Ramadan Battle

Bismillah,

What have we been up to since the 15th April 2014? Well, a lot, really. But, first of all, let me wish all of you a Happy Belated Ramadan Kareem!!! May Allah enable us all to really change and improve ourselves for the better this Ramadan amin.

Home-educating is going well. We do almost nothing structured with regards to academic subject on a day-to-day basis. Both big and little S attend Maths, English and Science classes once a week at Raising Explorers (where I work) and they go to madrassah there Tues-Fri afternoons 4:30-6:30pm. So, what do we do at home?

Gardening

We have done a lot of gardening this Spring/Summer 2014. We have planted strawberry plants early in Spring and they were all growing so well. They all had 5-6 fruits each but the slugs started eating the leaves. My neighbor suggested I put some salt on all plants which had a disastrous ending, the fruits and leaves dried up. They have all grown out by now but  no homegrown strawberries for us this year. InshaAllah, I am hoping the plants would double by next year and we will have some fruits.

We have also planted an apple tree and a pear tree. They both blossomed well but we have got no pears for this year. Alhamdulillah, we have plenty of apples and we can not wait to bake an apple pie with those.

Pear tree

Apple tree

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

Trips and Outings

We have been going on a lot more trips lately since the arrival of my parents. We want to show them around as much as possible. We have been to quite a lot of local parks, including:

Roberts park in Saltaire; Roundhay Park in Leeds, Chellow Dene Reservoir, Ogden Waters, and of course our local Lister park. I have made a list of few other free places to go after Ramadan inshaAllah: St. Ives Park in Bingley, Shibden Park in Halifax, Stockeld Park, Cliffe Castle in Keighley, Bolling Hall, Bolton Abbey and Manor House. I am trying to make use of all free museums, galleries and parks as the costs can easily add up when multiplied x8 in the family lol. We may take them all to Yorkshire Wildlife centre for Eid

My mummy at Chellow Dene

Arabic and Qur’an

We have not been doing much Arabic language at home except what she learns at Raising Explorers. We revise the surahs of the Juzz Amma they have memorized and Sumayya reads half a page of Qur’an daily. Safiyya has just started reading too, mashaAllah but no pressure. She reads when she wants to. Having attened Tajweed classes recently, I have just started explaining the Tajweed rules to big S recently. Up until now, she has learnt how to read by listening only and kind of figured out most rules (without knowing the names such as Idghaam, Izhaar, Iqlaab etc). 1-2 daily they pray with me, again no pressure, hence not very regular. As big S turned 7 this year, I should be encouraging her more inshaAllah.

Russian progress

Alhamdulillah, big S  has been going to Russian 3 times a week. She goes to Russian class organized for the children of local Russian families on Monday afternoons. Then WEd/Fri mornings she goes to her tutor’s house for 2 hours. She can now read, write and speak a little bit of Russian. She can talk about most topics including her family, likes/dislikes, animals, fruit/veg, about her house, about her grandparents and weather etc. They do little bit of grammar but mainly conversational Russian as I want her to be able to speak and understand first. She has learnt so much vocab and can use them well. Alhamdulillah. There is also a farm next to her tutor’s house. So, we have been going 1-2 times a week to feed the horses, see llamas, donkeys and a pony.

Kids trying to feed horses

Islamic Studies and Self-Evaluation

All of us have to work on our manners, especially myself as I have to model the exemplary behavior for them. This thought has been troubling me so much lately. My confession yesterday was “I have always known that children learn by example. They are the best imitators, regardless of weather you do a good thing or a bad thing, they will try and copy the adults around them. Seems like I have known it theoretically up until this point. So, I have recently discovered that before fixing everyone else around me, especially my poor kids, I should first fix myself. As an adult and as a mother of 4 home-educated kids I see some major flaws in my own character. I can lecture my children about what is good and right thing to do but the children mirror and project my own faults which is scary. I am almost always battling with my own self and questioning “am I doing the right thing/wrong thing” and worry a lot about my children’s character too. But, like I said, I came to the conclusion that as long as I work hard to try and fix my own problems, inshaAllah Allah will take care of my children and how they are going to turn out as a person. The battle with the self continues….May Allah give all mothers out there an immense amount of patience and make parenting easy for us and give us a good ending. Amin ya Rabb!!!

