Challenges and priorities

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, we have been able to do a little bit more academic subjects since my last post on our home-school journey. As I told previously, I have been so relaxed and reluctant to do anything formal/structured for the past 3-4 months with children. SubhanAllah, things change and home-education is no exception. So, what did change

Firstly, I think my attitude towards homeschooling changed. I used to get depressed at the thought of long breaks from formal home-school or breaking children’s routine from normal learning hours (usually around 10am-12pm in the mornings). I was always so adamant to get the planned workload done for that day on that same day. I would be so disappointed if children refused to do any of the subjects and try to convince them to do it. I think the quote from Charlotte Mason “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life”  summarises my attitude change.

I have been trying to do “more connecting and less correcting” with children but I still struggle to make peace with Safiyya at all times. And this is the reason why

She is constantly asking me questions, sometimes just to annoy me- or so it seems to me. She is still mischievous and always up to mission- or so we perceive her at home. For example, she cuts the table cloth to make something out of it, she finishes the whole tooth paste in 2-3 days by trying to wash her teeth ten times a day, she blocks the bathroom sink with bits of cardboard boxes, she finishes toilet roll paper in one go- she does all these over again after we have repeatedly told her not to do these. Is this normal for any 4 year old? I do not know.

She gets inspired to “conduct a project” somewhere in the house (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom etc) and goes ahead without even asking me permission weather she is allowed to do the things she does. Usually, when she has gone quite for sometime we go and check on her. She leaves trails behind her, one can always tell where she has been. I can not help but tell her off, shout, smack etc and then left feeling guilty. I know it is not good to embarrass a child in front of others and it is against sunnah to punish her in public. But, unfortunately, this is what often happens with Safiyya. I am afraid it might damage her creativity or leave some undesired marks on her personality….Make dua Allah gives me patience to deal with this and all parenting challenges. I would welcome any tips on how to deal with this…..

Apart from the usual “creativity” projects, Safiyya has been showing more interest in reading. MashaAllah, we have just read one of Dr. Seuss books at bed time and she read some 20 pages with a lot of enthusiasm. I just have to be more patient and correct less when she makes some phonetic mistakes. She does not like to be corrected much (just like Sumayya) and gets discouraged if I keep correcting every mispronounced word. Again, may Allah give me patience. She has also done some pages from MEP Year 1. She found the activities so easy, to my surprise. One of the activities was to find out all the options for writing number 3 as an addition. She wrote all the following : 2+1; 1+2; 3+0; 0+3. I was so so happy. She is doing basic addition and subtraction with numbers 0-5 using her fingers. I do maths on demand with her. whenever she suggests.

Sumayya, has been doing some English too. The other day, I asked her to pick a favourite book which was Cactus Annie by Melanie Willamson. She read it to me out loud after which I asked her to narrate the story to me. She found it a little difficult to narrate smoothly and I did quick Q&A to check on her reading comprehension. She answered all my questions correctly using the exact the same words and lines from the book. She has memorized much of the text with one reading lol. I asked her to write a summary of the story which she did perfectly for her age. The next day she read another book and I did dictation with her for her spelling. I dictated 2 pages from the book which she had to write without looking at the book. We just have to work on punctuation (and it was the first time I explained things like comma, full stop, exclamation mark etc)

I did try to revise some maths topics and activities from MEP Year 1. She found many of the problem-solving and mental maths activities so hard. I could not believe she would be able to forget this much in 3-4 months. So, instead of being patient, I kept telling her off for “not using her brain well enough” (phrase we use a lot in Uzbek, not suitable for children, I know) and she completely lost confidence to do any maths. Now, every time I suggest maths she is so reluctant and comes up with excuses. I have to be more patient, take more time to explain the mental maths activities without showing my anger.

The thing is, as you all can see, I know exactly what to do in THEORY. So, when I write a blog post, I know exactly what to do. And another thing is, it is so difficult to practise in REALITY. I guess this is one of the great challenges of home-schooling- you know you have to be patient but can not always BE IT.

