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The best part of homeschooling is….

3 Feb

..that you can incorporate your own tales into every lesson that you are teaching your child. For example, today for TJ’s second grade Health and Fitness class, we were discussing swimming safety. We also discussed the importance of wearing life jackets when riding in a boat. I was reminded of the news from three days ago where three prison inmates, Jon Fowler, Nelson Pettis and Larry Bohn from Larch Corrections Centers, who were working near the Salmon Creek in a Washington State Park, saved the lives of three brothers aged 16, 10 and 8 whose boat overturned in the creek. I was able to discuss with TJ not only the importance of wearing a life jacket but also the religious aspect of this story where this crew from Larch, which in fact was a replacement crew for someone else who was supposed to work at the creek that day, were sent as guardian angels by God to help these boys. The family of these three brothers is real lucky that these men were working near the creek or otherwise this could have been a big tragedy for this family. May God bless Fowler, Pettis and Bohn for their extremely selfless and brave deed. Amin!

Not everyone gets lucky in water. I told TJ about the news from nearly two years ago where six teens drowned in front of their helpless families in the Red River in Shreveport, Louisiana while trying to save each other. Neither the kids nor their families knew how to swim. This was a very sad event and had the teens known swimming and about the dangers of undercurrents in seemingly static rivers, they wouldn’t have drowned. It’s also important to know to not jump to save another individual when you don’t know swimming yourself. Many important points about the rules of safety while swimming or while riding a boat or a canoe were highlighted while telling these stories to TJ.

Yesterday, while discussing 2nd Grade Islamic Education, we were studying how our dear Prophet (PBUH) built his mosque with only palm leaves as the roof top. I told TJ how this was a big contrast to how mile long palaces are being built in Saudi Arabia today or how excessive gold gets incorporated into some of the mosques today. Our Prophet (PBUH) didn’t aim for grandiose and extravagance when he built his mosque and his living quarters. One of the children pointed out that perhaps in that day and age, the rich stuff didn’t exist. I reminded the kids about the Pharaohs, their extremely indulgent way of life (and even death) and the fact that they existed much before our Prophet (PBUH) but still had access to all the richness in the world. Our Prophet (PBUH) was the leader of the Muslims but barely spent anything on him.

That is the best part of homeschooling where a simple line in a text book just doesn’t stay a simple line. It turns into a complete story by itself and the kids love hearing stories. Masha’Allah.

How my son is memorizing the Quran

19 Jan

I wanted to share how my 7 and a half year-old son, TJ, is memorizing the Quran. There are many Muslim parents that wish that their sons will become a Hafiz (a person that has completely memorized the Quran) but very few might have the resources, or perhaps more accurately, very few might think that they have the resources for their sons to memorize the Quran. So I wanted to share my model with you. This might not work for everyone but masha’Allah, by the grace of God, it has been working for our family.

This is the daily routine of TJ. Currently, he is having vacations so we are sleeping in and his morning Qari Sahib ( a term of respect in Urdu for someone who recites/teaches the Quran) comes later on in the day but when the schools are open, here is how TJ’s day is.

TJ is enrolled in the Manarat school system but he only goes there for exams. So for all purposes, he is home-schooled. If your son is enrolled in a homeschool program, it will be very close to TJ’s model.

TJ gets up at 8:30 am. He does his wudhu (ablution for getting ready to read the Quran). Some people might not do wudhu before touching the Quran but we, Pakistanis, do it so it might be more of a cultural aspect than a religious aspect – I am not sure about that. Anyway, TJ comes downstairs and gets ready for Qari Sahib. TJ has two people helping him memorize the Quran. We call the first one Qari Sahib 1 (let’s for this article refer to him as Q1) and we call the second person, Qari Sahib 2 (Q2 for brevity).

Q1 comes at around 8:40 am. He and TJ will usually memorize about 10 – 15 new verses and sometimes more and sometimes less. It depends upon how TJ has retained the verses taught to him the previous day. If he has retained them, Q1 will do more – if not, he might do less. As TJ grows up insha’Allah, his lesson size will increase.

