Interview with Gemma
Welcome Gemma! She is our first guest from overseas all the way from UK. Gemma is a veterinary surgeon (how cool!) and now works as a freelance writer, passionately advocating home education. When she is not frantically trying to keep up with her energetic kids, she spends her time writing about their homeschooling adventures at Our Muslim Homeschool.
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have been blessed with three kids: 5, 3, and a 1 year-old.
How long have you been homeschooling for?
We have been homeschooling since my eldest was four; about two years. We are at the beginning of our homeschooling journey and I’m very grateful to be able to do it. It is something that Allah has put in my heart and I am excited to see where it leads us.
Do you follow a particular method?
Initially I was drawn to the Classical model of home-education, using ‘The Well-Trained Mind’ by Susan Wise Bauer primarily. However, over time, I have begun to relax more in my approach and trust more in my children’s inquisitive nature and their innate love of learning. So, whilst we still use many of the recommendations in The Well-Trained Mind, we also incorporate more of an unschooling approach for the humanities, and draw on the works of Charlotte Mason too.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR LIFE
Why does your family chose to homeschool?
We homeschool primarily because this is the only form of education that my heart feels at peace with. We looked into many other options; visited schools and read countless books and blogs. However ultimately we felt that home-education would meet our children’s educational, spiritual and personal needs better than any other alternative.
What does a good day look like in your house?
When we’re having a good day, we start school at 9am and will have everything finished by 11.30am. My 5-year-old usually does 3-5 subjects each school day. Whilst he is working, I give my 3-year-old ‘activities’ to do, like play-doh, puzzles, colouring etc. After school, the kids will spend time playing, whilst I prepare their lunch and get started on dinner. In the afternoon we might meet up with friends, visit a museum or library. My eldest attends a co-op two afternoons a week where they learn Arabic, Seerah, art-and-crafts, and various sports. When we get back, I serve dinner and then read to the children (Winnie-the-Pooh is their favourite) and, if it’s a good day, they’ll be asleep by 8pm. Then I would finish off folding laundry, or cleaning the kitchen, and then spend the rest of the evening working on my blog or answering emails.
What does a bad day look like in your house?
Well, I’ve just had one of those…so here’s how it went! Since the baby was awake A LOT in the night, I didn’t get up until 8.45am. This meant that I spent most of the morning cranky and trying to ‘teach’ the kids whilst clutching onto to a luke warm cup of coffee. We managed to do half of what I planned, but ‘crankiness’ is contagious, and by lunch-time we were all fed-up! The boys were fighting, my one-year-old had thrown the contents of every cupboard, box and drawer onto the floor, and I was still in my pyjamas! So after a quick change, I forced everyone to get in the car to pick up some medicine for our cats from the vet practice. The drive will do up good…right? Well, after driving through torrential rain to get there…IT WAS SHUT!!! At that point I realised that today was just ‘one of those days’! I needed to accept that and just relax a bit. So we came home. I put on some Youtube for the boys, gave my one-year-old a chocolate biscuit, and sat amongst the mess with another cup of coffee! I just threw away my to-do list, played with the kids and watched Dinosaur train! Tomorrow….tomorrow we’ll do school insha’Allah!
What are your three homeschooling essentials?
1) Happy home environment. As I mentioned above, if you as a mum are grumpy or stressed, your children will pick up on this, and it just makes the school day so much harder than it needs to be. Try to start the day off with a smile.
2) Workbox. I use a workbox system to organize the children’s work every day. It involves numbered book bags that contain everything my son will need for each subject for that day. I usually organise this the night before so that in the morning we are ready to go. If you are unfamiliar with the workbox system there are loads of videos about it on Youtube.
3) Internet. The internet has been an invaluable resource to us. We are constantly using it throughout the day to answer the children’s questions. Most recently, my son has developed an interest in world geography so he is always going onto Google Maps or Wikipedia.
What was your biggest homeschooling mistake or set back?
I don’t think we’ve had any ‘mistakes’ so far. However we are still very much in the early stages… ask me that again in a couple of years!
Whats the best part of homeschooling?
For me personally, it is being able to witness every moment of discovery and seeing their joy and excitement every time they learn something new. That enthusiasm is contagious, and nothing makes me happier than to be able to share these moments with my children.
