The Reluctant Dragon

Bismillah,

English

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, we have read a passage from the story “The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame. I explained to kids that the story was written long time ago and some of the vocabulary are difficult to understand. But, they should be reading more stories like this as it trains their brain to automatically pick up the language, style, vocabulary and everything.

They read passages from the story, we worked on Nouns and Pronouns. They answered the questions and wrote their answers in full sentences. Alhamdulillah, everyone’s writing has improved (though I believe there is still lots of work to be done, it feels great to notice these little changes in handwriting, spelling and punctuation)

Maths

We did work on the concept of time and how we measure time: seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, year. And 60 seconds=1minute;  60 minutes=1 hour 24 hours=1 day; 30/31 days= 1 month; 12 months=1 year.

We did word problems like this to understand how it is an important life skill to have to be able to work out the solutions.

I also introduced fractions to the younger group and they grasped the concept easily. They did this easy worksheet to practice

Science

We learned about Rocks and Minerals

• The earth is made of 3 parts: Core, Mantle, Crust
• Earth is made of rocks and minerals
• There are 3 main types of rocks
• Igneous rocks are born of fire (melted rock hardens)
• Metamorphic rocks are made of due to heat and pressure
• Sedimentary rocks are layers of rocks and formed due to rain, wind, water etc
• Melted rock is called Lava

We watched a few power point presentations on the topic. I found this unit study made by homeschool den is so useful, mashaAllah. It is full of practical activities and free worksheets. We did some of the activities here and found out how human beings use mineral for almost everything.

We will be exploring Minerals in more detail next term inshaAllah.

Fun Friday Activity

We had Junk Modelling session this Friday. I asked them to watch a couple of videos on youtube to get an idea and decide as a team what to make. That didn’t go very well. Everybody seems to have an opinion and they couldn’t agree on what to make. Alhamdulillah, I had to intervene and get them all work together. InshaAllah, more team-building activities coming up!!!

Alhamdulillah, we are nearly halfway through the programme now as we finished 5th week. We have 1 more week of studies and preparing for SATs exams in the following weeks. We just go through the SATS papers here inshaAllah.

Homework:

• Maths- two pages from MEPs and go through the time/calendar word problems
• Science- do this unit study inshaAllah, go over the activities and worksheets and watch a nice documentary about rocks and minerals if you can find one on youtube

Aesop’s Fables

Bismillah,

We started with Math on Friday. We are still doing activities on the following with the younger group:

• Numbers up to 100
• Number sequences
• Place value in 3 digit numbers

Alhamdulillah, they are so much better and quicker in mental calculations. Though they still need a lot of practice, we will be moving on to more life skills next week (Money value, time, calendar, measuring quantity, weight and length etc)

Older group did shapes, fractions and addition and subtraction word problems. They wouldn’t get the word problems straight away, I always have to explain a bit further. So, inshaAllah, more practice in that next week as well.

English

We read short stories from Aesop’s Fables. I told them about Aesop, a slave who lived in Greece a long time ago. He wrote stories known as fables. He used animals to describe people in his stories and all the stories have a “morale” or a lesson to teach. Some of the girls already knew about him as they studied his fables at school.

So, they first read the stories and identified proper and common nouns in a story. Then we looked at pronouns and how they are used to replace nouns (so we don’t keep repeating nouns throughout the story). Then they did copywork for handwriting and answered the questions for reading comprehension. I explained to them to answer in full sentences and reviewed that a sentence starts with a capital letter, ends with full stop and has one complete idea/event/opinion etc.

Aesop’s Fables is a great book to have at home. All the stories are short, easy to read and easy to understand. It is especially great for young readers, kids between the ages of 6-8. All the stories are easy to narrate back and you can have a wonderful follow-up discussion.

So, we read the story called “The Dog and His Reflection” and discussed how greed is not a good thing to have in you. But rather, if we are content and grateful for what we have, Allah increases the barakah and gives us more.

