Helping to Unleash.




That’s what I see whenever I look at my 12yr old daughter.

Now, it’s not that she is not a moody and grumpy child (just like her mum), nor am I saying she can’t be lazy or even naughty; what I am saying is that she is a child like every other child out there, fighting the hormones, learning subjects she is probably not going to use in her future career (maybe except the basic – Maths, English & Science), making and loosing friends, learning how to behave in public, etc. I could go on and on and bore you to death.

And like every other child, she has something else deep within her soul begging to come out, burst, explode – it’s what I call a POTENTIAL.

First, let’s understand what the term means, I have chosen three definitions from the world wide web:

1. Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future. (when used as an adjective)

This is when we say – “Aliyah is a potential chef” (i.e. we mean Aliyah loves cooking and cooks extraordinarily well for her age.)

2. Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness. (as a noun)

This is when we say – “Aliyah is a young interior designer with great potential.” (i.e. we mean Aliyah has actually done something related to interior design, either as a course studied or a hobby, and she produced wonderful works of design.)

3. The quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field or of charge in an electric field. (when used as a noun in physics)

In this case, I will draw similitudes –

a) Quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field =

Quantity (excellence of finished product)

determining the energy of mass/charge (talent)

in a gravitational field/an electric field (field of work/study/hobby).

All three definition have two things in common – having an ability and driving that ability!

The beautiful thing about potentials is that every child was born with it, you don’t learn it but you learn to develop it. No matter the physical or learning challenge an individual has, it doesn’t stop a potential from developing if the right environment is created for development.

Switching back to me:

Back in the days, the rule of thumb was that you had to be either of four main careers when you grew up: Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer or Architect (A typical Nigerian home), or else why are your parents wasting money to send you to school?

Now it’s different because the products of that generation (maybe due to global economics or just plain frustration) have decided to think differently.

My daughter has a very creative streak, I know because she got it from me. She loves to sit in her spare time and make things, from necklaces, to bracelets, to purses, to cases, baskets, e.t.c. from different materials. She converted an old biscuit tin into a craft case. She takes her time to combine shapes and colours such that you are amazed at the results. The other day, she asked me for an orange and I told her to go take one. I noticed it took her quite a while to finish that particular orange but I didn’t press her as to why. Later, I was looking through my phone and I saw a picture of my daughter’s orange (below) – she called it her flower.

As a teacher, I had to go into reflection mode and I know that the best thing to do will be to help her bring out her creativity and take it to another level. Yes, she must finish her secondary and tertiary education in a certain field but if she decides she wants to let her creativity determine her career, I would probably encourage her to sign up for a Design, Business Administrative, Management, or even Marketing. She is currently a science student but that doesn’t mean she can’t use that in whatever designs she wants to create in the future.

Here is another work from her younger days:

As a child (and till now), I loved to draw and drew better pictures than my mates. I also loved to make things from paper but I just never had the right environment or encouragement to develop it so I sort of just pushed it aside and use it once in a while when I am doing the mother-children craft activity with my children.

If parents can just take 5-10mins a day to actually observe their child, take cues from their teachers and try to pinpoint what actually takes up the concentration of their child in a constructive manner, they will indeed be doing a great service to that child. Try to discover the talent in your child and channel your energy into helping him or her to use that talent positively and constructively. It doesn’t have to be a physical activity, it could be that your child is a potential orator or writer. And at the end of it all, your child will truly love you for being a true parent.

Here are some quotes I love that you can show your child:

potential 4




Having said that, though I am planning on taking my 12yr old to a 4 day craft course this holiday, I still haven’t gotten round to pinpointing the talents in her three younger siblings -10, 7, and 4yrs old. I hope I can find their own hidden talent as easily as it was for their elder sister.


Pubertal Vs Sex Education…..Whose Role is it?


girly stuff

Girly Talk-time……As a mother of 3 out of four being girls, I always knew the time would come when my babies’ hormones would go into over-drive at that all powerful and sensitive stage of life called PUBERTY. Being a female myself, I had gone through it – (well…I’d give myself an ‘A’ with some bumps here and there) – and I knew the many pressures, pleasures and pains one could go through. So I sort of dreaded when my first girl would reach it.

