Day 34 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – The Best Education in the World is in the ‘Real World’

OK, so I was going to try out reading and thinking more, and then writing less often, but with added thought. I am in the process of doing this but in the meantime, I have to report how important lessons ‘in the big world’ are – as compared to doing ‘school at home’. We bumped into a teacher from Edward’s ‘old old school’, the bilingual one that was Edward’s ‘Arabic experiment’ as I call it! A perfectly good school, for a school, but no good for a kid who absolutely refused to learn Arabic – feeling that it has nothing to do with him (it’s half his heritage, but that just doesn’t register with him. Edward is very logical and he couldn’t see the need for it. English is do dominant here, it wasn’t an easy argument to win short-term).

We bumped into his old-old teacher Robert at an animal show in the desert. Robert was taking a school group around it. He was looking truly frazzled and bit dazed. He was surprised to see Edward there on a ‘school’ morning and immediately asked how his ‘new’ school was. Edward replied, with such joy, as he always does these days, “I don’t go to school anymore. I’m a homeschooler!” and Robert replied, very smartly, “And this is your lesson today!” Robert’s American and so is probably pretty familiar with homeschooling. He didn’t seem too fazed.  He was right; the animal show was the lesson. My kids are so urban that they hardly know what sound a cow really makes, what a ‘moo’ actually sounds like! Let alone the difference between a sheep’s ‘baa’ and a goat’s ‘maa’! It’s not quite so bad that they think animals wear clothes like in one of their favourite books, ‘Franklin’, but almost! So an opportunity to peruse animals, admittedly not in their natural state, but in small pens, was important I felt. It was great going on a ‘school day’ because there were only a few school parties, the rest of the place we had to ourselves.

The animals were an important lesson, some of the time in how they ought not to be looked after I’m afraid, but the humans we came across were possibly a more important ‘real world’ lesson. In the evening, we arrived an hour early to watch the Jerez horses from Spain doing their incredible (although now I’m wondering cruel?) tricks (I’m sure they’d prefer the word ‘performance’ but ‘tricks’ is what it looked and felt like). I was especially excited because my husband and I had gone to Jerez years ago to see the horse show (before I thought it might be cruel) only to find it closed! New Year is big in Spain and everything is closed for days. And we’d booked through a ‘Spain specialist’, what a disappointment! And then years later, the horses are here in Bahrain, about the most unexpected place to find them in the world! Hence my eagerness to secure good seats. One doesn’t do this lightly with small children but we came equipped. But as soon as the show began, ‘the locals’ (I think I was the only blondie in the whole place that was, by now, absolutely heaving with Bahranini humanity) swarmed in front of us to get the best view. My kids could see nothing but large black and white bottoms (black belonging to women in abayas, white to men in dishdasha – the most popular local clothing. Not the kind of local clothing that’s ever emulated by expats, unlike perhaps pakol hats in Afghanistan or tie-dye anything in Jamaica!)  Edward was amazing; he tried on several occasions to reason with these adults, asking them politely to move so he could see the show. I so admired his courage and self-confidence, to do this without my help. They ignored him though – can you imagine, he a child!

This was bad enough, but when I eventually got up to defend my children’s right to view the show, with extreme politeness given that not only was I modelling good manners for my children but I was seriously outnumbered and representing blondies everywhere, this woman turned on me, cursing my eyes (for some reason, their blueness offended her?) It was surreal. She and her large, in every sense, brood were obviously doing something extremely selfish and wrong for the rows and rows of patiently seated people behind them, yet she was shouting at me, ‘How dare you speak to me?’ I tried reasoning further with her but gave up before I lost my temper, ruining the good manners lesson, and shortly afterwards we gave the whole thing up and went home. As we left, I said to the kids, “Those people don’t, I’m afraid, have any education. They don’t know any better.”

Edward answered, and this is hysterical to me considering the hours I think about this subject, “What do you mean ‘they don’t have any education’?” I don’t know exactly what bit he didn’t understand but if it was the word ‘education’, that would be ironic. I worry about my children’s education about 25 hours a day 😉 But, perhaps kids these days never hear that word much because anything to do with education is usually to do with ‘school’! Well, he’ll be hearing it a lot more often now, especially if I can remember to use the term I prefer for what we’re doing, which is ‘home educating’ rather than ‘homeschooling’.  I explained that those people’s parents had never told them that you should consider other people when you act. Those people had never been told that it is selfish and inappropriate to walk in front of other people when they are seated watching something. They might get shouted at if they did it at home whilst their family watched TV but the lesson had never got further out of the front door than that. I said that these people were rude but I felt sorry for them, that they were so uneducated, that this was one of many differences between developing and developed countries. I love living here but that kind of thing drives me crazy! He found it quite a fascinating experience. Petra had been seemingly oblivious to the whole thing, preferring to spend her evening playing under a blanket than showing any interest in watching the show, so that was a relief!

