Living in the moment…

 

Bismillah,

I have meant to share some of my thoughts re new school year/planning and it was meant to be today, alhamdulillah. At sister’s circle on last Sunday we were discussing and sharing one thing that we learned from this Ramadan. For myself it was LIVING IN THE MOMENT. SubhanAllah, what does it actually mean, living in the moment?

Firstly, for me it meant grabbing every little opportunity that presented itself and increase my good deeds. I have often admired sisters who completed the Qur’an so-and-so many times in Ramadan or who have been able to do x-and-z much nafl prayers. Perphaps, I have not been able to do much but in our daily lives opportunities for little deeds always present itself to all of us and it is how we interact with those opportunities that really matters. So, I have learnt to consistently do those “little things” for the sake of Allah alone. I am trying to kill my expectations of people and expect nothing in return for those little things that Allah has enabled me to do. Yesterday has passed. I should not wish to have done things differently. Tomorrow is future, I should not spend long hours planning as Allah alone knows what actually happens tomorrow. But, what am I doing today? Right now? Am I using all the resources/means at hand to reap the reward in the HereAfter? What is stopping me reading Qur’an right now? Prioritize everything in our daily life and do everything with the right intention so we can turn them all into ibadah inshaAllah.

Secondly, living in the moment have also meant being able to say YES as often as I can to my kids. When they ask me to read them a book, even in the middle of my busiest day, I have been able to sit down and read to them. When they want to do some baking, help me with cooking or painting with acorns- I have been able to ask myself “Right, what is stopping me from saying YES. Is it something really important or my own laziness?” When they want to get changed and have all sorts of dress-up games at bed times just to prolong their bedtime- I just let them. Why to rush them, why to have rigid rules, why to be in bed exactly by same hour every night? Why not take each night as it comes and do those spontaneous fun things and increase our bonding? Especially since they have no school in the mornings. I am so grateful they do not go to school. I just find the whole idea of being out of house by certain hour in the mornings and doing the school-run is so stressful. There might come a time where I need to put the kids into school, wallahu Alam. Allah knows best how long we will be able to home-school but until that moment arrives why not just relax cosy evenings with plenty of reading, talking and discussions. So, they have no set bed time these days, it differs from day to day and we have been able to do so many extra-curricular fun things together.

Yesterday morning I asked Sumayya to do some copywork. She did half and said she would do the rest later. She wanted to do some spelling on Scribble (board game). I said ok, I knew she would do it later or I can remind her. But, if I was still previous ME and not “living in the moment” kind of mom, I would have demanded she finishes one thing before she moves on to the other. Even if she badly wants to play that Scribble game at that moment. And later that afternoon, not only she finished her copywork, she also did so much more writing than required because she wanted to.

The same thing happened when we sat down to do hifdh. I usually ask her to recite 5 of the longer surahs from Juzz Amma for review and move on to practise new surah. She read surah Tariq, A’la and Ghashiya (3 in total) and decided to review more later. Again, previous ME would have started lecturing her on the spot, reminding the rewards in HereAfter or even bribing her with sweets and things to finish all 5 surahs for review and practise new surah to memorize there and then. But instead I said “As you wish but you HAVE to do more hifdh later”. She was much happy and said “Please remind me if I forget it, mommy. If I forget I might become a liar”. I was happy she said it and later she recited more than 5 surahs to review.

So, I learnt that we should let children take the lead. They do not have to learn in the same order of subjects as we arrange them. We seem to have taken relaxed and flexible way of teaching and doing things and I feel children are taking the lead and been able to learn so much more on their own initiative. They are literally teaching themselves so many things, alhamdulillah. I have taken the back seat and provide materials and resources for their ideas/projects but mainly they come up with some kind of idea and they implement it with whatever resources I provide them with.

Living in the moment also meant to say NO to life’s distractions and strive for frugality and simplicity in our lives. I try not to use my phone, laptop, FB in their presence. How often have we said NO to our children just because we were sat in front of our laptops? Just because we were reading some news? Just because we were reading what people were up to on FB? Or we prolong some other important issues (like salah) and we procrastinate by surfing the net? I try not to be seen using the laptop in front of children for I fear kids copy this behaviour and grow up thinking all important talk/conversation takes place virtually and you can ignore the person sitting in front of you? (I have literally experienced this with some gatherings at university where most sisters pull out their phones out of pockets and would be busy socializing on FB whereas the room is full of with real human-beings, subhanAllah. I mean quite literally, maybe I have done that same thing somewhere….maybe. May Allah rectify our shortcomings)

We are studying 4-5 subjects each day. I plan and arrange worksheets/books/other materials the day before. We do a lot of spontaneous activities too when they come up with ideas and suggestions. I do not push to finish whatever I had planned and if we miss out on 1-2 of the planned subjects- that is fine too. We always have the next day inshaAllah. I would like to grasp the moment and do the things they really want to do. The order of subjects vary daily. We do numeracy (maths) and literacy (reading/writing/spelling etc) daily. We do Arabic, Geography, Science every other day. We are doing a lot more practical, hands-on activities like making things together, painting, experimenting etc. The whole teaching hours last around 2-2.5 hours and usually take place between 11am-2pm in the mornings.They are still under the age of 7 and I have come to believe too young for rigid scheduled learning. Ever since I adopted this kind of approach I can see how much more interest they are showing to learn. I think they develop the joy of learning more when I let them be creative and learn through projects they suggest. And, honestly, I have experienced they are getting more creative.

