Chai Chat with Brooke Benoit
I hope everyone has been enjoying the 'Chai Chats' I have been posting over the last few months. They are question and answer sessions with other Home Educating families around the globe. Here is the latest with Brooke Benoit from Morocco.
Single mother of seven, Brooke Benoit, is a magazine editor and artist who facilitates her children’s education (at home) on the southern coast of Morocco. After homeschooling herself for high school she began college at fifteen years old. When it came time to enrol her children in school, Brooke immersed herself in learning the various styles and means to homeschool. She has continued to work, returned to school and moved abroad while homeschooling. She is the editor of Fitra Journal and recently released How to Survive Homeschooling: A Self-Care Guide for Moms Who Lovingly Do Way Too Much, all of which are available here on Amazon.
Within seconds of my neighbour suggesting that I need to pre-enrol my child in kindergarten. Prior to that I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead, I was just thoroughly enjoying raising my baby. At that moment I knew that I didn’t want to hand over that responsibility to a stranger and to a system that I know is corrupt and failing children.
What kind of approach do you take?
Very radical unschooling. It wasn’t my first or second choice, and some of what we do would be considered eclectic, but mostly it has worked out that my children are very self-led in their education and I work with that.
Where do the children do most of their work? and do they distract each other?
In the home! Lol, no actually my older kids go see tutors outside the home because it can get distracting in a house with seven children. My younger kids play school all the time so in essence they are working together which is pretty cute. They do this in one of our two large living areas, which are not conventional living room designated spaces, but are rooms they live in. They sleep in one of the rooms even though they have a designated bedroom!
What is your favourite thing about Home Education?
Seeing my children freely, wholly be their pure selves. Of course they influence each other, and I influence them, but they don’t have any other external influences pressuring them into artificial norms. They are accepted and loved at home, good and bad, and encouraged for the better rather than being forced to be something else, shamed or bullied.
What subjects do you teach and do you stick to a timetable?
I teach life skills and don’t use a timetable as the topics present themselves constantly!
What do you find most difficult and why?
Ugh. I foster my children’s curiosity and questioning, which can be exhausting when they are questioning me and my decisions! Sometimes I really just want to hear “Okay, mom” but that’s really rare in our home. But I also don’t want my children to feel they need to be dishonest with me and it really does help them learn by knowing all the underlying “whys” so I mostly suffer through them.
How do you react to people asking about socialisation, do your children easily socialise and work well with others?
Fortunately, living in Morocco, socialization isn’t the thing people are most reactionary to when they learn that my children are homeschooled. But no, they don’t always easily socialize and work well with others because they don’t follow arbitrary social norms. For instance, they don’t understand that they aren’t invited into adult conversations and often surprise adults with their intelligence and candour. They also don’t ‘get’ a lot of childish games, like if a child says something like “I don’t want to play with you” to be mean my child is likely to respond by not wanting to play with a mean child instead of being hurt. They are also very friendly and patient with children who are younger than them, which is another no-no with most children who have been conditioned to always want to be a big kid or among the big kids.
Have family supported your decision?
How do you incorporate Physical Education into your Home Ed days?
Taekwondo, hiking, bike riding, walking, wrestling, and insha Allah soon gymnastics and swimming.
I don’t plan too much, but with two kids looking forward to college we have to plan a few years ahead getting all those credits and portfolios lined up.
What's a typical Home Ed day like?
One of the bigger kids or I starts breakfast, (hopefully them while I am at the gym or doing yoga!), then I go to work upstairs while they finish and clean up. They begin their projects and interrupt me a couple dozen times to get permission to do things or bounce ideas off of me. We break for lunch, which I have hired a cook to make. After lunch I often take a break from everything, then work a bit again in the evening. My eldest kids are supposed to follow a dinner-making rotation schedule, but we are struggling to see this through. Sometimes they all watch a movie or read together, often I go to bed long before the teenagers, but the little kids usually follow my lead and go to sleep too.
Do you spend a lot of money on resources?
Compared to people who use free public schools - yes! We pay for tutors, classes, supplies… well and things like trips are educational, which I try to get each child to take at least one a year.
How do you make time for yourself?
Daily I lock myself in my room and tell the kids it’s my break time, then I do not let them interrupt it. At least once a week I get out of the house and away from all of them for a block of a few hours. I lead Muslim women’s retreats twice a year, so those are really nice breaks too.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their Home Ed journey?
First, take a break! Lol, sounds counterintuitive, I know. But I mean to take a break from the education cycle we have all been on for a few generations. This is called “Deschooling” and it means to re-evaluate the way you think about education and rebuild a vision of how you want your children’s education to be. Otherwise, without deschooling, we often just leap in and try to recreate a school-like structure at home, which seldom works well.