Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Simon Says..

..jump. Simon says pat your head. Simon says stand on one leg. Simon says wear silly bandz. Simon says skinny jeans are in. Simon says vampires are attractive. Simon says cartoonize your facebook profile picture. Simon says housewives are lame, and stay-at-home moms have no life. Simon says buy an iphone. Simon says unless you have a university degree, you're nothing. Simon says if you're older than 20 and you still respect your parents' wishes, you're a loser. Simon says, say mooo! Simon says gladiator sandals are in. Simon says gladiator sandals are so last yeaar..

Simon says, do what I say, because that is how it should be.

Is there no room for individuality in our modern world!?
It is naively believed that freedom of choice exists. Look around you, open your wardrobe, look at your ipod playlist, the contents of your fridge, what you do in life, your beliefs and moral values.. were all those based on your choice? Are they different from your neighbor's? Friend's and relatives'? Or are we all leading identical lives? Our likes and dislikes? Our perspectives?

No one dares to be different or think outside the box. No one dares to be free.
Why? Because Simon said we shouldn't be, and honestly, who are we to defy Simon?! He is wiser and much cooler than we are. We're just a flock of sheep.

*To those who might get offended.. give me a break, will ya?!*

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Versatile Blogger

I've been awarded "The Versatile Blog" award by the lovely Sara from Sweet Serenity! 
How very sweet of her! This is my first award ever.. so THANK YOU Sara!

  The rule requires that I state seven random facts about moi..

1. Besides coffee, spicy assam tea is my favorite warm drink

2. As odd as it may sound, I feel warmer in Canada during winter than here in Cairo

3. Sometimes I prefer the company of animals to humans

4. I dream of traveling the world in a trailer home

5. I think weddings are a waste of money

6. I've been on a helicopter once

7. I'm not a morning person

I should award 7 blogs in return, but really, there are so many great blogs out there, it's really tough to chose!
So, to all my blogger friends, you're awarded! You're all so wonderful, I'd hate to exclude anyone :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

She's Here!

My baby sister was born last week, on the 14th of January! A tiny, healthy baby!
We decided to call her Asya. She's the sweetest little thing! I found myself unconsciously calling her "hey little kitty!!!"
I guess after 20-something years, I forgot how it's like to have a baby around!

I feel so old..

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Maru the Cat

Meet Maru, the funny, playful cat, who's got a weird passion for cardboard boxes!

*The last part of this video is the funniest thing I've seen in ages!! Epic!!*

More boxes!!!


I hope you've enjoyed these videos as much as I have. This cat really made my day!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tales of a Homeschooling Graduate

 The article I wrote on homeschooling that was published in SISTERS magazine last summer.

I was introduced to Mariam A. by a sister on Facebook. She had sent a link to a young photographer’s Facebook page and was urging us to support this new Muslimah talent. But one look at the gorgeous photographs on the sister’s Flickr site and it was clear that no such exhortations were necessary. It was clear that the sister had real talent, masha Allah.
But I was even more intrigued after speaking to her: a 21 year old Canadian of Syrian, Egyptian, Bedouin, Turkish and Chechnyan origin, currently living in Egypt, totally homeschooled. This sister sounded bright, intelligent, confident - and her photographic skills were self taught: a true homeschooling poster girl.
We often hear of sisters making the decision to homeschool their children. Support groups, advice and resources abound for the wannabe homeschooler but it is rare to hear about the experiences of the homeschooled children themselves. I decided to ask Mariam about her own experiences, in the hope of adding a new, fresh voice to the ongoing debate about our children’s education.

A momentous decision

When I turned three, when it was time for me to start my first year of school, both my parents came to the conclusion that life was too short to miss out on any moment of their children’s precious lives. They wanted to be involved in every step of our education and development; to watch us grow in front of them, teach us things and share their life experiences with us. They thought homeschooling would combine both the academic and social aspect of a child’s development. My mother, being a statistics major, knew she would be responsible of covering the academic part while my father, with his wealth of business, social and life experiences thought he would enhance our mental and social growth tremendously.
In addition, a home’s healthy environment - away from bullying, peer pressure and negative influences - would positively shape our character while encouraging us to learn and be independent thinkers.
But most importantly, my parents believed that the responsibility of raising and educating a child is a God given right to each parent that should not be waived to the school system.