I don’t know why I feel so burdened, so pressured these days with mothering duties and responsibilities…I have terrible mood swings at times and end up feeling so guilty for having shouted at kids…I am always asking for more patience in my duas as I am quick to criticize my kids. How do you deal with your inner critique that sets up the standards so high for your kids? I am finding it so hard to just let it go. Alhamdulillah, slowly but surely I am working more on myself rather than kids and feel moving in the right direction. I am praying to have a better week ahead inshaAllah: less yelling, less shouting, less correcting, less critique; more encouragement, more peaceful, more connecting and more praise.

General Home-Ed Review

Alhamdulillah, I am happy where we are at. Like I said, at this point in life we are focusing much more on character-building rather than in any form of structured academic lessons. Above all, I would want myself and my children have a good personality. I just want to be good inshaAllah…

Once again Ramadan Mubarak my dear sisters and wishing you all to have the best Ramadan yet!!!

10 Creative Play ideas for kids 0-7

Bismillah,

Are you stuck for ideas to keep your children entertained and occupied on rainy days? Or perhaps you want to spend the school holidays in a more meaningful play which gives you a chance to bond closely with your child? I planned to write this post well before the holidays but as it happens so, it was meant to be published today. With few more days of remaining holidays, try some of these creative play activities with your children for hours of fun and bonding. No planning required and really does not take hours of preparation. You can stretch each one of these for hours if kids are still enjoying or keep as short as 5 minutes. Either way, it is fun, engaging and interactive for both you and your child.

1. Junk Modelling. We have a box where Safiyya collects all the packaging from everything and anything: cereal boxes, milk bottles, onion net bags etc. And although she makes things daily, occasionally we all sit together with our junk box, glue sticks, scissors and cello tape and everyone makes their own stuff. You can  your child in conversation: what are you making, how are you going to make it, why are you making etc? Good for oral development, verbal expression and logical thinking

 

2. Sensory Play session. Ok, this one is a bit messy but nevertheless doable. When we are out and about, my kids always collect things from nature: acorns, leaves, conkers, sticks, stones, marbles, flowers etc. Again, they keep these in their own plastic bags. They know they have to dry off leaves and flowers first before placing them in a plastic bag. That moment when you are so brave to embrace the mess and have some fun with kids, get these bags out, put some water, flour, paint, gluesticks, some Asian stick spices such as cinnamon sticks etc on the table and children will happily take the lead. This is their most favourite activity.

3. Play dough and Plasticine. No need to explain. All three of my children between the ages of 2.5-7 enjoy this for hours. Meanwhile, I can just get on with my own work. This activity requires the least supervision, unless you have really small child who may want to put it into his mouth. But Ibrahim has been playing as long as I remember and not once I caught him with a playdough in his mouth. But then again, his sisters are always there to help and watch him.

4. Display boards. Ask your child/children to make a display board for their own bedroom on a topic chosen by you or by themselves. If you have printed out the pictures and reminder words already, you can provide these and children will cut out, stick to a board and decorate. However, it is quite fun and allows children to use their own initiative even when you have not prepared anything. Just brainstorm the ideas for a theme/topic, agree on one mutually and give them the basic resources, cardboard box, colours, pencils, paint, coloured papers, scissors and pen. Sometimes just an A4 paper and pen would do too. They have to make a display board and hang on bedroom wall. You can change it monthly, bi-monthly etc.

5. Colouring/Painting/Drawing- no child can ever get bored of painting, right? The same in our household. They paint 3-4 times a week while colouring and drawing for hours is a daily thing.

6. Themed stamp sets/ Stencil sets. We have always had different stencil sets on different themes and kids always loved using them. I have recently bought a farm themed stamp set which has been a huge hit. Even I sit down stamping different characters and then colouring them in to make a farmyard or a house etc. I am planning on buying more stamp sets.

7. Constructive play session with wooden blocks/legos/foam blocks/jumbo threads etc. My children’s all time favourite as they never get tired of playing with these. Each time the box is out they invent a new game, alhamdulillah.