 

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Ramadan activities…

Bismillah,

This is my belated post on how we did the Ramadan activity packs from wonderful sister Umm Maimoonah and Smart Ark. MashaAllah, there was such nice variety of activities, fiqh, maths, reading and writing- all nicely integrated into this workbooks. May Allah accept these as sadaqa jaariya from sisters amin.

In general terms, we talked a lot about increasing our good deeds in Ramadan. We have discussed what small children can do to earn rewards in this blessed month with this small book and used the Good Deeds Tree from the pack.

 

 

 

 

We did the maths activity and answered all the questions inside.

 

 

 

We learned about why we fast -the ayah from the Qur’an- and talked about who are the Muttaqun. We learned the fiqh of fasting- what is allowed and what is not allowed whilst fasting etc…

 

We learned the hadith on breaking the fast, learned so many things about dates and did the colouring pages inside activity packs. We have also made the cute gift boxes, put odd number of dates inside and gave out to neighbours. (no picture of boxes unfortunately). MashaAllah, Safiyya’s colouring is getting so neat…

 

 

 

 

 

Sumayya described the pictures and wrote a sentence about each completely on her own. She did her journal 100% on her own too- didn’t ask me any spelling questions mashaAllah. Sometimes I just can’t believe how good she is at spelling and constructing sentences etc without me teaching anything about grammar or spelling. One thing is sure- She absolutely LOVES books mashaAllah. So, this is what she wrote …

 

He is reading the Qur’an. She is having suhoor. He is praying salah. She is giving zakat. He is having an Eid party.

 

 

I said to her write the things you liked doing in Ramadan in your journal and she wrote “I like being kind to Ibrohim. Playing with Safiyya. Being kind to guests. Helping mummy for food. Fasting with daddy. Making dady a present. Playing nicely with Inaya. Going to iftaar when someone invites me. Giving a Eid present for friends. Feeding Ibrohim with some food. Sharing toys”

I took them to the library on Thursday and checked out 27 books. We came home around 7 pm and straight after she started reading and read till bedtime, which is around 9pm. The next morning she woke up and came straight downstairs and started reading without breakfast. She doesnt like to be disturbed when reading. Me and grandma were asking questions to test and see if we could distract her, asked her to have some breakfast first. She refused and read all 27 books till 11 am and then came up to me and said “I was not really reading. I was only looking at letters and watching the letters making words together. But those were so interesting stories, mommy. Have you read them all?” lol. MashaAllah, we continue focusing on Islamic studies and Qur’an for next year and inshaAllah hope she can do self-teaching all the other subjects with the love of reading.

I took out some Dr. Seuss books for Safiyya and mashaAllah she could almost finish reading one whole book by herself. She could read the entire book if she focuses but she is often distracted and seems to me not as much interested. She keeps looking at pictures and assumes the entire plot and tells me the story- her own version of story. I say to her, “why dont you read, Safiyya, you can read now. You are a big girl” and she reads one page and says to me “Now give me a sweet mommy I read a book to you” lol. InshaAllah, going to preschool 3 hours a day will help her to make some friends and gain some interest in academic skills…

Ibrahim is so much into books. He reads day and night, like his older sister. He always brings books to me, to grandma, to dad and looks through the pages pointing at pictures very clearly and talking away in his language. He gets all his messages across with hand motions- he is so good at explaining things with gesture and all sorts of sounds he makes. Generally speaking we find him very communicative and social. When we have big gatherings in our house, he goes and sits in someone lap and starts talking to them, always with a smile. MashaAllah. I just have to make a little bit of effort to do more with him inshaAllah.

 

Ramadan Mubarak!!!

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, all praise is indeed due to Allah swt that we reached another Ramadan. May Allah give us all tawfiq to make the most out of this blessed month, spend as much time in ibadah as possible, strengthen our imaan and stock lots of good deeds for the Akhirah inshaAllah. I hope and pray we will be able to reach our potential as Muslims in this month and spend it productively.

I feel and hope this Ramadan will be different, that we will be able to do more during this Ramadan inshaAllah. I was fasting this week and this to make up my missed fasts, so physically and spiritually feel more ready for Ramadan, alhamdulillah. I have also been able to make some study plans for myself, am planning to keep on hosting the study circle on tazkiya on Sundays as well as running the Ramadan camp on Saturdays inshaAllah.

Kids are so excited as well. We have been talking more about the virtues of the month of Ramadan with children, reading some books on Ramadan and discussing what children can do in this month. Sumayya wants to fast with us inshaAllah. We dont want to discourage her so we will let her fast as long as she can keep it. But with fasting lasting 20 hours, I am not so sure if she can fast that long. Even if she can fast till asr time (which is around 7pm in the UK), it would be good enough practise for her.

