Home Ed Q&A with... Hafsa!

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in my 'Chai Chats' so far. They are Question and Answer sessions with Home Ed families from across the globe. Grab yourself a cuppa and have a lovely read of today's Chai Chat with Hafsa from the UK who home educates her two girls in Saudi!

A little about me:

I’m Hafsa from @mamateachesme. I share my homeschool journey with my 2 daughters Ammarah (aged 4 and a half) and Hibah (nearly 3), teaching tips and my own unit studies/themes. We are originally from England but have been living in Makkah for the past 3 years now and this is where our homeschool journey has essentially begun!

When and why did you decide to HE?

I decided way before I even had children surprisingly. Therefore I took a PGCE (Post Graduate in Secondary Education) as I loved teaching. Then after I got married and had my girls, homeschooling them felt natural and right, especially as we had moved from England to Saudi Arabia!

Did you have to give up your job/career to HE?

I didn’t really go back to work after I had my girls. Having said that, I did take on some tuition and even ran a private nursery at home with other kids attending my girls on their homeschooling journey. However, due to unforeseen circumstances and the fact that I was doing way too much, we had to close. But now I am content with focussing more on the girls, my blog and my own learning.

What kind of approach do you take?

At first I took a part classroom teaching style whilst running the nursery, even though my eldest would want to help prepare and learn prior to the sessions! We don’t follow any curriculums. In fact, I make my own with the experience I have as a former teacher, I actually enjoy being able to weave in Islamic Studies, Quran memorisation and even Arabic language learning into our homeschool. We are big on themed learning, therefore linking in all our maths, English and science learning into that particular theme of the month or week.

Where do the children learn and do they distract each other?

We set up our own learning and play room in a spacious room in our flat. We set up a sensory play area for my nearly 3 year old Hibah. A book corner, an art area and a role play area. Sometimes the girls bring their learning into the living room too. Hibah usually wants to do whatever Ammarah is doing. So I always ensure we have something ready for Hibah too.

What is a typical HE day like in your home?

Our day begins after breakfast and a little tidy up of the living room. We then begin with Qur’an on most days. We listen to and memorise 1 or 2 ayats of the surah we are learning. After that it’s usually phonics or English. I get the difficult stuff out of the way first as we would do at school too! There’s some free play or Art followed by a fruit snack. After that we might have maths or some learning towards our theme of that week or month. Then it’s lunchtime! After lunch, I have chores to do, so the girls keep themselves busy. Sometimes I set up activities like waterplay, colouring sheets, reading time or they find their own toys, puzzles and lego and keep themselves busy. Once a week we focus on outdoor learning and meet up with a fellow homeschooling mum. We also take time to teach Islamic Studies and have now started to take our girls to the masjid for that. I also try to do a cooking activity with the girls depending on what’s happening that week!

What is your favourite thing about HE?

My absolute favourite thing about homeschooling is I know my girls are reaching their full potential and enjoying what they do with me. I love that I am there to see the moment they read for the first time or that they were able to write their name for the first time. I also love that I can tie in our family values, faith and morals into our everyday learning and never miss a moment to teach my children through our daily life, travel and family experiences. I love that I too can bring out my creative side and transform our playrooms and enjoy our homeschooling activities as much as my girls do!

What do you find most difficult and why?

Because we live in the desert heat of Saudi Arabia, our opportunities to explore the outdoors and nature are sometimes rare. However, there are times in the winter between December and February that we enjoy the outdoors and usually do our planting and sports days then 😊 Although I have found a small group of homeschooling expats, the opportunities to meet others and arrange trips can sometimes be difficult. However, in the summer we make the most of our outdoor learning as we return to England for a few months for the summer! 😊

Do your children easily socialise and work well with others?

Naturally my girls tend to be quite shy, but since homeschooling them my eldest has really come out of her shell and easily talks to her cousins, aunts and grandparents! I think homeschooling does wonders to boost children’s confidence when they are given the opportunity to be in natural learning environments, with other kids or adults. So some of us got together and used our initiative and arranged our own Story Tellers workshops which we scheduled every 6 weeks in order for our children to meet to socialise but also to celebrate the love of reading and books. All our activities, competitions and crafts would be based on the book of that day.

Have family supported your decision?

Yes they have. My husband who is also a teacher fully supports our decision to homeschool and regularly listens to my daughter read and even jots down notes in her reading record 😊 which I assigned as a role for him. I come from a family of educators and most have seen the results of teaching my kids and no longer have any doubts.

How do you incorporate physical education into your HE day?

When the weather is better we tend to go to the park more or for walks. However on days we are in doors, the girls have started some yoga via Youtube videos or join in with me when I do my exercise routines! We were also in a swimming club for a few months which was really nice and tend to make up for the outdoors on the weekends at the beach. It is an area I want to focus on some more though!

Do you plan and how far in advance?

Yes I love to plan. I think it’s been drilled in me from my teaching days. I plan the year, then the months, themes and then the weeks. I plan for the resources as I buy most from England and bring them back with me to Saudi Arabia. This actually works out better because it means I keep within a budget for the year and only spend on the essentials throughout the year like paper, glue and paint etc.

Do you spend a lot of money on resources?

I have a reasonable budget of £300 -£400 pounds per year which I spend all at once in the Summer. Because I don’t need to invest in curricula or plans, I splash out on books the most, but that’s because we don’t have access to any libraries here. I haven’t included our summer budget in England but most of it tends to be on days out, which are mostly free or not really included in the budget as they are family days out too.

How do you make time for yourself?
Our Homeschool is pretty much a 4 day week. I usually take Thursdays off (on these days the girls keep themselves busy which I believe to be very important!), to plan, clean, sort through things and blog. The weekend here is Friday and Saturday. We tend to go out on Fridays too. It’s usually beach days for us so the girls are totally occupied with swimming or building sandcastles that I have time to just relax!

What advice would you give someone just starting out on their HE journey?

If you’ve decided you want to homeschool, know that it starts off tough, but don’t give up. Give yourself a realistic amount time like 2-3 months to see if it works for you, and by then you have probably gotten yourself into a routine. Don’t feel like you need to homeschool everyday! Let the children entertain and learn from each other and the outdoors too. Remember everything can be a learning opportunity, it’s not all sit down at the desk to learn. Also, talk to your kids about what they enjoy learning and want to find out about. Try to keep their interests in mind when teaching, you’ll find they will enjoy it more this way too. For example, Ammarah was obsessed with Princesses and castles last year so we took her to Hampton Court and even on our visit to the Lake District she got to dress up as a princess at Wray Castle. We threw her a princess party with her cousins! She loved it. Everything you do with your children will build up to something. Keep cool and relaxed and take it one day at a time. Some days will be tough, when you’re ill or the kids are ill, but once your all better you’ll spring back into action as you feel energised again. My last bit of advice would be to join a homeschool community whether its online, in your local area or region. The supportive network will inspire you to continue and before you know it 2 years will pass and homeschooling will be such a blessing for you as a family as it has become for us 2 years on! 😊

Follow Hafsa on social media and check out her website and YouTube channel!!!


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