In my time (the early 90’s), the world was still sane and good to a very large extent. We didn’t have everything blatantly thrown at us, though some of my mates did do a lot of stuff and actually went overboard. We had culture, morals and values imbibed in us by our dear parents, no matter how busy they were. And majority of us didn’t develop as fast as the kids of now, breast buds usually didn’t appear until we were about 12 – I said majority! These are truly fast food children!

I remember secondary school days, we were taught to remember our African origins – i.e. the house we were coming from and not to spoil the family name. Boarding house was safe and trusted to a large extent. Now everybody I ask says they can’t even think about sending their children to boarding school. Teenage girls getting pregnant before marriage was a taboo, and even when it did happen, it was guarded with a lot of secrecy so others won’t hear about it.

So I guess you have an idea about how paranoid I am considering what the world has turned into – yet I believe – strongly believe that all hope is not lost.

So there I was wondering if it’s time to call my then 10 now 11yr old lady, and thinking of how I would start the topic with her. You see….my dilemma is not that I can’t or I don’t believe she should start having pubertal education (I hate to use the common term – sex education), it’s much deeper than that.

You see….my children don’t have free access to a lot of things. Let me explain.

I removed my children from mainstream education to private/homeschool sort of education quite early (when my 1st child was about 8yrs). I wanted them to strive not only to be doctors, architects, engineers, etc; I also wanted them to be ethically, morally, psychologically sound doctors, architects, engineers, etc. I wanted them to think about decisions from both a secular and spiritual angle before acting. I was also worried about some of the things my daughter had been exposed to via ‘friends’ whose parents were just too busy to be there for them. Doing this gave me a leverage – I could control the type of people, she and her siblings were exposed too, took TV out of the equation except what was DVD approved by me, only bought them appropriate novels and games that had been tested by me, mobile phones were certainly not in the picture….if I had to leave them for long, I had an old fashioned mobile phone without internet access and just a few numbers stored on it, to leave in case of emergency. Internet use for school projects was under my supervision – that way, i could assist from the word go.. I had already quit my job so I was, most of the time, with them. We always did everything together – fun, trips, school, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being over-protective,  they still leave the house to go to their structured school, and they still have the right degree of freedom – think of it from either the Montessori or religious view – FREEDOM WITHIN LIMITS!

Then my thoughts go to ‘sex education’ as taught by both private and public institutions. I am of the view that what is being taught is a CORRECTIVE angle of sex education, as opposed to a PREVENTIVE angle. Put aside the ‘be safe, use a condom*:-O surprise advice, it’s not African neither is it religious-wise and so not an option!

Yes, the poor girls that have been exposed to the brutal life of sexual abuse is sad, and they need all the physical, emotional and psychological support they can get. The main method set up for them is good and usually helps them get over the incident. It’s aimed at counselling and assisting those that have been exposed to different degrees of abuse or injustice.

But it doesn’t  mean that the ‘small’ percentage of girls that have had no exposure whatsoever to indecent materials, haven’t looked at what they are not supposed to, or been in contact with people who might otherwise cause them harm should be allowed to use materials that might, otherwise, cause an interest in sexual activities. The little part of the ‘sex education’ package that aims to teach kids about what to look out for is too vivid for the mental ages of the children, and can actually make them want to explore instead of curbing it. My sister-inlaw in the US told me it’s actually an optional thing for parents in her children’s school, and though she didn’t opt for it, parent who did regretted their decisions.

There are girls with parents who have time for them and who try their best not to be careless with issues regarding their children. I always wondered why my dad never allowed me to stay over at an uncle’s house for the holidays – afterall he is family! These girls also have the right to learn about what is going on with their bodies as they transform into young women. They have the right to learn about menstruation with its highs and lows. They have the right to learn how to take care of the bodies and keep it beautiful for their future husbands. They need to know that menstruation and pregnancy is not a curse but a blessing. These must be taught over a period of time, not at once; only when the time is right. Girls are better than pearls and diamonds, so they must see themselves as being so.