8. Story making and storytelling. You can have a set of pictures cut out of catalogs, newspapers and magazines. A child needs to make a sentence holding each picture at a time and the next sentence has to relate to the first. So, in a way, you are inventing a story about a set of random pictures taken from random places. Use their own pictures from when they were little to add a bit more fun. Excellent tool to develop creative writing skills as they will improve their composing and narration.

9. Indoor picnic. You have planned to take the kids out to the park or for a walk later but it keeps raining. Never mind, have an indoor picnic near the fire in your front room. Make it a teddy bear’s picnic just by inviting few of the kids’ favourite toys to an indoor picnic.

10. Role-play involving adults of the household. Sometimes when I am right in the middle of something very very urgent or important, such as baking breads for the coming week etc, Safiyya wants my attention and keeps winging. I have learned to quickly turn it into a role-play session where she becomes a mommy and I am her obedient daughter. I act as a daughter trying to help mom in baking and looking after the house. I try to display all the qualities I would like to see in her. Meanwhile, I am getting on with my work. This is only imaginary and involves a lot of talking on adults’ part. You may not always be up to it, but better than listening a child’s winging. This has worked on numerous occasions but sometimes children just want a cuddle. In that case, just sit down and give them a cuddle.

 

Best educational toys for toddlers

Bismillah,

We had visitors over the weekend and a friend offered to take the girls for sleepover. So, I agreed and off they went. However, little I was looking everywhere for his sisters. He kept asking for them and was going nearly mental lol. So,Monday morning, first time in a long long time, I had to sit down and keep him occupied. We have played few of their hands-on toys to revise/learn some numeracy and literacy skills. So, I have decided to write a review for some of the best toys worth investing, in my opinion. I say in my opinion because this is purely based on our own experience. My kids loved these toys, spent hours with them and learnt a lot through playing them. So, here is my list of 6.

1. The Alphabet wooden blocks. Perfect for little hands to grab. You can use these in a number of ways to teach both the Arabic and English alphabet. It also has numbers on the other two sides. We usually make an Alphabet train by putting the blocks in the right Alphabetical order. Or mix up and ask a child to identify a particular letter you have been learning that week. Here is the link to this resource. I have bought ours when big S was born. After nearly 7 years of being used by 3 kids, it still has plenty of life left for baby S to enjoy when she is older inshaAllah

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2. The shapes wooden blocks. This is especially good for hand-eye coordination, to teach both the shapes and the colours. All my kids loved this. The one we had was from Asda Living store but this is easily available in ELC and ToysRus or online shops. This has 15 shaped wooden blocks, perfect for little toddler hands.

image

3. Foam blocks. These are quite chunky in size but has been such a hit. Excellent to make any construction using varied shaped foam blocks, review shapes/colours whilst building things. Excellent to encourage creativity and hand-eye coordination. I got two large packs in car boot when big S was a baby. All 3 children still play with these daily

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4. Wooden blocks and pieces for constructing castles, houses, farms and just about anything you can imagine. These we bought recently after all the constructive materials have been such a hit in our household. My children love playing with legos, foam blocks, wooden blocks. We keep all of these in a large plastic box so they are all mixed up. They spend at least 2 hours a day playing with them. We had these wooden blocks with a trolley from ELC, again bought when big S was a baby. Since they play all the blocks really well and they play them a lot, we have decided to buy them a new addition to their constructive box. Like I said, it has been a hit since the pack had unusual items and pieces.

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This is what their houses look like when nearly finished. But, they keep changing and adding things forever.

5. A pack of animal figurine collection from ELC. We had mini wild animals and farm animals. Ooo, these are their favourite toys. They do a lot of role-play using these. They build a farm and put the farm animals on the farm. Or they build a house for a gazelle and pretend it is hiding from a lion etc. Awesome awesome recourse to encourage imagination, creativity, to teach the names of animals, the food chain (predator, prey) etc etc

6. Knob wooden puzzles. We these ones: Arabic alphabet, English alphabet, Arabic numbers, English numbers, Animals+Shapes. Again, these are good for fine motor-skills as child is required to hold it with 2-3 fingertips and hand-eye coordination. I bought the Arabic alphabet and Arabic number wooden puzzles from Emaan productions. The rest are easily available online or in kiddies’ shops. (Something very similar to these but not exactly the same. Any knob wooden puzzle with less image is fine. I prefer not to have the English transliteration under the Arabic letters btw)

All of these are worthwhile investment as Ibrahim is using them after his two elder sisters and they are perfectly fine for baby S to enjoy next year inshaAllah.

