# Weekend School

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, we have started our Raising Sahabas weekend programme in Riyadh. This year we have Year 3/4 group and Year 4/5 group and studying core subjects Maths, English and Science according to British Curriculum. I will be posting weekly updates here inshaAllah as much as I can.

Week one.

English

• LO- Reading Comprehension in a story poem. Children read the poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear and answered questions. We did short dictation for spelling and studied Adjectives. Year 4/5 group studied comparatives and the use of adjectives in a descriptive writing. They had worksheets to complete in pairs and when they finished they did peer-checking (marked each other’s work) Each group had a list of nouns. In pairs, they had to list as many adjectives as they can think of for each noun. We also covered how synonym adjectives used together to create more effect (i.e tiny little puppy)

Maths

• Problem Solving. I found this really good resource online full of problem-solving activities. Each lesson we start with circle time where they have to solve 2-3 problems in groups. So the problems they had to solve last weekend
1. Count the number of squares in this shape. Most answered 4 but the answer is 5. Second, move two of the sticks to make 6 number of squares. Only two sticks and two moves allowed.

solution

I gave them out cards numbered 1-9 and they had to be divided into three groups in such a way that the total sum adds up to 15 in each group. MashaAllah, they solved this problem in two different ways.

Third task was to guess the number. It is an odd number between 0-50, has 2 digits, the difference between the numbers 1 and the total sum of 2 digits is 5. MashaAllah, one student guessed the number 23 straight away.
Then we did geometry. Year 3/4 group worked on identifying the line of symmetry in different shapes. Year 4/5 group learning about regular and irregular polygons; measuring angles and finding the missing angle in any given shape.

Science

We learnt about circuits and they enjoyed building circuits. They read through the information, followed the instructions and worked on various projects making parallel and series circuits using a bulb, an alarm, a fan etc.

Alhamdulillah, kids had so much fun building circuits. Looking forward to next week!

# 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.

# 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.

# Winter is back

Bismillah,

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

Homeschooling is very much continuing, alhamdulillah.

Big S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# 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.

# Children and Languages

Bismillah,

We have often heard stories about multi-lingual children who can speak 3-4 or even more languages simultaneously and each very fluently.  I watched this video awhile ago and was so inspired. Indeed, the language faculty of any human being is made to learn any language naturally given the fact he/she is exposed to that language from young age. Children have capacity to learn as many languages as parents choose them to expose to. They do not have to make extra effort to learn a 2nd or 3rd language the way that many adults struggle to learn a foreign language. I have a friend who can speak, read and write in 5 different languages; she has mastered all five so successfully. I can think of many Uzbeks in the UK who are fluent in at least 3 languages- Uzbek, Russian and English.

Anyway, I really hope our children grow up as being multi-lingual. They learn Uzbek, English, Arabic and Russian. I just wanted to update briefly on our approach teaching each of these languages.

Uzbek is everyone’s first language at home. We have always had “No English” policy at home in the hope that they grow up bi-lingual (Uzbek/English) from childhood. Alhamdulillah, they are very fluent in Uzbek. Sumayya can read many Uzbek books we have got at home (these are in Latin script). And occasionally we do write passages in Uzbek. It is our main means of communication between all family members so naturally they can speak in Uzbek very expressively and at times eloquently. Hence Uzbek language uses the same Latin alphabet, they can read and write if we continue in this manner inshaAllah. I have not taught how to read in Uzbek but once they master the English alphabet they can easily read any Uzbek books as it is pretty straightforward (Uzbek is very straightforward phonetical language, unlike English). The only thing they find difficult to understand when reading Uzbek stories is the Vocabulary. Our children’s Uzbek vocabulary is limited to kind of spoken Uzbek and do not always understand the literary synonyms of many words used in books. This is partly due to 1) We do not have good collection of Uzbek story books that we can read often 2) We hardly every watch children’s TV programme or a cartoon in Uzbek. They are just not easily available.

