Wisdom, Ignorance and Arrogance



Arrogance and Learning

Arrogance. Even the word kind of makes me cringe, but I have been spending a lot of time thinking about it lately.

What I am realising is how much arrogance shuts us off to learning, and clearly that is not a great thing, especially when my whole personal and professional life revolves around learning.

One of my husband’s main themes of teaching is that reducing arrogance is the key to growth. In fact in Islam it is said that nobody with a grain of arrogance in their heart will go to heaven. That really freaked me out. I always thought of arrogant people as being boastful and acting like they are better than everyone else. Because I always thought I was worse than everyone else it must meant I wasn’t arrogant – right? How wrong could I be? Arrogance is actually a reaction to low self esteem, where we close ourselves off to protect and hide our inadequacies. They become like a dirty secret that we can’t bear to expose. The more we try to deny our inadequacies to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, the more arrogant we become. The result is that we can’t deal with criticism, we pretend to be better than we are, and we don’t want to learn.

The other day, after weeks of working on this idea of arrogance in myself, I was making chai for our guests, as I do a LOT, and one of my friends came into the kitchen. While chatting, I said something about not really liking chai… that I like Aussie tea bags. She said “Oh that’s why you don’t make good chai then”. I was flabbergasted. My arrogance rose up and nearly exploded out of me…HOW DARE SHE SAY I DIDN’T MAKE GOOD CHAI!! I HAVE MADE LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF CUPS OF CHAI IN THE LAST FEW YEARS AND NOBODY HAS EVER TOLD ME MY CHAI WAS BAD!! I went on and on until I suddenly remembered that I had been working so hard on my arrogance, and here at my first test, I had failed big-time. Instead of taking it as a valid criticism, I immediately took it personally and blocked myself to all learning. I was completely defensive.

The funny thing is that here in Pakistan, so many people are outrageously open about their inadequacies. This is totally confronting for me. I think in Australia we tend to build our strengths and play down our weaknesses, but here it is the opposite. They draw out their weaknesses, evaluate them, play with them and many people actually work on them.

So my friend gave me a really important learning experience and I am extremely grateful to her.

So how does all this relate to homeschooling you ask?

Unfortunately the truth is that my kids also have my arrogance, and that is seriously scary. They hide their art and writing from me in case I criticise it, they are not as open about learning as I would have hoped, they hate anyone to tell them they are wrong and they don’t like to listen to any kind of advice.

Just. Like. Me.

The difference is that I didn’t have someone to tell me this was wrong (or if they did, I didn’t listen). My kids have their father, and they have a chance to work on it from a young age.

I am determined that if they learning nothing else in their young years, it should be to constantly be vigilant about arrogance.

Here are my four remedies for arrogance:

  1. Be completely open about your weaknesses
  2. Accept all criticism as a precious chance to grow
  3. Listen to everyone like you are a child, in complete openness and awe and without judgement
  4. Constantly seek learning





The ‘Less is More’ model of homeschooling

It’s been an incredibly intense first 2 weeks of school, and although I beat myself up about slacking off on Wednesday to play Monopoly instead of doing science and the fact that today was completely hijacked by Skyrim, it has been fantastic so far. By fantastic, I mean the level of enthusiasm and ‘wow that’s awesome’ kind of moments we have had.

The secret to our success so far? Less is more. Woo hoo. We should patent that, right? Actually I remember reading about the ‘one hour a day’ schooling philosophy when we first quit school and thinking they were totally insane. And look how far we’ve come….. one hour a day for serious school subjects like maths, science and English – and that is going swimmingly. Supercharged Science is as good as I hoped, Khan Academy maths is as good as it’s always been, Shams is back on Pebble Maths (must write a blog about that sometime) and everyone is settling into a nice routine.

