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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Why homeschooling works for us: Qatar mothers share their experiences

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 Photo for illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Finding a school – ideally a great school – is usually at the top of the priority list for most expats with children, even before they move to Qatar.

But the state’s booming population has put intense pressure on already over-subscribed schools, and the fierce competition for places is often daunting to new arrivals who are trying to sort out their children’s education.

While Qataris are required by law to send their children to school, the majority expat population is not legally compelled to do the same.

Because of these factors, an increasing number of Qatar residents are opting to educate their children at home.

Some have gone this route after the Supreme Education Council (SEC) recently ruled that children could not start school mid-way through the academic year.

Others said they haven’t been able to find schools suitable to their child’s needs, while many more choose home-schooling based on what they feel is best for their children and family.

Here, a few parents explain what made them decide to home-school their kids in Qatar, and how it has worked out.

Online networks

Qatar has several active and growing networks of home schooling parents, who regularly chat online and meet in person to share tips, resources and plan social and educational events for their children.

Doha Home Educators-Facebook

More than 120 families here are now active on Doha Home Educators (DHE), with attendance at its biannual cooperative classes up by about 30 percent in the past year.

Its coordinator Margaret Douglass has been home schooling her two boys Spike, 15, and Butch, 9, for more than five years. Since then, she has been regularly sharing her experiences with those just embarking, or thinking of starting out, on their own.

Speaking to Doha News, Douglass said she began researching the option of homeschooling when she knew the family was going to move from the US to Qatar, because her husband’s company did not provide an education allowance.

With limited information online about schools here, and after seeking advice from expert home schooling friends back in her home city of Las Vegas, Douglass made the choice to start home educating when she arrived in Doha.

Spike, working at home
Spike, working at home

Her eldest son, who had attended a small, private school in the US, took some time to adjust to the new routine, particularly being taught one-on-one.

Douglass said initial challenges included getting ahold of the right materials – especially books – and finding a curriculum that best suited their needs, as well as managing their time appropriately.

“Learning how to schedule ourselves so that it works was difficult at first. You can get through more work, more quickly in a home school setting than you would in a classroom, just because there is only one or two children rather than a large group,” she said, adding:

“We’ve also worked out our strengths and weaknesses, and learned not to leave math until last thing in the day when we are all too tired to do it properly.

Learning from other folk who already home school is absolutely invaluable. You can’t put a price on someone else’s experience.”

Douglass said she now blends a number of curricula, picking and choosing elements that work best for her children’s needs, and using tutoring DVDs and other online resources when required.

While she has encountered difficulties, especially in the early days, she said the flexibility and intimate nature of home schooling outweighs the hard work involved:

“There is so much more you can get in academically, and you can adjust the pace to suit your child. You have more time together as family and of course you don’t have to do any school runs.”

However, Douglass acknowledged that her system may not work for all families.

Many schools in Qatar now require attested education transcripts for admission, so those who hope to re-enter the formal system here should use an accredited online distance learning program that can provide the necessary certification, she said.

Islamic education

Umm Maimoonah is another experienced home schooling hand in Doha, who is now entering her fifth year of educating her 7-year-old daughter outside the mainstream system.

Maimoonah

A qualified teacher, Umm Maimoonah and her husband had decided they would go the homeschooling route even before their daughter was born, so she could pass on her religious principles, morals and values.

Speaking to Doha News, she said:

“Homeschooling has become a way of life for us and the joy of witnessing every milestone of your child in learning and developing is something that I hold very dear.”

While she follows a set curriculum for mainstream subjects, she formulates her own lesson plans when covering Islam, relying on books of early scholars, which she shares on her blog.

Umm Maimoonah said she met like-minded homeschoolers in Doha via QMuslimah, an online community for ladies living in Qatar, and they have formed an Islamic homeschooling group that meets regularly to organize quizzes and workshops.

Umm Maimoonah has also set up, along with others, a small community library in Tawar compound, near Landmark mall, with more than 1,000 books in Arabic and English for the use of other home educators. Her advice to those who are considering home schooling is:

“Make a mission statement and write down clearly why you chose to homeschool and what you and your family would really want your child to be. This will help you focus and go forward.”

New recruit

American expat Lisa Collier is only a few weeks into her home schooling adventure, after choosing to take her five-year-old daughter Sophia out of a traditional school after one year.

Although Sophia attended one of the most popular schools in Doha, and Collier acknowledged that she had fantastic teachers, she felt that the school was exhausting her daughter.

“I felt like an outsider to her school world. We started homeschooling so I could have a part in her early years,” Collier told Doha News.

So far, early challenges have included getting a workable routine established and motivating her daughter to learn about subjects she isn’t naturally drawn to.

It also takes more effort to find suitable social activities, particularly scheduling them around children who are at school, Collier said.

