sleeps and so we can really delve into our homeschool projects and hands on activities. The baby currently has a 2.5 hour nap (I pray this continues!!) and so once he’s asleep we do different subject related crafts, for example making skeleton models of our hand for science, or baking different recipes from around the world as part of a geography lesson. Lunch time is always baby-free and so this is when I whip out our morning basket and read leisurely to the older kids. I try and schedule meet ups with friends or library trips in the late afternoon once the baby is awake- this works in the summer because the days are so long, but not sure how it will pan out in winter when it will be almost dark by the time he wakes up. Once my husband comes home from work he takes over the kids and I go and sort out house chores, food, laundry etc- I literally do not have an ounce of time in the day to do these things because of the toddler. My husband also puts the toddler to bed, while I spend about 45 minutes reading aloud to the older two before they sleep. Lights out around 9-9:30; then its finally my time to sit down and start my own studies!
4)What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc )
My homeschooling style has evolved over time; when the kids were toddlers I was heavily inspired by Montessori. I , then, discovered Charlotte Mason and found it was such an amazingly simple yet incredible philosophy. Nature study, art, narrations, lots of living books- this was an education style totally foreign to me and the more I read it the more I loved it. Complimenting Charlotte Mason, I would say I am also influenced by Classical education; I like the systematic approach it has to subjects like History.
5) What do you love the most about home schooling ?
There’s so much I love about it! It really is a pleasure (most days!) and a privilege to be able to spend so much time with my children. I love being around them to nurture them at a tender age and give them a solid Islamic foundation. We can integrate Islam into everything we do alhamdulillah; for example while studying the fall of Rome in History, we discussed what made some Roman leaders fail, and how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him ) was the best example of great leadership. If reading a novel which mentions orphans, we can discuss the Islamic approach to orphans and the reward for looking after them. Quranic ayahs and hadith can be intertwined into every aspect of our day, without Islam being imposed on the kids; this way it’s something natural for them, simply the way they live their life. The children are also memorising Quran alhamdulillah and so I love that homeschooling allows us to incorporate this into our daily routine.
I also love the fact that they can develop at their own pace without having to conform to any arbitrary school rules or standards. We don’t need to be seated at a desk with a pencil and paper to learn; instead we can explore topics like Vikings by having a Viking feast where we eat foods typical in that era, whilst reading Viking mythology and literature. Reading aloud to my children and bonding over books is probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of homeschooling for me.
Finally, I really love that I’m able to learn alongside my kids. I grew up in Saudi Arabia where we didn’t really have much exposure to nature or art, so now doing things like nature study with my children is a totally new experience for me and I love it as much as they do!
6) What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
I really enjoy teaching history and science, because of all the hands on projects that we do as part of those subjects. I also enjoy teaching maths because it’s so satisfying seeing the kids learn and understand concepts and then seeing quantifiable results when they get a maths problem right. I really dislike teaching spelling; I find it incredibly dull and often have to force myself to pull out the spelling books!
7) What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children ?
Homeschooling definitely has its challenges! For me, I think one of the biggest challenges is that I take on a lot of pressure personally. So if one of the kids is consistently getting a maths question wrong, I feel like there’s something I’ve done incorrectly and take it as a personal failure. There is also the mom guilt, especially because I have an 18 month old toddler who is so disruptive. The voice in my head is often telling me I haven’t done enough; we haven’t done enough hands on crafts, I haven’t read aloud for long enough today, I haven’t taken the children on many outings this week etc. The voice is never ending! I really have had to work on re-framing my thoughts and drowning out this negative self pressure.
8) How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
Alhamdulillah I am blessed to have a supportive family who see the benefit in my decision to home educate . However, I visit my parents who live In Pakistan every year, and over there homeschooling is an unknown concept, so I do get the occasional shocked comment. I think the key is to try and block out negative comments and remember that people are scared of the unfamiliar. So if someone is criticizing your decision to homeschool, usually it’s nothing personal; its only because it’s something unfamiliar to them and so is making them uncomfortable.
9) Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years time ?
Inshallah my eldest will be 12 years old by then, so just starting out high school! I am open to the idea of him attending a good high school, but then again I’ve heard amazing success stories from people who have homeschooled their children all the way through GCSEs, and the children have really flourished mashallah. So we will have to see how we feel at the time!
10) What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
The main concern I’ve heard mothers voice is that they think they aren’t good enough to homeschool. So the primary thing I would say is you ARE good enough to do it. Arm yourself with research; look into different learning styles and different approaches to homeschooling. Speak to people who homeschool and ask as many questions as you want; every homeschooler I know is more than willing to answer questions and help out! Once you’ve made the decision to home educate, focus more on connection with children and less on results and grades. Spend as much time as you can reading aloud to your kids, no matter what their age is. Homeschooling isn’t something which finishes after a certain time each day; it’s a lifestyle choice and not always easy, but it’s so rewarding alhamdulillah. So if you really want to home educate, have confidence in your ability as a mother and inshallah your kids will thrive.