What better education than that? Would Edward have learned anything more valuable stuck in a classroom or indeed stuck at home in the evening, too afraid to go to bed late because of school the next day? We always had to have him in bed on time, not so much so he could learn properly the next day, but so he could cope with the stress of being at school the next day, every day. I’m so glad that’s over! In that lesson ‘in the real world’, Edward and Petra learned how different people are, in different countries. They learned a bit about the importance of ‘having an education’ and that it isn’t all about whether you get into a good University or not!

This is a nice little piece about how lessons in the ‘real world’ actually equip you to live in the ‘real world’, in opposition to most people’s views that homeschooling doesn’t prepare kids for the ‘real world’ at all (see, I have been doing some reading and thinking ;)!

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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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4 Responses to Day 34 of Homeschooling in the Middle East – The Best Education in the World is in the ‘Real World’

  1. shaema imam says:

    I can imagine your anger at the rude behaviour of these people at the animal show. However, I was surprised at your comment about that being an example of the differences between the developing and developed worlds… Those terms have long been abandoned by fair-minded people as being simplistic and insulting. Eg. The gulf countries have many newer buildings and nicer facilities than in Canada, but perhaps a different view on civil society and public resources. Do you mean to say that people in ‘developing countries’ are rude and unorderly? I agree that those are characteristics of “uneducated” people everywhere. I hope I’ve misunderstood you and you likely said much more to your son to qualify your comment than what you summarised here? I appreciate your sharing of your reactions and experiences to events as they occur.

  2. Hi Shaema, I can’t remember exactly what I said to my son. I was incredibly angry. If you had been there you would, despite having lived in Bahrain/the Gulf for some time, been utterly amazed by what happened. And nobody did anything. They all just sat there absolutely unable to see a thing, not a hoof, despite having sat there for a hour plus. So, developed vs. developing. I talked to my husband about it at the time who is from an extremely humble background. We have both had a lot of experience with both and you know what you would NEVER see this happen in Canada, the US, Europe etc… Never. Would you meet individual rude people there. Yes, absolutely, I’m afraid but not so gratuitously rude en masse. Why? Because they do know better. How? I don’t know. It’s interesting. By some kind of social osmosis that makes them somehow respect authority like teachers, police and security officers more often. Yes, if you go into ghettos or very poor public housing you find, again, that there is less respect for authority and less respect for other’s rights, it’s a more ‘dog eat dog’ environment and I’m not surprised. But in those countries nobody in a great crowd would ignore security personnel like this and not care one tiny bit for other people. Not at a public entertainment event (but perhaps at the Harrods sale where everyone knows it’s a fight to the death for the cheap designer handbags ;)).

    Perhaps it was because the people in the front row, in addition to us, were Indian and Filipino – and these particular Bahrainis/Saudis? thought they were entitled to a good view despite not having waited for an hour plus for it? There is, as you know, a lot of problems with a sense of entitlement in the Gulf e.g. University teachers I know saying their students complain if they don’t get high grades even if their work is awful etc… They obviously felt they were entitled to be able to see, even if it meant we couldn’t – even young children. They absolutely couldn’t care less. So, yes, there is, as a generalization, talking about large segments of the population, differences. And these differences are much more important than all the shiny buildings in the world. Those mean nothing. And I am not talking as a never-been-anywhere Westerner. I am talking as a well-travelled person with a spouse from a very different background who couldn’t agree more. If saying it isn’t politically correct, then problems will never be solved. But, please give me the studies. I would love to have my mind changed!

    • shaema imam says:

      Thanks for your reply Penny. I admit that i also have and am struggling with certain entitlement attitudes in this region, especially as a non-arab muslim. i think it would be fair to be as specific as possible since the labels can gloss over large differences. The gulf countries are wealthy materially but seem to lack as yet several markers of civil society. But in India and the philipines, the other cultures occupying seats next to you, also known as developing societies, this kind of disrespect for rules and seating would be less likely. As someone aspiring to home educate, i hope that any biases that i have are not transferred directly to my children. I can see that exposure to the ‘real world’ will ensure that we are constantly challenged in this regard.

      • All fair points. And at least any issues that my children raise will be discussed openly and fairly which would not be the case at school. I like it when my kids call me out on particular opinions. I like to be challenged and I’ve always found it fascinating and exciting when I change my mind about one of my beliefs. I don’t have a problem with that at all which is at least a good model. I hope our comments get read alongside the post. Thanks for calling me out, Shaema!

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