Interview with Ayesha
Welcome Ayesha! She is a mother of five (including twins!) who homeschools her children primarily in fusha (classical) Arabic, despite the fact that she is not a native arab, mashaAllah. Her dedication to the language of the Quran is inspirational and admirable. Grab a cup of chai (if the kids let you) and enjoy!
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Alhamdulilah I am blessed with 5 children. Imane 11, Hamza (aka twin A) 9 , Wissal (aka twin B ) 9, Hafsa 5, Rumaysa 17 months.
How long have you been homeschooling for? What method would you say you follow?
We have been homeschooling for seven years now, alhamdulilah. I wouldn’t say we follow a particular homeschooling method nor can we label our schooling to a particular style of learning. Over the years I’ve learned to take what works for them and leave what doesn’t. During many life changes, in between pregnancies, child births, living overseas, our homeschooling environment is forever changing and these changes impact our learning environment and style.
As we have mentioned, Fusha Arabic is the primary language spoken in your home. Tell us, in a nut shell, your background with learning the language as a non native Arab, and how you came to decide to implement this in your homeschooling journey.
It was this particular ayah that stuck to me most during my pursuit of learning. “Indeed, we have sent it down as an Arabic Quran, in order that you may learn wisdom/ may know.” [12:2] In my earlier years, I had a very strong desire to understand the meaning of what Allah revealed in the Qur’an. I wanted to understand the Qur’an through the Qur’an. I was not satisfied with having to rely only on a translation of someone else in order to understand. It was this strong desire that became my drive to learn the Arabic language that then became my passion and life long dedication. My background in learning Arabic initially was not an easy one. Like many people studying Arabic, I also found myself taking the same classes and not getting far. But with anything in life, dedication, prayer and perseverance is the key.
I had the opportunity to travel overseas to learn. I was blessed to sit in the company of others with scholarly knowledge. Spent some time enrolled in universities for non-Arabs learning Arabic. Speaking Arabic was not something that came over night. Learning Arabic now is much more accessible, resources are practically available at everyone’s doorstep, you don’t necessary have to travel to learn. But at that time traveling was vital to learning. In a nutshell, that is what I did and its what helped me grasp the language further, wal-hamdulilah.
Homeschooling in Arabic wasn’t something that I was planning to do but rather something Allah guided me to do. My second year as a new homeschooler, I was doubtful if I could continue homeschooling my kids with baby number four on the way. So I decided to enroll my eldest daughter into 1st grade at an Islamic school. I remember the whole school year was spent helping her with a ridiculous amount of homework she received everyday while I feared that her fluency in Arabic would diminish due to the fact that Islamic schools teach Arabic as a subject rather than as one of the primary languages. It was this school year experience that reaffirmed my need to continue homeschooling if I were to preserve my children’s first language. Other than that one year experience we had of schooling outside of the home, all my children have only been homeschooled. It was easy to continue our homeschooling journey because we knew that was best for them.
Homeschooling is one thing, but homeschooling in Arabic is another category of its own. I knew for sure though that the most important thing we could give our children is the knowledge of the language. I wanted them to feel connected to the Qur’an. I didn’t want Arabic to seem like a foreign language to them. Unlike the majority of non- Arabic speakers, I did not want my children to fall into the ritual of memorizing Qur’an without knowing what is being memorized.
Teaching a child to read without understanding the language is like building a home with no windows.
For us, one way to bring about this love of the Qur’an and nabi Muhammed (saw) was to teach them the language. As parents, we all try to make a smoother path for our children, one that is easier than what we may have experienced. By teaching them the language we hope to smooth their paths inshaAllaah.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a arabic speaking homeschooling mother, and how do you overcome this?
My biggest challenge as a homeschooling mother choosing to homeschool in classical Arabic is that we are by ourselves in this journey. Homeschooling in classical Arabic is practically unheard of. Speaking classical Arabic is also not common within the Muslim communities. Even among native Arab speakers, you will not find them speaking classical Arabic. So that for sure adds to our challenges. Another challenge besides not finding others who speak the language, is the lack of support and resources for those who are already fluent. In the beginning when we first started, there were very limited resources in maintaining a fluent Arabic speaking home. We had to be very creative in preserving an Arabic homeschooling environment. When my children were very young, I would go to the library and pick English books and then translate them into Arabic.
When I first joined the homeschooling groups, there was very little discussion about Arabic. The things I have done to overcome some challenges was to create things for my children as well as others. I stared an Arabic readers book club and organized several storytelling events with another local Arabic bookstore to help encourage kids to learn the language. Our love for books and the Arabic language is what motivated us to then create Alif ilaYaa. Alif2Yaa is an online bookstore where we specifically cater to the learning needs of non-Arabs by providing resources and quality educational reading books in Arabic. Our own struggles, challenges, and life long journey of learning is what guides us to better determine the best resources for learning Arabic which is reflected in our Alif2Yaa bookstore.
Are there any challenges you have found your children to have faced in this journey that are specific to them as children?
The challenges that my children face in our Arabic homeschooling journey is that they do not meet other children who are like them. It is very rare for them to meet other children who speak classical Arabic as their native tongue. Their Fusha play-dates are just them. There are no classes nor programs they could register for that is compatible to their level. To make sure they would not feel outcasted nor a bit strange, I had to ensure I exposed them to the language through educational videos, books, and traveling to Morocco often to be with family members who are able to communicate with them in Fusha.
What role does your husband / family play in this lifestyle you have chosen?
My husband and family have always supported my decision to homeschool. My husband was not initially up for the idea of homeschooling in classical Arabic due to the fact that it is not a spoken language, the limited resources and he didn’t feel like there was a need for them to speak it. He eventually came around to seeing the importance of raising our kids to be fluent in the Arabic language.
