Beginning in September, we were bracing ourselves for a brand new year of school and basically the girls’ first experience of attending a semi-normal school experience. The last year (2020-2021 school year) had been all remote until April, when the girls actually did begin going in person [for the first time ever.] That lasted two and a half months and then it was summer break.
We were very excited for regular school days, not the minimum schedule days anymore which was a shorter day. We also made the decision to send the girls on the school bus, which was a big decision. We decided that if cases shot up or there was any reason that the school bus wouldn’t be safe, we would pause on sending them.
Hijab at School
My girls are not 9 years old yet, but we made the decision to begin hijab earlier than 9 years. Many wouldn’t agree with our making the decision for them so early on (I was very skeptical myself), but it sort of happened naturally. At the beginning of September 2020, Ridha was starting Kindergarten virtually at home, so we asked her to wear the hijab since she was at home. As with many things, Rabab wanted to do the same thing as her big sister. We did ask both of them and explained our reasoning, and both agreed to try.
It was easy for them to wear it in the comfort of their own home, they could take it off whenever they had small breaks throughout the day. There was no challenging movement, no heat to make them sweaty, no masks to wear alongside the hijab. So for seven months straight, the girls did just fine with their hijabs on, and their classmates were introduced with them already wearing it- which was a big reason we wanted them to start, there would be no abrupt or awkward transition to hijab when they turned 9. Just to be clear, the girls do not wear it out in public with us, it is limited to school for now as a way to ease that transition with their school friends.
Being at home was one thing, but beginning school everyday with a hijab AND a mask was not something I ever thought of. And just like anything else, we tried it and it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I’m not saying it was easy either, but we are doing it. The girls do struggle, especially when it’s too hot, or when they have to readjust their mask from inside the scarf, or just being the only child wearing hijab in the classroom. But I’m happy that their school is extremely inclusive and encouraging. And the girls have just been troopers and embraced it many ways.
We had done some things to make it easier for the girls. For example at the start of their school year (in 2020) we had e-mailed both the girls’ teachers, just informing them that the girls would be wearing the hijab. And both responded with encouragement and joy. I also did a virtual “visit” to Ridha’s Kindergarten class in Ramadan to read a story and talk a little bit about Ramadan. We tried to stay involved with the school in whatever way possible, and of course not holding the girls back in participating in school events like Spirit week or Dress-up day in October.
Our hope for them is that they embrace Hijab early on, and don’t struggle with it later. But one fear is of course keeping it on, which is something all of us have struggled with in our hijab journey. We will do our level best to help and support them in every way possible throughout their hijab journey and school journey.