Hijabi in Park

Have you heard of worldschooling and wondered what it is or thought something like ‘That must be nice for people who can do it.‘? Globe hopping while homeschooling is not for everyone, but some of the great aspects of exploration and ‘getting to know each other’ that are integral to worldschooling can easily be reproduced by every homeschooler. For Issue Two of Fitra Journal seasoned worldschooler Omaira Alam explains how to worldschool at home.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Attributed to Ibn Battuta

My husband, Josh, is one of the best storytellers I know. He has this dramatic quality about him which both of our children – the little performers – have picked up. He knows how to change the tone of his voice, how to use a dramatic pause, how to engage the audience with his wit and sense of humour, how to play with words that string together into an on-the-edge-of-our-chair situation, and thrust you into fits of laughter or thoughtful pauses or keep you asking for more.

Around the dinner table, Josh shares stories of his childhood, of his life as a teenager in rural America, and of his travels while serving in the US Navy. Each story is filled with colourful characters and hilarious anecdotes about friends, family, and brothers-in-arms. The ones that really capture our seven-year-old’s attention are ones about Josh’s antics with his brother and cousins.

I am grateful that our children have this connection with their father and have memories building. I grew up listening to stories from my mum about growing up in newly-created Pakistan and all of her travels: how she turned over her packing crates and made them into small tables covered in bedsheets in her sparsely furnished apartment in England as a newlywed, how she worked in a factory nearby and picked up the local English dialect, how sometimes when she’s really upset a bit of Scottish flavor comes into her speech because of all her Scottish neighbours in Glasgow, and how “back home” to her, for the longest time after settling in a Toronto suburb, was Glasgow and not Karachi.

That connection by Josh, my mum, and all good storytellers is like a thread that binds us together as human beings. Stories of their travels and experiences make us yearn for a place we have never been. But what if you had the chance to make it so you, your children, your whole family could travel, experience and make memories to last a lifetime? More than a postcard, these experiences are priceless.

“I urge you to travel.
As far as much as possible,
Work ridiculous shifts to save your money
Go without the latest iPhone.
Throw yourself out of your comfort zone.
Find out how other people live
And realise that the world is a much bigger place than the town you live in
And when you come home
Home may still be the same
& yes, you may go back to the same old job, but something in your mind will have shifted. And trust me
that changes everything.”
– Anonymous

When my husband and I got married, as a military family we knew and prepared for frequent travel. We understood that we would be travelling every two to three years and some of it to other countries. After thirteen years of service, my husband left the Navy and we became civilians ready to lay down some roots in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, USA. It lasted almost four years till we uprooted ourselves and travelled cross country to prepare for a life of travel yet again. Every two to three years we will be living in a different country around the world.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – JRR Tolkien

They call it wanderlust: the continuous desire to travel. Since my son was a toddler I’ve travelled with him everywhere and know that he has a deep, and strong desire to travel. He loves it and thrives on it. My two-year-old daughter is not far behind. Most recently, I took the two of them with me on an across-the-world trip to Australia. My son met his pen pal and forged a lifelong friendship. For me, it was an experience of a lifetime – both exhausting and exciting.

Travelling with children, although exhilarating and adventurous, is not possible for all homeschoolers. One of the key tenets of homeschooling is living life, not just reading about it.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

Worldschooling takes that to a whole new level. It takes you out of your comfort zone, forces you to find value in a different perspective, and learn through immersion. It enriches your experiences because it requires you to embrace the world with all your senses.

While there are families of homeschoolers that packed up for a year or more and became what is known as worldschoolers, it takes a significant amount of sacrifice and resources of time and money. With many homeschooling families already on one income what then is the next best option for those who need to stay close to home?