English is everyone else’s first language outside our household. As we live in an English speaking country, they are exposed to the language the minute we leave the house. It is the main means of communication amongst our friends and social groups. So they pick up spoken English naturally. They have learned how to read and write and currently English is their main means of communication in writing. They try to write poems, stories, letters and little passages in English. They read a lot of books in English and watch educational cartoons, movies or documentaries made for children. I have no concerns at all for their English, even though they do not go to school. Most textbooks/workbooks/supplementary materials and worksheets I use in our homeschooling are made in English. So, they are taught both in English and Uzbek but carry out their written tasks in English.

Arabic– is taught language for them as it is not spoken around them. They attend Arabic classes and plus teaching at home using books and materials from the web. My husband reads to them stories in Arabic and they watch lots of children’s cartoons and TV programmes in Arabic. Currently we use 2 textbooks- Madinah Arabic Reader 1, Gateway to Arabic 1 and 2. I do not stick to textbooks only as I try to vary the number of activities we do. It is good to use variety of books/materials/resources as children can easily get bored with monotonous set of exercises and activities that keep repeating when using a single textbook. Here is the list of websites I get our resources from for our Arabic language classes

TJ Arabic Studies

Learning Arabic

Arabic comes first

Rahmah Muslim Homeschool

Soft Arabic

36 Arabic Stories for Kids

A Muslim Child is born

Current progress.

Sumayya finished the first 5 lessons from Madinah Arabic book 1 and 8 lessons from Gateway to Arabic Book 2. She can read and write. She does copywork for her handwriting and we do spelling test with most 3-4 letter Arabic words she has learned off by heart. I am not quite sure how many words she has learned in Arabic, could be as many as 200. She knows most words (nouns) based on the following topics/themes: Family; Body Parts; Colours; Shapes; Animals; Fruits; Vegetables; Household Items; and the last time I checked she was learning descriptive adjectives in her Arabic classes.

Safiyya has just started reading. She uses Gateway to Arabic Book 1 and she is currently on page 24-25. We also use the flashcards to help her reading. She loves them. She uses Arabic Handwriting Book 2 for her handwriting as she has finished Arabic Handwriting Book 1 twice. She has learned most vocab words the same as her sister: Body Parts; Shapes; Colours; Animals; Fruits and Vegetables but does not know as many words as her sister.

They both have Arabic classes daily Monday- Thursday, alhamdulillah.

Russian- is taught language, just like Arabic. But, we do not teach it as often or as much as Arabic. They are exposed to language in a sense 1)They watch cartoons in Russian 2) Read lots of Russian books for children- short stories, fables, longer chapter books etc. Alhamdulillah, we have a lot of Russian books to read

Although I have found local Russian school, I was always reluctant as it runs on Saturdays. Saturday is mainly family day/socializing day for us. We have always got something planned for most Saturdays. If we are not going out then most likely we have visitors that day. Also, we go to the library on Saturday mornings where kids join in the story time followed by arts/crafts session. So, they have never been able to go to Russian school in Bradford.

I ordered some Russian teaching materials and books for beginners last year from Uzbekistan. We have started using them recently with Sumayya. Alhamdulillah, she has learned the Russian Alphabet very easily and has just started reading simple words (not books yet)

Russian Handwriting Book

Inside

We are using Azbuka and Bukvar to help Sumayya read and build on vocabulary.

Azbuka flashcards that she can read now and learn the words on them.

That is it for now. I hope to teach Russian more regularly in the future and Arabic more constructively inshaAllah.

# Evaluation and reflection in home-education.

Bismillah,

SubhanAllah, it feels like ages ago since I last posted. And it feels like there is so much to write about. Our home-education journey is going well, alhamdulillah. The children I was teaching alongside my girls have now gone to pubic school and they are trying flexi-schooling. From what I have heard, that is going well, mashaAllah.

I did consider flexi-schooling for the girls but after much thought and consultation with family and other home-edders, we decided to continue educating them at home, inshaAllah. I do believe the hours spent at home are more effective as children finish structured/supervised learning in less than 2 hours and we have the whole day ahead to cook, clean, bake, read and play together.