I and kids are so excited about the Ramadan camp. We have prepared lots of fun stuff with plenty of games and hands on activities. I would like to thank sisters over at Talibedeen jr, Raising Muslims, Islamic Bulletin Boards and Umm Abdul Basir for providing lots of engaging activities on Ramadan and Fasting on their blogs. MashaAllah, may Allah accept your efforts as sadaqa jaariya amin.

Today we made some decorations on Ramadan. We painted a “Ramadan Mubarak” banner, made a crescent moon that marks the beginning of new month in Islamic Calendar and a star as a companion to our moon to hang in our classroom. They practised their creativity and made lots of other things too, Alhamdulillah. Whilst they were working on their decorations, we discussed what Ramadan means to Muslims and why we love this month so much. They knew so much about Ramadan, alhamdulillah. We talked about how fasting is ordered in the Qur’an and how it is good for a believer, it makes us patient and think about poor. We should increase our good deeds during this month, try to attend taraweeh prayers and be kind and helpful around the house etc. I asked them some basic questions like

What is the name of gates through which only fasting people can enter Jannah?
What happens to big shaytaans in this month?
What time do we have suhoor and what time is iftaar?
What do we do if someone argues with us or hurts us? (we dont answer back but say ‘I am fasting’) etc

These are some of the things they made today, alhamdulillah.

Then they did copywork based on their experience. I wrote the text first, let them read and copywrite it into their notebooks. We do copywork with Sumayya every day based on the Islamic story she reads. Recently she has been copying ayah from the Qur’an or a hadith as these will be mentioned in the stories we read. She has a seperate copywork notebook and I think doing copywork using Islamic text will reinforce the content of the text more in their mind, wallahu alam.

During play time they all took some pens and papers outside. I came out with Ibrahim as he loves to spend time in the garden and saw them making and playing a story. Marjaan was author and writing the story, Dawud was illustrator drawing pictures to go with Marjaan’s writing and Sumayya and Inayah were acting out and making all the details of the story. Then later Sumayya wrote the following on a piece of paper and said she wrote that story.

Basically it says

“Once there was a man His name was Abdullah and he was gratful to Allah He told pepol what to do Then one day he was been killd He didnt now he was gowing to Jannah But he was case He was good and gratful to Allah We dont know who will go to Jannah” . MashaAllah, she only turned 5 recently and I havent taught her any grammar or spelling but both are coming along just fine inshaAllah. I believe Charlotte Mason’s method really worked with her with regards to teaching the language. We dont need to break up the language into bits and pieces like grammar, spelling, punctuation etc until they are much older. But if we are able to instill the love of reading in our children from young age, the more they read, the more they pick up on language and linguistic style, genre etc. And things like grammar and spelling develop in them naturally. Since Sumayya has started doing copywork regularly, I am explaining to her more about spelling rules and basic things like putting dots at the end of a sentence or question mark if the sentence is question. She has missed putting dots at the end of her sentences and is not very regular with her capital letters but nevertheless we were happy with her story. More with the content than the language bit lol. This is what she really meant to say in her story

Once there was a man. His name was Abdullah and he was grateful to Allah. He told people what to do (she is saying to me he told people pray to Allah alone and do what Allah likes but couldnt write it because it was too long lol). Then one day he was killed (by people who didnt want the message from Allah to be spread, her impression must be from one of prophet’s stories or a story of boy who called to tawheed from the tafseer of surah Burooj). He didnt know he was going to Jannah, but he was. Because he was good and grateful to Allah. We dont know who will go to Jannah

In general alhamdulillah our homeschooling journey has been going well. I still face some challenges with Safiyya. I think she feels neglected sometimes as all 3 other kids are a lot older than her in our class and their minds work differently. Older children dont always listen to her input and she gets frustrated. Sometimes I see in her that she really craves for attention and approval, especially during play time as she can not run as fast as others or do the things they do. I wish there was someone of her age who would spend some time with her but I will have to make up to it. I have realized that, now Sumayya can do lots of self-studying, I should give more one:one time to Safiyya and listen to her more, say “yes” to her as often as I can and do more things just me and her (without other siblings) inshaAllah.

On a different note, last weekend we had a day out at Bolton Abbey and kids absolutely loved it, alhamdulillah. It was so lovely mashaAllah, and it didnt rain lol. We had a picnic by the river, went for a walk by riverside and in the woods, climbed up the moor hills, sat under the trees and prayed in the grass. Men collected twigs from a nearby wood and made fire to cook traditional Uzbek rice in open fire. We played lots of games with kids (there were three families), kids paddled in the river, played football, sack race, cricket, tug-a-war etc. Alhamdulillah, a great day out in Yorkshire Dales. We made plans to come again inshaAllah as it is not too far from where we live. Some pictures from the trip

Alhamdulillahi Rabbal Alamiyn, once again Ramadan Mubarak dear all. May Allah give us all tawfeeq to push our limits, strengthen our imaan and make as much ibadah as possible inshaAllah. May Allah help us all to change for better amin.

