Homeschooling in Dubai – A Typical Day

It’s starting to hot up in Dubai – high 30s and 40s/over 100F and it’s humid. The evenings are not much better so I am no longer spending time outside apart from a daily half hour swim for the kids to see the sunshine, get some Vitamin D and outdoor exercise! I am dreading the long summer here! It’s hard to keep us all entertained especially when so many friends leave for over 3 months! Getting through the summer will be a lonely slog. So, I’m trying to focus on doing more book-learning homeschooling now that long days in the park and on the beach with friends are over. I actually really enjoy this and the kids are more accepting when the options of what else to do are more limited (and will become even more so in the following weeks as everyone drifts away to more clement climates).

I am trying to do a daily chapter of ‘Life of Fred’ with Edward (but manage probably 5 days a week). He is always happy to do Fred. Sometimes he’ll ask me to just postpone starting for ten minutes whilst he finishes up a Lego or action figures game, which is totally fine with me. Fred is occasionally starting to get quite hard – we tackled the concept and measurement rules of Area, Volume and Perimeter in one lesson – when Fred was evaluating fish tanks!  Then we quickly went on to the shortcut for multiplying by 10, 100, 1000 etc… as well as continuing to learn the rules for doing ‘long’ addition, subtraction and multiplication. Phew! Apart from basically liking the series, because the character Fred is so likeable and the stories so engaging, I think it helps that I try to stick to doing that chapter at around 9am everyday or at least straight after breakfast. A bit of routine/expectation does help gets things done.

Petra continues to pretty happily do her Carol Vorderman’s ‘Maths Made Easy’ series of workbooks. I also bought an English and  Science one to have a look at. I noticed it was sometimes getting missed if Fred took a long time with Edward (on the harder chapters) so I tried doing her Maths whilst I prepared breakfast this morning and it worked quite well. She needs attention but nothing too focused given that it’s not extremely challenging stuff.

For literacy, in addition to all the books I read the kids (Petra is mad about the ‘Magic Tree House’ series so that covers all sorts of history and geography too! And both kids love the ‘Junie B. Jones’ books) I’ve started dipping into ‘Five in a Row’ Volume 1. ‘Five in a Row’ is basically a series of unit studies, included in the one book ‘Five in a Row’, based on fiction books you’d probably already like to read your kids. I had only one of the reading books, the library only two but I’ve managed to borrow 5, so we’ll only be able to do a portion of the program unless I decide to order the books. But I think it’s still a worthwhile program to do. The kids don’t like it too much because they’re used to ‘just enjoying’ a story which does involve discussions and questions but not in this guided way which is therefore more structured and more, of course, parent-led not child-led. But I think it’s an interesting thing to have a go with gently in addition to all the reading I usually do with them.

Petra’s learning to read has also taken a more structured turn. She’s known her letter sounds for about 3 years now, has been able to sound out small words for ages and knows some ‘sight’ words so I’ve been thinking her reading will take off for a long time now! But she doesn’t seem that bothered to teach herself/want me to teach her more than I have been (which is very little in order not to put her off learning to read). Yet, she adores books. Lately, I have noticed that she’s noticing and, I think, caring a bit more that she can’t read.  Although she’s more frustrated that we don’t understand what she writes for us; although we can recognize all her letters, she’s writes well, her inability to spell and put spaces between her words (of course, she’s not quite 5 yet) means we can’t understand what she’s written a lot of the time. So, I decided to try ‘Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons’ which a friend kindly gave me and recently finished with her 6 year old son. It is dry. We did 4 lessons today because I can skip past learning the letter sounds. But hopefully I can make it fun enough, or she’s she progress and want to learn to read enough, that it will work and she’ll be off, being the independent reader that I think she’ll adore being. Of course, I will NEVER stop reading to the kids, I love it too, but I think she’ll really enjoy having the world of stories opening up to her whenever she likes.

In terms of writing, Edward dictates a few paragraphs of an ongoing story to me. We enjoy this and hopefully he might notice how words are spelled as I type them. He usually sits next to me (previously he ran around the room as he dictated). I have a ‘Spelling Made Magic’ book that is meant to teach spelling in a more fun, kinesthetic way, so I’ll look into trying it. I really want to avoid rote learning but as he gets older and wants to write the odd greeting card or something, I find it hard not to be shocked about his spelling, hoping that he’d miraculously learn to spell through the independent reading he does, which is quite a lot and pretty ‘advanced’. And I also worry about handwriting on the odd occasions he needs to handwrite something, but again don’t want to introduce some dry program.

For history, we’ve given up ‘History of the World’ for the time being because we are focusing on these other areas and we were looking specifically at Ancient Egypt for a while because of our March Luxor trip (and will do so again for a highly anticipated June trip to Cairo to see the pyramids and King Tut’s treasures in the national museum!) But we listening to a ‘History of Britain’ CD in the car which is very well done (although it does have a traditional focus on battles and monarchs).