Now, memorization always begins from the end of the Quran and keeps on moving to the beginning of it. The reason is that towards the end of the Quran, the Chapters (or Surahs) are smaller and easier to memorize and as we move to the beginning, the Surahs start becoming longer. Quran is divided into 30 equal parts and has a total of 114 Surahs.

TJ started in June of last year and at this moment he has masha’Allah memorized the 30th part of the Quran and is working on the second last Surah of Part 29. Now every day, when Q1 comes in, he teaches TJ the new verses but then also, listens to the Surahs of Part 30 – going from front of Part 30 to back of Part 30, listening to about 5-6 Surahs. Q1 also just lets TJ plain read the verses that TJ will be memorizing for the next day – that’s called Nazara whereas the revision of the Surahs from the previous Part (currently 30) is called Murajiya.

Once Q1 is done, we write in a note book, name of the Surah and the verse numbers that TJ memorized for the day, what he revised from the Part 30 (Murajiya) and what he read in preparation for the next day (Nazara).

Now Q1 will leave some homework which is usually listening to the verses that TJ has memorized during the current day and also preparing him for the Murajiya for the next day. This is the part where Q2 comes in. Currently, we have Q2 hired on the Internet. He lives physically in Badin, Sindh, Pakistan but we connect on Skype and he will revise the stuff that Q1 wants listened to or revised.

Now we are following a specific model. We have a primary Hifz teacher (Q1) and a secondary one (Q2). Q1 will be the person doing the actual memorization but Q2 helps retain it and check it. Now there have been situations where Q1 was not available on weekdays and then Q2 would initiate new memorization lessons as well and Q1 and Q2 were both advancing each other. But at this time, Q1 is the leader and Q2 is the follower so thus TJ will be emulating Q1’s accent and Tajweed (pronunciation of Arabic letters) style.

I think, you don’t have to live in a Muslim centric area to do do Hifz. If you are able to perhaps find one person who can do the main Hifz and this person has the good accent and Hifz technique, you can always have another backup Qari Sahib from places like Quran Reading or Muslim Academy or another online Hifz teacher, for revision. Or perhaps you could have both teachers online or perhaps you could just have one teacher in the primary role and you could help your kid with the revision. There are parents who do both roles of the primary teacher and the revision one. I just wanted to share my model to give an idea to anyone who wanted to know where to start.

Here is the rest of TJ’s routine. Q1 leaves at about 10:20am. TJ has had a full cup of honey milk while he sat with Q1. The sugar in the drink keeps his brain energy going, masha’Allah. After memorization, TJ will have breakfast and then his regular school time happens between 11am – 2pm. During his study time, he has 1-2 breaks. After study, TJ will have lunch and play outside until Maghrib. At Maghrib (currently happening at 5:15 pm), after he has come back from the mosque, he will take a shower and then sit down for Q2. He has another glass of honey milk. The lesson with Q2 is about an hour-long. I try to get him in bed by 10pm on school days. Q2’s timings might fluctuate from month to month depending upon prayer timings.

Remember, keep it simple and keep your goals practical. In the end, if the child has memorized the Quran, it doesn’t matter if he/she did it in 3 years or 7 years or more. Masha’Allah! Keeping the main memorization in the beginning of the day makes it easier to remember. Also giving the child a shower before revision makes him relaxed and the drink keeps him hydrated and strong. You don’t want the revision too close to the actual memorization  –  let the actual sink in before you hear it. Keep in mind, that Q1 is revising it as well. Q2 is just additional help.

May Allah make it easy for all of us who are trying to memorize the Quran. Amin.