Extra curricular activities

Bismillah,

I am searching for some extra curricular activities to enrol the kids. I took the girls swimming on Saturday. It was the first time we went after 5-6 months. We all loved it so much. I have realized how much we all missed being in the pool and swimming. I want to do it weekly but the costs are so high at where we go. Then I thought I have to search for some cheaper swimming classes for the girls, some martial art classes for the elder three, or send them to local scouts groups or something. As I have not found anything yet, we have all been watching some children performing gymnastics videos on youtube and trying to exercise at home.

The thing is, we go RE (Arabic, Tajweed, Islamic Studies) classes 4:30-6:30 Monday-Friday and I see them as being important as they get some classroom experience and socializing with peers. And because I actually teach there, it is convenient for me to take the kids with me. So, anything that we do has to be before 4pm Monday-Friday or the weekend. And that means if we choose to attend something Mon-Fri then we have to dismiss the homeschool hours during that day as to get in and out of the house with 4 children is not easy. And I feel once we are out, even if it is just for one hour the whole day is gone. So, I am still in two minds about it.

They go to local park to ride their bikes once a week and get to play in garden a lot. Would it be enough sports or outdoor activity for the week though? I do believe it is important to keep them active and teach them some sports, especially swimming (both sunnah and life-saving skill). Then, I am stuck between finding the appropriate class where I can take/drop off all three, at the same time on the same day. The age and gender difference do not help hey!!! What do you do then? I wonder what most homeschoolers do? I would hate being in and out of the house trying to drop off/pick up all 4 kids from different extra curricular things all the time.

What do you do with your children? What kind of sports classes do they attend after school? Does it really help them with their performance, health etc? If so in what ways and what do you recommend?

 

Winter is back

Bismillah,

We have had really cold weather over the past couple of weeks. Children started playing out in the garden daily for a couple of hours in mid February. But the weather has been so down again after the 8th of March, on which date we had our big uzbek sumalak party in Manchester. It was so boiling hot on that Saturday the 8th of March 2013. We were thinking of doing the BBQ out in the garden the following weekend. But, subhanAllah, it has been snowing on and off since that date. The temperature is usually below zero outside. We have not been able to finish off our planting project in the garden. Today, after 2 days of non-stop snowing it was about knee high. My husband took kids to local library yesterday. They got stuck in snow and had to be rescued (by me). May Allah keep everyone safe amin.

Homeschooling is very much continuing, alhamdulillah.

Big S.

We do English 2-3 times a week. We do Charlotte Mason style dictation for her spelling once a week. Alhamdulillah, her spelling is excellent. I still need to teach her a lot of punctuation marks though. We try to get her talk about the books she reads. However, she is less and less willing to narrate the story. She just tells us what the story is about in 1-2 sentences. I noticed when she reads books in English and asked to narrate in Uzbek, her brain finds it difficult to do language-switch. It is at this point she gets frustrated because she does not know much of vocabulary in Uzbek in order for her to tell the story fluently. She mixes up a lot of English words to narrate the story. So, I have started to focus on her narrative skills in the English language only. And we usually do written narration as she prefers it to write down rather than to do it orally. Alhamdulillah, she loves writing. I printed out a set of reading comprehension cards. Each card states a question such as Who is the main character? What is the main character like? Which season does the story take place? Are there any sad/funny parts? Which part is your favourite? Would you recommend it to a friend and why? So, she chooses a book to read to me. We discuss the book a little. Then I hold one card at a time. She reads the question and writes the answer down. It helps with grammar/spelling/reading comprehension as she is trying to make her own full sentences, learning to use the correct tense and summarizing the story in the right order etc. Finally, she is practising cursive writing with a workbook. She is not too keen at the moment but she does try.

