Planting trees and book review 2

Bismillah,

We have been quite busy in the garden recently. A couple of weeks ago we all went to one of the biggest garden centres in our area and bought an apple tree, pear tree, some strawberry plants and flowers. We had been waiting for the weather to get a little better and finally last weekend we planted out fruit trees; made a patch for our strawberries and flowers and planted them too! Now, let’s just hope the wind does not blow them away (it is too windy where we live on top of the hill)

Children spend a lot of time outdoors- I mean a lot. They do so much digging and exploring- it makes me crazy sometimes to keep up with all their adventures and bug hunts. We have jars filled with all sorts of garden findings all around the kitchen. Our garden has so many holes thanks to their digging. Things are upside down but I am hoping to spend more time this summer to supervise my kids’ gardening adventures (rather than leaving it up to them)

They also read a lot of books about birds, insects, how to grow plants etc. We have the following books in our asset: British Birds, How to Grow Houseplants and Crafts From Nature. They read and use the books independently.

These days we don’t have a routine as such, since we have changed the course of action towards Unschooling approach. This happened almost naturally with the birth of Ibrahim followed by Saida. Our typical day looks like this: I have got to make them a breakfast in the mornings which takes me 30 mins up to an hour (We dont have cereals and almost daily have big breakfast cooked from scratch). They wake up around 7-7:30am, have a piece of fruit and off they go to play or read books. We all have breakfast between 9-10am. Then after breakfast we all read Qur’an. Thereafter they go off to play either in the garden or indoors. Some days we read 1-2 books after Qur’an and talk about the characters.

I have got to start cooking lunch, tidying the house, feeding and bathing the baby in between and tending to their 101 needs in the middle of all my jobs. So, I thank God for Unschooling and leave everything up to kids until they come and ask me to teach them something lol. By teaching I mean the scheduled hours of teaching how I used to do in the past: I used to make the girls sit down between 10am-12pm and go through Qur’an, Arabic, Maths, English and Science. Of course, not all subjects in one day but still they would be on the table either doing a planned activity or going through the worksheets/workbooks. Now we do Maths, English and Science in a structured way just once a week. As long as we keep up with Qur’an, both reading and hifdh, I am happy with what they are doing currently.

Every family’s circumstances are different and these circumstances are changing all the time. I don’t regret what I did back then, I thought it was the best education I could provide for them. If I tried to keep up with the same approach/routine/schedule now I know it would leave me frustrated all the time. I think it would make everyone unhappy as baby and Ibrahim would be interfering all the time. Other things like taking Ibrahim to the toilet, sitting Saida in the potty, fold and put away washed clothes, peeling an apple for one and cutting some cucumbers for another- are so time consuming and constant. So, I am happy with what I have got at the moment and grateful for the blessing of Unschooling. It almost seems like a natural thing for me as if this should happen with all the children.

Reading and memorizing Qur’an. Both the girls can read Qur’an now, mashaAllah. Sumayya is mainly maintaining hifdh of Juzz Amma. Her memorization is so slow and I dont have time to sit down with her more than 40mins a day- during which time we do 20 mins revision and 20 mins reading. She reads 5-6 ayahs from surah Baqarah daily and I just give feedback on her pronunciation by verbally correcting her and explaining the tajweed rules where possible. Safiyya can read the surahs she has memorized. We do wordsearch on surahs An-Nas-to-Ad-Duha. She can find the word I ask her within any surah she has memorized. She is currently memorizing surah Layl and Shams. She reads from Qaida as well. Ibrahim has memorized 5 surahs and knows a lot of odd verses from other surahs his sisters memorized.

English. They mainly read books and write their own things: sometimes an apology letter to me when they upset me, sometimes a letter to a friend, sometimes an entry in their diary, sometimes a to do list for the next day. We try to keep it as practical as possible. I don’t ask them to write any particular thing. Safiyya and Ibrahim do activities on Starfalls and Oxford Owl in both English and Math. Recently, we have been watching the stories here.

Maths/Science- I am researching buying a certain structured, fairly balanced and practical curriculum for next year. We might continue with MEPS for Maths, though quite a few sisters suggested Singapore Maths is better. We will see inshaAllah. If we decide to switch to Singapore Maths, I might as well combine it with Singapore Science. (If you want to buy the Singapore Maths in the UK, Ichthus Resources provide them at slightly cheaper price than the other supply companies)

Book Review.