I was reflecting a lot recently on our current home-education structure and what needs to be prioritized. I think talking to some home-edders with older children, reading some articles on play-based learning, the importance of not to start formal education till age 7 and milestones for different age groups- made me to stop and think. Also, there was an Islamic Parenting conference at Leeds Grand Mosque the weekend before Eid. MashaAllah, the course was so informative and inspiring. It made me think and adapt even more flexible, less structured, task-based way of teaching and doing things. Alhamdulillah.

I have been thinking on reviewing and re-evaluating the following steps inshaAllah

•Aims and objectives-the objectives of teaching/educating
•Content- lesson plans, methods and materials
•Organization- implementation, techniques
•Evaluation- review, feedback and reflection
I think as home-edder we constantly need to take time out to review and reflect our actions and home-edding structures and techniques. We have agreed with another home-edding mom to provide each other the  “reviewing and reflecting”  consultation service every two weeks inshaAllah. So, I am hoping the feedback we receive from each other will help us both improve, inshaAllah.
What are my aims and objectives of home-edding?
•Raise standards of achievement by offering my children an excellent learning experience
•Develop their character and instil Islamic values through Qur’an and hadith
•Bring the love of learning Islam into their life through interactive teaching methods
So, ultimately, I want my children to love Allah azza wa jaal and live by His will so they can attain good in this world and in the HereAfter, inshaAllah. Now, what are the steps that will help me to achieve this goal?
Firstly, constantly seek knowledge and improve my own relationship with Allah azza wa jaal. If I can not make learning compulsory on myself, I can not develop the love of learning in my children. They should see me: reading books, reading Qur’an daily, praying salah on time, practice the sunnah of the prophet saw in our household etc.
Secondly, what subjects am I currently teaching?
I was teaching Maths, English, Geography, Science, Islamic Studies, Tajweed, Qur’an Hifdh and Arabic language.
I have decided to make Qur’an Hifdh compulsory– we have to do it daily. And May Allah help us, it takes a huge amount of time and energy from all of us.
3 Priority subjects- Tajweed, Arabic Language and Islamic Studies.
Tajweed– usually done alongside our Qur’an hifdh sessions. So far, we have only used the traditional method of listen/repeat for tajweed. I listen to their recitation and make oral corrections when they pronounce the sound wrong. We have not introduced any of the tajweed rules (idgham, iqlab etc). To be honest, I am not confident myself as I have learned how to read Qur’an mainly by listening to sheikh and sisters’ reciting. Wherever I was not sure, I would go back and listen to sheikh’s recitation or stop and ask a sister when she is reciting etc. So, this is the same method I have used with children. Listening and oral correction of pronunciation. We also use the Ahsanul Qawaid book.
Arabic Language- I am using Gateway 1 with Safiyya and Gateway 2 with Sumayya. We also use Madinah Arabic 1 along with its supplementary materials. MashaAllah, both are doing well.
Islamic Studies– mixture of books and materials from the web. We have done About Me, My Five Senses, My Body, Seasons and Hajj theme packs from A Muslim Child is Born. MashaAllah, as usual sis um an Numan has put together such nice set of activities within Islamic framework and touch. We just loved all theme packs, alhamdulillah. We read tafseer of the surahs from Juzu Amma on Fridays. Read Islamic Story books, I have purchased some more from Islamic Foundation recently. We read and review the Tasheelul Aqaid and Hadith books. But it is mainly what practises we-parents reinforce at home that counts most towards their Islamic Studies understanding, inshaAllah. So, again, we parents and elders of the household should constantly reflect and review our own actions inshaAllah.
English- lots of reading together. Sumayya does lots of independent reading and Safiyya does guided reading. And I am still not planning to teach grammar/spelling until they are 7 years old. The conference I attended reassured so many things I have been thinking and reflecting on. And one of them was not to start any kind of formal education that might put child under pressure until 7. And focus more on life-skills and completing the tasks etc when home-edding.