Science just seems to come up naturally from time to time. Edward suddenly asked how you make electricity and so we had a chat. I found something in a book on our shelves (very satisfying to have a book collection that can answer that sort of question, even  if it’s never quite perfect!) and we looked up on Youtube making a bulb light up by peddling a bicycle (which really wowed Edward) and from three different kinds of little wind-powered objects (a vertical and horizontal windmill and a fluttering device).

Our local DVD shop is sadly closing down, so I grabbed (hopefully) a few usual bargains – documentaries that I don’t think are geared towards kids but might be useful after I’ve vetted them first – including some BBC ones s about the Trojan War and Alexander the Great and a series called ‘The Ascent of Man’ that I’ve heard a lot about but know little.

With regards to our ‘library’, DVD and workbook selection I do have to remind myself that the information from these things doesn’t magically transfer into our minds. I have to READ the books to the kids (find a way to interest Edward to read them himself), WATCH the DVDs, DO the workbooks etc… And until I do, there’s NO POINT BUYING ANYMORE which is something I find hard to resist sometimes because if it’s on my bookshelf, it feels to me as if it’s then in our heads! I find it very hard when I’m on the bookdepository website or at a bookshop (second hand is sometimes even worse than ‘new’ because of prices) and I think we really could do with xyz when we already have so much we actually just need to USE! I hope Hubby isn’t reading this, as he sees yet another book purchase on it!

IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLING MIDDLE EAST, welcome! If you are interested in reading about our homeschooling adventure, I recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this adventure into homeschooling has been a rollercoaster; philosophically and emotionally, which you might learn, seek solace from or even be thoroughly entertained by. It started in Bahrain on 22 February 2012 and continues in Dubai. My kids are Edward aged 8 and Petra aged 4. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience we share, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you! 

The fastest way to access ‘Day 1’ is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!

AFTERWORD: 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.

Don’t feel shy! Please always feel free to email me ( or ideally post comments* on any of the days you read, however old they are. Commenting helps others who may well like to have more ideas or suggestions about the topic concerned or you can ask me a question that you think others might also like answers to.

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. Again, you have to have clicked on the title of the post to get the ‘Like’ button option at the end of the post. Commenting, ‘Liking’ and Following is much appreciated as it encourages more people to read homeschoolinginthemiddleeast! Take care. Have a great day and thank you for visiting.

*How to make a comment  If you are reading posts on the homepage, you will see at the bottom of the post, in tiny grey writing either e.g. ’7 comments’ or ‘Leave a comment’. Click on this to add yours. If you’ve clicked on the title of the post, you can see any comments that have been left already, and space for your own, right at the bottom of the page. Your views are valuable and it’s always good to have debate.


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 Homeschooling in Dubai – A Typical Day

  1. Jade Robinson-Leduc says:

    Hey Penny!

    Have you ever heard of Bill Nye the Science Guy? He is great at making science accessible and fun for kids. Most importantly though, his science is correct and while being kid friendly, he doesn’t dumb down the concepts he is talking about. Not sure if you can find him on youtube or not.

    If you are looking for art ideas, try artzooka.

    I am very fed up with the traditional school system. Craig and I have toyed with the idea all year of me homeschooling the kids. Jonathan’s year has been miserable. Lots of bullying, lots of bad teaching. His teacher seems to think that the text book (which is rubbish and I am FORBIDDEN to use at my school) is Dogma. After seeing failing grades (even though the teacher is assessing him on concepts meant to be taught at Grade 6) his confidence is low. Nothing angers a teacher more than seeing horrific textbook based teaching. After much work at home, he’s finally starting to regain some of the joy he once had for learning, but it has been a wasted year.

    Hope all is well with you four.


    • I opened your comment with low expectations because I’m getting so many spam comments for some reason – haven’t had time to research a remedy – and was thrilled to hear from you, Jade! Thank you for your thoughts, as ever. I have the whole series of ‘Magic School Bus’ and ‘Sid the Science Guy’ DVDs, which the kids really enjoy (probably more so Petra) but will definitely check out Bill Nye (and the arts website). But I am SO SAD to hear about your experiences with Jonathan. You would be an AMAZING HOMESCHOOLING MUM! But I realize the loss of income is really tough and esp. maternity leave if you want to expand your family. Also, it’s a hard balance with Hubby who feels neglected – we are having a tough issue with that at the moment. The kids and I make a very tight unit of three and my energies are very focused on them so it’s hard for him. But I LOVE homeschooling and spending so much time with the kids and I’m sure you would too – to see their joy of learning is amazing. I don’t know, how strict are they with attendance, can he sort of go part-time? I think some kids in the UK government schools do this? My thoughts are really will you. Roll on the long summer break for you guys! xxx

  2. Hi Penny, I’ve subscribed to your blog for a while – I enjoy hearing about your homeschool in Dubai.
    Your home ed style sounds quite similar to ours. We use Life of Fred (just enjoyed Goldfish) and the Maths Made Easy books, and I also take my son’s dictation (I think he’s slightly dysgraphic). I’m glad it won’t be too much of a problem in the digital age he’s growing up in.

