Day 6 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – Home Educating Daily Challenges and Exhilarations

It’s our first week of home educating and it’s exhilarating and challenging in equal measure. The hardest part is giving individual attention to each child. And I only have two children and no tiny babies! My 7 year old is totally fine with me giving the attention I need to give to my 3 year old. He can happily look after himself but with Lego, battles between action figures, dressing up as Tintin or Batman or building cool new track layouts with the wooden railway set. Occasionally he’ll choose to read a reasonably challenging fiction book and my heart soars! But if I’d rather he did something more traditionally educational, like read a fun ‘Usborne’ book about what the Earth is made of or something, he’ll invariably stop after 10 minutes or so and potter off to do something more entertaining (options previously mentioned!) So, that’s a bit of a problem. I have to ‘watch’ him somewhat if he’s doing anything other than purely playing – as important as play is for a 7 year old’s development.

Our 3 year old daughter is finding it challenging having her brother at home every morning, although only when I need to give him undivided attention otherwise she’s very happy to have the company. Although having said this, my attention seemed to be hardly ever ‘undivided’ with errands to run, cooking to do etc… but she didn’t have to compete with Edward too! Whenever I try and do something with Edward that really needs my focused attention, like his touch typing computer game (I have to watch he’s got his fingers on exactly the right keys or he’s not learning properly. By the way, I hope once he’s learned to type he’ll be off writing the amazing creative stories he has in his head but is so reluctant to write laboriously in beautiful cursive writing) she goes crazy and wants to do the same game at exactly the same time. If I want to read a story to him that is a bit too involved for her she goes crazy too. Petra has an amazing attention span for listening to stories, for a 3 year old, as has my son, but there are limits of course and ‘Harry Potter’ is hers whilst Dahl’s ‘The Enormous Crocodile can be read over and over again. I haven’t quite worked out this dilemma yet but no doubt will do. In the near term more familiarity with the new set up will be bring peace I think, as will maturity in the longer term.

What am I most enjoying about home educating, with my 5 days of experience (well, 4 days of ‘proper’ teaching, whatever that is for someone leaning towards ‘unschooling’)? One of the highlights was reading a story to Petra that featured an eagle feeding it chicks and being able to walk over to the computer and show her how this is done by real birds on ‘YouTube’. How amazing it that! My kids adore this. We also looked up how a real elephant feeds itself leaves with its trunk – after looking at an illustration in ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ and how sheepdogs herd sheep in the middle of reading ‘The Sheep-Pig’ by King-Smith when my son asked what herding was. The kids are much more likely to remember how these things are done than just by hearing my explanation, although I always explain verbally first, to develop the skill of understanding something from a verbal explanation and to improve their vocabulary. But the visual image is so powerful; it’s such a joy to have the ability and leisure to tap into this!

Yet another wonderful spontaneous moment was when I whipped out some almonds when my son, to my horror, was having problems with a fractions worksheet. I am learning where his knowledge gaps are but horror will have to learn to go away once I’ve released my expectations about keeping up with a specific curriculum and think of all the other much more exciting things he’s going to be able to learn. Worksheets will hopefully eventually go the same way as the horror but are a bit of crux for me whilst I’m starting out. Since Edward’s so used to them from school though, a few minutes a day seem not to bother him at all, especially when I let him use something tangible to learn from at the same time. What a difference it made to give him something physical, the almonds, whilst explaining/reminding him of an abstract concept. He obviously still needs the visual aid at the moment and therefore should have it.