I have recently ordered a number of new Islamic books for the kids. Here is the short review.

  1. The meaning of the Holy Qur’an for School Children– an absolute must have book by Yahiya Emerick for every household. This is the best children’s tafseer book I have come across. Previously, I thought Ad-Duha mini tafseer books were really good mashaAllah. But, this book offers a number of advantages: It is simple, easy to understand and yet provides all the background information, history and story behind every ayah revealed. It uses powerful, elegant and effective vocabulary throughout with simple lessons to take away from each verse. It has got little illustrations to make it more attractive and suitable for all children between the ages of 7-16 year old to read independently. You can read it out to the younger ones and discuss the meanings together. I often read it for my own self and found it so so beneficial mashaAllah.
  2. Teaching Kids The Holy Qur’an: Surah 18, The Cave– another excellent book to add to your library. It contains all 4 major stories from surah Kahf. Mezba Uddin Mahtab used lego bricks and other toys to recreate the stories in a very engaging detail. When I read about the author and read his book here, I absolutely fell in love. When we got the delivery, this was Sumayya’s first pick and she read through all 144 pages in a couple of hours.
  3. 1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts From Muslim Civilization– just an interesting fact book to inspire and empower your Muslim children if they like to explore or find out more about world famous inventions and facts.
  4. Travelling Man- The Journey of Ibn Battuta by James Rumford. I always loved history and my kids do too. This is beautifully illustrated and written about the greatest traveler in Muslim history. This is a short autobiography of Ibn Battuta and his adventures in Mecca, India and China, about the people he met and befriended, the sultans he worked under, the rebels he was caught by and his ultimate survival throughout his travels 1325-1354. We all found this very interesting and loved the illustrations.
  5. Arabic Through The Qur’an– by Alan Jones. I want to study this book myself and later teach to kids. Aside from being the very latest Arabic grammar written by an academic, one of the special features of the book is its exclusive use in its vocabulary of Qur’an rather than modern Arabic. The main purpose of our study of the Arabic language is so that we can read and understand the Qur’an in its original language. I have decided awhile ago that I will be learning at least 2 vocabulary from Qur’an a day and this book is perfect because it teaches both basic grammar as well as the Qur’anic vocabulary.
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Bismillah,

Enjoying a quiet afternoon all by myself I thought I might as well post. Alhamdulillah, it has been nice outside today. Husband took big S and little I swimming. Little S has not been feeling well the past 2-3 days with on-off temperature and cough. So she had to stay behind. After a little bit of cry she quickly fell asleep on the sofa.

We have generally enjoyed quite a few sunny days over the past two weeks. As such, children have been spending a great deal of time outside, playing, planting, digging, cycling, watering flowers, collecting bugs and getting up to all sort of messy things.

One big news since I last posted is that big S has taught herself how to cycle on big bicycle. She had really old bike which her dad got her in car boot last year. She was riding it so much and poor thing broke. We got her a new bike 2 weeks ago. MashaAllah, we have been going to Lister park 2-3 times a week to cycle. Usually kids cycle and I just go for long walks. Now it is time we buy a new bike for little S as she still uses her old toddler bike. She grew out of it ages ago…. needs to pass it on to little I.

Hifdh. Alhamdulillah we have hifdh revision session nearly every day. I use the Qur’an tracker charts for both girls. When they feel demotivated, we talk and discuss how Allah elevates their status in the HereAfter with each new surah they learn. Sometimes we read the English/Uzbek translation. Alhamdulillah, it helps.

Arabic. Mainly revising what we have learnt before. We still focus on topic-based vocabulary. Use Arabic HandWriting Book and worksheets for handwriting, Madinah Arabic Book 1 for vocab and grammar.

Islamic Studies. Reading lots of Islamic story books, prophets’ stories, seerah stories and have a follow-up discussion. I try to develop their oral expression; they can answer the questions, explain the Islamic concepts learned, illustrate the Islamic concepts learned with real-life examples from their own daily life and experience. We pray together once a day; usually asr prayer these days. Review how to make wudu, what to say when dua cards, a box of manners cards 2-3 times a week. MashaAllah they always remember their duas when entering/leaving bathroom, entering/leaving the house, before/after a meal, going up/coming down the stairs etc. They often remind us and have taught little I a number of duas. For example, he always says “Allahu Akbar” going up the stairs and “SubhanAllah” coming down the stairs.