Growing kids

Bismillah,

We have been so busy, as usual, alhamdulillah. I might have told before that we live socially very demanding life- alhamdulillah. I always try to keep in close relationship with other muslim families we got to know over the past years, especially some of them have children around the same age as ours. I don’t want kids to miss out on “socializing” aspect, plus it gives them a chance to practise their English (as we only speak Uzbek at home). Sisters along with babies and toddlers and older siblings in and out of our house, we can feel the sense of belonging, the sense of community alhamdulillah. It is such a blessing to be surrounded in such company and our children always remind each other of Allah swt as. We really enjoy listening to their conversations whenever we get a chance. May Allah continue this friendship and protect and preserve our children for us and us for them.

I started teaching another 7 year old girl, alhamdulillah. So, there are usually 4-5 of them in our classroom (my two girls, 6 year old twins-a boy and a girl and 7 year old girl). Safiyya doesnt always stay with us, as she finds some of the activities too challenging. Whenever she distracts the class I send her out. Otherwise, she is always at the background and I try to provide some fidgety things- beads, sticks, pipe cleaners to keep her busy.

We always start with dhikr and make dua that Allah gives us all beneficial knowledge. They read 2-3 surahs each and a page from Ahsanul Qawaid daily. At the moment they are doing copywork from Ahsanul Qawaid, they copy 8-10 high frequency words from the Qur’an. Alhamdulillah, they are improving. We usually pray dhohr together.

Literacy. I use a lot of Islamic literature for our literacy activities. At story time we always choose one non Islamic and one Islamic story book to read. I read some pages and let kids read a page each in turn. I let Safiyya read some short words that she knows how to read. MashaAllah, she can read most 3 letter words. And she is more interested in books than ever before. Following the story time, I ask them do some copywork for their English handwriting. They usually copy the dua of a particular prophet from the story we read or ayah from the Qur’an or a hadith where the story is derived from. Alhamdulillah, I think copywriting the powerful messages sent through the Qur’an and Hadith will help them to understand the moral of the story better.

When we read the story of Hud a.s they copied the message Hud a.s delivered to His people.

And I also do a spelling check using the words from the story. Usually I choose between 6-8 words from the story and ask children to write those words without looking at the book. I will just say them outloud and they have to write the words down and number them. I check at the end if they have correct spelling. Then they have to copy the words in which they have made a spelling mistake.

This is the spelling test I did based on the book called The Way to Jannah by Learning Roots.

We also read the story of Ayyub a.s and kids copied his dua.

Sometimes when we read a story I ask them to summarise the story in 5-6 sentences, basically narration but very short narration. When I ask them to narrate they keep going on and on lol. Alhamdulillah, they have got really good memory so they keep telling me every detail. And we have a short dictation based on the story. I read out the sentences and they have to write down without looking at each other. MashaAllah, Sumayya’s spelling is the best in the group though she needs to improve her handwriting. So, this is an example of our dictation based on one of the stories we read about a little girl called Jane.

These are examples of Sumayya’s Arabic handwriting.

These are the kinds of activities we do regarding numeracy. Alhamdulillah, as they grow older it is becoming easier for me as they do lots of self-studying. I am enjoying teaching more and more.

Numeracy/Maths.

We have been continuing with MEP Year 1 with math. Alhamdulillah, I like this programme so much, math concepts introduced like a building blocks and slow pace. It is moving towards logical thinking and mental math now. Other children in the group use their fingers or math manipulatives and Sumayya said today “Before I used my fingers now I use just my own brain” lol. Alhamdulillah, she is excelling in math.

For example, I ask them to write an addition sum for the number 5, using any of the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And she wrote all the options such as 0+5=5; 1+4=5; 2+3=5; 3+2=5; 4+1=5 and finally 5+0=5. We do lots of equation based problem-solving such as you have 4 how many more shall I give you to make it 7. Or, I say Marjaan has 2 more than 3 apples but Sumayya has 3 less than 8. So, who has more? And she quickly said we have the same amount, calculating things in her head. Other kids do simple additions and subtractions really well but struggle a little bit when it comes to equation or problem solving. Anyway, I am really happy with MEP books and programme and inshaAllah continue using it.

Here are some sample pages of the MEP workbooks.

Safiyya was initially doing MEP Year 1 but she finds it really difficult now and so I have just been reviewing numbers 0-20, counting 0-20, Arabic numbers 0-10, colours and shapes in English/Uzbek/Arabic in addition to very basic addition. She is not yet ready to do subtractions and generally we use lots of math manipulatives with her. I have got the below poster from rahmah homeschool and thought it would be nice to have it on her bedroom wall and go over it every day before bed time inshaAllah.

We are also continuing with K12 reader programme to improve her handwriting and reading. Alhamdulillah, she finds these worksheets easy and enjoys them.