Anyway, I reminded myself that academic achievements are not a priority for us at the moment. Alhamdulillah, they are still so much more ahead of their peers at school. I know it because I am teaching children of various ages who attend various different public schools where we live (so I can compare). Also, I always get feedback from teachers at RE and alhamdulillah comparing to children of the same age, both girls are so much ahead. I do not want them to be scholars, but rather socially integrated and morally responsible individuals who try to please God with every action. And how much maths, geography, science are needed to achieve this?

Based on my own philosophy of education, I continue to relax (lol) and focus more on character building and instilling Islamic values, most of the time through engaging conversations whilst cuddling in the sofa.

 

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Children and Languages

Bismillah,

We have often heard stories about multi-lingual children who can speak 3-4 or even more languages simultaneously and each very fluently.  I watched this video awhile ago and was so inspired. Indeed, the language faculty of any human being is made to learn any language naturally given the fact he/she is exposed to that language from young age. Children have capacity to learn as many languages as parents choose them to expose to. They do not have to make extra effort to learn a 2nd or 3rd language the way that many adults struggle to learn a foreign language. I have a friend who can speak, read and write in 5 different languages; she has mastered all five so successfully. I can think of many Uzbeks in the UK who are fluent in at least 3 languages- Uzbek, Russian and English.

Anyway, I really hope our children grow up as being multi-lingual. They learn Uzbek, English, Arabic and Russian. I just wanted to update briefly on our approach teaching each of these languages.

Uzbek is everyone’s first language at home. We have always had “No English” policy at home in the hope that they grow up bi-lingual (Uzbek/English) from childhood. Alhamdulillah, they are very fluent in Uzbek. Sumayya can read many Uzbek books we have got at home (these are in Latin script). And occasionally we do write passages in Uzbek. It is our main means of communication between all family members so naturally they can speak in Uzbek very expressively and at times eloquently. Hence Uzbek language uses the same Latin alphabet, they can read and write if we continue in this manner inshaAllah. I have not taught how to read in Uzbek but once they master the English alphabet they can easily read any Uzbek books as it is pretty straightforward (Uzbek is very straightforward phonetical language, unlike English). The only thing they find difficult to understand when reading Uzbek stories is the Vocabulary. Our children’s Uzbek vocabulary is limited to kind of spoken Uzbek and do not always understand the literary synonyms of many words used in books. This is partly due to 1) We do not have good collection of Uzbek story books that we can read often 2) We hardly every watch children’s TV programme or a cartoon in Uzbek. They are just not easily available.

English is everyone else’s first language outside our household. As we live in an English speaking country, they are exposed to the language the minute we leave the house. It is the main means of communication amongst our friends and social groups. So they pick up spoken English naturally. They have learned how to read and write and currently English is their main means of communication in writing. They try to write poems, stories, letters and little passages in English. They read a lot of books in English and watch educational cartoons, movies or documentaries made for children. I have no concerns at all for their English, even though they do not go to school. Most textbooks/workbooks/supplementary materials and worksheets I use in our homeschooling are made in English. So, they are taught both in English and Uzbek but carry out their written tasks in English.

Arabic– is taught language for them as it is not spoken around them. They attend Arabic classes and plus teaching at home using books and materials from the web. My husband reads to them stories in Arabic and they watch lots of children’s cartoons and TV programmes in Arabic. Currently we use 2 textbooks- Madinah Arabic Reader 1, Gateway to Arabic 1 and 2. I do not stick to textbooks only as I try to vary the number of activities we do. It is good to use variety of books/materials/resources as children can easily get bored with monotonous set of exercises and activities that keep repeating when using a single textbook. Here is the list of websites I get our resources from for our Arabic language classes

TJ Arabic Studies

Learning Arabic

Arabic comes first

Yemeni Links

Madina Arabic

Rahmah Muslim Homeschool

Soft Arabic

36 Arabic Stories for Kids

A Muslim Child is born

Current progress.

Sumayya finished the first 5 lessons from Madinah Arabic book 1 and 8 lessons from Gateway to Arabic Book 2. She can read and write. She does copywork for her handwriting and we do spelling test with most 3-4 letter Arabic words she has learned off by heart. I am not quite sure how many words she has learned in Arabic, could be as many as 200. She knows most words (nouns) based on the following topics/themes: Family; Body Parts; Colours; Shapes; Animals; Fruits; Vegetables; Household Items; and the last time I checked she was learning descriptive adjectives in her Arabic classes.

