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.
Advertisements

Russian school and British gymnastics

Bismillah,

We have lately adopted more of Unschooling Approach to home-ed. Alhamdulillah we do English 2 times a week, Maths 2 times a week, Qur’an daily, Arabic 3-4 times a week. There is no timing, when and how long the lessons last depends on their mood and aptitude.

Hifdh/Qur’an Reading. Sumayya still reads tons of books a week. I am seriously thinking of cutting down on her reading hours as she is again having meltdowns when it comes to Qur’an time. She has forgotten some of the surahs she has memorized previously. Incident today gave me a final push to reach a deal with her; we have agreed every day after breakfast she goes back to her room to revise 2-3 pages I set as a task and come back down when ready to read to me off by heart. We are also reading 5 ayahs a day from surah Baqara and have read 4 pages of it so far.

Safiyya and Ibrahim do their Hifdh every morning without a problem, mashaAllah. Safiyya can read the surahs she has memorized and still on Nurani Qaida too. Ibrahim has memorized surah Fatiha and the last 3 surahs from the back (Nas, Falaq, Ikhlas). But we have to prompt the beginning of each ayah sometimes. We all use the same method: Listen and repeat.

Arabic. Alhamdulillah, Sumayya can read, write and understand a little bit. She has built on the vocab and some grammar with Gateway to Arabic Book 2. We practise handwriting too, though I decided it is not so necessary at this age. I think the main focus should be understanding from reading, hence building on vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Safiyya can read, tries to copywrite and learns vocab.

Maths. We have not done MEPs in 3 months now. Sumayya attends Maths classes at RE once a week and I do follow up class at home on what has been taught  once a week. Alhamdulillah for this opportunity and a blessing as I feel the burden of teaching Maths has been taken away. But again, I dont think this is enough once she is past 7 and should definitely be doing more at home.

English. The same old way- reading lots of books and follow up discussion with Q&A. We practise story-telling sometimes where I ask them to narrate a story off memory to me. Sumayya still reads a lot. She read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in just around 4 hours (though I dont think the content was appropriate for her age as she could not differentiate if it was real life story due to world war 1, which was a fact but then how come wardrobe can be so big to host kingdom? Children at this age do not get fantasy and it is best to delay any such books). Then on the weekend we watched the film, only half of it as it was too long. We are going to watch the next half on Saturday inshaAllah. Meanwhile she is rereading the book. She takes on a lot of writing porjects on herself simply for pleasure: writing letters, writing stories/poems, making posters etc.

Safiyya reads shorter story books but needs encouragement to read. I do guided reading even though she can read on her own. I was wrong to assume that once a child learns how to read, their reading interest will just take off and they will be flying with so many books daily. Safiyya is more interested in helping me around the house mashaAllah. She does so much tidying up, polishing and general cleaning. Everyone is always shouting out her name in our household “Safiyya, get me this. Safiyya, get me that. Safiyya, take this upstairs. Safiyya, take this downstairs”. I find it difficult when she is not around *smile*

Russian School and British Gymnastics. They have been attending gymnastics and Russian school on Mondays. MashAllah, it is the girls only session at gymnastics where they have learned a lot in just 3 weeks. They enjoy it a lot and we sometimes watch Olympics gymnastics videos and attempt to do some basic movements.

Russian school is going great too. Finally, after so many months I have enrolled them and Alhamdulillah, I am so glad I did. Although Safiyya is not much interested, it still benefits her to be in that environment where everyone speaks Russian. Sumayya, on the other hand, has picked up so much. She can read, write and understand a little bit. She has memorized poems in Russian, learnt the colours, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, fruit and vegetable names in Russian. She can say few odd words in conversational Russian and always eager to finish her homeworks on time.

At times I come so close to giving up the idea of homeschooling simply because of sibling fighting and rivalry in the house. Sumayya is always arguing with Safiyya, Safiyya is always fighting with Ibrahim and Ibrahim is always jealous of baby Saida. At times dealing and judging between them is just too much, especially if they start complaining that “I am not being fair. I am taking so-and-so’s side because I love him/her more”. I am sure this is nothing new to mothers who have multiple children within short age gap. I think of the peaceful days where I can have 5-6 hours all to “myself” without kids. But then comes the painful thought of sending them to school and I start putting the pros and cons of home-ed and public school on two sides of my scales. And then I say “Have some sabr and these days will pass”. I am having more of these thoughts lately and praying Allah will guide me to what is good.

Hajj Break

English: A picture of people performing (circu...

English: A picture of people performing (circumambulating) the . This picture taken from the gate of Abdul Aziz seems to divide the Kaaba and the minarets into mirror images of one another.

Bismillah,

We have resumed the classes last Tuesday the 29th October 2013 after our 3 week long break due being away to perform Hajj (seperate post is due on this later inshaAllah).

Alhamdulillah, the girls are doing surprisingly well. I had expected them to forget few things, to have meltdowns and emotional moments when we start the more structured classes at home. However, they are pretty much on the ball with every subject.