But what I’m most excited about is our learning objectives. Since ‘real’ school really only feels like one hour (even though they are doing other learning for 3 hours), the hour the kids spend on their learning objectives doesnt really feel like school at all. Safiyah is roaming around taking photos as she learns about photography. Shams is doing flying kicks at everything in sight and rolling on everything he can find as he improves his karate skills. Diyana is learning to play the Bansuri or bamboo flute. And they are all writing their blogs without me having to push them because they have lots of talk about.

Best of all, when we first started they really couldnt think of anything for their learning objectives. Now, as we head into week 3, they are already planning their objectives next week. Since a major part of my motivation here was self-directed learning, I have found myself having plenty of those ‘Wow that’s awesome!’ kind of moments myself. In fact, I often think I’m enjoying homeschooling more than the kids…

Actually a week is a long time to spend on one objective now that we are doing it, and that’s great because it makes them push themselves a bit to persevere. In this house we tend to suffer from the 5-minute enthusiasm syndrome, so 5 hours on one thing over a week is a big deal.  But this is the beauty of the ‘less is more’ model of homeschooling…. a little bit every day is a really effective way of learning and growing, as opposed to slogging away for hours on one thing and only learning a little.

Bring it on!

Natural-born scientists

Since science seems to be becoming our big theme these days, this was just so appropriate…….

Back to school blues even happen for homeschoolers

We are back at ‘school’ after almost 3 months of summer holidays, and it seems that ‘back to school blues’ even happen for homeschoolers. Funny…. this time last year the kids had to go back to real school and they were pretty much exactly like Calvin. This year we are only going back to homeschooling, but nothing much has changed!

I have to say, I feel a bit guilty taking summer holidays from what is already pretty much a holiday kind of lifestyle (despite what the kids say)… But I realised that holidays aren’t just about doing nothing… they are a punctuation mark.

Our first 8 months of homeschooling were fantastic but incredibly stressful at the same time, as we started out as curriculum- based homeschoolers, then developed our own curriculums, then we tried out unit studies, and experimented with unschooling as well. Meanwhile the kids went through every emotion possible about homeschooling… starting with elation at leaving school, followed by devastation when they realised were were still going to have to learn stuff, wild enthusiasm about the topics they loved, and outright rebellion about others they hated. (In fact there was more rebellion than anything else most of the time, and that meant me learning a whole new set of coping mechanisms). I think the only constant thing in our whole first 8 months was my driving belief that this was the best decision I had ever made.

In hindsight it was all a bit of a mess, but looking back at our books and materials as I was packing them all up before we left for Australia, I was seriously amazed at how much we had managed to do amidst such chaos.

This year is going to be more organised!! (I am pretty sure these are famous last words).

Now we know we are not much into curriculums.

We know we like unit studies.

We know we like having flexibility to do or not to do, depending on our day.

We know we want to make time for swimming, horseriding, karate and rock climbing.

We also know we want to focus on Islamic topics more.

I know that learning objectives are a big priority, to teach discipline and commitment within subjects they are really interested in.

So with all this in mind, the plan is an hour of Islam first, then an hour of formal topics (science, maths, english etc) and then an hour of personal learning objectives each day. Three hours… that’s it. Each child has started a learning blog and their personal objectives plus anything else they are interested in, are recorded here. Apart from that they have ONE exercise book each for the year, in which anything else they do will be recorded. Last year we tried an exercise book for each subject but it just felt like school, where they used to spend half the lesson writing the date in the OCD way the school prescribed.

I have joined a great science site called Supercharged Science and I, at least, am really excited about the huge range of experiments and applied learning (the kids claim they ‘hate science’ but the other day when we launched a rocket with vinegar and baking soda 50 metres into the sky, Shams didn’t seem to hate it too much). My mission this year is that they will say ‘we LOVE science now’ by the end of the year… here’s hoping Supercharged Science does the trick.

Maths will continue as before with Khan Academy and Adapted Mind and Shams will work on writing particularly through his blog and Grammaropolis.