Whats the worst part of homeschooling?
I struggle with the lack of personal space! If you are considering home-education you should know this: When you homeschool….the kids are ALWAYS there! In my home anyway, I am never alone! There is always a kid talking to me, rolling around on my prayer mat, picking at the food on my plate, or squashed between me and my husband in bed! Of course, that’s actually a wonderful thing, but everyone needs a little space sometimes. Allah give me patience!
Facebook Pages: Confessions of a Muslim Mommaholic
YouTube Chanel: A Farmhouse Full
Blogs: Noor Janan Homeschool
Place to shop for homeschooling supplies: You mean besides Amazon 😉 For books in the U.K. check out The Book People. I also buy homeschool curriculum from Ichthus Resources. For office supplies, Homebargains and 99p store are great. You really can find almost everything you will need there.
Children’s book: ‘Winnie-the-pooh’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ by A.A.Milne is a firm favourite. My son knows most of Pooh’s songs by heart now!
Book: You can’t ask me that! I’m a complete book-worm! It’s like asking me which of my children I love the most!!!
Family movie: We actually don’t watch much TV at home. My kids enjoy the ‘Zaki and Friends’ and ‘Ali and Sumaya’ DVDs (and of course ‘Dinosaur train’ when mummy needs a break!)
(Board)Game: The kids love anything from Orchard Toys.
Looking back on your homeschooling career, what advice would you give to yourself when you first started?
I guess I would tell myself to slow down, and not hurry my son into formal education so early. There will be plenty of time for him to study…just let him play for a little longer.
Have you ever thought about giving up? When, why, and what got you through?
Yes, but never seriously! It’s only when I’m having one of those ‘bad days’ we talked about before. A slice of cake or a trip to the shops is usually enough to clear my head and help me to feel more positive again. Honestly, I love homeschooling. I don’t know what Allah has planned for us, and I don’t know how long we will be able to home-educate the children, but right now we are all enjoying it.
Who or what is your biggest homeschooling support?
Without a doubt, it is my husband. He is completely supportive of our decision to home-educate and his encouragement is invaluable.
How do you manage to juggle all the demands of motherhood and housework while homeschooling?
I don’t! Honestly, it is something that I struggle with every day. I have found tools that help me. My planner has helped me enormously to plan out my week and to set weekly/monthly goals. I use it for planning everything: homeschooling, meals, housework, exercise, my blog and more! Being organized and having a routine has really helped me to manage my time better.
What does your family usually eat for breakfast?
We usually have a cold breakfast of cereal, fruit and yoghurt. On the weekend I will make pancakes one day and my husband will make eggs on the other.
Where was the last place your family went to enjoy some quality time together?
We went to a small Arabic café for a meal recently. It was lovely!
What is something you do for yourself to feel good?
Personally, I always feel better if I look ok. If I haven’t had a shower, or put in my contacts and got dressed, I feel terrible. So taking care of my appearance is something I do to feel good about myself. I also like to read inspiring books like Yasmin Magahed’s ‘Reclaim Your Heart’ and listen to motivational talks by Saira Siddiqui M.Ed. and Tony Robbins.
If you were an animal, what would you be:
I would want to be horse. They’re so beautifully strong and elegant, an inextricably linked to the seerah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Anything else you’d like to say?
I would just like to say that being a homeschool mum does not mean you need to be a ‘super-mum’! You have enough demands on your plate, without adding this pressure on yourself. So often, homeschool mothers feel that because there are at home with the children, and not working outside the home, their homes should be ‘better’ than other mothers…That their children should be ‘better’ …and that they should have it all together, because they do not have paid-employment. STOP! If you are home-educating your children, you already are a ‘super-mum’! You don’t need clean dishes or have spotless floors to prove it. You do not need to prove anything to anyone. So don’t stress about the little things. Allah knows that you are doing your best. Allah knows all that you do.
Please remember me and my family in your duaas.
Peace and love
Thank you so much Gemma, it was an honour having you join us!
Make sure you leave a comment for Gemma and visit her website, Our Muslim Homeschool, her Instagram, Facebook Page or Twitter.