Maths. Big S is finishing her Maths workbook. She still struggles with some problem solving and mental maths concepts presented towards the end of MEP Year 1. These are mainly working with calendar, clock/timings, speed and measuring different things etc. Little S is doing MEP Year 1 too and currently finished working on operations up to number 9. She is really good in Maths and I generally do not push her as much as I used to do her elder sister. Sometimes she does a page, sometimes 2 pages and sometimes refuses to do maths. So, we just revise and review old maths concepts like shapes, colours, numbers up to 20, repeating patterns, counting by 2’s.

English. As usual, we all spend a great deal of time reading books. We go to the library every Saturday morning. Children take part in story time followed by an activity. We take out between 20-30 books each week (took out 20 books yesterday). Little S’s reading improved but I can see she is not a bookworm like her sister. She enjoys being read to but doesn’t read more than one book at a time by herself.

Her sister, on the other hand, refuses to do anything until she finishes all 20 books in one go. I had to ask her 10+ times to have her lunch and then keep reminding 20+ times to put all the books away whilst eating. I remember my mum used to get annoyed when one of us kids sat down for dinner with a book in our hands. She would get so angry if we kept reading whilst eating….And I used to think “what is it to you mom, as far as I have my dinner, with or without a book, what difference does it make to you” etc. But, honestly, I find it so annoying as a mother now. Every time I see big S with a book on dinner table, I am like “Go now and do not come back until you put that book away”. I must be ageing….

Chapter Books. Big S enjoyed reading the following chapter books last week.

“Puppy Gets Stuck” by Sue Mongredien

“Little Lost Hedgehog” by Jill Hucklesby

Writing. Following Ch. Mason’s narration method, we do not use any “Learn How to Write” workbooks or programs for composition, spelling and general writing. Alhamdulillah, their writing skill is developing naturally. Their typical daily writing activities include:

  • Writing letters to their friends, to me, to grandma, to grandparents back home
  • Shopping lists
  • Writing captions for the pictures they have drawn by themselves
  • Writing short stories by themselves
  • Rewriting the stories they have read

Little I is always copying his sisters. He tries to write and draw. When it comes to reading, he is just like big S. He can sit down and read books for hours. He is always after me, dad and grandma trying to get one of us sit down and read for him. We were watching a really interesting documentary about African Cats with kids yesterday afternoon. He quickly got bored, even though it was so interesting and made for children by Disney Channel. But, he absolutely loves books and does not seem to get bored with books. He is good at narrating and retelling the events too. He talks so well in full sentences, alhamdulillah. He has learnt some English phrases thanks to my neighbours and often uses them when we have visitors. He likes playing with legos, foam and wooden building blocks and his animal collection.

If anything we have been doing most lately, it is The Play. Like I said, due to nice weather outside, they have been playing so much. Our daily homeschool session does not last more than an hour. I try to vary the subjects and types of activities we do daily. But, I have just realized recently how much a child can learn by playing, by using her own initiative and imagination, by exploring things on her own. I often wonder why I used to worry so much about big S when we first initially started. All those concerns seem to have faded away and I am becoming less and less reluctant to send her to school even when she is older. I pray when the time comes, Allah will guide and help us to make the right decision. But for now, we are all happy with the progress and learning at home.

Islamic Books for Children

Bismillah,

So, your child can read. She is reading books. I suppose after children start reading and have developed the joy of reading, the most important task for parents is to provide them with good books. Books that help them to broaden their horizons; Books that help them to understand the world; Books that help them to differentiate between what is good and what is bad; Books that help them to shape a morally responsible character; Books that promote virtue and discourage vice.

Alhamdulillah, there are many Islamic story books out there than ever before. I would not say we get lots of choice or we always get the quality we want. Nevertheless, the market is developing and with each year behind, we can see more and more Islamic story books aimed at Muslim children of all ages.

Here is my long awaited book review for some of the books we have purchased awhile ago. Alhamdulillah, children have learned so much through these books.