Maths. She is revising the last 20 pages of MEP YEAR 1. I did look into Kumon Math and other Math workbooks but preferred MEP to all of them. Maybe because we have got used to this programme. It is challenging enough for her and it is not straightforward like Kumon Math. For example, in MEP Year 1, she has learned

  • addition and subtraction using numbers 0-20
  • introduction to multiplication/division,
  • the use of calendar (days of the week, months of the year and how they rotate, how to find a certain date and see which day of the week it will be etc)
  • Lots of problem solving
  • The use of money (coins and notes etc)
  • Odd/Even numbers, 1 digit, 2 digit, 3 digit numbers, units etc
  • Mental maths- how to add/subtract 2 digit numbers mentally, counting by 3’s, 4’s, 5s, 6’s etc

Generally speaking, I am very pleased with what the programme offers and inshaAllah intend to continue with it. I do not want to start MEP Year 2 as I thought it could be too challenging for her current level. Like I said, we have resumed our maths classes after a long break and want to revise MEP Year 1 thoroughly inshaAllah.

Science. She is currently on another KS2 Science workbook learning about shadows, reflection and light. I will update in more detail when she finishes her book inshaAllah.

Qur’an hifdh. Alhamdulillah, we have been able to do a lot of muraajah the past 2 weeks. Every day I ask her to recite 4-5 surah off by heart which she does. Then she chooses 1-2 surah to read from Quran for her tajweed. Alhamdulillah, it is going well so far. I pray Allah makes it regular as we seem to be going through the phase where we do Quran regularly and progress a lot. Then once we drop it we just go into looong break after which we struggle to restart our Quran/Tajweed lessons.

Arabic. She is still continuing with her Madinah Arabic Book 1 and Gateway to Arabic Book 2. She is memorizing lots of vocab, practise handwriting and her Arabic reading improved a lot, mashaAllah.

Small S. Alhamdulilah, she has been able to teach herself how to read. She is now reading books aimed at young readers. We do not do anything except reading together with her. She does practise her writing with workbooks. At this stage, I do not want to push her for anything that she does not show interest. So, whenever she wants to practise her handwriting, I will just pass a worksheet with tracing words or a workbook. She seems to be very good at maths. I am surprised at most things she can do as I did not teach her the way I taught her sister. Maybe she has picked up from her big sister when I was not around. She can count 0-20 and then countdown 20-0. She does additions/subtractions with numbers 0-10 and she is so good at it. She does how many more/how many less activities, like how many more 7 than 5. For which she would have to do 7-5=2. So, the answer is 2 more. All these I don’t remember teaching her. I remember teaching this concept of how many more/how many less to big S and I so remember the frustration we both went through. Every time I asked big S how many more 7 than 5, she would simply say 7 more. Maybe she was too young..wallahu a’lam. Anyway, to me it seems little S grabs most maths concept easily. Even if she does not have a bank of concentration and feels very fidgety during lessons. She is learning lots of topic based vocabs in Arabic and currently finishing off Gateway to Arabic Book 1. Alhamdulillah, she started reading in Arabic awhile ago and improving. This is one of the simple exercises I do with her which she likes. I usually write down 8-10 words that she has learned in Arabic. I write these words without short vowels. For example, I write the q-l-m jointly for the word qolam (pen). Then I read out each word at a time and ask her to put the missing vowels (fatha/damma/kasra). She loves this game and it helped her to read more fluently. She is still on surah Tiyn on Quran Hifdh. She has finished memorizing this surah but at the moment I only do revision with her too. They both listen to Qur’an before bed time for about 30-40 mins (they fall asleep listening to Juzz 30 or Juzz 29 playing in digital Qur’an in their bedroom)

Little I. He has been up to so much lately. He is very much into books, just like his sisters. He is always making one of us read to him and loves joining in, copying the actions of the animals on pages (from illustration). He has started talking properly about 2-3 weeks ago. He is talking so fluently now. He can make sentences and can talk in full sentences, just like adults. Generally speaking, he started to walk, eat, hold a pen and write and talk a lot earlier. We all think it is because he has 2 older sisters from whom he can copy. He has learned a lot of nursery rhymes and starts joining in when his sisters sing for him. His favourite is classic Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep. He loves Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed, too. He is potty trained thanks to grandma. He loves drawing and often asks us to draw him a monkey.  He plays plasticine daily; making different shapes using the cutters. He loves shape sorters. He can name star, circle, triangle and square when we point and ask him “Which shape is this?”. He loves solving the knob wooden puzzles, playing with his legos and making tall towers with stacking cups. He is learning Arabic alphabet with Alif-Baa-Taa wooden blocks. He can count till 10. He has learned names of few colours. Like I said, I have not been able to spend much 1:1 time with him. But, he is always at the background when I am teaching his sisters and copying whatever they do. When we sit down to read Qur’an and do hifdh, he tries to listen and repeat after his sisters. He tries to say surah Ikhlas and Masad off by heart. Of course he just imitates the sounds. His sisters are teaching him everything (sometimes some naughty things too, like how to make bubbles in cup whilst drinking water or screaming or jumping off the sofa)