Reported by Miqdad bin Ma`dikarib (RA): I heard Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels (bites) that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing (air).” (Tirmidhi – Riyad us Saliheen, Chapter 56, 516)

Ibn ‘Abbas and Anas bin Malik RA reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “If a son of Adam were to own a valley full of gold, he would desire to have two. Nothing can fill his mouth except the earth (of the grave). Allah forgives those who repent”.
(Bukhari and Muslim).

Science

We learned about Materials and how people use different Materials in their daily lives, alhamdulillah.

• Materials can be natural (wool, stone, rock) or man made (plastic)
• Natural materials can be living (wood) or non living (stone)
• We use metal to make cars and coins
• We use plastic to make carrier bags or plastic toys
• We use wool to make clothes and cotton fabric to make clothes and curtains etc
• We use wood to make toys, tables, chairs etc
• We use rocks and stones to make roads
• We use glass to make glasses and windows
• We use clay to make pots
• Some materials are found in nature (metal, stone) and some materials are made in factories (glass and plastic)

Alhamdulillah, Science is always practical and the girls are so productive. They understand most concepts straight away. The lessons just increases their awareness of the things around them. These lessons are here to encourage them to notice and observe things in nature and in everyday life.

Fun Friday activity

We went to the park. AGAIN!!! They had races, went on the swings, took turns to ride bikes and walked around the park. Alhamdulillah.

Raising Sahabas in Riyadh: Week three

Bismillah,

This week we started with Math on Friday. We cover Oxford Primary (Countdown Maths series) in class and the girls complete two pages of MEPs at home each week.

Math

The younger group focusing on

• numbers up to 100
• Number sequences/patterns
• Place value
• Addition and subtraction facts (4+8 is the same as 8+4; but 12-8 is not the same as 8-12; a+b=c so a=c-b and b=c-a)

The older group focusing on

• Fractions
• Multiplication facts (5×4 is the same as 4×5)
• Doubling and halving
• Addition and subtraction word problems

As I said before, a lot of their weaknesses are in mental calculations and word problems. We are still practicing skip counting, countdown and “how many more?” type of questions at circle time. (I urge all the parents to do more informal Maths work at home- just give word problems or practice skip counting in 2s, 3s, 5s etc)

English

We did comprehension work first where we read a story and answered the questions in groups. Then I asked them to rewrite the story in their own words.

We also listened to a story called The Lion and the Goat on Oxford Owl and did the activities there.

This week we did Grammar in English. So we covered:

Weaknesses in language:

One of the ESL tendency I noticed in some of the girls is that, when they read they encounter some words they don’t understand. And they can’t go pass beyond the word unless they are absolutely sure to know what it means. So I explained, even adults don’t know or understand all the words in a book when they read it. But the words surrounding the unknown word should help us to understand the meaning of it. I said to them ” When you read a story and there is always going to be a new word you are not so sure about. But it shouldn’t stop you from understanding the story. You can still understand and later work out the meaning of the word you don’t know”. So we did the following Context Clue Writing worksheet.

Some of the girls just couldn’t grasp the concept of a Noun and a Collective Noun. I explained “Noun is a word that is a name of a place, person, thing or idea” and “pronoun is a word that can replace the noun”. And collective noun is a word that refers to a group of something. I gave examples, demonstrated how to spot nouns and pronouns in stories and how they are used. But a couple of them still struggled with the task here where they had to rewrite the sentences by changing the nouns to pronouns.

Science

We learned the following two topics this week.

Food we eat:

• Vitamins and minerals that come from fruits and vegetables
• Protein and Carbohydrate
• Calcium makes our bones strong and comes from dairy products
• Healthy food VS Junk food

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Housing and Clothing around the world

• Houses and clothes can be different depending on the weather and climate of a specific region
• Some types of houses are: Stilt (in rainy regions), igloo (in cold regions), tents (in hot regions), sloped roof houses, caravans etc
• Materials used to make a house: bricks, cement, steel, glass, wood
• Clothes vary depending on region, season and culture of people
• Materials used to make clothes: cotton, wool and plastic

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Alhamdulillah, they all enjoy Science and do all the activities with so much pleasure and passion. This week they designed their own Healthy Plate by choosing variety of food groups from Food Pyramid. They also discussed the types of houses, which kind of a house they wanted to own and wrote answers to some questions.

