Day 28 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – Will We Let Petra Go to School If She Wants to?

Another question I have to field a lot is, ‘Will you let Petra go to school if she wants to?’ Petra is my second child and she’s currently 3.9 years old. The most important point is, how would she know what school is like, to make an informed choice?  If she wants to be more like other little girls and boys that she meets, I’d understand that but it wouldn’t be a good reason to do something that we think is absolutely not in her best interests. A conventional school is not in her best interests. We are clear about that. We would only consider a very special alternative one but they are few and far between and certainly not in the Middle East unfortunately. Edward is presently very keen to have a video games consul in part because ‘everyone else has one’ but since I don’t think they’re good for him this is not a good reason to get one. Doing what everyone else does is a reason to consider doing it, but certainly not a reason to do it. The kids need to learn, as well as my husband and I have, it’s one of our greatest talents in fact, to evaluate the world with our own eyes wide open and not do what everyone else is doing or what everyone else tells us to do.  Anyway, I’d be surprised if Petra ever expressed a serious interest in wanting to go to school because she won’t be hearing good things about conventional schools from us, especially from her brother who is nearly 4 years older than her and had about 4 years of painful experience in school.

Secondly, why shouldn’t she benefit from the exciting materials Edward will benefit from, like the ‘Life of Fred’ Maths resources I hope to buy. Can any conventional school touch on this kind of a resource for trying to make Maths fun yet well-learned? And I’ll keep looking for other resources for her, when her time comes, ones that suit her even better perhaps? Why shouldn’t she benefit from a personalized education, which is always superior? Why shouldn’t she have the same opportunities as Edward to explore and follow her interests? To be really valued as a human being?

In my post yesterday, I talked about Laura Grace Weldon saying in her book ‘Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything’ that children who were allowed to follow their interests and taught a strong achievement ethic became successful adults. But it’s more than this, children who are allowed to follow their interests feel better about themselves. Aren’t we told over and over again that, especially with girls, a strong self-esteem is incredibly important to guard against the pernicious dangers kids these days face in our modern world?  Weldon says, “When caring adults support a child who loves to play baseball, study sea turtles, and read comics, that child realizes, “I am okay for who I am.” The interests well up from within him and are reinforced by those around him, so there is a feeling of coherence between his interior life and exterior persona. This reinforces his strong sense of self. Sturdy selfhood helps him to internalize values and beliefs, which will hold him in good stead even when other cultural forces may try to sway him toward unhealthy or negative behaviours.” And, “Everyone strives to belong, contribute and feel significant. The child who has learned that his or her interests and unique abilities lead to fulfilment is already aware that self-worth doesn’t come from popularity or possessions.”

To some extent, I think homeschooling’s even more important for Petra than Edward because although Edward would have most likely continued to be unhappy at school, at least he would have fought conformity; from the length of his hair to his probing questions about ‘Why do we have to do this? Why now?’ Petra seems, so far, to be much more straightforward. And, being a girl, girls are usually eager to please. So we could see her slotting into the school system more ‘easily’ than Edward did. This would risk her individuality being lost far more so than Edward’s and this is tragic. Edward would always have fought for his individuality, however miserable it made him to do so. He’s very sensitive but determined. She may not have done so. And that would have been tragic.

In the last few weeks, to my amazement, most people I’ve met don’t even argue that homeschooling is educationally better (even Edward’s class teacher wasn’t concerned about him academically when we told him). They are all most worried about ‘socialization’ and I’ve written a lot about that already! and Non-homeschoolers thinking that homeschooling is educationally superior than schools is a big change, from what I’ve read, from years ago when people assumed homeschooling meant educational neglect.  So if you work on the assumption that homeschooling is superior, provided the (usually) mother is delighted to do it, provided a rich educational environment is available (and this doesn’t have to be material although access to a lot of books, one way or another, is part of this I think), provided the kids are happy being at home and if you’ve been won around on the socialization argument – well, then, why would you ask ‘Will you let Petra go to school if she wants to?’