Safiyya has just started reading. She uses Gateway to Arabic Book 1 and she is currently on page 24-25. We also use the flashcards to help her reading. She loves them. She uses Arabic Handwriting Book 2 for her handwriting as she has finished Arabic Handwriting Book 1 twice. She has learned most vocab words the same as her sister: Body Parts; Shapes; Colours; Animals; Fruits and Vegetables but does not know as many words as her sister.

They both have Arabic classes daily Monday- Thursday, alhamdulillah.

Russian- is taught language, just like Arabic. But, we do not teach it as often or as much as Arabic. They are exposed to language in a sense 1)They watch cartoons in Russian 2) Read lots of Russian books for children- short stories, fables, longer chapter books etc. Alhamdulillah, we have a lot of Russian books to read

Although I have found local Russian school, I was always reluctant as it runs on Saturdays. Saturday is mainly family day/socializing day for us. We have always got something planned for most Saturdays. If we are not going out then most likely we have visitors that day. Also, we go to the library on Saturday mornings where kids join in the story time followed by arts/crafts session. So, they have never been able to go to Russian school in Bradford.

I ordered some Russian teaching materials and books for beginners last year from Uzbekistan. We have started using them recently with Sumayya. Alhamdulillah, she has learned the Russian Alphabet very easily and has just started reading simple words (not books yet)

Russian Handwriting Book

Inside

We are using Azbuka and Bukvar to help Sumayya read and build on vocabulary.

Azbuka flashcards that she can read now and learn the words on them.

That is it for now. I hope to teach Russian more regularly in the future and Arabic more constructively inshaAllah.

How to instill the love of Allah….

Bismillah,

In our second Islamic Parenting course that took place on Friday the 25th of January 2013 we discussed and learned more about “How to instill the love of Allah in children”

We have first started discussing this question in pairs. Alhamdulillah, most of our moms gave the same response as the counselors on the website and suggested what steps should be taken to prevent this from happening. But, ultimately, everything happens according to the will of Allah swt, and this could be a means of test for those parents. May Allah keep all our children on the straight path always, amin.

So, how to instill the love of Allah? First, as with everything else, by example. The love of Allah is one of the basic requirements of being a Muslim. As parents, we must instil a healthy dose of Love and Fear of Allah in our children. In order to do that, we must first have that dose of Love and Fear in ourselves so children can observe and imitate us.

Allah has made His love obligatory on the believers. To attain the love of Allah, we have to do the things that pleases Him and stay away from things that He forbid for believers in the Qur’an. As the scholars have stated if we don’t strive to achieve His pleasure then most likely we will be following our desires and temptations for temporary life. And Allah said in the Qur’an “That is because they followed that which angered Allah, and hated that which pleased Him. So He made their deeds fruitless” (Surah Muhammad: 28)

Once we say we love Allah, then we have to back the statement up with our actions. What do we have to do to love Allah? Again, Allah gave the answer in the Qur’an “Say, (Oh Muhammad saw to the mankind) If you really love Allah then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Surah Al-Imran: 31). So, the first thing we have to do in order to instill the love of Allah in our children is to accept Islamic Tawheed with our heart, and follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah in our everyday life with our actions.  Children will learn most things by example and imitation.

If we look at child development in age-range, from birth-6 years old, most children absorb what they see and hear. Copying and imitation is their way of learning. So, we have to give them great things to imitate by setting the example ourselves. With children of this age group, we have to emphasize the understanding of Aqeeda, Tawheed, one’s purpose of life and memorize as much Qur’an as possible by active listening.