Fun Friday Activity

We had another picnic in the park and everyone loved it. It was only a short visit as we finished classes at 12:20pm and they all asked to stay a bit longer. Good thing about going to park at this time on Friday is that it is empty. There is rarely anyone around so they had races and went on the swings (usually my kids never get a turn when we go in the evenings, nobody has a concept of queue or freeing up public space for others to use). Some girls go to gymnastics straight after the class, so they were practicing cartwheels and star jumps etc

Homework:

• Minimum two pages from MEPs
• Go over the worksheets and further explain what a noun, collective noun and a pronoun is.
• Read a story and group a) write one thing you remember from the story; group b) rewrite it in your own words (Focus is on summarize the key ideas/events and sequencing)
• Identify nouns/pronouns in your own writing above. Underline nouns and circle pronouns
• Talk about the type of a house you want to live in the future

The Railway Children

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, another productive weekend has come and gone. Time is flying past, subhanAllah. This is the summary of what we did this weekend.

Maths

We started with circle time activity: Skip counting in 2s, 3s, 5s and 10s. Recognizing the numbers up to 100 and 1000. Identifying place value in numbers up to 100 and 1000. I write a number on board “245, 58, 79”, then ask them to read the number and answer “How many hundreds in 245?” or “How many tens in 58?” etc. Also reinforce some basic concepts like when we add the number should increase; subtracting is the same as countdown so the number should decrease- and we need these skills in our everyday life (When following a recipe for something we want to bake or cook, when shopping to check if we are given the correct amount of change)

And some problem solving activities where they had to work out the answer by themselves. And they continue with MEPs pages at home.

Weaknesses:

• Motivation- some girls are naturally sharp and clever in Maths. They understand all the concepts and are quick to work out the answers. Some are so demotivated, not necessarily because they don’t know the answers, but simply because of the lack of interest. They can do but they take ages to complete the activities and need a lot of push and reminders.
• Mental maths- overall they all need more practice with calculations “in their head”. Some can’t do anything unless they put the pen to paper and do all the sums on paper.
• Problem solving- again, we have to work on understanding certain formulas such as a+b=c, so a=c-b and b=c-a

InshaAllah, we will start with Maths next week as we have been leaving it to the end (as many prefer to start with Science and English) and we don’t seem to have enough time to complete everything planned. So, we will swap the order or lessons each week to add a bit of variety inshaAllah.

English

We read a passage from The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. I did guided reading with the younger group. The story was written over a hundred years ago, hence some vocabulary are hard to understand. So we read it together and had a group discussion. One of the girls brought the abridged version of the story so we had extended discussion and children really liked the story. I always encourage them to answer the questions orally before moving on to writing. It is always easier to write once they have the ideas ready in their minds.

After the group discussion, they have to read the text independently and write their answers. Younger group can write short answers whilst older group have to write full sentences (elaborate their answers).

We also did some copywork from the book for handwriting, spelling and punctuation. When they write, I ask them to point out the capital letters, commas and full stops in a sentence and emphasize:

• Capitals are used at the beginning of each sentence and for proper nouns.
• Full stop is used at the end of a sentence.
• Comma is used when two sentences are joined together or when many similar items are listed in a sentence.

Some examples of English work

Science

We covered two topics in Science. On Friday we learnt about Animals.