Manarat, Homeschooling, Taxis, Women and Driving

11 Dec

I have taken my son out of Manarat. Well, he is not really out – he will still be enrolled in there, insh’Allah, for the rest of 2nd Grade but he will be studying at home. He will periodically go to school to take his exams and quizzes. The reasons for which I made this decision are manifold. He suffers from asthma and the environment in the school triggers his allergy – that is the official reason why he is staying home. The other reason why he will be studying from home is that he is doing Hifz (memorization of the Quran), mash’Allah, and this arrangement will reduce the time wasted at school. But I think the first and foremost reason is that Manarat is spoiling my son. My son, a year ago, did not lie, did not mock adults when they talked, did not beat other kids up and did not use curse words. After less than a year at Manarat (he got enrolled in there in February of this year), he has started doing all that. There is no discipline at Manarat and for this very reason, my son insh’Allah will not continue there. I don’t want my son to become a gunda (an Urdu term for a hoodlum) so I am not really interested in him learning how to beat other people up. Thus, I have decided to teach him at home, insh’Allah.

Does my decision mean that I would like him to continue in another school that doesn’t teach him about Islam such as Multinational, British or American? No. Does my decision mean that I would have liked him to continue in a public or private school in America? No. Just because an Islamic school is not doing it right by not teaching their kids about discipline doesn’t mean that I would want my son to be at a school where there is no value for morality – where there is no teaching about why kids should abstain from girlfriends/boyfriends and sex, why it is important to cover your body and wear modest clothing and why we need to live Islam in order to be the best people around. So homeschooling, our family’s staple for the past four years (and currently the fifth year) for the girls, will be passed on to our son as well, insh’Allah, at least for now. Does that mean I don’t have belief in organized schooling? I do but unless I find a school that holds and cherishes the values that our family does – my kids will continue studying at home, insh’Allah.

I am teaching my son for now, mash’Allah, but I am looking for a tutor as well. I have been offered a research in science position by the Grace of God and I could start any time once all my papers get processed. I would need a female tutor to come to my home for a few hours. Thanks to King Abdullah, a more than generous pay of SAR 2000/month would not be sufficient for a female tutor, as it would be for a male tutor, for coming to my home for a couple of hours. The reason is that a round trip to my home from most parts of the city will cost about SAR 60 coming to a total of SAR 1320/month. The gasoline here costs about SAR 0.60 (or about 15 cents) per liter. So you can imagine how trivial the gas cost to my home is. But if the government doesn’t let you drive your car and you have to hire one of the expensive taxis around, all of your pay goes to the taxi drivers rather than into your pockets.

King Abdullah, do you realize how your decision about not letting women drive affects us who are trying to manage our lives in Saudi Arabia?

Why Manarat International for girls didn’t work for us

28 Sep

This year, after a 4 year period of homeschooling that our family started in fall of 2008, we had our 15 year old (M2) and 13 year old (and insha’Allah soon to be 14 – M3) enrolled in Manarat International for Girls Senior. The primary reason for doing this was that M3 was bored. She had been a little bored in Charlottesville as well but after coming to Saudi Arabia and realizing that all kids went to brick and mortar schools made M3 want nothing to do with another year of distance learning at home. Being tired of her continuous whining, I decided that M2 and M3 should both go to Manarat. Well, they both attended the school for one week, hated it and they are back to distance learning, mash’Allah. M3 wanted to try AISR which I am not a big fan of – yet.

First of all, AISR has raised their tuition to about SAR 73, 000 annually which is about USD 20,000 per year. Not bad for a private school in the USA but for a person living and earning in Saudi Arabia, it is a relatively higher tuition. Now my primary reservations with the school are not just related to the fee. I don’t like the facts that:

  1. The school doesn’t have a uniform
  2. The super-rich people go there. I don’t want my kids to feel privileged or arrogant.
  3. Boys and girls are together.
  4. I find the concept of going to a school in an abaya (because of the Saudi regulations of wearing it publicly) and then later on taking it off in the school (where there are still males present), a very bad lesson for girls. It’s like telling your daughters that you wear the abaya for the mutawwas (religious police) and not because you need to wear modest clothing.
  5. It’s far from our home.
  6. It’s expensive. Our family primarily moved to Saudi Arabia for Islam, to be close to our family in Pakistan and for money. No if we are spending all our extra income that we get in Saudi Arabia on high school education, it doesn’t make any sense.