Geography

We do map drilling and use the globe every time we read a story. When we read the story of Musa a.s I ask them to show me Egypt from the map, and draw pretend line where he has travelled, find river Nile where his mother put him as a baby in the basket. When we read the story of Hud a.s they found out he was from Yemen and found Yemen on the globe. Prophet Ayyub a.s was from Syria and they found Syria. And I ask simple questions such as “Is Arabia on the east or west of Red Sea?” “Is Makkah on the north or south of Yemen?” And alhamdulillah they can answer well looking at the globe. They noted that lots of prophets was from Egypt, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria  and surrounding area and asked me which prophet came from England. I didnt know any prophet from England so I said I dont know but Allah knows. Alhamdulillah, very curious children lol.

This is our Good Deeds Tree that hangs on our classroom wall. Whoever collects the most number of flowers every 4 weeks will get a prize inshaAllah.

And we mostly cook together with my girls. It gives me a chance to practise some of their vocab in Arabic. I keep asking for names of vegetables and fruits and some kitchen tools in Arabic and Sumayya answers while Safiyya mostly copies what she says. But, inshaAllah, she must be internalizing and learning.

Anyway, we have made a new dish yesterday called Maqlooba from an Arab cuisine. We tried it 1st time at our friend’s house in London 2 weeks ago. We all liked it. Me, Safiyya and Sumayya found the recipe on youtube and watched it a couple of times. And we made it together. They were very curious about this new dish. Alhamdulillah it was so yummy, the whole family enjoyed it, including little Ibrahim.

Finally we bought Ibrahim his 1st pair of shoes today. It was such a mission lol because his feet are so chubby. We got them measured in Clarks and his size was no less than 5 I. His sisters had size 5 H as 1st shoes so his feet must be even chubbier. Anyway, the guy said they wont do any shoes in size 5 I, 5 H was the biggest width they could provide and alhamdulillah we found a pair that fit his chubby feet. He is so much into books, just like his sisters, mashaAllah. He walks really fast now. He loves spending time outside, always asking us to take him out by holding one of us by hand and walking toward the door lol. He mimics and imitates most nursery rhymes, his favourite is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Wind the Bobbin Up. He loves when we sing it together and does the actions so well. We all call him sheikh lol. Potty training is going well, hope he will be fully out of nappy by 18 months inshaAllah.

Ibrahim loves playing with his sisters. They play run and catch, hide and seek and a ball. It has been a good couple of weeks since he started playing football. He doesnt play other babiesh ball games, but kicks the ball and runs after it. He is just so hilarious as he is so short and chubby running after football half of his size. He only turned 1 on Sunday but already plays football, mashaAllah. May Allah protect and preserve all our children and make them among the pious Muslims amin.

Character building with the Qur’an

Bismillah,

I cant believe how fast the days are flying by and it is only 16 or so days left till Ramadan. SubhanAllah…

I would like to update on the hifdh of Qur’an inshaAllah.

We try to listen to the Qur’an a couple of times a day. We do the revision session as usual once a day when I ask the girls both read me 5 random surahs I choose off their memory. Safiyya is memorizing surah Zalzala at the moment and Sumayya is just reviewing Juzz Amma. She can read a lot of the surahs in the next Juzz but has not yet started memorizing. She keeps reading surah Mursalat after our Qur’an revision session. She listens to a new surah a few times and she can read it from mus”haf on her own mashaAllah.

A lot of the moms complain to me how hard it is to sit their children and make them listen and repeat when it comes to memorizing the Quran.

Q: How can I motivate my child to memorize the Qur’an?

This was my answer:

1. We- the moms have to make the effort to memorize new surah alongside with our children. They should see us listening to the surah we want to memorize, repeat after the sheikh, read that surah at least a couple of times a day outloud. When we set that example, they will be motivated to copy us inshaAllah.

2. We should make the effort to make the Qur’an a living/applicable thing in our lives. We try to talk about Qur’an as much as possible in our household. When we ask children to do something or to become something we should always try to reference it from the Qur’an. For example, when we ask them to be kind, we can remind that Allah has asked the believer to be kind in the Qur’an (you can search and find specific ayah for older children). When we see older siblings making little ones upset we often ask them to say sorry. Again, we should always remind that when we hurt someone we should first ask forgiveness of that person then we should seek forgiveness of Allah swt. When we ask them to be gentle, sharing, humble and not to show off- all these things can be referenced from the Qur’an. We should make our children understand from young age that it is not we who want them to behave in certain way but it is Allah the Almighty, who created all of us from nothing and gave us everything we need- He wants us to become and behave that way and He told us so in the Qur’an. These character building statements with Qur’anic backing can be explained on the go all day long. We don’t need to sit children down to explain these. Make use of time during school run or whilst cooking and trigger some conversation about what Allah azza wa jal told us in the Qur’an. When kids don’t listen to me I always say “Allah said in the Qur’an “Worship me and obey your parents”. So, if you want Allah to be happy with you you can do as I said “.

3. One of the things my girls ask every time we make dua is going to the highest level of Jannah, inshaAllah. Whenever they feel reluctant to do the Qur’an hifdh- I ask them “So, how are you going to go to the highest level of Jannah without learning much of the Qur’an. Remember, Allah loves those who learn and live the Qur’an. So, Allah is watching you now to see if you can do it or not”. MashaAllah this works perfectly well with Sumayya as she is getting older she has more understanding of things relating to HereAfter.

