“Connect to your children. The academics matter, but they follow. Your children’s happiness and safe, supportive relationship with you come first. Believe it or not, your children are happiest when they believe you are delighted by them.” Julie Bogart, The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life
Today’s homeschool chat brings you the lovely Iman , who is a working mum of three, passionate about organised living, Islamic parenting, home education, productivity and sustainable living. She shares inspiration for organising small spaces, motivation to declutter, planning prompts for your week and ideas for meal prep and weekly meal plans. Her little space on the internet – www.andthenshesaid.com – shows you how little changes can add up to huge results. Iman can also be found on Instagram @imanblogs.
1 )Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
We’re a family of 5 – we have three children, two girls and a boy. They are 6, 5 and 8 months old masha’Allah tabarakAllah.
2)What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
Our main reason was to give them the opportunity to learn and grow at their own pace – we wanted them to be able to pursue their interests and passions. Faith is important to us, so we also wanted to be able to weave Islam into all aspects of our learning.
3) What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
We start our day with our morning basket that involves a read aloud, a mindfulness exercise, Qur’an review and Qa’idah work, reading a hadith and some dhikr. We will also review a du’a we are learning. This is followed by a game or a puzzle that we work on together. In the summer, this is exclusively outdoors and the children are often riding their bikes or we play a ball game.
We take a break after this and the children play either together or independently – my daughter is often colouring or drawing, and my son is creating something with Lego, whilst I put the baby down for a nap. I then use that time to do whatever needs to be done around the house as a priority and/ or make a start on prepping for lunch/ dinner. Once those are out of the way, we’ll come back together to work on a project – whatever interests them, we have a few books and pick experiments/ paper projects based on what their interests – do some copywork, work through their workbooks, do a level on Reading Eggs/ Mathseeds, or sometimes just read through various topic books we have or our latest library finds. Math manipulatives, alphabets, flash cards etc are all accessible so most days I follow their lead and work with whatever they’ve pulled out. I find they’re happiest when they’re working on something they’ve initiated and not something I’m forcing.
We frequently have audio books playing/ Qur’an, and they dip in and out of books, play etc so various questions will come up during the day and there are always opportunities to learn. They have activities in the afternoons – Jiu Jitsu, swimming and gymnastics – so often see their friends then. We’re new to the area we currently live in and haven’t met lots of people yet but we do our best to factor in play dates as frequently as possible, and visit places, attend events near us that they’re interested in.
4)What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc ) ?
I’m not quite sure how to classify us to be honest, and I’m not sure I want to as I worry it would lead to then feeling the need to stick with that particular methodology. I just do what works for the children and I’d say we have a loose structure, the only thing that is very structured is Qur’an revision and memorisation.
5 )What do you love the most about home schooling ?
I love being able to help them spend more time learning about something they are interested in. It makes for easier learning if the subject they are interested in is used as a tool – add in model dinosaurs and addition and subtraction is fun. Grab an interactive book about Tyrannosaurus Rex and reading becomes attractive. Ask them to describe a velociraptor and they’re suddenly writing with no complaint! I’ve also learned a ridiculous amount in the process and it has revived my love for reading and learning too!
6) Do you morning time/ symposium / circle time ?
We do, yes. I find that it’s a great way to get us all going in the morning and for younger children, it’s a good time to go over what day it is, the month, etc. We’re able to weave in Arabic and Islam by also saying what the day of the week is in Arabic and what the current Islamic month is.
7)What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
English/ Biology/ language based topics are my favourites. Maths has to be my least favourite – I believed (was told in school) that I wasn’t good at it and so have this ingrained now and just think I’m bad with numbers so of course I fumble,get anxious about whether I’m doing it right/ teaching it right because I don’t want them to have the same experience I did and it’s also important particularly for Maths that the foundation is strong.
8)What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children ?
Whilst I love having the additional time to bond with my children, it is not easy to be around young children all the time especially in the season of life I’m in. Things like doctor’s appointments, haircuts, salon visits etc are all put off or cancelled constantly because we don’t have childcare and sometimes even if you do show up with them to an appointment, there seem to be lots of questions about why they aren’t at school!
9)How do you find time for yourself/ self care etc ?
I am terrible at this, but I’ve found waking up earlier even if it’s just 25 – 30 minutes earlier than the older children, to shower, pray, read some Qur’an and adhkar and squeeze in a few pages of a book or some exercise/ stretching, really helps. I’ve also stopped feeling like we need to be ‘doing’ things all the time and like I’m supposed to be responsible for wonderful experiences and adventures every day and I just sit down with a book at some point in the day and let them get on with playing or if it’s a particularly chaotic day, let them have screen time whilst I sit in some quiet.
10) What are some of your favourite homeschooling related books?
I love Julie Bogart’s work, I also read all four volumes of the Fitra Journal before we started and found the stories and the advice within invaluable! I’m currently finishing The Read Aloud Family and I’ve gained so much from it! I’ve got several others on my wish list to read in 2020 and I’m excited to learn from all of them!
11)How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
Alhamdullilah I genuinely haven’t had much of this. I do think some people seem surprised/ apprehensive about the choice we’ve made, but I’ve learnt that it’s not my job to explain myself/ convince them that this is right for us. When they interact with our children, they’ll be able to see that for themselves. I do get questions when we’re out and about during term time, but the children usually answer those with ‘We’re homeschooled!’ very enthusiastically!
12 )Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years’ time ?
Insha’Allah I hope that we still are on this journey (l’m always conscious of the fact that we are blessed to be able to make this choice, many households require two incomes making it impossible for one parent to stay home) and that our children are thriving, genuinely love learning and that I learn from the process and I’m able to doubt myself/ my efforts less, and trust that they are getting everything they need. I also pray insha’Allah that the children have progressed significantly in their hifdh and their knowledge of Arabic by this time.
13 )What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
Don’t overthink it. We get so caught up in the how and when and what curriculum and which method that it can be seriously off putting. Don’t buy all the things – you don’t need them. They’ll sit on shelves gathering dust, giving you anxiety. Your children need very little – don’t be pushed into thinking they need lots. All they need I would say, is plenty of access to books to begin with. You can learn SO much simply by reading. Make du’a – ask Allah to place barakah in your journey, to keep your intentions pure, and your focus on what is going in in YOUR home with YOUR children and not the mum on Instagram with shelves full of learning resources and montessori materials. Your children will be just fine because they have you.
14 )Imagine your children 20 years into the future , what do you want them to say about their homeschool experience ?
20 years from now insha’Allah, I’ll have a 26 year old, a 25 year old and a 20 year old. I would hope they cherished and enjoyed the experience so much that they want the same for their own children. I would hope that they say that they have fond memories of reading, baking, field trips, play dates, us bickering over tidying, and long car rides with me trying to answer all their questions. I would hope they are pursuing their dreams and passions and have deep, unwavering love for Allah and Islam as a result of what we are trying to nurture in our home right now. May Allah make this a reality for us all!14