Instead, if you were thinking about Petra at all, instead of worrying about whether she will be denied the pleasure of school, perhaps you might comment that it will be interesting to see what kind of resources Petra is interested in as compared to Edward and what her interests will be. But if you did that then you’re probably a homeschooler already and would know the answer to that question. Some homeschoolers do let their children go to school, against their wishes, because teh children are much older and really want to and parents feel that they have to respect their autonomy (although from what I’ve read almost all homeschoolers that try school don’t last long there!). A few homeschooling advocates even let their young children go to school, if they want to. Carlo Ricci’s philosophy, who’s a ‘radical unschooler’ (for want of a better term), means that he has to allow one daughter to go to a conventional school, whilst the other is homeschooled, despite abhorring conventional schools, the one his daughter attends included. He does this because he, and his wife (presumably!), believe children should make just about all decisions for themselves, with their guidance of course, however ‘wrong’ they think they are – from their education to their bedtime to their diet. But as much of a child-advocate as I like to believe I am, I’m not a ‘radical unschooler’ and so I don’t have to suffer from that decision, the way he so obviously does as discussed in his book, ‘The Willed Curriculum’. It is excruciating for him to see his daughter going to school.

After I wrote this, I took my kids to a Maths information session at ‘Sylvan’ in Juffair. It was full of good suggestions about how to introduce Mathematical concepts to your kids at home (usually for parents doing homework). It was very useful for me though. The attendees’ kids played upstairs with a couple of the other teachers. When I came to collect my kids after the session one teacher said rather sourly, ‘Your daughter’s very… (pregnant pause that means she wants to use a less diplomatic word) opinionated.” I replied, “Yes, I bring them up that way.” I don’t think is the answer she expected, she would have realized that I knew that she wanted to say ‘spoiled’ or ‘a handful’ or something. She probably expected me to say, ‘Yes, she can be a bit of handful.’ Or, “Yes, sorry about that.” What’s funny with Petra is that she looks so angelic and so girly, regularly doing out in full Princess regalia – crown, necklaces, frothy pink dress, so people expect her to be meek and mild. But she isn’t! And I encourage her to be feisty, whilst hopefully also polite and well-mannered, as is Edward. When I heard the teacher say this I immediately thought about my post and thought ‘And that’s why I don’t want Petra to go to school’. This woman teaches 3 kids at a time (although starting at 4.5 years old) and she doesn’t appreciate one opinionated little girl! What happens when teachers don’t appreciate and try to ‘handle’ 25 of them! Nope, ideally no school for either of my kids, unless, as I said, a really exciting one should ever come our way.

Don’t feel shy! 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 too busy to comment that day, but enjoyed what you read, please do press the ‘Like’ button at the end of the post. If you would like to make life easier (who doesn’t?!) scroll down the right hand side of the page and click the ‘Follow’ button. Posts will be delivered to your email inbox until such time you may not want them anymore. Commenting, ‘Liking’, Following is much appreciated as it helps encourage more people to read homeschoolinginthemiddleeast! And commenting helps others who may well like to have more ideas or suggestions about the topic concerned. Any comments about Maths teaching is still especially appreciated and suggestions about resources warmly welcome, as per the plea in my post Take care. Have a great day and thank you for visiting.

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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7 Responses to Day 28 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – Will We Let Petra Go to School If She Wants to?

  1. Jade says:

    Hey Penny, Sylvan is a lot like Kumon … a lot rote work. I’m glad you found it helpful for “you” but I can totally understand why Petra may have been “opinionated” … good for her!!! There is always more than one way to do maths, even if places like this don’t believe this to be true.

