Winter is back


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.


Living in the moment…



I have meant to share some of my thoughts re new school year/planning and it was meant to be today, alhamdulillah. At sister’s circle on last Sunday we were discussing and sharing one thing that we learned from this Ramadan. For myself it was LIVING IN THE MOMENT. SubhanAllah, what does it actually mean, living in the moment?

Firstly, for me it meant grabbing every little opportunity that presented itself and increase my good deeds. I have often admired sisters who completed the Qur’an so-and-so many times in Ramadan or who have been able to do x-and-z much nafl prayers. Perphaps, I have not been able to do much but in our daily lives opportunities for little deeds always present itself to all of us and it is how we interact with those opportunities that really matters. So, I have learnt to consistently do those “little things” for the sake of Allah alone. I am trying to kill my expectations of people and expect nothing in return for those little things that Allah has enabled me to do. Yesterday has passed. I should not wish to have done things differently. Tomorrow is future, I should not spend long hours planning as Allah alone knows what actually happens tomorrow. But, what am I doing today? Right now? Am I using all the resources/means at hand to reap the reward in the HereAfter? What is stopping me reading Qur’an right now? Prioritize everything in our daily life and do everything with the right intention so we can turn them all into ibadah inshaAllah.

Secondly, living in the moment have also meant being able to say YES as often as I can to my kids. When they ask me to read them a book, even in the middle of my busiest day, I have been able to sit down and read to them. When they want to do some baking, help me with cooking or painting with acorns- I have been able to ask myself “Right, what is stopping me from saying YES. Is it something really important or my own laziness?” When they want to get changed and have all sorts of dress-up games at bed times just to prolong their bedtime- I just let them. Why to rush them, why to have rigid rules, why to be in bed exactly by same hour every night? Why not take each night as it comes and do those spontaneous fun things and increase our bonding? Especially since they have no school in the mornings. I am so grateful they do not go to school. I just find the whole idea of being out of house by certain hour in the mornings and doing the school-run is so stressful. There might come a time where I need to put the kids into school, wallahu Alam. Allah knows best how long we will be able to home-school but until that moment arrives why not just relax cosy evenings with plenty of reading, talking and discussions. So, they have no set bed time these days, it differs from day to day and we have been able to do so many extra-curricular fun things together.

Yesterday morning I asked Sumayya to do some copywork. She did half and said she would do the rest later. She wanted to do some spelling on Scribble (board game). I said ok, I knew she would do it later or I can remind her. But, if I was still previous ME and not “living in the moment” kind of mom, I would have demanded she finishes one thing before she moves on to the other. Even if she badly wants to play that Scribble game at that moment. And later that afternoon, not only she finished her copywork, she also did so much more writing than required because she wanted to.

The same thing happened when we sat down to do hifdh. I usually ask her to recite 5 of the longer surahs from Juzz Amma for review and move on to practise new surah. She read surah Tariq, A’la and Ghashiya (3 in total) and decided to review more later. Again, previous ME would have started lecturing her on the spot, reminding the rewards in HereAfter or even bribing her with sweets and things to finish all 5 surahs for review and practise new surah to memorize there and then. But instead I said “As you wish but you HAVE to do more hifdh later”. She was much happy and said “Please remind me if I forget it, mommy. If I forget I might become a liar”. I was happy she said it and later she recited more than 5 surahs to review.

So, I learnt that we should let children take the lead. They do not have to learn in the same order of subjects as we arrange them. We seem to have taken relaxed and flexible way of teaching and doing things and I feel children are taking the lead and been able to learn so much more on their own initiative. They are literally teaching themselves so many things, alhamdulillah. I have taken the back seat and provide materials and resources for their ideas/projects but mainly they come up with some kind of idea and they implement it with whatever resources I provide them with.