To all mothers I say this from experience, I have not taught my children (currently aged 5 and 4)  any writing skills. All we did was tracing letters and writing as in holding the pen and do correct formation of letters independently. MashAllah, from what we can see our children do a lot of writing in different genres. They write stories- with correct sequencing of events that has beginning, middle and end. And in Sumayya’s case (currently aged 5), she makes full sentences in her stories, puts the intonation marks correctly, almost no spelling mistakes. I give all the credit to READING a lot as they both spend at least an hour a day just with books. So, if we want to improve their language skills then I think we should keep reading aloud to them from young age, reading together as they grow older and encourage independent reading the love of books from age 6-7 onwards. One way of doing this is, of course, by providing them with good-quality LIVING BOOKS. Regular trips to local libraries and purchasing more Islamic story books for home use will do the job inshaAllah.
So, our English lessons is so flexible, not-structured at all, based just on reading and fruitful discussions.
Math- Reviewing and reinforcing some of the concepts in MEP Year 1 with Sumayya. Reviewing numbers 10-20, colours, shapes, and some math concepts from MEP Reception with Safiyya. 1-2 a week, depending as and when we get time
We have given up the use of textbooks or any more formal learning on Geography, Science, History. We will do project-based practical things around the house, as and when we come across in books and on the net. Almost daily, they want to make something out of cardboard box, yoghurt pots, plant something etc. Recently, Sumayya made a perfume. She read the idea in one of the books we have. She got the empty jam jar, washed and dried. She collected different kinds of flower petals inside, alhamdulillah we have such variety of flowers in the garden. She put some water, closed the lid and left it for several days. When we opened the jar, the smell was so awesome. I almost could not believe as I only saw the final product and was very impressed by romantic smell of her perfume. She kept it and used it as perfume for several days.
And yesterday she put soil in small flower pot, again collected some fallen flower branches and “planted” them in her own way and brought it in to me. We left it in the garden.
Then she made a bird’s nest from box and put it in one of the bush’s in our front garden. She still loves birds and feeding them gives her such a joy.
Safiyya, too, is very creative and caring. She plays with strings, large beads, flash cards. But her favourite toy is Ibrahim. They play so nicely together and mashaAllah, Safiyya is so caring. She always acts like his little mommy, mashAllah.
Ibrahim (currently aged 16 months) is the smartest of all, lol. SubhanAllah, the minute he sees his sisters with books he gets some of his own books and sits down reading. He follows the script with his tiny-little-chubby fingers and pretends to be reading. He makes like a reading voice which makes us all laugh. When he sees his sisters writing, he gets pen and paper, starts scribbling. He can hold the pen correctly, to our astonishment. We all think he is just growing too quick and learning by just copying his sisters. He scribbles a lot on his legs, arms, knees too. He can point to all of his body-parts when we ask him. He can follow all the instructions/actions we ask him to do such as: Close the door, sit down, stand up, bring me a book, bring me a ball, raise your hand, put your feet down, bring me a toy etc.
He does animal voices for most animals like cat, dog, duck, mouse etc. When reading a book, he copies the actions of characters in pictures. If a bear is crying on certain page, he makes a sad face. If a bird is smiling on the next page he makes a happy face. He feeds himself, explains very well what he wants. He can say a lot of the words in his own vocabulary use: dad, grandma, bread, water, apple, melon, book, socks. And, finally, he understands almost anything we say to him, subhanAllah. Or, perhaps we understand him too well, lol.
He is so social and appears to be confident. We stayed for Eid breakfast at the masjid following the Eid prayer. He was lost in big hall several times because he wanders off, tries to talk to people, sit in their lap, physically turn their faces towards him with his hands if they are not looking and not concerned at all where mommy was or grandma was. He loves going outside, visiting neighbours and new people in our house.
Anyway, this was my reflection post reviewing aims/objectives and content of teaching/subjects. I will do another one on organization and evaluation inshaAllah when I get time. Hope you benefit from it and if you do then please share it, inshaAllah.