So it’s not AISR for us – yet but perhaps later. M2 has enrolled in a private online school which costs about $7000 annually while M3 is taking distance learning courses from an online high school affiliated with an American university (a big trend these days for homeschoolers).

Why did the girls, especially M3, hate Manarat? Well first of all, it was the first week and there were no studies except a few classes. The teachers were okay but M3 didn’t like the students in her classes. She felt that they didn’t understand basic concepts of (for example) the Physics subject. I think the final straw was the fact the both M2 and M3 had studied 3-4 of the core subjects in their previous grade, mash’Allah. I didn’t like many of the girls – there is not a strong discipline in school and some girls defy basic codes of uniform such as not keeping their hair in a ponytail and not wearing their uniform shirts. I would rather the school does away with the strict requirements of a specific color shoe or hair style rather than keep that part of the handbook and then let the students defy it. I also realize that the Principal is not big on disciplining Saudi students – perhaps she and the other teachers are afraid. If it were me, I would have kicked the rude ones out of the school the first day.

So we are back to homeschooling with the exception of our 7 year old son. We are trying a dual strategy with him. His primary section is way better (mash’Allah) than the senior girls section. But we also let him stay for a few days at home (he suffers sometimes from cold or cough related to perhaps an allergy so we have an excuse for absence) so that I am able to teach him the Manarat books at home. Why I do that? Because I like homeschooling and I find that he is able to do more at home than in school, mash’Allah. We are struggling with Arabic whose teachers are the worst at Manarat. By studying at home, there is no getting up at 6am for the kids! They are more rested and their brains work better, mash’Allah!

Cows, Goats, Driving, Homeschooling and more….

11 May

I am going to talk about mundane things J I am insh’Allah awaiting my parents’ arrival tomorrow from Pakistan. I have hired a chef, mash’Allah. I have asked a lady from Thailand to come to my home every day for 2 hrs. and cook for me. She knows Chinese and Thai foods. I have been cooking for 20 years now; I want some relief and don’t want to cook any more. I hope insh’Allah that I like this lady. I am feeling quite overwhelmed with the prospect of cooking for a gastrectomy patient and serving healthy and calorie filled meals every day. I guess I have never really resumed what I used to do in my kitchen back in the USA over here. I think what I miss the most is getting the Halal cut by order meats. It seems strange to be sitting in Saudi Arabia and wondering how to get the best of meats over here but sadly that is the case. We haven’t been to the Pakistani part of Riyadh, Batha and Harra, yet with the most Halal shops so we haven’t discovered where to get the best meats yet. I had discovered this Syrian shop near my home and had advised a poster on my blog too about him. But the minced beef that I got from him is very smelly. When I cook it I put crazy amounts of garlic and ginger in it. Lately, I am feeding that beef to my social circle over here in Riyadh; the stray cats. I guess the mistake I made was not to let the Syrian butcher know that I wanted Pakistani cows and not the Arabian cows. Many people won’t know this but Pakistani raised cows and goats are preferred over here since their meat does not have the smell that the cows and goats raised over here would have. The reason is perhaps that these cows and goats are raised on pastures rather than the cattle over here which would be raised in a barn.

My husband has just landed in Jeddah and I am soooo happy mash’Allah to get my driver….errr…husband back. I felt in his absence as if I was marooned on an island. M1 has been mostly sleeping, still being in her jet lag and since M2 and M3 were away with my husband visiting USA, giving SOLs, I had the younger kids just to myself. I feel quite relieved that I would get some relief with TJ and M4 and also with getting out of the compound. I also met this British convert lady a few days ago. Her family just moved to our compound and they are homeschooling. I also talked to Samina (a subscriber/commenter) on my blog and she homeschools too. So it’s nice to meet some likeminded families. I like Manarat but then I don’t like Manarat because of the aggressive boys that come there so I have some motivation after meeting these people that I can go back to homeschooling TJ like I was doing before.

