Interview on Homeschooling with Nada Wafa

Nada Wafa is a passionate homeschooler living in Apex, North Carolina. A full-time mother of three, she has a 4-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and 6-month-old baby girl. She has experience teaching in both North Carolina and Jordan, where she lived for five years. She’s currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Curriculums and Instruction with a concentration in New Literacies and Global Learning from North Carolina State University. Nada loves traveling, exploring nature, reading, swimming, and spending time with family. You can follow her homeschooling journey on her current blog My Buzzing Bees, or check out her homeschooling experience while living abroad on her former blog Mid-East Homeschool.

Tell us a bit about how and why you chose to homeschool.

We began homeschooling about two and a half years ago. I was working with my daughter when she was three years old, and I was so amazed at her progression in a short period. I started my quest and began reading more about homeschooling. I began implementing new skills and working with my daughter. I bought our first curriculum, Calvert, and started working on Pre-K with my daughter when we were in Jordan. I also had done some of the content that I found suitable for my one-year-old son. Within ten months, their love of learning was flourishing. I had, completely, been convinced about homeschooling, and I knew this was it. We moved back home to North Carolina mid 2016. I am truly grateful for the flexibility that homeschooling has given our family, and because our life was very unstable, I was still able to continue and teach our children. With the moving, traveling, pregnancies, deliveries, and so many more things going on in life, we were able to understand and realize that homeschooling is the best option for our family.

What is your homeschool schedule like?

We do alternate days, and we follow a four-day homeschool schedule. On the other days, we have co-ops, gymnastics, and a fun-filled family day. We start our official “homeschooling time” at 9:00 am until about 12:00 pm. Although, I firmly believe that learning is happening all the time and all day long, we do just structure some of our learning during those times. I started an Islamic co-op in our area and found so many wonderful moms who homeschool or are interested in homeschooling. Our plan is to build long-lasting Muslim friendships for our young ones, and teach them Quran, Islamic Studies, and Arabic.

What does a typical day look like?

We alternate between days when we do Arabic, Quran, Islamic Studies, Reading/Writing, and Math.

One Arabic, Quran, Islamic Studies day would look like:

7:30 am—Kids wake-up, say our morning dua’a, wash up, clean our beds, change our clothes (We have a chart, and when we complete it, we put a sticker for each task.)

8:00 am—Breakfast time

8:45-9:00 am—Exercise (going outside, walking, running, exercise moves)

9:00-9:15 am—Activity from the Activity Jar (Examples: writing a letter to someone you love, making play dough, shining coins with vinegar and sea salt, printing out your child’s picture and making it into a puzzle, number puzzle using popsicle sticks, bubble catch, read a story, pinecone bird feeder, and much more!)

9:15-9:20 am—Calendar, days of the week, months

9:20-10:00 am—Arabic

10:00-10:45 am—Qur’an

10:45-11:00 am—Snack time/break time

11:00 am-12:00 pm—Islamic Studies (Example: reading a Story of the Prophet with a fun activity)

One Reading, Writing, and Math day would look like:

7:30 am—Kids wake up, say our morning dua’a, wash up, clean our beds, change our clothes (We have a chart, and when we complete it, we put a sticker for each task.)

8:00 am—Breakfast time

8:45-9:00 am—Exercise (going outside, walking, running, exercise moves)

9:00-9:15 am—Activity from the Activity Jar

9:15-9:20 am—Calendar, days of the week, months

9:20-10:00 am—Reading

10:00-10:45 am—Writing (even if it’s simple like drawing lines to increase motor skills, or coloring/tracing numbers, or doing an activity that relates to reading)

10:45-11:00 am—Snack time/break time

11:00 am-12:00 pm—Math

What subjects do you currently teach, and can you share a few of your favorite resources you’re using and where/how you found them?