So that’s our year in a nutshell… who knows…. this organisation may only last for a couple of weeks and we may descend back into homeschooling anarchy again, but we sure have learned a lot from last year … so onwards and upwards!




Muhammad: The Messenger of Islam

Asalaam aleikum everyone and Ramadan Kareem. Missing you all! I am using my time here in Australia to read, and I finally managed to get hold of a copy of Hajjah Amina Adil’s ‘Muhammad: the Messenger of Islam’. She is the late wife of Shaikh Nazim, and we have been trying to find this book for some time. Al Hamdulillah – it is as awesome as I hoped. It is the life of the Prophet Muhammad SAWS with spiritual insight added.

I wanted to share some of the book with you all…. they are all familiar stories but with aspects added that I have never heard before. 


The Prophet’s blessed mother, Amina, relates:

“At the time I was ready to give birth there was no one with me, neither man or woman attended me (for everyone, including Abdul Muttalib, had gone to make Tawwaf of the Kaaba.) I was all alone in the house. Suddenly there was a terrifying noise and I felt great fear. Then a white bird alighted upon my breast and my fear left me, I became calm and no trace of pain or anxiety remained. Next I was handed a cup of sweet white sherbet, and when I drank of it, my heart filled with peace and joy and light. After this, I beheld a number of tall women approaching me, tall and slender as cypress trees, and of astounding beauty. I took them to be the daughters of Abdu Manaf. They came and sat around me in a circle and I was mostly surprised and wondered how they had come to know of my condition and who had informed them.

While I was yet pondering this question in my heart, one of the ladies spoke and said, ‘I am Hawa, the wife of the Prophet Adam,’ and another one of them said ‘I am Sarah, the wife of the Prophet Ibrahim.’ Yet another said, ‘I am Asiya, the wife of Fir’aun of Egypt’. And another said ‘I am Maryam, the daughter of ‘Imran and the mother of ‘Isa.’ the others were introduced as the Huris of Paradise, all of whom had come to usher the Holy Prophet SAWS into his earthly life and to welcome him with due veneration. 

Suddenly I perceived a white curtain being drawn from the skies down to the earth, so that I was veiled from the eyes of the Jinn. Then there was a flock of birds with beaks of green emerald and ruby red wings. These birds flew down and fluttered about me so closely that I could feel the beating of their wings upon my skin. They flew round and round me as if in Tawwaf. The Lord Almighty then removed the veil from my eyes so that I beheld the whole world from east to west. Three flags I saw them brings down from Heaven; one they planted in the ground in the east, one in the west and one right atop the Kaaba. In the heavens that were open to my eyes I beheld men bearing bejeweled vessels of gold and they assisted at the birth of the blessed child and I suffered neither pain nor trouble.

And when I looked again I saw that the child was born circumcised, and that his umbilical cord was cut and he was wrapped in a piece of white silk. he touched the ground with his blessed head, lifted the forefinger of his right hand and made humble supplication to Allah Almighty. I bent down to hear what he was saying and these were the words I heard:

Ash hadu an la ilaha ill’Allah wanni Rasulullah; Allahhu Akbar kabiran, wal-hamdu-lillahhi kathiran, wa subhanallahi bukratan wa asilan. Allahumma, ummatiy, ummatiy. (my nation, my nation).

Pakistan homeschooling comes to Australia!

It’s been a week of travelling but we are finally here in Byron Bay – the most easterly point of Australia and the home of my mother.

It is a year since we were here in Australia, where all my family lives, but it has been a big year. Last October we dropped out of school and this trip has been everyone’s opportunity to question me about my latest unconventional decision.  This is my family, and they have known me long enough to think I am completely mad anyway – watching my transition over the last 40 years from farmer to greenie to yuppie to hippy to Muslim living in Pakistan (the worst phase of all and unfortunately the longest lasting!) What they are all worried about is that I have now drawn my kids into my craziness. More

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