Shukur Alhumdulillah (Thanks to Allah)!

Quranic Verse of the Day

4 Apr

Today, we will discuss one of the very important verses of the Quran – verse 5:51 – a verse that has caused confusion about how Muslims need to interact with Christians and Jews. Now, I have to admit that this verse has personally baffled me for some time – not for a long time but at least for a while. If I could just have the liberty of interjecting my personal story in this commentary since that could help in the explanation of this verse. Now when my first set of children were growing up – the girls aged 19, 14 and 13 now – I was not particularly aware of the existence of this verse. My girls went to their Christian, Jewish or perhaps Hindu friends’ houses and they came to our home. We always did pay attention to the fact that the friends had to come from good families with good virtues but we didn’t really require our children’s friends to be Muslims. Now around 2007-2008, when we started having issues with our oldest  having problems following our instructions and when we did a small stint in Pakistan followed by homeschooling in the USA, I did become aware of this verse. My oldest daughter’s last friend was Christian-Jewish and was quite a well versed girl herself but our daughter wasn’t really blossoming in her relationship with this girl. We decided it was best for our kids to have Muslim friends from then on.

When my son TJ started public school, I encouraged him not to pursue friendships outside his class. We had then just moved into a neighborhood that had no Muslim family besides our own. Besides a Turkish friend from outside his school that would come to meet TJ once in a while and TJ would visit his home, TJ was not allowed to meet any non-Muslim friends. After a while, I figured that if I were to stay in this neighborhood and if I wanted my son to play soccer and lacrosse with the boys in his community – I couldn’t just make my boy act as a loner. I mean, if would have been nice to have Muslim boys in the community because then I wouldn’t have to ever worry about drinking, dating or segregation from the girls when the boys grew up or about this verse either but it didn’t seem happening in my neighborhood. So I consulted the wife of the Chairman of the board of directors at our mosque and I blogged about it here. This couple is originally from Egypt. It was actually an interesting evening that night since a Christian was visiting our mosque and here I was asking, in front of all mosque goers, the meaning of the verse 5:51. Could we take Jews and Christians as our friends since the verse told us not to? The people who have followed my blog for a while would remember Sister Al’s response. She basically said that non-native speakers of Arabic made a usual mistake when translating the word awoliya into English since they would translate it into “friends”. She said that the real Arabic word for a friend was siddiq. Awoliya, a plural for wali, meant an “advisor” or an “ally”.

So basically what God was telling us to do was not to form “alliances” with Jews and Christians or to consider them “mentors” but we were free to be friends with them. Famously, in Medinah during the Prophet’s (PBUH) time, Muslims had form a military alliance with Jews against Muslims. God forbade us to do so but we were free to cherish each other’s company and friendship provided these Jewish and Christian friends otherwise didn’t mock our religion or Prophet (PBUH) or were not forcing us out of the land we lived on.

After that discussion, I lifted the ban on TJ or my girls (and myself) to have friendships with people other than Muslims. In fact, right around that time a wonderful Christian family moved right next to us. They were homeschooling as well and had the same virtues of no drinking -no dating in their home and in fact were gracious enough to even seat men and women separately. I mean they were only left to recite the Shahadah since they were already Muslims at heart.

So that was my story. Please do read the link I provided and without further ado, here is the verse of the day, 5:51 and a few translations. I provided the few extra translations to just illustrate the point Sister Al made. Sahih International’s background is Arabic so they have translated the term awoliya into “allies” whereas Pickthall and Yusuf Ali, both non-native speakers of Arabic, translated it into “friends”.

Sister Al said an important thing when I had asked her that question. She said that if we didn’t form friendships with Jews and Christians how could we ever show them who we were and how could we ever invite them to Islam – an important view to consider here.


Sahih International

O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.