The main subjects I’m focusing on this year are Arabic, Quran, Islamic Studies, Reading/Writing, and Math. I, personally, find these the fundamentals to teaching our young children. Other subjects are integrated but not as a main subject in learning. For example, in Science, they can go out and explore nature, play in a sandbox, do an experiment together, or a project about the solar system. In Social Studies, they can learn about simple laws, the world around them, different cultures, how to be a good citizen, and presidency.

Instead of getting a curriculum this year, I gathered resources from all around and made our own for the following subjects: Reading/Writing, Math, Arabic, Quran, and Islamic Studies.

The following are my favorite resources to use for these subjects:

Quran: “The Short Surahs” Book, includes translation too. YouTube.

Arabic: Various stories by Taghreed Al-Najjar, Arabic Letters Activity Book by Sabrine Kiswani published by Iqra’a International Education, Arabic for Beginners by Muhammad S. Adly, arabic blocks, arabic foam puzzles, and resources from Yemeni Links and Arabic Seed.

Islamic Studies: Migo and Ali: Love for the Prophets by Zanib Mian, Islamic Manners Activity Book, Ilyas and Duck books, Emma Apple Books, MyDeen Magazine, Allah made everything phonics reader, Our Prophet by Iqra’a International Education, Allah to Z Activity Book, Hadith for Kids

Reading: All About Reading, All About Spelling, flash cards, Jump Ahead in Reading, and Jolly Phonics

Math: Math Concepts Super Skills Workbooks, Discovery Workbooks (Addition and Subtraction), flash cards, time books

Science (extra): Nature! Outdoors! Field Trips! Climbing trees, finding worms, playing with sand, taking a nature walk, outdoor adventure books, combination of short books about various types of animals (sea turtles, elephants, whales, frogs, etc), animal camouflage books, butterfly kits, frog evolution kit.

How do you lesson plan?

Lesson planning is very important in our case, especially since it makes our homeschooling schedule flow better. I made a simple weekly outline to follow for each subject, and then, I go into details with the lesson. I come up with what we are learning for that week and mainly focus on it and collect activities to do. I follow along what we continue and build off of what we had done the class before. For example, if we are doing Surah Al-Kawthar, we talk about the story behind the Surah for one day and memorize the first Ayah. The next day, we memorize two Ayaht, and we talk about it more. The third day, we memorize all three Ayaht, and do an activity about it. The fourth day, we reiterate and talk about what we learned during the week and how we can implement it in our life. I write down what we’re going to do ahead of time, and collect new ideas and have our work prepared ahead of time.

You mentioned you started a co-op—how often do you meet, what do meetings entail, and briefly, how did you go about organizing it?

Our Muslim Homeschooling Co-op meets bi-weekly, and in between, we are planning on going on group field trips, tours, and have some educational activities outdoors. The co-op involves us, mothers, teaching our young ones Qur’an, Arabic, and Islamic Studies. We take turns during the co-op time to teach and guide our little ones, Alhamdulillah.

We have a wonderful Facebook page for the mothers in the surrounding county/area, and I reached out to the mothers who are homeschooling. I contacted them to see if they were interested in being part of a co-op, and I was so happy to find out that there was a demand for it. I was impressed with how many Muslim homeschooling mothers there are. We are eight homeschooling mothers with 16 children. While I consider myself a person who has been raised in our community, it was really nice to see new faces and find these wonderful mom gems!

Do you find it difficult to homeschool while managing a household and obtaining your Master’s? Any tips for managing time?

