Each step was more taxing than the first. The musky air clinging and weighing me down as I walked. The scarf on my head threatened to make a new home around my neck on the holiest day. I shouldn’t even be seen by a man on a Friday. Quickly, I pulledthe scarf back over my bangs, being sure to tuck it neatly into the front of my shirt. The scent of cinnamon and cloves from a nearby home danced in the air. Warm bread mingled with spices and found its way to my nostrils. Soon I found myself pulled into the tango, along with two others who couldn’t resist.
The school break was longer that day, mostly due to my inability to compete with the loudspeakers adjacent to us. An imam preached with fervour, while Jake*, Sarah* and I ate our treats on the cool concrete floor, a welcome refuge from the hot sun. After the prayers were finished we climbed the many stairs and began our day. Sarah busied herself with a business project, while Jake and I dove into geography.
Jake, a wizard with wit, had difficulty focusing on small tasks but harboured much determination in completing them nonetheless. He always aimed to please his instructors, even ones who were merely substituting. History and geography proved to be challenging for me, as I sought to provide a fresh take on these lesser creative subjects. I was thankful for the ease he had with laughter, even if I was often the cause of it.
Jake and Sarah’s parents worked in a predominantly Muslim country and they relied on other people to provide adequate homeschooling for their two children. Often the family would find an instructor for several months, only to repeat the interview process partway through the children’s school year. This resulted in knowledge gaps, as the children were not always inclined to keep up their work independently. Connecting meaningfully with adults was another challenge the children faced, as instructors came and went.
As someone with little exposure to homeschooling, I began to see the inherent value in parents formally educating their children. Concepts I aimed to instill in the children were quickly grasped when a parent explained them further. A deep joy could be seen in the children’s faces when they received affirmation from their parents. I started to see that some of the behavioural issues I encountered could be traced back to a lack of bonding time. The children lived amidst a culture that placed a high value on blood ties and community togetherness. Bonds like this encompassed every facet of life, none were exempt in their culture.
Part of the difficulty though, stemmed from a matter of perceived legitimacy. In order to remain in the country, Jake and Sarah’s parents needed a valid reason for being there, which translated into full-time work outside the home. Private tutoring then became a necessity in a place with few schooling opportunities available.
As a Canadian, I get to choose what schooling is most beneficial for my future children. This is a freedom I’m grateful for and could not enjoy without a supportive community. These like-minded individuals take special care to ensure rights are not infringed upon in the educational process. Choice is a luxury not found in many countries and something we must not take for granted. What we do with it affects our children and those who have not yet come into our lives.
We are in an age where children are inundated with vague messages of identity and purpose. Confusion is all around for the child. Parents have an opportunity to plant their feet and be an oak of wisdom to a wandering generation. Homeschooling can be that stable ground on which the ‘Jakes’ and ‘Sarahs’ of the world find their place.
By Laurel Coatsworth
*Names have been altered to protect the privacy of the individuals.