O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

Yusuf Ali

O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

Status of our homeschooling in Saudi Arabia

14 Dec

Homeschooling is an option that I feel very strongly about. Now after coming to Saudi Arabia, with options of various schools existing where Islamic Studies and Quran would also have been options, our family was looking at options other than homeschooling for our children. But it seems that homeschooling may continue to be the only option for us or until we also consider the foreign schools over here who do not insist on attested online school diplomas.

Okay so here is the update on our homeschooling status in Saudi Arabia. We were considering Manarat Al Riyadh for M3. M3 aced the placement exams with high 95+ %ges in Physics, Biology and Chemistry, mash’Allah. Then we had the problem of not having compound buses going to Manarat. We found a private driver. Then the school wanted us to attest the certificates from the American Embassy in Riyadh. After visiting the embassy, I found that they didn’t do attestation. I contacted Manarat. I was then told that I should have the online diplomas for M3 attested by the Saudi consulate in DC. After contacting them, we have found that the consulate does not attest diplomas from online American schools.

So here is the conclusion. If your child was attending an American online school (even if it is accredited) and if you moved to Saudi Arabia, they would not be able to attend a Saudi International school. They could perhaps attend the American school or the British school or the Multinational school but not any Saudi schools. I guess my kids would be happy but putting all three (M2, M3 and TJ) in American would cost us 30,000 dollars annually after FJ’s employer pays their tuition share. We also pay about $1500 every month towards M1’s room and board besides her travel and monthly expenses. Now 30k were the savings, in taxes, that I was looking at after moving to Saudi Arabia. I was hoping to pay that amount as extra house payments towards our mortgages, insh’Allah or save for our retirement or for kids’ colleges and marriages. I would still like to retain the possibility for the kids to visit my father in Pakistan so enrolling them in the American school robs us of our savings and our travel flexibility. TJ doesn’t have to go to American since he was attending a public elementary so his KG certificate could get attested plus at his grade level; they don’t want an attested copy. But we have to make the decision about TJ now since once he starts getting homeschooled this year, his possibility to go to any other Saudi school after this year is gone.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…we got to make, plenty. May Allah provide us with the best solution for our family, insh’Allah.

Our new neighbors and our new swimsuits

19 Jul

MashAllah things are going good for us. Although we are in a big limbo regarding what we are doing or where we will be in future, we have slowly started growing roots in our community. First of all, our new Christian neighbors invited us for dinner last night. We had invited them a couple of weeks ago along with some other new Muslim families. They were going to make chicken, turkey and beef for us but when they found out that we eat Halal they made all vegetarian entries. We had salad, roasted vegetables, fruit drinks, veggie stromboli and fruit. The neat thing was since our neighbors, M and R had seen the segregated gathering at our home; they made it segregated at their home as well. The funny part was since there were only two men R and FJ and then our TJ so basically “two and a half men” (according to FJ) ate in the kitchen and the girls sat in the dining room. It’s the first time we have come across a Christian family that have such Islamic values (which they call Christian values) for example the fact that they don’t believe in paying usury or that they follow the no dating before marriage rule for their daughter. Their daughter is also home schooled. I had always prayed to God that a good (and preferably Muslim) family moved into the home next door so perhaps this family is Muslim at heart. Its feels a little sad that when we are planning to depart, we came across this family.

We also debuted our swimsuits. Now originally I was looking for burkinis or some sort of an Islamic swimsuit. But after a discussion with a Muslim friend who has bought a couple of different swimsuits I realized that it would be better to have a one piece since the two pieces could separate or if there was extra space in the top piece it could fill up with water. So instead of buying a specific Islamic wear I bought a regular wetsuit that was loose in the crotch. Here is a picture. For the head we just use our regular two piece Al-Amira hijabs. Now the first day when we were going to go out in our suits, everybody was very nervous. It’s not fun to look different but the good thing is these suits don’t look too strange. They also look quite nice (MashAllah) for the price we paid for them (around $50). We wear a long T shirt over it when walking to the pool and take it off in the pool. We are the only family that is wearing full wetsuits in our community so yes we will be recognized and look different but in the end I have come to terms with the fact that we are different people and will appear different. People will get used to us and accept us InshAllah for who we are. In fact in Charlottesville, I know two other communities besides ours where I have Muslim friends that wear full cover ups in pool and are recognized as Muslim women because of that. I think although we are just trying to lead our lives and take our kids swimming, but in the end we are all ambassadors for Islam which feels good MashAllah. So this speech was not for self-boasting but for encouraging women to not be shy to project who they are.