1. A Concise Children’s Encyclopedia of Islam– big S is very much into encyclopaedic books at the moment. I would especially recommend this for children between the ages of 7-10 as they get to read about various phases of Islamic history, Muslim countries, inventions made by Muslims scholars, Islamic rituals and much more. Very interesting to read and beautiful illustrations (with no eyes)

2. Room 101 and Other Stories– I was very much impressed with this book. It is definitely a MUST have book for each Muslim household. Stories were originally written in Arabic by Dr. Ahmad Bassam Saeh, later translated into English by Dr. Imran Alawiye. There are twelve stories altogether, written both in Arabic and English (half a page in English, half a page in Arabic). A great tool for those children who need to practise their Arabic reading and vocab through stories. The book is made using great quality paper, hardcover and contains beautiful illustrations. Each story is so relevant and appealing to today’s society.  Children are encouraged to draw their own conclusions through characters’ behaviour and actions. They learn through each story that whenever a bad/evil is committed there will be a consequence to meet; Whenever good is done there will be a reward to reap; The head of all good deeds is the obedience to Allah swt. Big S (who will be 6 next week inshaAllah) loves this book and reads it every night. Little S (4 year old now) loves to be read as this is too difficult for her to read by herself.

3. Stories of the Prophets– again this book was written originally in Arabic by Sayyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, translated into English much later. This is ideal for more older children between the ages of 9-12, as it uses text only and no illustrations. It presents the lives of major prophets’ sent by Allah in more greater depth, using Qur’anic and hadeeth references. It is very informative, yet simple and easy to understand for children 7+. Ideal to be used as textbook in class, at home or school etc. It helps a child to understand all prophets’ mission through perceptive observations. Highly recommended

4. Allah and Me- Learning to Live Allah’s Way, teaches that a Muslim does everything for Allah. The book helps to form a strong faith in “Allah knows what is best for us”. The stories are short, simple and easy to understand. There is a Q&A and task based activity after each story. So, you can invite a child to have a follow up discussion after each story to find out what Allah expects from children, what He likes, what He dislikes etc. I find this book very practical as we often refer to one of its stories during the day. The stories are appealing and relevant to most children’s daily life. Allah and Me discusses some Islamic virtues/rituals which we should practise in our daily life in order to live according to Allah’s will. A perfect book to link child’s every action to Allah; to introduce a healthy dose of love of Allah and fear of Allah. (Illustrations are okay)

5. The story of Muhammad saw in Madina– simple and concise introduction to seerah for slightly older children, I would say 6+. Our 6 year old really enjoyed reading it all by herself. Great book to be read to children 4+. Excellent quality paper and excellent illustrations. Stories contain informative explanations and vivid descriptions.

6. These are set of story books published by The Islamic Foundation. We have had them for awhile now. I would say big S grew out of them but they are perfect catch for small S, so ideal for children between 4-6.

Hilmy the Hippo series, 5 books with excellent content and illustrations in this set titled: Hilmy the Hippo learns to Share; Hilmy the Hippo learns to be Grateful, Hilmy the Hippo learns about Death; Hilmy the Hippo learns about Vanity, Hilmy the Hippo learns not to Lie. 

I Can series, 4 board books with awesome illustrations in this set: I Can Read Qur’an Anywhere, I Can Wear Hijab Anywhere, I Can Make Dua Anywhere, I Can Say Bismillah Anywhere.

A Caring Neighbour– A Caring Neighbour

Our Grandad– 

 

 

Cindrella- an Islamic Tale- Cinderella - An Islamic TaleFinally, the set of books about “Know How’s” by Writeway Publications for younger children. These are not story books but lists a number of things about How To Be a Good Muslim on various topics with beautiful illustrations on each page. There are 4 books in this set titled  How To Eat and Drink; How To Be A Good Child; and How To Be Safe; How To Keep Clean. These have been little S’s favourite books recently and little I loves them too.

Alhamdulillah, we have been so far very pleased with our purchase of Islamic books for children. I have to admit that they are a bit expensive sometimes. But, we can not purchase them in charity shops, most libraries in the UK do not provide great variety of Islamic story books for Muslim children and these books are definitely not available in car boot sales. So, we have no choice but to buy them sometimes. InshaAllah, it is a good investment in shaping our children’s character. I can see this especially in big S since she reads these books all the time and then questions me on certain aspects of our life in order to understand more; or certain actions of book characters to make out the conclusion.

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.