4. Treats- we have no TV but we use watching some educational cartoons on youtube as a treat for learning/memorizing the Qur’an. For those who have/watch TV- it should be limited and used as a treat only. We can use Qur’an charts- where a child collects a star for each new surah learnt and parents can buy something for every 10 stars. The prize can be a real simple toy or some educational resource, a book etc. Something useful. We can also give them sweets and candies for new surah learnt. We have always restricted sweet things in our family diet (and really I dont have a sweet tooth. I can not each store bought chocolates, candies, choc-chip biscuits etc) So, what our girls receive is usually something very little- it could be 1/4 of a twix bar and they are over the moon lol. But I say to them, chocolates/sweets are unhealthy in this world only. But, in Jannah, everything is healthy. They can have as many lolly pops and chocolates as they wish for and it never affects their teeth or tummy. I say “Even if you dont feel like eating a meal and have 10 lollies a day, still your teeth don’t go black. Because everything is pure in Jannah and nothing makes you poorly there”. They love it when I talk like this about Jannah, alhamdulillah. Also, we can organize Qur’an parties when they memorize a certain juzz or a number of surahs. We also organize trips for our girls for memorizing the Qur’an and alhamdulillah they look forward to trips and try to memorize quickly.

5. Keep listening to Qur’an as many times during the day as possible. Whilst travelling in the car, whilst cooking a meal, whilst having breakfast etc. Most people have smart phones these days and some really cool apps. So, we can utilize the technology we have at hand and make use of every spare minute we have inshaAllah. If we get our children’s ear used to the sounds of the Qur’an recitation, they should not feel as reluctant when it comes to memorizing. It is completely foreign language to children, they don’t read, write, speak or even hear the Arabic language. So, we can imagine how hard it must be for them to memorize something in a language that their ears never heard of. I think it helps to train their ears by listening to the recitation of Qur’an from as young as newborn babies (or even in pregnancy).

6. We have “It is Qur’an time with mommy” every day. We all should make it a habit inshaAllah.  Time is crucial factor both for  parents and children. We parents should be able to choose a time that works for both inshaAllah and revise all the surahs they have memorized so far. We can make them read or listen/repeat the surah they are on at least 3 times (depending which method is being used. Older children memorize by reading a surah many times but younger ones memorize by listening and repeating. Personally, I prefer listen/repeat method as it is traditional and you are more likely to get the sounds right). Anyway, when we establish “Qur’an time with mommy” as a habit, then we don’t need to drag them/ nag them or spend long time trying to make them sit and do the hifdh. Establishing a habit in itself is an automatic motivation inshaAllah.

7. Aqeedah- we should keep working on their understanding of Aqeedah. We should establish the firm knowledge of Allah, the oneness of Allah and meanings of names of Allah swt. We should teach all the basic knowledge relating to HereAfter from a very young age and as they grow older learn in more details. Few things we have to develop strong awareness in children are: tawheed (all 3 aspects of tawheed) the pillars of imaan (belief in Allah, angels, prophets, books, the day of Judgement and Qadar). In general terms, this is what we always say to our children at home “We all have a book called Illiyun. We all have angels on our sides called Kiraman Katibeen. These angels write down our good deeds and bad deeds. Allah swt will count on the day of Judgement all our deeds to see which one is more. If we have lots of good deeds than Allah will reward us with Jannah inshaAllah”. As well as treating our children with trips, sweets or Qur’an parties from time to time, we should keep reminding them that the greatest reward is with Allah swt and in Jannah.

I was memorizing surah Qiyamah some time ago. As I memorized I was listening to the tafseer of the surah as well. I said to Sumayya “You know on the day of Judgement Allah will destroy everything. All the strong mountains will be flying in the sky. All the trees will be uprooted and strong tall building will crumble. Do you think it will be dark or clear on that day. That’s right, everywhere will be dark. But, the prophet saw said those who memorize and learn the Qur’an will have light on their face. So, if you learn and live the Qur’an, you can see where you are going. Everywhere will be dark but inshaAllah you can find your way” She was really impressed by this fact and also learning about the description of the day of Judgement. So, I thought developing their knowledge of the HereAfter would help them to feel motivated to learn the Qur’an.

8. Finally, we should all be making dua constantly that Allah swt makes this journey easy both for ourselves and our children. Allah is All Knowing, All Watching, All Seeing, The Controller of the Hearts and He can make anything possible. We are only asked to do what we can do inshaAllah.

Reading journey

Bismillah,

A love of books and reading is one of the most precious important gifts anyone can give a child. Reading encourages imagination, builds understanding, opens up new worlds and helps children reach their full potential.

Reading with children from birth is the best way to teach them the joy of reading. It is also a special way to build relationships, encourages conversations and have fun together. Our children will reap the benefits of reading for the rest of their lives as Islam encourages us to seek knowledge from cradle to the grave.

As with many moms we read lots of books at home. I try to utilize every single minute in our busy household so whenever I get 5-10 minutes I quickly grab some books and call children to my side. They love reading and discussing the stories together. Even little Ibrahim has some of his very own favourite books that he brings us again and again to be read to him.