    It’s strange back here in England to think of summer being a time for staying in!

    I’m publishing a post tomorrow for the Homeschool Help series on how we do science. I think it’s my favourite subject. So much fun making things go pop, bang and whizz! My favourite book is Science Experiments by Robert Winston – lots of fun experiments with household supplies.

    • Oooooh! I’m SO glad you replied to my post because I dropped by your blog and it looks awesome! The address is: everyone! Do you have Norwegian roots or what takes you there? We are thinking of some time in Barcelona this summer – everyone escapes the Dubai heat for a while and we fancy Barcelona this year. I love how you’re preparing for your trip and thank you for sharing some ideas!

      We are about to finish ‘Goldfish’ too. I have just ordered the rest of Fred’s books until college- how weird is that! We got a good shipping opportunity that seemed too good to pass up. Hubby is very worried my son will go off Fred/my daughter will never get into him. But I think Fred will still entertain and educate for years to come (inshalla’h as we say here!)

      What do you think of Bill Nye the Science Guy vs. Winston (I remember him from UK TV – breakfast TV?!) Do you do much in the way of teaching spelling? I am getting nervous about this one for my 8 year old!

      Great to hear from you, Lucinda! Very best wishes, Penny

      • Hi – thanks for taking the time to write back! LOL about Fred – gotta make the most of a good shipping deal 😀 I think I would like to read them all even if my kids go off them anyway!

        Ha ha interesting comparison – Bill Nye v. Robert Winston. Talk about culture differences! I love the “Robert Winston” book but as a Dorling Kindersley I’m not sure how much he actually had to do with writing it. We all love Bill Nye’s crazy hands-on demos.

        Norway – it’s a fairly random choice really! The boats leave from Dover so without having to pay for flights it works out quite reasonable, hence I was able to persuade my husband that it was a good idea for me to take my mum & the kids 😉

        Spelling… we’ve tried various approaches but my son(8) is still working through Toe By Toe (a dyslexic-friendly phonics approach) so I’m not worrying about his spelling yet, and my daughter is a naturally good speller who despises curricula. What I have noticed though is that accurate spelling tests don’t seem to relate to accurate spelling in context. What are you trying?

        We took the kids to Barcelona for a couple of days last year, it was fab. Before we went we read Building On Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez, made model magic Gaudi-inspired architecture and looked at photos of his work. The kids thought it was very cool spotting art they were familiar with all over Barcelona!

        Great chatting with you – I’ll be in touch more now I’ve said hello 🙂

      • Hi! I told my husband about your comment about ‘Fred’, which I TOTALLY agree with but hadn’t really thought about (I always keep forgetting about myself, life is lived far too much through the kids-prism sometimes) and he seemed relieved that the books will be used by us one way or the other! My Maths has also improved a lot doing Fred with Edward.

        I read your post about doing Maths ‘buddy style’. We don’t quite do this but I don’t ask E to write the answers done (except the practice row). It is recommended that the kids do write the answers out but that would be torture to E and I think this works perfectly well (hoping so!)

        Regarding spelling, I am doing nothing! Just trusting to enough reading over enough years! But then I saw your post about copy work. I was thinking maybe I’d try it with typing. It would improve his painfully slow typing speed too which would help him eventually type up his own stories instead of having to dictate them to me (and then he could write whenever he felt like instead of having to wait for me to be free).

        Thanks for the tips about Barcelona, lovely ideas! I hope we get there. Although we have been toying with moving to Turkey one day and after reading ‘Freedom and Dreams’ experiences there tonight, I am in two minds. They are an unschooling NZ family who had a great time there for a month. Jane talks about ‘world schooling’ for their travels and I really like this for when we travel too and it would apply to the way you prepared for your Norway trip too!

        BTW, do you live in Kent? My daughter was born in a lovely rented cottage in Wadhurst!

        Take care, Penny x

    • I just typed a long reply and then it disappeared. I wrote much more fully than the following (!) that I really enjoyed your blog – esp. your ideas on your upcoming visit to Norway because I think I might be able to borrow some of your ideas for an upcoming visit to Barcelona.

      I also wondered what you thought of Bill Nye the Science Guy vs. Robert Winston (who I remember from TV when I lived in the UK). And I wondered what you did for spelling – I’m getting a bit nervous about spelling with my 8 year old.

      Thanks so much for commenting. I’m so pleased you did, Lucinda, so I could drop by your blog!

      Very best wishes, Penny

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