Homeschooling Stories With Mishel Fahad
Mishel Fahad is an Ammi not afraid to rock the boat. Or pitch a tent in the middle of wilderness in Skardu while cradling a baby. Or hold her toddler’s hand and lead him on a hike. She is a true Scaryammi, because she has no fear of going against the norm, carving out her own Ammihood path and doing mothering in her own unique fashion. No surprise then that Mishel Fahad chose to homeschool her children instead of sending them to a big name school.
1) What prompted you to home-school your kids?
We decided to opt for a different lifestyle, where we wanted our kids to learn to be humans first and get a different exposure that is natural and organic. That’s when we decided to divide our time between Skardu and Lahore. Our kids, nowadays, are extremely sheltered because of kidnappings, dengue, smog and a lot of other things. We want our kids to have a first-hand experience with different kinds of things, nature and people. We don’t want to raise our kids to an agenda set by others. The thing which annoyed me the most was that I was still expecting my son when everyone started telling me to get his name submitted for admissions. I knew I won’t be sending my kid to school before 5 years, and all I heard was, that no school will accept him that late. And I thought I don’t need other people’s acceptance. No one can tell me how to raise or educate my child. I am not going to sacrifice my child’s happiness or mental/emotional freedom to fit other people’s idea of success.
That is what I teach him. Success is not going to a popular school or having a big house, the latest car, lots of toys etc. These are shallow things which have become a symbol of success. True success is happiness, contentment, self-confidence, self-assurance and knowing that this whole wide world is made for us and we need to play a more active role as citizens, as Muslims and as humans. Our emphasis is to nurture as well as encourage good behaviour, love, empathy, compassion, which is very scarce in this world nowadays. Kids have so much to give if they are free of pressures and are only nurtured with love. We as parents felt that we owe it to our children to live life the way it was meant to be. Without any mould to fit into, or anyone to follow for identity. It all comes down to individuals in the end, and we want to raise children who defy the system but still have their directions set.
2) Do you worry about how home-schoolers lack the daily and extensive social interactions children get in schools?
Alhamdulillah, Wali is very friendly and has always been. Because of our life in Skardu and our nature of business (Glamp Pakistan), he loves talking to people. Whenever I take him anywhere, he greets everyone with a big hug, is the first to say a loud hearty Salam. Plus, humans are social animals – they learn to interact. I just want to teach him how to interact and that’s where love and respect come in. That is a part of his 24/7 training.
3) You worked before your marriage: How did you manage to balance homeschooling with being a SAHM?
It’s very simple. As I said earlier, it’s a 24/7 process. Everything we do, we see, we hear is a lesson for him. Even going to the market is a lesson in social interaction with him. Again, if he is raised and schooled to be a good and useful individual, everything else will fall into place.
4) Where did you get the curriculum from?
Everything is available online. There are websites, mobile apps, videos. But again, the beauty of homeschooling is that it’s flexible. There is no assessment or testing. It’s just learning, observing and absorbing. I feel that having a strict curriculum kills the spirit of homeschooling.
5) If I was to home-school, my first concern would be: Oh My God! Who is going to teach my kid Urdu?
Everyone is a contributor to homeschooling for me. Everyone is a teacher. So, I get plenty of help from my family and friends. I let my child be. I observe his strengths and work on them. He doesn’t have to be good at all the subjects. Just one, maybe. And I will do anything under the sun to give him full education and access to things of his interest. Urdu is a difficult language, give your child time to learn. There is no hurry. There is no rush. Maybe, Wali won’t be very good in Urdu, but excellent in painting or some musical instrument. That’s my clue. I need to polish that. The rest is just what society expects, not us, the parents.
6) How did your husband and in-laws respond? Were they like, Oh My God! You have lost the plot? My in-laws would probably say that.
It was a mutual decision by me and my husband. We went through a family trauma when we lost our first daughter, Sukaynah. That experience taught us so much and changed our course of life. When you go through such big grief, it opens your 3rd eye and you see things differently. We realised that nothing else matters but to be a good human being first. That’s rare. That’s precious. We are so much indulged in worldly matters when nothing is in our hands. It was a lifestyle change. Homeschooling is not a fashion or a trend. It’s a complete lifestyle shift. And everyone has been ultra supportive, Alhamdulilah
7) Do you feel like you are always teaching them? As an OCD Mom, my fear with home-schooling would be not knowing when to stop. If I am their teacher, when do I stop teaching?
A child will tell you when to stop. You just need to pick the hint. Learning and teaching should be like a conversation. When I enforce things on Wali, he stops responding. He has a short attention span. That’s fine, play along with their strength, not what you want as a parent all the time.
8) What’s the eventual aim of home-schooling: O-LEVELS or IB? What degree do these children end up sitting for?
That’s totally up to Wali. He can be a tailor or a mechanic as far as I am concerned or his father is concerned. We just want to set a direction for him. The rest is up to him entirely.
9) Have you met other homeschooling parents? What kind of support is available for homeschooling parents in Lahore?
Very little support, unfortunately. But I am available for any sort of help to anyone interested in homeschooling.
10) When your kids go into higher classes and need laboratories and all, how will you manage those requirements?
I don’t plan to homeschool Wali or Zoe forever. They will, eventually, go to school. But our approach is different. And by the time Wali will start school, our emotional bond will be much stronger. And I feel we will have a better grasp on things. He is a free bird and I want him to know that.
As long as he gives out love, empathy and compassion, I am the happiest and the proudest mother of all. All I want is to know that my kids have turned out to be excellent human beings and that they practise humanity. Rest are all societal pressures and we are done with them. Never cared, never will.
Photography Credits: Talha Munawar