Lone pioneers

After announcing that they wished to homeschool us, my parents found that they were not supported at all by relatives and friends. Instead, they were accused of using us as guinea pigs in an experiment that was bound to fail. We were pitied by everyone around us, including kids of our own age. At that time, homeschooling was barely even heard of: people thought my parents were crazy.

Richness in diversity

We are a large family and as a family we have lived in many places and discovered many cultures, and I believe this adds a lot to who I am today.
My experience as a homeschooler has been a very rich one, not necessarily education wise, but as a life experience in itself. For us, education was not restricted to a classroom setting with desks and textbooks, but rather it was a real life experience. We never actually had a daily schedule to run by. I guess I would describe our learning experience as easy going and relaxed. When we were young, the Canadian outdoors was our classroom. We used to wait eagerly for each distinctive Canadian season, for each held special gifts for us.
Summer brought its warm eveings, barbeques, picnics and bicycle rides. Fall meant collecting leaves, and enjoying the sweet scent of apples and pumpkins, while winter brought all the fun of snowball fights, hot chocolate after shovelling the driveway, and quiet afternoons of reading in the library. Spring was our favourite, an opportunity to combine learning about nature with the fun of walking in the rain, running barefoot on the grass, and watching life emerge from dead tree branches.
The vivid Canadian seasons were a great educational tool that opened our little minds and drove us to ask questions and seek answers from our parents, the Internet and the library.
Our learning style was a very unique one. As we grew older, our learning experiences became more creative. My siblings and I would work on projects together. One such project was a home bakery that we opened. It was a great learning opportunity that came with many rewards. For example, I was always interested in arts and crafts. I loved creating beautiful things from ordinary objects. At age seven, I made a little doll house out of a chocolate box and making things like this made me so proud, and it helped boost my self confidence.
Growing up, I always had a soft spot for animals. I raised an orphaned pigeon who was found on our doorstep, almost a week old. I have also nursed an orphaned kitten, as well as having a semi cat shelter with 36 cats in our backyard!

Academic philosophy

As for academical education, my parents didn’t want to restrict us to a certain curiculum; my mother always tried to choose books about subjects we were interested in. My parent’s philosophy with regards academic education was to concentrate on skills - basic mathematical skills, reading, writing and comprehending in both the Arabic and English languages - as this would enable us to learn and discover on our own.
As for Science , Geography and History these were regarded in our home as general knowledge and this was obtained through borrowing documentaries from the library, the National Geographic and History television channels, while encyclopedias, books about the animal kingdom etc, were scattered all over the house.
Our parents used to take advantage of current events and turn them into lively discussions through which we’d learn more about the political climate, events that were taking place and how they would affect the rest of the world. For instance, the American Presidential elections of 2000 presented a great opportunity for us to learn about the history of American presidents, different political parties, how the election system in America worked, among other things.

Challenges and accomplishments

To me, my biggest accomplishment was learning to read and write on my own after having been tutored in the basics by my mother until the age of 7. This made me realise that with persistence and motivation, I can achieve almost anything I want. However, from my experience, and as I have mentioned earlier, the pressure from close relatives and friends was the biggest challenge my parents faced. Homeschooling was not easy in the beginning, and lack of support from people around us made it harder. As for us children, I don’t think we faced any major challenges alhamdulilah.

Little boxes

The way I see the school system is like a big mold that shapes all its students into one model. It allows very little room for a student to develop his/her very unique personality and character. Schools adopt a one-size-fits-all scheme of learning and shaping their students. Therefore, you are more likely to have a generation of children thinking, eating, dressing and buying the exact same things. Because of the ‘one mold’ policy that is followed by a lot of schools, there is less room for individuality, uniqueness and creativity. On the other hand because learning at home is tailored to a child’s needs, it allows his or her talents to be discovered at an early age, while being nurtured and encouraged. This, in my opinion, is a recipe for success.
Another problem with today’s educational system is the matter of labelling. If a student is a slow learner, he/she becomes labelled as a “special needs” student when, in fact, that child could prove to be a genius if given the time and space to prove him/her self. For example, I began learning at the age of three, while one of my siblings started his learning at the age of nine! He was a hyper-active child, and in my opinion, if he was a school student he would have been labelled. Eventually, he grew and developed at his own pace and turned out to be the cleverest of my siblings.