Ibrahim has lots of board books to look at pictures. He points to pictures and tries to talk, mostly by bubbling away. His favourite is his panda book. He also likes turning pages using his index finger in other books. He started singing “alif-baa-taa” song for us and joins us when we do “a a apple” song. If I say a a and pause he says “Allah”, if I say b b and pause he says “ball”. He always walks with a couple of books in his tiny hands- so cute mashaAllah.

Safiyya is now more and more interested in books. I read short story books to her sitting her in my lap. I hold her index finger and follow the print with her finger as I read along. Whenever there is a word that I know she can read I pause and she reads. And we continue reading in this manner till the end of story- reading together. I read long words and she reads short sight/dolch words. She can read most sight words such as “I, we, he, she, this, that, they, on, of, a, the” and we have also done some word groups with her cat-sat-mat, map-cap-tap, hit-bit-it etc. As I said in my previous post, I am using this programme to work on her handwriting and reading and Alhamdulillah she does fine copywork and she can read most words. I also use Jolly Phonics flashcards with her from time to time and Rhyme Game from Enchanted Learning. Also, she likes learning on the go; I point to words and signs as we cook/bake/play in the garden/opening some packaging/travelling in the car- and Alhamdulillah she has mastered the phonics/sounds really well. Although the foundation is there she can not yet join the sounds and read fluently. Therefore, focusing on sight words and word groups is really helping her to improve her reading with the above programme. But she is so good at talking about stories and mostly pretends to be reading a story we have read together by turning the pages and narrating it to herself in English.

Sumayya reading lots of chapter books. She reads average size chapter book containing 40-60 pages in one day. Longer chapter books with pages between 60-100 may take up to 3 days and even longer ones take about a week to finish. She loves finishing books in one go, she is so immersed in the story that she doesn’t want to do anything else unless she finishes the whole book. I realize it even more how we parents should be careful to choose books for our youngsters. You never know which part of the book the child will be internalizing and of course we always have a follow up discussion and point out all the good deeds the characters did in the books and discuss why they should not have done some of the things they did etc. Even then, it is always best to stick to books that help our children build a good character inshaAllah.

I sent the kids to the library with their dad last Thursday. Alhamdulillah we started going every Thursday as the need for new books are increasing with both the girls. Anyway, last Thursday they came back with about 20 books half of which I would not let the kids choose in the first place. One story was about how elephant lost his ears and there were some Gods and Goddesses in the story. Another was about a wicked witch, then another was about some naughty pirates. I had a discussion with my husband later about a) Is it better to let a child read such books and explain the wrong content with discussion afterwards or b) Is it better to not expose their young mind to shirk and magic at this stage? We have concluded that it was obviously better to not choose such books in the 1st place. Why would I want them to read such books? There are so many other ways of explaining what is wrong and what is right in Islam and so it is always best to feed their mind with good books and good reading that help them build a kind, caring, sharing, helpful, etc character traits. So, inshaAllah we stick to books that contains Islamically correct and morally good stories so the children get influenced in a positive way.

Here are some of the books we have read recently and alhamdulillah it has been of so much benefit so check them out from your local library. The first 6 books are all chapter books Sumayya read last week. Good books for young readers and we got them all from a local library.

1. You can do it Stanley by Irena Green- Sumayya read and enjoyed this

2. Ellie and Granny Mac by Elizabeth Maclennan- Great to encourage conversations about extended families and of course building relationship with grandmas. Sumayya read and really liked the book.

3. The parent swap shop by Francesca Simon- Oh this book was my favourite. It taught us so much how we should be grateful for what we have and always appreciate our parents and what they do for us. Highly recommended for personal purchase but also check out your local libraries as we got it from the library.

4. The Spider School by Francesca Simon- another chapter book Sumayya read last week. She did not like this book much and I think the whole concept was a bit hard to grasp for her 5 year old mind (all the way to the end the story was happening in little girl’s dream. And it didnt say at the end that the whole thing happened was her dream lol)

5. The Giant Postman by Sally Grindley- S read and enjoyed

6. Kit’s Castle by Chris Powling- good read

7. Mr Bear’s Holiday by Debi Gliori (the whole Mr. Bear series by the same author are so good. I liked both the vocab, language and the illustrations. so engaging mashaAllah). I bought these books in car boot sales but I think libraries have them too.

8. Aesop’s Fables by Aesop (I can’t stress enough how good these stories are, mashaAllah so much to do with character building. And most local libraries have a single story from the collection made into a book. We got ours from the library too, alhamdulillah)

9. Poppy’s Teddy by Louise John. We read this with Safiyya and she was happy as she could read most words inside. The whole Start Reading collection by the same authors are great, perfect for 3-4 year olds who just started reading.

10. Our all time favourite book is Cindrella- an Islamic Tale. We read this book again and again. Of course we want our girls to be like Zahra in this story and always mention her when correcting their misbehaviour or encourage a positive behaviour etc. MashaAllah, the author has done a brilliant job.