• Animal features (land animals may have claws, fur and tail. water animals may have fins, gills and scales)
• Their food habits (Plant eating animals are herbivores, meat eating animals are carnivores, both plant and meat eating animals are omnivores)
• Animal habitat (domestic or wild; animal homes: dens, burrows, kennel, trees etc)

On Saturday we learnt about Human Body in detail. They learnt some terminology (including myself). Some basic concepts covered in class:

• Skeleton gives structure to our body and consists of bones. Adults have 206 bones, babies have around 300. We have different bones including vertebrates, tibia and flat bones in our skull
• Internal organs are protected by our bones and each have an important function
• Muscles cover the bones and help us to move. Bones are hard and rigid whereas muscles are soft and elastic.
• Joint is a place where two bones connect. Some of our joints are elbow, wrist, knee, hips, shoulder and neck.

I deliver the topics with Question and Answer, pair-work and group discussion. Then they have to complete some tasks individually to check if they understand what we just learnt in class. So, they completed the following worksheets

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Fun Friday activity

We had fun at the park on Friday, Alhamdulillah. Younger girls were shy to talk about their favourite books to the whole group. But they read their books to each other and we had picnic and race. Alhamdulillah

Humble beginnings

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah, we have started our weekend home-school programme in Riyadh. It was so nice to work with a bunch of girls over the weekend. We worked hard and played hard too!

InshaAllah, I will be posting weekly updates on what we cover each weekend in Maths, English and Science.

This programme was designed after consultation with parents to meet the needs of our girls some of whom have never been to school (full time homeschoolers) whilst others attend full time Arabic school (homeschooled to supplement English curriculum). So, each add a different dynamic to our learning environment, alhamdulillah.

Maths

We are blending Oxford Primary’s Countdown Maths series with Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEPs). We start with circle-time activity where I ask them some mental maths questions like:

• Count till 100 in 10s, count till 1000 in 100s
• Skip counting till 20 in 2s, till 30 in 3’s and till 50 in 5s (times table revision)
• Countdown 50 to 0 in 5s, countdown 20 to 0, 100 to 10 in 10s
• I shout out the number and ask the girls to identify Hundreds, Tens or Units (Identify Place value)
• Give one problem solving activity that requires addition/subtraction (for younger group) “I bought a book with 10 riyal and a pencil with 8 riyal. How much money did I spend?” or “I bought a book for 10 riyal. I gave 50 riyal to the shopkeeper. How much change shall I get?”
• Give one problem solving activity that requires multiplication/division (for elder group)

Then they each have a set of worksheets to do from MEPs. Each do their own work, we go over the answers together. Alhamdulillah, maths is pretty much straightforward. So we can do some group learning (mental maths and problem solving) and they can do their worksheets individually and at home.

English

We are using Writing With Ease and First Language Lesson (both by the authors of ‘The Well-Trained Mind’). I love these books for a number of reasons. First, they use classical techniques such as dictation, narration and picture study to develop child’s language ability. Second, they use authentic texts and passages from classic children’s literature. Children work with Living Books and thus learn some concepts deductively (they internalize the style and vocabulary). Third,  First Language Lesson is a complete grammar text whilst Writing With Ease is a complete writing programme. And they both compliment each other.

If you ever want Charlotte Mason method of teaching language in action, these are the books that follow her ideas and techniques (narration, picture study, dictation, copywork and especially the use of authentic and genuine text- these are all originally her ideas).

So, the focus of work this week was:

• Proper nouns (months of the year)
• Sentence writing (capitalization and full stop)
• Reading comprehension: They read a passage from The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright and answered questions both orally and in written.
• Introduction to poems: They read Bed in Summer by Robert Louis Stevenson and discussed the poem in groups.
• Copywork: they all copied a poem about months of the year

Science

We are following Oxford Primary’s Everyday Science. Alhamdulillah, I really like the gradual sequence of topics in the series and how everything in Science is linked to our everyday life. Everybody in the group seems to like Science. We covered the following topics:

• Surroundings: Clean and Green
• Living and non-living things (man made and natural)
• Plants (plant life-cycle, photosynthesis, parts of plants and their functions, types of plants such as climbers, creepers, trees, herbs etc)
• Plants as food (fruits, vegetables, pulses, grains- all come from plants. They all provide us with minerals and vitamins which are essential for our growth)

MashaAllah, they all knew so much about healthy eating. They were quick to tell me their experiences of healthy eating: one raises her own chickens and they lay fresh eggs for them daily, one tried to grow a watermelon and it is a creeper type of plant, one grows vegetables at home in pots, one grows herbs at home for cooking etc. Although they haven’t done any formal lessons, they already know a lot in Science, so the idea is just to encourage them to think more behind each action in everyday life. They will be moving to creating charts and database collection next week.

Fun Friday activity

We made smoothies and microwave cake in a mug. Massive JazakAllah khayr to a sister who kindly provided all the ingredients and her two daughters took the lead in the kitchen. They even explained to us why they would use almond flour and coconut flour as oppose to normal bleached flour (hint-hint-healthy eating choices). So our microwave mug cake went down so well with mango and strawberry smoothie.

Tips to reinforce learning at home:

• Read any short story together and ask a child to narrate
• Ask a child to copy the names of the months
• Skip counting and countdown activities when driving in the car or cooking in the kitchen etc
• The Railway Children– you may want to tell your children about the book and the author-Edith Nesbit- as we will be reading a passage from it next week inshaAllah.

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Raising Sahabas weekend programme in Riyadh

Bismillah,
Assalamu alaykum sisters. Are you based in Riyadh and looking for quality academic tuition at a more affordable price? Are you a mom who is looking for guidance and direction in your homeschool routine? Do you want your child to benefit from small group learning using innovative teaching methods such as problem solving, reasoning, logical thinking? Learn through investigative team work and research?
If so, you can register your child at Raising Sahabas weekend programme.
Open for:
AGE: 7,8,9 year olds  (native speakers only, no ESL kids)
GROUP SIZE: 8 kids maximum
AREA: Ishbiliya
CURRICULUM: UK, British
Focus : Academic, Maths, English and Science.
TIME AND DATE : Fri and Sat 10am – 12pm.  (Extended free hour of fun activities each Fri 12-1pm)
COST: 200 sar weekly  (50 sar an hour and 1 hour free)
Please pass on to families who might benefit from this programme.
Thank you.

Bismillah,

I have long been wanting to write about schools in Riyadh. I found no useful information when I was researching about schools back in England. So, I hope the information provided here would be of use to a lot of people who are still deciding to whether or not to move to Riyadh or Saudi in general.

First, like I said in my earlier post, there are plenty of international schools in Riyadh. These are English-medium schools following either British, American, Canadian, Australian or Indian curriculum. There are lots of international schools that follow Indian curriculum and run by Indians. I have heard some positives about these schools. But, average international schools, with the exception of British and American international schools, can’t afford to bring qualified teachers from overseas. So, because they mostly employ local people with fluent English proficiency but not necessarily trained to teach a group of children a certain subject, the standards are low. Also, the whole system puts so much emphasis on memorizing and not necessarily to research or project-based learning. So the education approaches and methods used are very different. Thus resulting in not encouraging innovative thinking or creative writing etc.

Below is the list of schools in Riyadh that was recommended to us,

Some schools have both International and Arabic section. For example, Manarat and Rowad, they have 2 sections. They run both English and Arabic private schools on the same premises and the tuition fees differ slightly with Arabic section being a little cheaper.

Private Arabic schools.

Also, there are lots of private Arabic schools, called Ahliy schools. Most of these schools are administered and run by non-Saudis. For example, there are lots of private Arabic schools that follow Egyptian or Jordanian curriculum. Since we wanted to register our children at Arabic school, some friends recommended us the following schools. They have children currently attending these schools and they are really happy with progress etc.