The learning journey

While most people think that success is measured by the grades a child achieves on tests, true success is measured by how developed a child’s character is, and how dedicated, independent, and aware of the world around her she is. I have met many high school students who are considered very smart and clever but when I actually talked to them, I found that, despite all the learning they received, their interests were quite superficial. They had no real interests, hobbies, or opinions, which is quite sad. For a generation to have no interests in life is a true social crisis.
Homeschooling made me an independent person. It made me think outside the box, with a clear mind, one that is not being controlled by the system. I can form my own opinions freely, based on my own judgments. It also made me open and sociable. Most people think that homeschoolers are unsociable but, on the contrary, while growing up, I had the privilege of making friends from all age groups and backgrounds. I remember when I was about 7, I used to spend hours on the phone with my mother’s aunt, who was 60 at that time. It never was a problem for me to come up with things to talk about and discuss. Many (if not all) of my friends are more than 5 years older than I am.
I find the company of older friends more interesting, as I have gained a lot from being with people who are more experienced than I am. One of the most important thing that I have gained from homeschooling, is having a strong relationship with my family. Being together all day long made us appreciate each other, and depend on each other in many things.
Many people find it hard to go against the flow, for fear of rejection or ridicule. Alhamdulillah, as a homeschooler, I never had to face that problem. I grew up to be a practical person. I run my life by what I believe to be the right course, not by how people expect me to. I also had enough space to discover who I am, not being told who I should be. I discovered who I am by discovering where my talents lie. From a very young age, I was fascinated by beauty in all its forms. I looked for ways to express myself, hence my passion for photography and writing emerged. I wanted people to see this beauty the way I saw it, either by a very expressive poem, or a captivating photograph.

Ultimate goals

My parents instilled in me that my main ambition should be to to strive to be a good Muslim, to always seek the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah in everything I do in life. Because this is, after all, our ultimate goal.
Everything else in life is merely a tool for achieving this goal. As to my professional ambitions,
my dream is to become a published writer and photographer. Also I’m planning on studying the art of glass-bead making and hopefully integrating with my professional goals.

I came away from my discussion with Mariam A. most impressed by this confident and self-assured young lady. May Allah reward her parents and bless her with success in all her affairs, ameen.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Take Me There..

..where the sun shines
where worries vanish
where the only sound you hear is the wind..

Saturday, January 1, 2011

To Celebrate or to Lament?

Cuddled in my warm fleece blanket on the sofa, reading of Catherine Morland's terrifying thoughts as she prepared herself for bed, stealing glances through her window in search of something that may confirm her doubts. The glimmer of General Tileny's lamp through the window opposite her's, perhaps.

I was too deeply engrossed in Jane Austin's classic, that I failed to notice the lights glimmering through my window, and the loud noise coming from our neighbors' backyard. I paused for a second, thinking maybe it's another birthday party, then I remembered.. it's new year's eve!!!

While sitting there on the sofa, I looked back at 2010, and thought how fast the year went by, and how much I regret not having accomplished most of what I had planned on accomplishing. One more year of my life here on earth flew by, and now I'm one year closer to death. One year of my life just came to an end.
How ironic were these thoughts, and the fact that the inhabitants of the house opposite to ours were celebrating.

I'm not pessimistic. I am far from being that. I am not depressed, nor have I ever looked at the cup half empty (maybe during my teenage years I have, but who hasn't?!) I am only rational.

Who, with a sane mind, would celebrate losing one year of their lives? Send greeting cards to loved ones, party, and give presents? The only possible explanation is, that it's purely commercial.
Or that it's a way of getting their minds off the sad fact that they have just lost one more year of their precious lives. But still, not a reason for celebration.

On a different note, my exhibition went really well last week! I sold 7 of my prints. It was really good for a first time, and I hope it won't be the last. The place was really nice, although a little tight. At one point, people were bumping into each other just standing there.

(He really liked the yellow jasmine!)

May Allah bless you and your loved ones, and may this year be full of happiness, joy and peace for all of us!

*I am only praying to God and hoping that this year would bring peace and joy to all, so no.. I am not contradicting myself*