And to show and prove that we-adults of the household- love Allah, we have to follow the prophet Muhammad saw in our everyday actions as prescribed in the Qur’an. Simple things like always sitting down to drink, saying Bismillah before eating, entering the house with the right foot, entering the bathroom with the left foot, always saying the daily adiyah (duas like when entering/leaving house) will give them initial training as children will be establishing habits during these early days. In other words

They will also find memorizing verses from the Qur’an and other Learn By Heart tasks so easy at this age as their brain does not make extra effort at those. They just absorb what they hear and listen, whatever the language the piece might be. So, it is best to listen to the Qur’an around the household, when travelling in car etc by using every possible technology we have at hand (Alhamdulillah, most of us can use IQur’an apps on our smart phones, Ipads, Tablets, digital Qur’an players, laptop/PC etc. Just make use of anything at hand for the hifdh of Qur’an. Remember, we do not have to do anything else except just getting our children listen to Qur’an by playing it in the background at all times/sometimes)

In addition we have to start explaining the reason behind our actions. For example, “I want to pray on time because this is what makes Allah happy”, “Let us say Ghufranak now because the prophet saw always said this when leaving bathroom. We have to follow the prophet saw if we want to go to Jannah” etc.

From age 7 years onward, we have to start somewhat more formal training of our children. We have to ask them to start praying with us, making wudu, be more strict and regular with their everyday manners through habit-training. For example, everyday eating habits would include- sitting down to eat, eat with the right hand, eat from your own side of plate, wait patiently for the elders take the 1st serving, eat slowly by chewing properly, say alhamdulillah on finishing etc; Everyday dressing habits would include generally start dressing modestly, covering awrah, wearing hijab every now and then for the girls etc;

Boys should start attending masjid at this age and boys and girls should start praying salah at least once a day. Also, most scholars have taken the understanding that age 7 is kind of turning point in child’s training from the hadith of the prophet saw “Teach your children to pray when they are seven years old, and smack them (lightly) if they do not pray when they are 10 years old, and separate them in their beds.”

As we do not believe in the notion of “Teenagers/Adolescents”, we have to start giving our children responsibilities around the household and start treating them with respect and maturity they deserve. Our aim is to raise morally responsible and integrated individuals who can truly understand that one’s purpose in life is to seek the pleasure of Allah swt for the attainment of Jannah in the HereAfter. Our children have to fully understand that upon hitting puberty they become Young Adults rather thanTeenagers.

We know that Qur’an states ” (Remember!) that the two receivers (recording angels) receive (each human being after he or she has attained the age of puberty), one sitting on the right and one on the left (to note his or her actions).  Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it).” (Qaf: 17-18)

According to statistics, most girls will begin puberty at 8-14 years of age, with the average age being 11. And most boys start reaching puberty at 10-15. In today’s society, in the case of both genders most would have definitely reached puberty by 15 years of age.

So, 8-14 years of age is crucial point in our children’s lives and in our parenting style. We have to do lots of talking and ‘connecting’, doing things together in and out of household, let them explore and understand the world with our guidance. We have to stop treating them like a child, but rather start consulting with their opinions when deciding on important household/financial/other matters.

Today, a lot of girls and boys of that age group want to be ‘independent’ and yet depend on their parents in so many ways. I have seen girls as old as 15-16 years old (from a very respectable Muslim families) who can not even make a cup of tea for themselves. Mother still does all their laundry and ironing not to mention cooking and cleaning for the whole family. All because the girls are studying and have exams. I do not mind them being excused on the day of exams, and few days before to get ready for it. But, asking the mother to do absolutely everything and anything for them is not accepted in my terms. Several occasions I have asked the girls Why? questions and was answered that they do not know how to use the washing machine, the iron, the microwave etc.

On the other hand, Alhamdulillah, I have also come to know families in which girls as young as 12 has been given the task of cooking for the family once a week and boys as young as 8 being responsible for household tidiness on certain days of the week. MashAllah, these ‘teenagers’ have so much more to do than just studying and on such friendly terms with their parents due to participating in full family life.

In conclusion, we should not be scared of giving our children responsibilities between the ages of 8-14. We expect them to conduct themselves like an adult and start feeling accountability for their actions as soon as they reach puberty. In order to achieve this, we have to respect them, treat with maturity and give them tasks and responsibilities regarding all aspects of our family life/their own life.

Anyway, I will finish have to finish off with this video of the sheikh. Food for thought inshaAllah