Gathering at our home

2 Jul

We had a wonderful day today Mash’Allah. One of our expecting friends had their second girl a few weeks ago. Grandparents of the baby from both sides were in town. Also, recently a Muslim doctor family from Saudi Arabia moved here. We also have new next door neighbors that moved in a few weeks ago. This is a homeschooling family that has a daughter in the same age group as M2 and M3. So we had invited these families and a few other friends. It was interesting that we had representation from all Abrahamic religions.

I cooked some and our friends brought some. So we had philly cheese steak sandwiches, chaat (spicy chick peas), ciabatta bread in olive oil, karri (spicy gram flour patties in yogurt), Greek crackers with anise, banana nut muffins, black cardamom flavored tea with milk, strawberry lemon water, spicy potato wedges and tiramisu.

We discussed life of women, polygamy, allergies and use of organic stuff to counter that, and much more.

It was a fun day.

May 21, 2011, Strawberry Picking and more!

23 May

It was a busy weekend. First of all we invited a family that is new to Charlottesville and had come for a house hunting tour. Their son and daughter both go to an Islamic school now in the other state they live in. There is no Islamic school in C’ville although there are a lot of Muslim families. A year ago we had sent a questionnaire asking people about who would be interested in an Islamic school. Only three families had said yes (including us). Sadly, there is a thinking pattern that is common among many Muslim families that academics takes priority over anything else and for them Islamic school would lack the academics. For many people the eye opener is the time when the kids are in high school when they realize that morals of the child are perhaps equally important if not more than the academics. Their children may have taken all the AP courses that they could and could have scored a 4 or 5 in it but if they are not good people the APs were perhaps not worth it. Anyway, so this family has to decide if their kids are going to public schools or private schools. Albemarle County is a good county to live in as far as public schools are concerned. Not to miss, C’ville also has a lot of good private schools to boast of. At the same time a lot of families in Albemarle and C’ville homeschool. So everything goes.

Another highlight of our weekend was that TJ has started reading the Quran. He started with the 114th surah, Surah Naas.

Now sometime yesterday we remembered it was May 21, 2011. There were supposed to be earthquakes starting at 6pm. I had called a cousin of my mom in the morning whose husband is currently going through a renal and hepatic failure. For this family, the end of the world does not depend upon May 21, perhaps it’s happening for them as he dies. Later on our realtor visited us for discussing our rental and selling our home options. His brother-in-law’s pelvis is fractured and our realtor is currently going through financial issues with the sales of the houses down and with the added responsibility of his brother in law. We asked our realtor to make it safely back home before 6pm :)

So today there was a moment of clarity for me. I have gotten an offer for a faculty position in school in Pakistan. I am still trying to see if they will give me housing so that I could go before FJ. FJ spoke with one of his internal medicine friends who said that Abbu’s prognosis is about 6 months to one year. It just makes everything more urgent for me. So we have decided for now that we should rent our home, InshAllah. I would have wished that I could sell it to get rid of the interest. But it’s a long process. We had although acquired this home through Islamic financing but soon after buying the home they sold our loan to Bank of America. Even if it had stayed with the Islamic bank, it would still have been interest. They just word it differently, call it “profit” instead of “interest”.

Today we headed out for strawberry picking. FJ had been insisting for quite a while but we never got the chance. We took some tuna subs from Subway, had a picnic, ate some strawberries and brought some home. Here are some pictures.


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