What resources, in the community / online, have you found to be helpful?
Resources we found very helpful and handy for our homeschooling is the complete Arabic curriculum set which is a combination of vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing. Another must have is the Al Motquan English- Arabic illustrated dictionary. The Science curriculum we use for grade’s 1 to 3 introduces important science concepts which is nice because Arabic science is tied in with the creation of Allah. Audio story books are helpful for the younger ones so when mommy is busy with the other kids they can listen and follow along to the story on their own.
Have there been any resources or methods that you have tried but found to be unsuccessful in implementing Arabic that you would advice against?
If one is really serious about learning Arabic, then I would say learning immersion style is the best way to learn the language. Different styles work for people differently. I personally found that word to word style of learning is not beneficial if the goal is to speak the language fluently. Yes, you can learn from this way of teaching. But if your ultimate goal is to speak a language then this is not the way to go. I also found classes that are conducted in English to learn the Arabic language is not the best way to learn. If you want to learn Arabic you should learn it through Arabic. In order to succeed in learning a language, it must be implemented in your life every day. Obtaining knowledge of the language is like building a brick wall. One brick at a time. Stacking them until you reach your goal.
What would be your most important piece of advice to offer other families seeking to implement Arabic in their homes?
As Muslims we are always working towards getting closer to Allah. Learning Arabic is one way to grow closer to Allah. First, you should understand why it is important to study Arabic. Having a key focus is helpful when at times you may feel like you are not progressing and want to give up. Understanding the language of the Qur’an strengthens and connects one to the Allah’s words. When the sahabah would learn ayaat from the Qur’an, it was revealed to them in stages. They didn’t memorize all of the Qur’an at once. And the Qur’an was not sent down all at once. They had memorized, understood and then implemented before moving on.
Umar bin Khaatab (ra) said “ Learn Arabic, for it strengthens the intelligence and increases one’s noble conduct.”
My advice is to stick with the Arabic. Do not treat it like a subject, treat it like a way of life….learning and implementing as you go along the way, just as it was revealed to the earlier generations. Do not stress over it, for Allah will surely make a way. But do make learning Arabic a homeschooling priority or goal. As hard as this journey may seem, think of it as passing on the knowledge a sadaqa jariya to your kids. Give them that direct access to the Qur’an that we all wish our parents gave us. Its like having tickets to a basketball game…that’s the American in me..…okay, okay, hockey game with front row seat passes. Are the front row seats the same as the seats way in the back? The excitement and feeling is not the same. This is the same for the Qur’an. Understanding it directly is an amazing feeling, that I wish Allah blesses us all to have.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR LIFE
What does a good day in your house look like?
Umm….a good day would look something like this….. We all have wakened for fajr. We did not return back to sleep because we are all immensely reading the Qur’an in our best tajweed voices. The kids are displaying their act of sadaqa by smiling at one another without any name calling. We start our studies with no complaints, whining nor questions of why me. We are able to spend the rest of the afternoon outside since we had such a productive morning. Kids make dinner while mommy puts her feet up. House is clean. Daddy comes home and say’s you take a break, I am here now and I am at your service. So yeah, that’s what a good “dreaming” day would look like in my house.
What does a bad day in your house look like?
A bad day? Umm… No day is perfect nor do I expect it to be. I try to be positive as much as possible by realizing my limitations as a mother, wife, student, teacher, and entrepreneur. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves and take on too much. I try to focus on my blessings. And even though life sometimes brings us obstacles that seem unbearable, I take the time to inhale and exhale realizing that we are only blessed by the best. One thing we do first thing in the morning before breakfast is read something of the Qur’an even if it is only a page. This helps us prepare for whatever comes our way, whether it be a prosperous day or a hectic one. If the day gets too disorganized and chaotic, we get in the car and drive anywhere. Library, park, friends house or during the warmer weather days we enjoy a simple walk in the neighborhood -with all the kids looks more like a school field trip…lol:-)
Would you consider the culture of your home to differ slightly from the majority of homeschooling families? How so?
I think the culture of our home is some what common to others in the sense that my children are raised in a home with two different cultures and two different background languages. Although we have made Arabic the main spoken language at home, my children are being raised bilingual and as they get older the way we homeschool is similar to other bilingual homeschoolers. A sufficient equal amount of time is also given to their subjects in English such as reading, writing and math.
What are your three homeschooling essentials?
1. Quran – for tranquility, peace of mind and strength.
2. Library – a relaxing place to be.
3. Moroccan Tea -Takes a good 10 minutes to make it right. Anyone that comes to my house will be forced to drink it. The taste and the smell of fresh mint does wonders for my homeschooling day.
Book (for you): Books I enjoy reading over and over: The Purification of the Soul and My Guide In The Arabic Grammar Rules
Book (for kids): What I like for them is 40 hadith nabawi and Stories of the Companions. They of course have their own personal long list way different from mine.
Place to shop: Not one particular place. Online shopping works better for me.
Educational toys: The Recycling bin. My kids have made amazing things…a doll house, race car, purse, furniture….you name it. The possibilities are endless.
Game: Hide and seek. Love this game! While my kids run off to hide, I use that opportunity to drink my Moroccan tea. Seeking only comes later once after I have finished a cup.
Movie: Travel with the Qu’ran – مسافر مع القرآن
Food that you share as a family: Various international dishes. A special favourite dish in our home is a Maghrib dish called tajine. Most of our family meals are shared on one big gigantic plate. So many blessing when food is shared on one big plate, totally sunnah style.
Outing: Traveling, long road trips, beaches and parks.
Jazakillah khair Ayesha for sharing your experience and advice with us!
Be sure to head over to Ayesha’s website to check out all the awesome Arabic resources.
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