Similar to what is considered a “staycation” worldschooling from home is a close second to the actual experience of travel. Worldschooling from home is about an attitude and appreciation of the beauty of where you live. Immerse yourself in your local community by embracing these five tenets:

1. Never stop exploring your surroundings

Living in one place for many years we sometimes forget to “travel” to our local landmarks or experience the reason we were attracted to our current home in the first place. Make it a point to step outside your neighbourhood and explore the hidden treasures right at your doorstep.

2. Learn a foreign language as a family

One of the best ways to learn about the different corners of the world is to learn a new language. Every language reflects the culture in which it was developed and will allow your homeschooling family to get a glimpse of another culture.

3. Learn to cook a diverse array of foods

Take a cooking class as a family. Have a food competition or have a community cook-sale where neighbours get a chance to sample foods from all over. Even more fun, find someone in your greater community to teach your family how to cook a special dish from their culture. While a delectable experience for the palate, the greater experience of history and tradition from a living storyteller and chef will be immeasurable, especially if taught by an elderly person who has a lifetime of stories to share.

4. Use community mapping and historical mapping to learn about the not-so-apparent diversity in your local neighbourhood

Consider who was here before you and your family. Learn about them. Learn about how your local community developed: who came first, why? How was the city designed, why? Ask yourself these questions. Become a part of the story of your town by sharing your story with neighbours and community members.

5. Within your network of friends set up state-to-state swaps and/or province-to-province swaps.

Share trinkets and other items from your home state or province with other friends to their home states using the postal service. This is a step up, like pen pals. Or keep it simple and have regular postcard swaps. There are also many companies that provide opportunities for adventure right from your home. One such company, Little Passports, offers USA and World Editions to have monthly packages delivered to your home about places around the world. Also check with the tourism and trade websites where you can have maps and brochures delivered to your home for free or for a nominal cost.

While these options aren’t the same as worldschooling, they are definitely a step towards developing a bit of wanderlust in your children. They are also ways to develop the skills toward learning about your communities and the communities in which your children may eventually live.

The goal of worldschooling is more than just travelling for the sake of travel. It is a chance to learn about our global human family. It is a chance to learn about all the species we share this planet with. And ultimately it is about knowing Allah, through knowing His beautiful creation.

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” Quran, Ar-Room: 22

While some of us may be able to do this firsthand, many of us can still experience the wonder, the awe, the immersion, while being at home. In the end, as homeshooling families we want our children to be the narrators of their own stories. We provide the opportunities, the places in the heart for memories to be made, whether we do it from home or from the mountaintop in the Himalayas. The stories our children tell will be different from ours because their time is different. We imbue them with the skills to become the master storytellers of their time.

“Let me touch a tree, smell the rain, see the sunset and hear the birds. Then when I read and write those words, I will understand what they truly mean.” – Benedict Carey, How We Learn

And, if we really think about it, are we not all worldschooling, merely travelers here for a short time? We hope to leave behind our stories – sweet memories – with our children who pass them along to theirs and so on, by the will of God.

“Live in this world as a traveler, and leave behind you every sweet memory. Indeed we are guests here, and every guest must soon leave.” – Imam Ali (RA)

Omaira Alam is a mum The Jibbers (7) and ZanyBaby (2) and has been actively homeschooling for five years with her husband, Josh Herald. She is the Program Director for the Islamic Teacher Education Program (ITEP), an online certificate program and a program of Razi Education. She also helps Islamic schools develop a viable whole-community behaviour management model in partnership with Islamic Education Consultants in Australia, called Dignified Way. She holds undergraduate degrees in neuroscience, world history and global education from the University of Toronto. She completed her masters in Special Education focusing on at-risk students with learning and emotional disabilities from the George Washington University, and has almost 20 years of experience in education in diverse settings, and at various levels. As a regular columnist for the Arizona Muslim Voice, she also shares her musings about education on her blog, blackboardwhitechalk.wordpress.com.

This article is in Issue Two of Fitra Journal: The Muslim Issue2Homeschooling Quarterly, available in print or digital from Amazon or right here through us.