    • Hi Jade, Neither Petra nor Edward got a chance to see any of the Sylvan method. They were playing upstairs, drawing, colouring, playing with the other kids whilst being supervised by other teachers whilst the Mums were downstairs meeting the teacher who runs the centre. He swore there was very little rote work. Mmmm, interesting! And they came at Maths with lots of manipulatives and trying to find each kid’s learning style but yes, I doubt they are getting out the weighing scales and flour to teach weights and measures! Anyway, it’s way too expensive for us! And it wouldn’t be real homeschooling! But I knew that when I went. I went to get the Maths tips rather than hear much about Sylvan. They were good. They didn’t hard sell.
      You are always an inspiration! I am having fun with the ol’ flour and scales with Edward at the moment! Have a great day and please do keep the very wonderful comments coming. I love it!

  2. Cami says:

    Fun post. We’ve been unschooling and living on the road for a few years, indulging the kids’ interests and passions with as much hands-on leisurely discovery, books, games, discussions and internet information gathering we could pile on but mainly letting them lead the way, without any particular curriculum or schedule. Our traveling lifestyle led to a really personalized interaction with the world of the natural sciences, history and geography – hands- and feet-on with lizards, tidepools, volcanic rubble, medicinal wild plants, redwoods, oaky plantations, swamps, otters, Pacific fishing communities, trains, subways, museums, aquariums, the cycle of the moon, crabbing nets, scorpions, tarantulas, cooking with our solar oven, eating minerals from the desert floor…. There were certainly many, many weeks we didn’t do anything traditionally recognized as ‘school’ beyond reading to the kids. Because teachers are in my family, we’ve been fortunate to take advantage of personalized learn-to-read one-on-one weeks and homemade learning materials with people who love the kids. (After a couple of years of worrying about my daughter’s reading skills because she resisted reading when we *did* make any special effort, she has on her own become a voracious, obsessed bookworm in the last year. Yay! Now my son can’t wait because he sees how important it is for the rest of us.)

    And now, settling in Mexico for awhile, they both expressed an eagerness to go to school for the friendships. It has been incredibly accelerating to their learning Spanish to be in public school where there is not much English heard. They even wear uniforms now! How conformist can you get? We comfort ourselves with the fact it’s only four hours a day and they run home to their other play, projects, friendships… And yet, it has been definitely the right decision for us and for the kids especially. Our lifestyle has been so alternative in the last few years that they already are aware of looking at the box from the outside, and it hasn’t hurt them any yet to fit in for awhile (as much as they can as the only blond English speakers there). If it starts to pull on their personalities in a restrictive way, we will re-evaluate. They are reasonable and value the wild inside.

    I guess we are not ‘strict’ anything and are enjoying seeing how this shapes up over the next few years. For us, unschooling has come to mean taking advantage of appropriate learning opportunities as they come up unless they are just too restrictive to the individual. (We did turn down a week of bible study but would consider it when they’re a little older or in a less fundamentalist part of the country.)

    Thanks for the tip on the Life of Fred series. What an excellent approach for a narrative-minded kid. My son eats up traditional math before it’s shown to him but my daughter will surely dive in to this story-based approach. I think it will be useful to me too!

  3. Love your posts and I’m glad I finally took the opportunity to read. I’m intrigued with how you ended up in the middle east…perhaps I haven’t read that blog yet. I’m passionate about the same things you are and your explanation for ‘why’ you unschool….”I’m not buying my kid the iPad just because his buddies have one! Get over it.”
    …I wish we had the flexibility to travel as I believe it key to the core for our unschooling philosophy. Our time will come back around and in the interim, we are taking advantage of history on local trails, ski racing, and discovering nearby homeschooling communities.
    One last thought, destroying the box is my life mission and if I can instill the notion in my son, he will be a better person for it.
    Best to you on the middle east,

  4. Pingback: Day 29 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – Is it really possible to unschool in the Middle East? Is it fair on the kids to even try? | homeschoolingmiddleeast

  5. Hi Sabrina. You were my inspiration today! Check out what I just wrote!
    Thank you so much for commenting or I think this post might never have been written, which might have been a shame because maybe a few other people have the same questions to ask, but were afraid to ;)! So happy you found the time to visit and please do come back and read and comment some more! Think of us when you next hit the trails or crunch snow underfoot. Never any snow here!! Best wishes.

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