” As teachers, parents and caregivers, we become not scientists with microscope and laboratory, but naturalists, who observe life and nature within its element- plain air (outdoors)-like the modern day ethnographer observing children in real life to see how and why they learn as they do.” Jack Beckman
Today’s homeschool chat is with Tasha , a former Elementary teacher and a homeschooling mother of 6 children, who resides in Canada. She can be found on Instagram (@little_homeschool_on_prairie). Tasha also has her own blog http://www.littlehop.ca , where she shares snippets from their homeschool journey as well as creating lots of free printables.
1.Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
Alahamdullilah we have 6 children – 5 boys and 1 girl. They are all fairly close in age (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12) and they are the best of friends! We live on a farm in the prairies of Canada. We raise sheep, cows, chickens, turkeys, and peacocks. We also have dogs, a cat, and a rabbit! My husband and I were both born and raised in Canada. I reverted to Islam in my early 20s after attending a Bible college, alhamdullilah.
2. What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children?
I was previously an elementary teacher and always knew in my heart I would homeschool my children if possible. I witnessed several incidents with my students in the public school system that made me cringe – behaviours, attitudes, bullying and so on. I also couldn’t wrap my head around the amount of wasted time that was spent on discipline and other nonsense. When we had our children, we knew that we wanted to spend our days together as family. We wanted them to learn what we felt was important. We didn’t want them to spend long hours away from home learning what they were told to learn. We wanted to be able to incorporate religious studies into our every day. We wanted our children to maintain the bond between each other. We wanted to provide a home and environment that nurtured nature. We wanted them to be motivated to learn by cultivating an environment that embraced various learning styles. And ultimately we wanted to provide an environment that would create a strong connection between our children and their Creator.
3. What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
We follow a fairly structured day because we have farm chores to be done, so because our animals are on a routine, we have to be as well. Our children thrive on routine so we do maintain a schedule for them (although, some days we need to adjust accordingly for various reasons). This is the benefit of homeschooling. We begin our morning with ‘Morning Time’. This is when we spend a small chunk of time altogether. We then move into ‘Morning Rotations’. The children all work on math, copywork/narration/dictation exercises. The younger ones are using a copywork loop schedule so each day they are experimenting with different forms of writing (classical literature, poetry, hadith, Quran, and novel/easy reader). The older boys are using Fix-it-Grammar for their copywork/narration portion. The younger children finish the morning rotation with Arabic and Quran. The older boys finish with Science. In the afternoon, the older boys have their Quran/Arabic while the younger children have their ‘Afternoon Loop’. This loop is very short and usually consists of a science read aloud and a math read aloud or a quick map drill. The older boys also finish the day with an ‘Afternoon Loop’ that consists of either: history notebooking, map drill, poetry study, writing from pictures, or nature study (it depends on the day but we rotate through those in our loop). We end their day with an Islamic history read aloud. We take advantage of the afternoon by engaging in handiwork, outside time, and farm chores!
4. What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc ) ?
I would say for several years I was very much an eclectic homeschooler; taking away things from all different styles. However, more recently I have taken more interest in Charlotte Mason homeschooling. I have been reading extensively in this area and feel that in many ways, this is a great fit for our family.
5. What do you love the most about home schooling ?
There are too many things to list! We love the flexibility. We can take holidays when it works for our family. For example, during our Eid celebration we take a mini break. We can wrap up our school year when it works for us. On the farm, spring is a very busy time so we wrap up by the end of April. This also allows us to maximize our summer since we have a very short summer season. We love the close family bond we have and that we spend our time learning together.
6. Do you do morning time/ symposium / circle time ?
Yes! The children listen to a read aloud chosen by me (typically a classic novel). We also cover a moral story or hadith at this time. There are a few selected works that I have been utilizing in this area. We like to engage in discussions on the novels and the moral story of the day. It usually takes us about 20 minutes before we head into morning rotations.
7. What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
Language Arts and History I enjoy the most. We often incorporate a fun element to these subjects by using lots of literature and project-based learning (art projects, handicrafts etc). Personally, my least favourite is higher level math. It’s just not a subject I feel passionate about.
8. What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children ?
#1- Patience. Some days will be tougher than others. #2) Selflessness. I have to be realistic when it comes to goal setting for myself. I definitely would like to accomplish more in terms of reading and memorization but at the same time I have to be realistic. I would love to have an immaculate home all the time, but it’s just not a realistic expectation. I make the most of the situation and we work as a team to stay on top of things the best we can. This is my biggest challenge.
9. How do you find time for yourself/ self care etc ?
I try my best to wake up before the children so I can get in a bit of reading, memorization, or other things I enjoy. Once our school day is complete, I try my best to squeeze in some exercise prior to supper. Our children follow a bedtime schedule, so the evenings are open for self-care and quiet time. Weekends are more “me” time. I make it a priority to make the most of Friday nights and Saturdays. Daytime is usually catching up on organization and cleaning. Evenings are usually spent together as a family.
10. What are some of your favourite homeschooling related books?
Over the years I have enjoyed reading homeschooling books focused on various homeschooling styles. I have enjoyed Read Aloud Revival, The Well Trained Mind, any of John Holt’s reads, 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (Cathy Duffy), Homeschooling 101 (Confessions of a Homeschooler, Free Range Learning, Dumbing us Down. More recently I read ‘Teaching from Rest’. This book hit so many key points for me – I REALLY enjoyed this one! I’m currently reading ‘The Charlotte Mason Companion” which I’m truly enjoying. I’m also reading ‘The Harp and Laurel Wreath: Poetry and Dictation for the Classical Curriculum’ which might prove to be a fairly good resource to have on hand.
11.How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
We have been pretty blessed in this way. Our friends and family have been very supportive of our choice to homeschool. I have been asked several times why we homeschool and my response is always the same. I am upfront and honest about why we made this decision and I always explain the benefits we have seen from homeschooling. Often the social aspect is a concern for those opposed to homeschooling. I always explain that our children are no different than children in school. They are participating in extracurricular activities. They are involved with real world social skills throughout their day – grocery shopping, mailing letters, interacting with the librarian and so on. These are real life social skills they are engaged in almost every day! Homeschooling is a growing trend and our children can access many activities with fellow homeschooling families.
12) Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years’ time ?
Well , because we have such a range of ages, we plan to continue on this homeschool journey. Our younger children will continue with parent-directed, which allows us to create their homeschool program. Our eldest will be in high school at that point. We haven’t quite figured out what route we will take for high school. We may just continue in this way or allow him to take some courses through distance learning.
13. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
I would encourage parents to educate themselves with various homeschool styles to see what might work well for their family. I would encourage them to read books and blogs and websites that offer support to homeschoolers. Have a support system in place whether physical or online. Social media groups are a great start! Don’t feel shy to ask fellow homeschoolers for help. Many homeschoolers are happy to provide feedback when it comes to curriculum suggestions, routines and schedules etc.
14. Imagine your children 20 years into the future , what do you want them to say about their homeschool experience ?
We want our children to look back and say that their educational experience was positive. They enjoyed learning and evolving together as a family. They have fond memories of their school experience.
Our experiences shape the people we become. We hope (inshaAllah – God willing) that we have planted the seeds by instilling a love for our Deen (religion and all that it encompasses) and a desire to always strive towards the right path. This was our ultimate goal when we chose to homeschool.