It has a lot of challenges, and it requires a lot of dedication and commitment. All of my children are under the age of five, and it’s tough for me to go out for a long period of time without help, so by time managing our activities and schedule, we are able to keep things under control. My family is a big support group, and they are always there when we need help with the children. Also, for example, if my baby is sleeping when I go out to my children’s gymnastics class, I keep her at home with my husband if he is working from home that day. When I need to study, we do our best to put our kids to bed by 7:00 pm, and that gives me a few extra hours to study. During the day, I try to keep my children busy for a few hours or have my mother come over to help take care of them while I get in some studying as well. At the same time, there are set times and days for everything we do. It’s important for us to keep the routine in place because it sets our daily structure and keeps everything in the right flow. I try my best to do all the activities in the morning after breakfast time and wrap up before lunch time. This gives me time to prepare lunch, clean up, do laundry, and continue on with our bedtime preparation routine. Briefly, our schedule looks like this:

Monday—Homeschooling Co-op (2:30 pm-4:30 pm)

Tuesday—Muslim Homeschooling Co-op (10:30 am-12:30 pm)

Wednesday—Gymnastics, Park Day (10:30 am-12:00 pm; 1:00 pm-3:00 pm)

Thursday—Homeschooling Day (9:00 am-12:00 pm)

Friday—Homeschooling Day (9:00 am-12:00 pm)

Saturday—Homeschooling Day (9:00 am-12:00 pm) + Family Day

Sunday—Homeschooling Day (9:00 am-12:00 pm) + Quran Class held in our home (11:00 am-1:00 pm)

Some of our homeschooling days are occupied with selective activities that go on in our area too, for example, we sign up for a pottery class, a fun event at our local libraries, farm day, exercise day, swimming, events at a park, museums, etc.

Do you find time to practice self-care? Where do you fit this in, and what sort of rituals do you have to maintain your own well-being?

There are many definitions to self-care. It can be a 10-minute shower, a massage, quiet time with a cup of tea, going out for a short walk with my Muslim neighbor, or laying in the grass in the backyard. Because of the workload with children, family, activities, and more, you need to break down self-care to more simple terms. Sometimes, I find comfort in reading a piece of writing I enjoy. One thing that is helping me through is continuing my Master’s since it’s one of my goals to achieve, InshaAllah.

What has been your biggest struggle on your homeschooling journey thus far?

One of the biggest struggles I faced was family conversion and how many were unsupportive of our choice. Alhamdulillah, my husband was and still is very supportive and accommodating, and my children are cooperative and always looking forward to our “homeschooling day”.

Moreover, I had struggled when our life transitioned from overseas back to the United States. When I was in Jordan, I had a structured curriculum, and we were able to follow it on a regular basis. However, when we came back to the United States, I gained so much more knowledge about homeschooling. I visited a few gathering places that have wonderful resources and met and became part of a homeschooling co-op. I was pregnant with our third baby when we moved back to the United States, and we still hadn’t settled in our home. It wasn’t until after I had the baby, within a few months, that we settled. It took me a little more time to re-organize our playschool room and resources, organize our schedule, and keep up with everything.

Any advice for other homeschoolers facing a similar struggle?

Stay positive. Always be hopeful, and know that everything will unfold at its own time. Don’t push yourself too hard, and even if there is a lot of criticism, you know that you’re doing the best you can. Rest when you can. Take a break. Go out with friends when you can. Always remember to do your best and leave the rest up to Allah. Know that everything that happened, happens, and will happen, has a reason behind it.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to impart to other homeschoolers that you’ve learned on your homeschooling journey thus far?

Be patient with your children. Play with them. They’re very simple. They love to see you happy. Don’t compare yourself to other moms who are or aren’t homeschooling, be yourself, and thank Allah for all your blessings. Know that kids love to explore. They will ask lots of questions, and it’s best if you provide them with answers. If you don’t know the answer, try to find it together. Get dirty, kids are washable. They love to get messy, and it’s all part of the learning process. Have fun and enjoy every one of their milestones.

Umm Laylah

Wife and mother beginning the lifelong journey as a home educator. Lover of all things science, Umm Laylah has six years of combined undergraduate and graduate studies in the sciences with a specialized focus on veterinary medicine. She has over ten years of experience working in laboratories and veterinary hospitals with a strong background in scientific and technical writing. Umm Laylah enjoys reading, crafting, and quiet evenings with family.