Interview with Natalie
Welcome Natalie! She is an inspirational Momma who is working towards her ECE and putting her talents to use for the greater good of the community. She opened a half-day, play-based early years program in her home. She pours her heart into planning sensory, educational and memorable experiences for the children in her program, all while homeschooling her own four children! Be sure to check out her Facebook and Instagram accounts to take a look at all the awesome stuff she does! Grab a cup of chai (if the kids let you) and enjoy!
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have 4 children ages 11 (boy), 9 (girl), 4 (girl), and 2 (boy).
How long have you been homeschooling for?
None of my children have ever been in school. My husband and I “accepted” homeschooling when my eldest was around 4 years old.
Do you follow any particular method?
Not really. We’ve been doing what fits and feels best for our family, and that changes at times (living overseas, new baby, having to work, etc.). I’d say we are wannabe unschoolers. We don’t like rigid structure and prefer inquiry-based learning and child-led investigation. I have kinesthetic and visual learners, so textbooks and worksheets are minimal. We like hands-on experiences and field trips. Math, Arabic and non-fictional reading is mandatory above all else, and I ban most of the European classics from our bookshelf because I find them to be a distraction to existential life and human evolution (no hate mail please :)).
In a nutshell, why have you chosen to homeschool?
I have a large nutshell. I’m a product of public school. I’ve seen how a young child’s ambition and personality can change in order to please and fit in. I wanted to preserve my child’s individuality. I’ve seen how schooling (public and private) conforms children and produces instruction-dependent minds where a child’s innate curiosity and inquisitive drive diminishes throughout the years because they are taught to wait for instruction and direction. Over the years I’ve witnessed the negative consequences of the institutionalization of education, which prioritizes managing large numbers of children over individual learning, excellence and
focus. I’ve also seen how the school system ignores modern scientific evidence of developmental psychology, and has instead formed artificial milestones and regimented expectations of children based on an institutional, corporate- like agenda.
My philosophy is that life is a classroom. Practical, active and hands-on experiences is the best education.
The conversations and learning that happens in the forests, at the parks, the rivers, the beaches, the farm, the supermarkets, the gas station, grandpa’s house, taking care of pets. I want them to enjoy and absorb those moments of life while they can, because those are the moments I remember most as an adult. I can’t remember or apply anything I “studied” in the classroom.
Those irritating questions my kids ask me at the most inconvenient moments? I want to be the one annoyed by them. Enjoy them because those moments won’t come back.
What is The Discovery Playroom?
The Discovery Playroom is a play-based, half-day early years program I run from my home Mon-Thurs in the morning for 3-5 year olds. Focus is on art and science, cooperation, good manners and friendships. Lots of sensory play and experiences.
What inspired you to open it?
My husband lost his job and I needed to contribute to our family income. I was studying early childhood education at college so I decided to utilize my background and experience for work, while being able to stay home with my children.
What are the biggest challenges of running it?
Planning the curriculum every month. Missing watching my children in their programs because I work during those hours. Managing children’s temperaments, tantrums and demands. Wiping boogers off of furniture and walls. Having to ensure my home is clean every day. My husband being afraid to come home after work.
What is the biggest payoff?
Gaining understanding and working with children with special needs. Watching a child grow from shy and dependent, to a sociable team-player. Witnessing the innocence and cuteness of little children.
How do you manage to juggle all other aspects of your life while managing the discovery playroom?
I have unconditional support from my husband and parents, alhamdulillah. Because it’s a half-day program, I get to spend the rest of the day with my children, teaching them, cooking, or going out.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR LIFE
Whats a good day like in your home – on days where The Discovery Playroom is NOT open?
I wake up in the morning well-rested because my 2 year old slept through the night. My husband and children have emptied the dishwasher and set the table while I prepare a high-protein, gluten-free breakfast (you said you wanted details, Aasiya). The house is clean. I’m able to sit in my pajamas all day loooong. My eldest two get some homeschooling done or we go on a family field trip. We are able to pray some fard prayers all together as a family. My husband reads Arabic stories to the children. I put my feet up at some point during the day, read a page of Quran, and snuggle my cats. I manage to make a nice home-cooked meal. Kids sleep early and I get to watch Dragon’s Den.
Whats a good day like in your home, with The Discovery Playroom open?
I wake up for fajr and stay awake, the children continue to sleep. while I prepare and set-up the day’s activities. Grandpa drives my eldest two to one of their programs. Preschool kids don’t throw mommy-please-don’t-leave tantr
ums when they walk through the door. Program activities go well and the children learn something new. Limited boogers. The cats are in good moods because they haven’t been poked, hit, or sat on like ponies. Dinner is left-overs that everyone loved. I prayed all my prayers on time and didn’t forget to make wudu half way through salah. After the kids sleep my husband gives me a massage where it aches from carrying a chubby toddler.
Whats a bad day look like in your home – on days where The Discovery Playroom is not open?
No such thing. I don’t take non-working days for granted anymore. I appreciate them wholeheartedly. Props to all the working mamas out there!
Whats a bad day look like with The Discovery Playroom open?
I overslept and wake up to my husband yell-whispering in my face (you know what I’m talking about ladies when he thinks he’s whispering to not wake the baby but his whispering is louder than the smoke alarm?) because one of my program kids is early and ringing the doorbell. I’m out of gluten-free cereal and frozen waffles so the kids resort to a bag of kettle chips for breakfast. My eldest two spend their morning bickering and get zero work done. A child throws a tantrum during the program. Another squeezes play dough between the couch. And another who watches too much Batman decides to take a leap from the top of the toy shelf and, well, you can guess the ending.
When things get overwhelming, what things help you to keep going?
Finding comfort with constant remembrance that Allah the Almighty never ignores one’s hardship and perseverance, and hope for His reward. If not in this life, then in the next. Allah is the best of comforters. I know Allah is watching and knows my struggles. I take comfort in that. I also have wonderful friends who listen to my venting and make me laugh. Laughter is my medicine. So is funnel cake with vanilla ice cream.
Toys: Magnatiles , Grimm’s Stepped Pyramid
Educational Resources: Pinterest, Amazon, Scholar’s Choice
Large group games: Charades
Art / Craft Activity: Washi Tape Painting
Science Activity: Carnation Capillary Plant Experiment
Literacy Activity: Reading to my children before bed in our pyjamas.
Snack: Fruit, Smoothies
Jazakillah khair Natalie for joining us on the blog. It was an honour having you.