We are doing Qur’an hifdh, Qur’an reading and Qur’an tafseer daily. I don’t plan anything for these. I ask them to recite 5 random surahs from Juzz Amma. Then Sumayya reads 1 surah daily from 29th Juzz. I ask Safiyya to read 1-2 short surahs from the back. Sumayya did have 1-2 meltdowns initially. But after I have told them my Hajj stories and how everyone makes so much effort to do more ibadah over there in Mecca, she was a bit more motivated. So, after hifdh and tajweed, I read them the meanings/translation of 1 surah from Juzz Amma daily using the Uzbek translation of meanings of the Qur’an. Sumayya really wants to read that Qur’an book which is in Cyrillic alphabet so she keeps asking me to teach her how to read Russian sooner so she can read the Uzbek translation of Qur’an we have at home. I intend to start teaching Russian again starting from next week. Ibrahim started memorizing the last 3 surahs, like officially lol. He has his own turn after I finish with the girls and we do some listen+repeat session with him.

Then we do Math daily using MEP Year1 for Safiyya and MEP Year2 for Sumayya. Again,I am surprised how they have been able to pick up from where we left without any difficulty. Alhamdulillah, either Allah has made things really easy for them (and me) or sometimes having a long/relaxing break would help to reinstate their knowledge. Anyhow, this hajj break did all of us so much good, Alhamdulillah.

Then we do English daily. I am trying to get Safiyya read more. We went to the library last week where I encouraged Safiyya to choose her own books so we can read it together at bedtime. She usually chooses her own books but this time I did point out that she would read them to me and I would help with the words she gets stuck. I don’t know how/why she doesn’t like reading even though she can read. I guess it is in her nature. She does tons of DIY jobs daily at home. She is more hands-on/practical person. Anyway, I am going to encourage her to read more. We have even started Evan-Moor Grade 1 Science book with her so she can practise her reading by reading the instructions inside, doing the experiments and writing reports (not necessarily story books). We have covered the first 4 lessons and she does not seem to appreciate it much. We will see how it goes inshaAllah.

Sumayya is mashaAllah doing well in English. We do word definitions (I give her a list of words to write down the meanings), spelling, book-writing and use a dictionary. Last week I gave her the resources and asked her to write a book on how Allah created this world and everything in it. So, she what she made looked like an information booklet with 4 pages. There are some pictures on each page and she wrote her own sentences like “Allah created angels from light. Allah created jin from smoke of fire. Then Allah created Adam a.s. etc etc”. She makes grammatically correct sentences. I am planning to use sister Imaan’s topic-based lapbooking projects with Sumayya inshaAllah.

We have managed to do 2 Arabic sessions. We have revised all the vocabulary with Safiyya on Body Parts, Colours, Shapes, Animals, Fruits+Vegetables. She can even read those words, alhamdulillah.

We are on lesson 5 in Madina Arabic Reader Book 1 with Sumayya. Again, we have revised the vocabulary of lessons 1-4, practised reading with exercises inside and I do little tests on vocab and reading. We are not putting any emphasis on Arabic handwriting at the moment.

Generally speaking, I am pleased with their progress the past 2 weeks. We still do all our learning between 10am-12pm in the mornings. They have got the whole afternoon to play and until 10am in the mornings. We leave for work at 4 pm where they have Tajweed, Arabic and Islamic Studies 4:30-6:30pm and Free/Fun Playtime with peers 6:30-7:30pm. They are tired by the time we come home usually around 7:45pm. So, we come home and have something to eat (something light as they have full meal just before we leave the house at 4pm). All three are usually in bed by 8:30pm. Sometimes I read them a bedtime story, sometimes I tell them one of my interesting Hajj stories off the top of my head, sometimes I leave the lights on for 10 minutes so they can read 1-2 of their own books borrowed from the library.

They did get to play in the garden a lot the past 10 days even though the weather has been cold. And their dad took them to local playground twice. They love it outdoors, just like any other child I think. Sumayya wants to ride her bike but I am not sure when she will get the chance. We got them some warm winter boots today. I have got to think some other ways of keeping them occupied outside teaching hours. InshaAllah we are going to start to go to swimming on Saturday. And I will try to find one other extra curricular thing to do during the week, biithnillah.

Back to home-school 2013

Bismillah,

This is my very late post on our back-to-school life.

The thing is, I have not been able to do much planning for this academic year. With the birth of a baby in the summer holidays; followed by Ramadan (I was fasting as well as fully breastfeeding the baby); followed by me going back to work; followed by preparations for Hajj (inshaAllah we are off to Hajj in 2 weeks) there just seems to be not enough time to plan and teach everything I want to. So the bad news is that we are not as organized for this year. However, the good news is that I am totally loving it! LOL

We tend to go more towards unschooling approach, taking each day at a time, trying to follow the flow of life, let the kids dictate what they want to do each day and follow their lead. The number of articles I have been reading and the past few months experience teaching and working with parents have somewhat made me more relaxed towards my children’s daily routine. The fact that big S is still not yet fully 7 contributes to this fact of me “chilling out”and “taking things easy”. I keep telling myself that we will start our more regimented/schedule based lessons when they are older. I will be spending more time “teaching on the table” at least after a child turns 7. Of course, I am still teaching all day long on the go, very informal kind of teaching where I have to answer their 101 questions on various topics. Sometimes I just say to them “Go and do your own research on google” lol. And they just love it since they get to use the laptop.