Anyway, it is late now and I shall be off to bed. Do let me know of my spelling/grammar mistakes as at this point I can not be asked to proofread or edit. Praying for a positive attitude for all parents out there and finish off with this inshaAllah.

Plants and Animals in their Habitats

Bismillah,

As I said in my previous post after Animals of Farthing Wood books and Farthing Wood Friends magazines, our children have been addicted to all animal stories. They have read the Willowbank, Aesop’s Fables, The Wind in the Willows story collections. In addition, Sumayya has recently been able to finish Key Stage 2 Science workbook on Plants and Animals in their Habitats. Although at times it was a bit challenging for her, I would say she has finished it with relative ease for her age (she will turn 6 in a month inshaAllah and Key Stage 2 is work intended for 7-8 year olds)

What she learnt throughout this book

1. What Green Plants Need to Survive and Fertilisers. There was a lot of activities to do with reading comprehension where she had to read the large text and derive the information to fill in the blanks, to answer questions etc. 

2. Using Keys and Diagrams. This was one of the challenging parts as it was the first time she was introduced to the concept of Keys and Diagrams in Science. But, alhamdulillah, she found it really interesting

3. Making information cards on different animals. Again, she had to read through the text and derive information about each animal

4. Food Chains- very interesting topic for 5 year old. She had so many questions to ask about who is producer, who is consumer, who is predator and who is prey. In the end, I learnt so many things I did not know before as well. Alhamdulillah

5. Different Plants need different things. Some need to be kept indoors and some grow outside, some in direct sunlight and some in shadow etc. We have also looked at different types of soil- clay soil, sandy soil and which plants grow in which type of soil etc.

6. Finally, she learnt that Animals and Plant have to suit their Habitat

I promised to buy Sumayya a plant when she finishes her science workbook as a reward. So, I took both the girls to the plant shop on Monday where they chose a plant and a pack of flower seeds each. We have read the information labels of the plants and placed them on the windowsill in our kitchen. InshaAllah, we will be removing them into a bigger pots soon.

They also have planted their own seeds. 

They had a chance to examine the compost. It was not clay soil, it was not sandy soil. It was just compost soil, apparently!!!

We all can not wait for our plants to shoot off and grow inshaAllah

Farthing Wood Friends

Bismillah,

My dear friend from Edinburgh sent children a parcel about two months ago. There were some animal stickers and about 10 issues of children’s magazine called Farthing Wood Friends. I was not aware of the existence of this magazine previously. MashaAllah, these kept Sumayya busy for weeks on end. And all three children learnt so much about animals. What I really liked about this magazine in particular

  • It teaches children about animals and nature in general. Children grow up to be in so much harmony with the environment around them
  • The activities inside are very engaging and thought-provoking
  • It uses plenty of real-life pictures of animals/plants in nature. Some really capturing moments one just wants to look at for few minutes and say SubhanAllah
  • It uses really beautiful illustrations
  • Wonderful stories inside with follow up reading comprehension activities- good for literacy development
  • And the best part is- it has no adverts and no subtle use of language that encourage children to be materialistic. A lot of children’s magazines these days are full of subtle adverts, pictures of modern toys and children’s gadgets that make them go for certain brand or image (i.e images of Barbie or Hello Kitty etc). These magazines were issued in 1991-1992, two decade ago. (And one can certainly get the feeling of innocent childhood of that time)

After the addiction to magazines, we bought some of the original Animals of Farthing Wood story books. The series were written by Colin Dann in 1979. They were made into animated series by a number of European children’s production companies in 1990s. CDs, DVDs and eventually magazines came out. We have not had a chance to watch any of the animation series, just books and magazines. And both are highly recommended to all children between the ages of 4-8.