We’ve been interested in homeschooling for a while, ever since G was in grade 1. School’s in the UAE are difficult and quantity over quality education is an issue.
The whole thing kicked off with G being bullied by her teacher and developing a near pathological dislike for regular schools.
Her school career started well enough with a lovely school, brilliant teacher and wonderful support structures. Fujairah Private Academy was a wonderful way for G to transition from Smart Baby Nursery School into “Big Girl School”. The British Curriculum was just what she needed to get a proper start in education since it encourages a life – long love for learning.
She received many accolades and progressed well at school. Even a personal trauma moment was handled beautifully by the staff and administration. I couldn’t be happier.
Then I lost my job and we moved to Ras Al Khaimah.
It was mid – year so the chances of us getting a place at the prestigious RAK Academy were slim to none. Our choices were limited, and despite our reservations, we enrolled her at RAK American Academy for Girls, or RAKAAG. I’m not going to bash the school here but suffice to say that in the entire school, there was exactly ONE American teacher. The rest were cobbled together from various Middle Eastern and African nationalities.
G suffered in her overfull class with a teacher that spoke with a heavy African accent and struggled to control a large number of local boys. It came to a head one day when G was injured and I wasn’t told until I had to take her to the doctor with a damaged elbow.
When an enquiry was made I was told my child was ” emotional ” and “needy” and was “a strain to teach” because “she knew more than the other children”! I was flabbergasted, disgusted and took her out immediately. I refused to pay the outstanding school fees and threatened legal action.
We took her to see a child psychologist in Dubai and she received emotional trauma counseling. Her experience at that third rate school had given her issues with trust and especially with adults. Worst of all she didn’t trust us, her parents, to do what was best for her because she perceived us as abandoning her to the teacher and school every morning. A school we knew she wasn’t happy with.
Believe me, we beat ourselves up about this even today.
The signs were there:
- No wanting to go to school ( she loved school before and couldn’t wait to go)
- Crying bouts ( she’s generally a calm child)
- Unexplained bruises and scratches
Our child had been bullied and mistreated and we’d ignored the signs. We were so busy trying to get back on our feet, we’d simply missed the signals our child was giving us.
The doctor recommended we keep her at home and focus on building trust and her feeling of security again. So, for the next 6 months, we did.
It transformed her. The giggly, smiling child of before was slowly coming back to us. We tried to keep her up to par with her skills in Math, Science and English and as I’m a teacher it was fairly easy.
She learned to deal with her emotional issues via a “toolbox” the doctor taught her to utilize, and we became the two people she could trust most again.
Eventually though, she had to try returning to school. We moved to Al Ain and I enrolled her at the school I was teaching at. However, a large local population at the school meant the pace of learning was too slow, the bullying a real threat with Arab boys being more aggressive and girls more tolerant, and the teacher often overwhelmed with G’s learning style. The school’s curriculum was also too new (an American/IB PYP hybrid) and strange and soon behavioral problems flared again.
I removed her from Emirates National School and searched for a British Curriculum school. We both finally found what we thought was a good fit with ABZ Private school.
Issues weren’t long in coming. From a boy in her class “accidentally” hitting her in the face in full view of the teacher, to her trousers being pulled down during break time, to strange kids ( not from the school) punching her after school hours – hubby was kept busy with principal and Social Worker visits. That the school in essence did nothing but file reports convinced us that we wouldn’t be staying long.
Eventually I fell out with the school and resigned. G missed her friends, and it took a while to settle into not getting up at 5:30 AM to leave by 6:30AM but I’m sure she’s happier. I for sure am!
After a month at home, hubby and I decided to give homeschooling a serious go. We don’t like any of the options in the UAE, and have heard negative things about the South African options, so after much consultation and research we settled on an individualized learning plan based on online learning programs and G’s learning style.
Her schedule is packed with a more rigorous subject selection than most kids ever have, but it’s a challenge she’s easily meeting.
Her assessments are online and I get weekly progress reports. I keep a portfolio of learning for evidence, and stay in touch with the Education Department in South Africa to stay on top of requirements when she eventually moves to a private school in South Africa.
We like Herschel Girls and she’s been accepted for registration for a future date. It’s an Anglican school but we’re sure her secular homeschooling education will stand her in good stead.
G’s decided she wants to help people and that she wants to be a doctor or surgeon. She’ll be the first real one in the family and we couldn’t be prouder. As such we’re happy to steer her learning in the STEM field. She’s already looking at pre- med courses at Stanford or Yale University. 😊
Many people want to know if she misses a social life. Our answer is no. She has friends outside of school and we have just met another homeschooling family ( also South African!) and are arranging play dates.
So, if you’re considering homeschooling, here are the top 5 tips I have for you:
- Consider the needs of your child above all else.
- Reach out to other homeschoolers online and IRL. Shaveh of Feder Fun is a good place to start.
- Decide which curriculum, what resources and what extra help you’ll need.
- Find tutors for subjects you can’t teach, and create a schedule.
- Stay in touch with your local education authority to make reintegrating into mainstream schooling less stressful.
Until next I blog,