And lastly, so as not to make you sick with envy ;), I thoroughly enjoyed a bedtime chat about Rio, carnival and samba which had obviously been percolating in Edward’s head since last night since that was when he’d watched a part of the animated movie ‘Rio’. He suddenly said how much he hoped we go there (it’s on the cards to take full advantage of flexible home school holidays and spend a month in Rio in June when everyone else is in school!) and we discussed how much he’d love to go to Carnival and dance the samba and what sort of costume he’d like to wear and how he had practiced some kind of sword dancing with his friend in the garden in the morning based on a dance he’d seen some man do in the movie (home educating flexibility again to enjoy a friend’s half-term holiday which didn’t coincide with his old school’s holiday – ‘old school’, past tense, how good that sounds!). It was so lovely to see that imagination firing on all cylinders! And lovely to think that tomorrow morning, we can wake up at leisure, look Rio up on a map, look up some costume images on the computer and have a go at drawing some for ourselves (I wish I could make some costumes but I’m not a ‘craftsy’ person, as opposed to ‘crafty’ person which sounds dubious!) and dance to some downloaded samba music and have a great fun, thoroughly educational, thoroughly energetic not-sitting-down-at-a-desk learning time!

Please always feel free to post comments on any of the days you read, however old they are. Your views are valuable and it’s always good to have debate. If you’re busy but enjoyed that day’s blog, please do press the ‘Like’ button at the end of the post. It would be much appreciated as it helps encourage more people to read homeschoolinginthemiddleeast! Any comments about Maths teaching is especially appreciated and suggestions about resources warmly welcome!


About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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3 Responses to Day 6 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – Home Educating Daily Challenges and Exhilarations

  1. I love what you are doing. I read this and wonder if I can ever convince my husband about the benefits of unschooling our three year old. I also wonder if I can do it. You are an inspiration. I am starting from the beginning of your blogging life and do hope to catch up!

  2. Hi Penny, so glad I came across your blog today when I am feeling so down about the traditional schooling methods being applied to my children, aged 4 and 9. Could I ask if you follow a certain curriculum whilst homeschooling? I have seen mixed reviews on the way to homeschool, for examples, is your aim of homeschooling still to have the children take their o-level exams (perhaps only in core subjects?) for instance later on in life so that they can go to university, being a pre-requisite for entry? Or is there another ‘end’ so to speak? Sorry if the question seems self-explanatory, I am just starting out in this area. Nadia

    • Hi Nadia, Well, I’ve been homeschooling now for 5 years. My kids, about whom I wrote in this blog, are now 12 and 8. We moved to Dubai, Spain and now the UK during this time so I’ve been exposed to so many different homeschoolers, taking so many different approaches to homeschooling. And I still don’t have the answer about the ‘right’ approach.

      To some extent it depends how old your kids are, where you live, what approach works best with them AND, I’ve now found, what approach FEELS best for you, their mother. I have been using the ‘unschooling’/child-led approach until now but now I’m actually moving to a more structured approach. This is partly because my son is uncomfortable “not knowing as much” as his friends. Of course, especially with all the travelling we’ve done, he knows a lot more than them about many things, but not typical ‘schooly’ things and this bothers him.

      I have also decided that I’ll do 5 GCSEs (what O levels are now called) with him, starting with him taking Maths next summer, when he’ll be only 13 and then a couple of other subjects the following summer and then one more the summer after. I hadn’t planned to do GCSEs but it seems that to keep his options open, he needs to do 5. I do not see any point in doing more than 5. And then we’ll see if he wants to do A levels or BTEC Level 3 – more hands-on qualifications eg in film making – his passion. I have no idea if either of my kids will go to University or not. I think they should only go if, career wise, it’s a necessity, otherwise I think they should get on with a career straightaway. Since your children are still quite young, I would look at KS1 and KS2 books with your 9 year old in any subject you fancy. Try and get the most interesting ones eg CGP are good (you can get them cheaply secondhand on

      I would do nothing with your 4 year old except read to him/her, read to him/her, read to him/her and anything else fun. And with both children I would drop everything to go out to do fun things like a science museum visit (you have an excellent one in Bahrain), meet other kids (especially homeschooled ones), get some fresh air and exercise at the park/beach, go to the library to pick out books – whatever interests them. This is a UK website but very useful to think ahead to the future. Keep reading up and good luck! I LOVE home educating!

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