Planting trees and book review 2

Bismillah,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review.

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

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

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.

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

Yemeni Links

Madina Arabic

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.