But she added that she is excited about giving her daughter the chance to drive her own learning experience. She advises others considering a similar move to write a pros/cons list help them make their decision.

“Nothing you do has to be forever, and homeschooling is one of those things. However, if you are in need of a flexible travel schedule and you have the time to dedicate to homeschooling then I would suggest trying it,” she added.

Would you consider homeschooling your child? Thoughts?

10 COMMENTS

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Amber
Amber
6 years ago

Having worked at various schools in Qatar and seeing the kind of things that go on even at the “top” schools here, I would absolutely home school my kids. I use to be totally against it. I thought it was selfish of parents to deprive their kids the experience of a mainstream school. But in the last 2 years or so , I see schools here to be more like businessnes rather than academic institutions.

Even the schools who do try hard to provide a good education to students find difficulty in doing so because teachers who come to work here generally are here for 1 or 2 years or they don’t know what teaching is if it hit them square on the behind. The school I work at now has a 45% turn over rate. About half of those teachers leave after 1-2 years and the other half are fired due to being sub par teachers. (Might I add almost all of these teachers are certified teachers in their home countries.)

Then there is the fee issue. If your job doesn’t cover tuition you are pretty much screwed because the fees are 40,000qr plus and if you have more than one child then that’s even more.

Schools in generally are losing their touch when it comes to educating kids and fostering a productive environment for students. Even back home in the States I have quite a few friends who have given up on public and private schools and opted to educated their kids themselves.

My only concern for these kids is the social aspect. If parents opt for homeschooling they are going to make extra efforts in ensuring their kids go for play dates and develop friendships with other kids.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Private schools in Qatar are the worse for education and care for students. They usually operate like the mafia, and concerned with riyals before anything else. If any parent can avoid putting their kids in the schools here, they should seriously do that.

BillyBob
BillyBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Not true. Private schools here are great. I used to go to Qatar Academy. It was a wonderful experience. Best teachers, best facilities, best student care, best social life, and the list goes on. Not all “Private schools in Qatar” are “the worse for education and care for students” QA was top notch, as are other private schools in Qatar.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

“Qataris are required by law to send their children to school, the majority expat population is not legally compelled to do the same.” Discrimination!

sicti
sicti
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

In what sense discrimination?

Anon
Anon
6 years ago

I may be generalizing somewhat, but I tend to associate home schooling, in circumstances only where it isn’t the last possible option, with religious zealots. Controlling parents, who force-feed their children at home in the safety of their own limited horizons, with outdated, unsubstantiated superstitions, because they want to justify their own irrationalities by creating mirror images of themselves and perpetuate a cycle of ignorance and bovine, thoughtless complicity. Yes, I know all home school parents ‘have their children’s best interests at heart’, but if they’re forcing a religious agenda on them, instead of allowing the creative free reign of childhood inquiry-based learning, then they’re mentally abusing their own children.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Interesting you mentioned religious dogma. Because I know quite a few atheist couples back home who homeschool their kids because they want them well versed in sciences and believe schools don’t do enough to educated kids on them. Also they believe public schools are not secular enough for their liking.

There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids what you believe in. It’s not child abuse. When they are become adults they can decide for themselves what they want. But while raising them you do what you know best. Whether it’s bringing them up on your faith or raising them on no faith.

Anon
Anon
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

‘There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids what you believe in.’ Er, yes there is, especially if it’s ridiculous bollocks. Santa and the tooth fairy are ok for a while, but a savvy kid will eventually work out that is rubbish, but at least it will have helped their imagination and ability to try and understand the information bombardment oy everyday life……but perpetuating dogma that purports to teach about the world itself and which actually tramples on existing, empirical knowledge? No, that is mental abuse, born of selfishness and ignorance.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago
Reply to  Anon

So you are basically calling billions of people who raise their kid on religion,bad parents?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. You believe there is no God and will raise your kind kids on the lack of belief in God which is perfectly fine you and your family. But not everyone feels the same way. You accuse someone of being cruel for raising their kids in religion.

Just like you can’t call someone who doesn’t raise their kids on religion immoral.

Anon
Anon
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

The long arm of censorship appears…..my original reply was deleted for some reason! Anyway, not sure what I wrote that was deemed inappropriate, but in summary what I said was: I did not use the phrase ‘bad parents’, you did. However, I stand by the idea of some ideas being foisted upon minds too immature to understand as a form of mental child abuse, even if not done wilfully. I also do not promote atheism to my children, I promote a measured and questioning view of the world and universe and explain what we know and how we know it (and how limited our knowledge is), if I actively promoted atheism, I would be no better than those that push their faith. Maybe one day my children will choose to follow a faith, but only when they are mature enough to understand everything that it involves. I would be disappointed, but would accept it.

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