Anyway, we plan and Allah plans and in the end He knows best. Here is what I have planned and what they have been doing this school year so far.

English– Big S is always reading. We are all concerned that she is reading too much and missing on some life-skills she could be learning. Sometimes she spends 6-7 hours in her room reading whereas her little sister spends just as much time helping me around the house by tidying up, polishing, arranging the books neatly on shelves, arranging everything in cupboards around the kitchen, peeling and washing the vegetables I need for today’s cooking etc.

I am trying to get Sumayya to narrate more and Alhamdulillah she is just coming out of her shell. She still does not acquire the skills to narrate the stories she has read in nice chronological order of events, using rich vocabulary to get consistent, smooth flow of events happened in the story. But at this point I am happy with what she can do in narration.

Her composition skills are just coming along and we still practise story-writing. I give a topic to write a story or the first 1-2 sentences and ask her to finish off the story. She writes short stories quite comfortably. I correct her spelling and grammar mistakes. It always strucks me how little grammar or spelling mistakes she makes, even though I have never taught her any grammar and we have never followed any spelling programmes. Alhamdulillah, the magic of reading a lot!

Safiyya can now read short story books. But, the truth is she does not enjoy reading. It is a struggle for her to finish even one book from beginning till end. I remember at her age Sumayya would read as many as 10 such books a day. But then again, Safiyya has excellent narration skills. She mostly analyses the illustrations and comes up with her own story. And she tells me any story so nicely. Her imagination is just awesome and she is way too creative for her age. Alhamdulillah.

We wont do any official writing with her but she is always writing me letters, making cards with messages inside, drawing pictures and writing captions etc. Again, I am happy with her literacy skills at this point.

Ibrahim has been going to Raising Explorers with us since August. Alhamdulillah, he is very social even though he has very limited vocab in English language. He communicates mainly in Uzbek and still learning English. We will start the phonics when I think he is ready. He tries to write when his sisters are writing and has good hand-eye coordination.

Maths- Big S finished MEPs Year 1 and we have mainly been revising the topics. I have to say that this is very challenging Maths programme for both of us. I have tried to teach some of the things inside to other kids at work and most of them were blown away. I have reviewed some other Maths programmes recently, namely Singapore Maths, Kumon Maths and in the end decided to stick to MEPs for a number of reasons (explaining them would require another post). So, inshaAllah we shall proceed onto MEPs YEAR 2 with big S next week.

Little S did MEPs Year 1 up to number rounds up to 10. She is very good in Maths. Indeed kids come with different packages of skills. Sumayya is good at English/literacy and a bit weaker in Maths. Safiyya is weak in English but good at Maths. So, alhamdulillah she will continue with MEPs Year 1 (although she is officially reception kid in the UK for this academic year)

We have just started learning shapes, colours, numbers 0-10 with Ibrahim. We use shape sorters, coloured foam and wooden building blocks, flashcards, coloured stacking cups to learn those. (He is now 2 btw)

Science- nothing formal, no workbooks, no special programmes, except watching and observing things/movements around us and learning about them.

Qur’an– my aim for this Year for big S is start reading the Qur’an cover-to-cover from back to front inshaAllah. We still mainly focus on hifdh and I ask her to read a random page or  a random surah here and there. She can read alhamdulillah. Still using Madinah Arabic Book 1 in Arabic.

Little S is still on hifdh. She has a long way to finish Juzz Amma inshaAllah. She can read a stand alone words from various surahs but can not read on mus’haf as reading is not her thing. Still using Gateway to Arabic Book 1 in Arabic.

Islamic Studies- again very much hands-on approach. We talk, discuss, explain all Islamic concepts, rituals, practices all day long; we try to pray together; we try to read Qur’an daily; we try to say all our daily duas; make dhikr and dua etc. We read books and stories. They both won an Islamic activity book each at Raising Explorers Eid party recently and have been trying to complete them.

Sumayya was awarded as one of the best achieving students in her class. She is half way through this book

Safiyya won this book in the Qur’an competition for her age group

InshaAllah, Sumayya will start attending Maths/English/Science classes at Raising Explorers from next Saturday. She will be attending an hour of each class on Saturdays only, a total of 3 hours, Safiyya is too young to attend those classes yet. We will carry on at home.

My rough scheduling is that I am aiming to have at least 4 hours of Maths a week with each child, 4 hours of Qur’an, 3 hours of English inshaAllah.

Play

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.

Challenges and priorities

Bismillah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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