1. Dar al Arqam private school

Both of them have primary, secondary and high school sections. They have Boys school and Girls school totally segregated but the school buildings not too far apart from one another (makes the school run easier). Also, schools run two programmes- Tahfeed programme or regular school programme. If a child enrols in Tahfeed programme, all the other subjects are shortened so they spend a lot of time memorizing Qur’an at school. For example, they get taught main concepts in Maths, English and Science but they skip lots of pages in their textbooks and workbooks. Instead, they will be spending more time memorizing Quran and they have a specific schedule to follow (like a target to accomplish each year)

School transport.

Now, most of these schools are located in north of Riyadh, so around exits 7, 8, 9 and 10. These areas are very popular with western expats, especially due to main schools being located in one of these areas. Once you register your child, you would have to arrange transport. You only have 2 options: school bus or private driver. Either way, it is best to live close to schools. As I mentioned before, transport is the biggest hurdle in Riyadh. Basically, transport costs could add up to more than the school tuition fees annually. Most school buses charge around 6000-10000 SAR a year for two way transport, depending how far you live from school. Alternatively, you can arrange your own driver (any taxi driver you have used before and trust your kids with, or someone you know from school etc). If parents have more than 1 child attending the same school, arranging private driver may work out better both in terms of cost and time (school buses take longer time as they map out the route for picking and dropping 20 or more kids in one go)

Nurseries and kindergardens

There are some day care services catered to western expat working couples. I have also observed most people arrange their own day care: leave your child with someone you know. A lot of the time, the information is passed by a word of mouth, someone at work recommends someone they know or have used before etc. I have come to know two British sisters who opened registered nursery/day care in their houses. You can’t arrange none of these unless you are in Riyadh.

And you can’t arrange none of these online or with phone conversation. You have to visit every place/person in person and speak to them in person, fill out applications on site (no online version for anything).

This is the most difficult task parents have to undergo. Basically, if your child doesn’t start school here from age 4 or 5, no school can admit your child directly. All children wanting to enrol at any school (international or Arabic) in Saudi after the age of 5, they have to register through the Ministry of Education. So, you go to school, your child sits a placement test. Your child is allocated a place in a certain grade according to their ability. And then they will say, you have to take the following documents to the Ministry of Education and complete the whole enrolment procedure there:

1. Child’s birth certificate
2. Child’s passports
3. Child’s iqama
4. Parents’ iqama
5. Passport size pictures
6. Immunization certificate
7. Previous school reports attested by the Saudi Embassy in your home country (this is the biggest pain as most parents don’t have school reports or they have not been attested by Saudi Embassy in London. Basically, you won’t find this information anywhere until you arrive in Riyadh and directed to go to the Ministry of Education)
8. If your children have been homeschooled and therefore can’t provide a school report, a letter explaining your situation and stating the education law in England that says home-educating is legal etc. I have a template letter, so do contact me if you need one.

If the Ministry of Education is happy with all the documentation, they will issue Approval Letter to state that any school can admit the children listed on the letter. So, you have to take this letter to a school of your choice and register them.

One more thing, it may take a month or even longer to have all the documents ready. But schools don’t give any discount because your child missed X number of days in Term 1. As long as you register in Term 1, even if they attend 1-2 weeks of school before Term 1 ends, you still have to make the full tuition fees payment for that term. So, the best is do your research and have all the documents ready before your arrival ( for which you will have to follow my blog lol). Or in our case, school started in August. Our children missed 2 months of school. If we send them to school now, we still have to make the full payment for term 1 for three of them. So, the best is, to wait until term 2 (mid January) and register them then so we are not paying for the school days they have missed. Meanwhile, you can get a tutor that comes to teach them at home, or register them at Tahfeed at one of Dar’s (Arabic+Qur’an classes that run in most mosques or education centres etc).

I hope this information will be of benefit to many more parents who like me spend hours searching the internet about schools and administering procedures in Saudi only to find nothing and left feeling frustrated.

May Allah make things easier for all of us and allow us benefit from the system here and make the most of our stay. Amin ya Rabb.