1. Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
When we started homeschooling my first child, we were 3 and now, 13 years down the line, we are 7 الحمد لله . I am a native Arab and my husband is a non-native. While we were living in the UK, nearly 5 years ago, all 4 kids were being home taught and the fifth child was a toddler. Then when we came to Saudi Arabia all the children went to Arabic schools. When my eldest was ready to finish off the rest of her IGCSE exams (as she had already done Arabic when she was 9) she came out of school, studied some subjects with an online school called Interhigh and some by herself (with support of course). Then two years later, my second eldest stopped going to school and followed his sister’s foot steps and next year إن شاء الله our third child will be home taught as well as he will also be getting ready for his IGCSE exams. Basically, at the moment any child reaching the stage of doing their IGCSE exams they switch from the Arabic curriculum to the English because IGCSE is an international qualification whereas the local Arabic one isn’t.
2. What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
There are many reasons for choosing to home educate our children. While we were in the UK our main reason was that we wanted our kids to be fluent in Arabic and to study Islam in Arabic so their level of Arabic had to be very advanced and the only way we could do that was for them to be taught at home. However, when we came to Saudi, there was no problem with keeping their Arabic language going, but we found other issues that we had to deal with such the quality of education, whether the children are taught to be thinkers or just parrots imitating the teacher. Also, since we saw IGCSE was the most suitable route for our kid’s future, their English had to be of a certain level and the only way they can achieve that in the city we are living in is to be home taught and study online. We don’t force our children to follow this route or that, but we do support them, advice them and encourage them to follow the route we see is the best for them. I think most parents do what they see is the best for their children and guide them that way.
3. What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
When we were in the UK, we had a rigid structured routine but we also had lots of free time and regular holidays. So our routine was:
8am till 9am was Quran revision.
9am till 10am breakfast.
10am – 11.30am Arabic (included Arabic language and Islamic studies)
English (which included science, geography, project work).
11.30 till 12.00 free play.
12 till 1pm Maths.
12 till 5pm was prayer, lunch and free time or other activities such as earth school, swimming lessons or home educating meetings, pottery classes, sewing classes etc.. whatever other activities going at the time.
6pm till 7.30 pm was Quran classes for Quran memorisation.
Our school days were Mondays to Thursdays. On Fridays, we had a really nice routine which the older kids miss. It was to get up early, have breakfast, clean the house, read Suratul Kahf, go to Friday Prayer, have special lunch (take away or picnic in the park) buy sweets (as Friday was sweets day) and the rest of the day we met up with friends or went to the museums with other home educators. Saturday and Sunday was free time.
Now in Saudi, our routine is totally unstructured and all over the place. The two home taught teenagers start their studies when they wake up while I prepare exam papers for them or search whatever they needed help with. They read Quran with an online teacher or with me. Then in the evening sometimes we teach the other three children whatever they are struggling with at school and desperately trying to establish a consistent routine to listen to their Quran memorisation and teach them Arabic IGCSE.
4. What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc )
Actually I never read on the different types and never felt I needed to. I went with my instinct which I now know to be a mixture of structured, semi structured, Montessori and Charlotte Mason.
5. What do you love the most about home schooling ?
The fact that you can go at the pace of the child and not feel he needs to understand certain concepts at certain times or to be able to do certain skills at certain phases of his life just because everyone else is or because the curriculum dictates it.
6. What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
Quran and Arabic are my favourite subjects to teach and Maths is my least favourite.
7. What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children
In the UK, having the full commitment was a real challenge because time was not yours, it was the children’s. As for here in Saudi, establishing a consistent routine like we did in the UK is the biggest challenge because we had to adapt to a different lifestyle and we are finding it difficult to get back to our home schooling routine. Even the kids were telling me they missed the structured routine they had in the UK.
8. How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
الحمد لله we have passed this stage. Before the older children were sitting their IGCSE exams we did go through rocky times and doubted what we were doing because we often heard negative comments. So I used to pray istikhara a lot to check if we were doing the right thing. Also, there was a time when my eldest was half way through year 2 when she did start going school but then came out a year and a half later because, although it was a good school and the teachers did put a lot of effort in, her academic standards dropped. On top of that she had no life outside school because of long school days. It didn’t work for us, so we went back to home education again. This experience gave me the confidence to defend home schooling without feeling guilty!
However, now, after seeing the older children’s exam results and the progress they have made in Quran and Arabic, as well as trying schooling, we the parents and the children can confidently say that home education is the right decision for us. And we no longer hear anything negative about home schooling.
9. Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years time ?
The only child we will have of schooling age will be our youngest, 7 currently, to be doing his IGCSE exams online with home support, wherever we may end up in the world.
10. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
Pray istikhara whenever you doubt home education. It helped me to cope with things mentally. Remember, home education is not a life long sentence nor is going to school. Anything can change along the way and thus your schooling option may change too. Your situation may change, your child’s needs will change and you will have to accommodate for that.
If you want to home educate and don’t know where to start then start with teaching whatever you are good at. If you are good at art, teach that, if you are good at maths then start with that. Follow curriculum books to begin with and mix with other home educators.
Start of with whatever subject and method you feel comfortable with and leave anything that overwhelms you aside because ONLY you know what works for YOUR family.
Then, slowly build up and add to your learning journey.
Once you find your feet you will be in full control. It is a bit like starting a new job. It takes you a few months to get used to your duties before you start taking your own initiative. It is exactly the same with home education. Unfortunately, there is too much confusing information on the social media trying to help new home educators but I think if I was a newly home ed mum I would be lost in all of it.
Keep your home education journey simple and do what works for you. Try to ignore any negative comments you hear. We have been through the tunnel and now we are at the other end and I can tell you that your child will not fall behind. In fact who says that children need to be reading or sitting exams or going to university at this age or that age!