The first person with the right to this Pubertal Education is the mother, if she is not available, the nearest female kin to the child is next.

If there are no females  available (just saying), the best option would be a morally upright and preferably religious oriented female in form of the girl child’s female teacher in normal school or religious school – trusted and approved by the family of the girl child. She would know the mental age of the child and work with that to the best of her ability. Why I hamper on religiosity is because I believe they would not be as blatant and vivid as the government institution that have been given a curriculum by a set of ‘expert’ Drs and Profs who spend more time in their offices than not.

There must also be a level of privacy. The genders should be separated when discussing sensitive issues, we don’t want to have the boys smirking or making faces as you talk about the female reproductive system and how menstruation occurs, while the girls are trying to keep a straight face. If you are catering for girls whose mothers don’t have time, I suggest taking a maximum of 5 girls at a time so that they can be straight forward with you, and ask you questions from their hearts. Be careful though, it’s not all the questions they ask that should be given answers when the timing is not right.

I also think the boys should not be left out, the father or closest male kin takes the job of talking about what is happening with their own bodies too, yes – they don’t menstruate but they also have hormones dramatically doing highs and lows, and if they aren’t guided and aided, they might just rebel.

So here is what I did: 

I volunteered to take my daughter and her classmates (as part of their home economics class – the textbook was not to my liking) in pubertal education. I prepared a powerpoint presentation, thanks to a sister (Hena Zuberi) who also wrote about the issue on her blog, and also published here. I did further elimination, addition and substitution to both her article and her handouts, and we spent about 3 weeks, 1hr a week to talk about puberty – mainly from the religious view point. It’s an experience I would keep volunteering for as long as there are girls out there to give that caring shoulder and listening ear.

If you are a muslimah looking for tips on this topic, just post your email in the comments box below, I’ll send you an email link for my online ‘How to teach your adolescent daughter Pubertal education – the Islamic way‘ class free (class will, in sha, Allaah, come up in March) and you get a handout to give her. You would need a WizIQ account, get one here.

Umm Maryam is a mother of four, a teacher, and homeschooler who resides in Nigeria.

The big taboo with the present generation is…….. STUDYING?!?!



I look at my 11, 9, 6 and 3yr olds…….I am perplexed!

Ok, forget the 3 and 6yr olds! I think about the elder two…..sigh….big sigh….

I then go back in time to my days at secondary school. From Junior Secondary, though I was an average student, I always tried to carry my books 2weeks before end of term exams so that I could (at least) make the pass mark for a subject. I’d think about the daily prep periods  (night reading periods for boarding student), the physical library (a building in the school with cataloged cards for those willing to search for an old classic), the times – spent building up a friendship just by having someone who knew a topic better than you – learning from her, and so on. I go through this cycle every time I tell my kids to carry their books and study.

It seems I am not the only one affected by this though. I have asked quite a number of friends and I get the same response – sighs!!!

A sister of mine told me, “if IB should miss a class of school due to illness, there’s trouble!” She would need to get extra help to make him learn the topic because he just doesn’t read. And when you ask – he’ll tell you that he knows the topic. infact, it wasn’t too long ago that an educational organisation did a seminar on how to get the current kids to start reading to study.

So where did we go wrong? Our parents didn’t need too much effort to get us to read or study. Or do we blame the internet? Afterall, it gives you the answers to most (not all) things at the touch of a button. Or is it some sort of metamorphosis in the genetic make up of the kids? Is it the depletion of the ozone layer? Are we feeding them too much GMO foods? …..big sigh!

As a teacher I know that actively reading not only benefits the intellect, it also exercises and develops the brain. This is why my generation (1970s-1980s) can think, put things into action, and develop new ideas from old ones. We never get bogged down, we forge ahead because we are active. I would devour a book once I got started because I had a reading culture.

It seems technology has erased anything related to developing a reading culture with the old fashioned, handheld, physical book. Any advice from anyone?


What’s your say on this?