Gardening and Baking and much more

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah finally we have been able to get some gardening done over the weekend.

I was ill for a couple of days last week so we all had 2-3 fun unschooling days where kids spent lots of time playing outside; doing literacy activities on starfalls and reading eggs; reading books and watching educational cartoons. I had much needed rest and finished the book I was reading “The Brothers Karamazov” by F. Dostoyevsky. I could spend the whole post writing a review on that book lol, but I wont. All I say is this, the author always amazes me with his characters, description of events and leaves me in awe and inspiration. A lot to reflect…

Usually I teach some other children on Saturdays. But I was teaching during the week due to school holidays last week and we have been rehearsing the children’s show to be played on Sumayya and Safiyya’s Qur’an party this Saturday inshaAllah. Kids will be performing some nasheeds about salah, telling us what they learnt about Qur’an and finally perform the story of Nuh a.s. They are all so excited about the event. Last week we made the poster of the story of Nuh a.s. Children all have lines to memorize and they chose to be either one of the Muslims who supported Nuh a.s or an animal. Sumayya is going to be a bunny rabbit and Safiyya is going to be a butterfly. We got their costumes yesterday, alhamdulillah. This week we will be making Qur’an posters to tell some fun facts about the Qur’an. I will share the pictures next week inshaAllah. I am teaching a group of 8 kids tomorrow and on Friday and inshaAllah their performance is around 2pm on Saturday. We are expecting some 60 people including both women and children. I am so thrilled, may Allah bless it inshaAllah.

We had our next Islamic Parenting circle last Saturday and it was about how to help a child memorize the Qur’an. Alhamdulillah it was useful to share tips and advice with other moms. I went to Being Me sisters conference in Manchester on Sunday. Alhamdulillah I got to see and listen to sisters Zohra Sarwari and Kafaya Abdussalam live. There were some other speakers whom I havent heard of before as well. MashaAllah sheikh Alaa Elsayed was really good. I had a good day to fill up my spiritual tank and came home calm and relaxed about wordly matters. Alhamdulillah.

And finally, my big news is we spent the whole Monday gardening. We cut the grass, cut some tress, pruning, planting some seeds and flowers etc. Alhamdulillah the girls took so much interest in gardening, they are always asking me which plants are weeds to be uprooted and which plants are planted so to be left etc. We had weeds growing all over the garden so had so much to do. We planted some gladiolus bulbs 2-3 weeks ago and mashaAllah they are coming out so nicely. And we also dug and made a patch to grow herbs. Today we planted basil, chives, coriander and parsley. I got girls both a watering can each and they are always busy watering our flowers and trees. I just can not wait till our herbs grow and we reap the harvest lol. Honestly so excited. I was planning to get some sunflower seeds, sweetcorn ad tomatoes too but the seeds were so expensive where I bought them. I need to find some cheap place to buy vegetable seeds. Sumayya cut the apples and took the apple seeds out and planted them as well. I am not actually sure if they will grow or not but she was so kin.

We baked apple pie and biscuits today and mashaAllah they always have a part to do. I believe they will learn just as much from observing too but I always give them their own tasks.

Ibrahim is walking and talking a lot more now. He loves outside in the garden and always pulling our hands towards the door or pointing that direction where we go out, subhanAllah. He listens to Qur’an with his sisters, reads books, plays with his toys, goes on the  swing, watches his own nursery rhymes on youtube etc. He often has a runny nose and one of the newest things he learnt is how to blow his own nose. If we give him a clean tissue paper and ask him to clean his nose, he actually puts it on his nose, blows his nose and wipes it away. I don’t know why but we all find it so so amusing. He is there, barely walking, cant talk but blowing his nose on a tissue paper just like adults. Usually small children hate when adults wipe their nose but he seems to love it and he often poses for his nose to be cleaned by one of us. He is also saying few more words in Uzbek.

We do Qur’an hifdh daily with both the girls. Then review Arabic vocab, read books etc. They get to watch something on youtube immediately after this- usually in the mornings. In the afternoons we do some literacy/numeracy activities. Usually I ask Sumayya to read a book then I choose 5-6 words from the book and just say them outloud one after the other. Sumayya has to write them- this is something we do for her spelling. MashaAllah I do nothing official or constructive for her spelling but she just seems to know how to spell most words simply by reading a lot of books. I guess a lot of exposure to print/books helps her to remember how words are spelled/written. We do quick and random addition/substraction sums and review numbers.

Safiyya is doing a workbook on phonics/handwriting/spelling. She does a page each a day but to be honest she is not so keen on workbooks. So, if she is not willing I try not to force her. We just keep revising numbers, colors, shapes, phonics etc.

Generally speaking we all are doing fine and our homeschooling tactics are developing day by day lol. Girls are always asking questions on Aqeedah and I am always busy answering them or trying to find the right answer. Mentally it is very draining…it gets so tiring to settle their fights etc. But, alhamdulillah I should not complain too much. I realize how good my girls are when I see some other kids behaving lol.

I have some really good ideas and inshaAllah if Allah blesses them all I am hoping to make them happen soon. InshaAllah