Living in the moment also meant to say NO to life’s distractions and strive for frugality and simplicity in our lives. I try not to use my phone, laptop, FB in their presence. How often have we said NO to our children just because we were sat in front of our laptops? Just because we were reading some news? Just because we were reading what people were up to on FB? Or we prolong some other important issues (like salah) and we procrastinate by surfing the net? I try not to be seen using the laptop in front of children for I fear kids copy this behaviour and grow up thinking all important talk/conversation takes place virtually and you can ignore the person sitting in front of you? (I have literally experienced this with some gatherings at university where most sisters pull out their phones out of pockets and would be busy socializing on FB whereas the room is full of with real human-beings, subhanAllah. I mean quite literally, maybe I have done that same thing somewhere….maybe. May Allah rectify our shortcomings)

We are studying 4-5 subjects each day. I plan and arrange worksheets/books/other materials the day before. We do a lot of spontaneous activities too when they come up with ideas and suggestions. I do not push to finish whatever I had planned and if we miss out on 1-2 of the planned subjects- that is fine too. We always have the next day inshaAllah. I would like to grasp the moment and do the things they really want to do. The order of subjects vary daily. We do numeracy (maths) and literacy (reading/writing/spelling etc) daily. We do Arabic, Geography, Science every other day. We are doing a lot more practical, hands-on activities like making things together, painting, experimenting etc. The whole teaching hours last around 2-2.5 hours and usually take place between 11am-2pm in the mornings.They are still under the age of 7 and I have come to believe too young for rigid scheduled learning. Ever since I adopted this kind of approach I can see how much more interest they are showing to learn. I think they develop the joy of learning more when I let them be creative and learn through projects they suggest. And, honestly, I have experienced they are getting more creative.


A letter to grandma


Thanks to Skype, we have been enjoying talking to my brother and sister recently. They didnt have laptop+internet before  so it was the first time the girls got to see their aunty and uncle. They are getting to know her cousins too. Maybe these might have encouraged them to be a bit more talkative to their grandparents on the phone. Usually they dont like speaking to my mum and dad on the phone. My mom and dad dont have either laptop or an internet connection yet but inshaAllah we will get a chance to see them through skype when they visit my brother in the capital soon.

Anyway, the bottom of the matter is, Sumayya is so keen on writing letters on MS word.  She wrote a letter to my mom.

She drew herself, Safiyya and Ibrohim on the picture. And she has asked her grandma to bring some cats and chicks when she comes over inshaAllah.

She has been using MS Word for 3-4 months and can type words, can insert shapes and choose colours for her shapes and choose borders/lines for decoration. First we let her do work on MS Word but now we limit it to a great extent as both myself and hubby fear that it might overtake her handwriting. At this point she needs lots of practise with her handwriting. As kids grow older, naturally they get more curious about all the technology out there so inshaAllah will have plenty of chance to explore. But, as much as we can, we should try to limit the use of technology at this early years. That is what we have decided.

And for her English handwriting, I am letting her do copywork. InshaAllah when she is better I ask her to do written narration for composition.




Together We Read: January 2012


I love the sister Um an Numan’s early literacy project over at a Muslim Child is Born. I have always tried to participate with available books on the subject. The project had a long break, but mashAllah sister had a new post this January. Alhamdulillah, it was about penguins this time. Ideal to learn in winter.

We didnt have the same book sister mentioned. But we had the following book about 3 little penguins who had to meet the consequences of being a lazy when they didnt listen to their mommy. Alhamdulillah, it is an excellent alternative so check it out in your local library.

Most activities inside were ideal for Safiyya. Sumayya read the poem about penguins and was interested in science experiment. Safiyya did the addition with penguins, tracing, puzzles, sight-words, cut and paste from the small to smallest etc kind of activities. Alhamdulillah, it was good follow up work to reinforce their knowledge of penguins and literacy. So, JazakAllah khayr to sister for putting this activity book together. May Allah reward her for all the wonderful books she writes for us, amen.

How I taught my daughter to read: Part two.


In my previous post I forgot to mention the fact that English is our daughters’ second language. We emphasize ‘no English’ policy at home except when we do literacy games/sessions or read aloud a book in English. Also at bedtimes, we read a mixture of English, Russian and Uzbek books. But I always translate it into Uzbek and point out the morale of the story/we have a little discussion of the content in Uzbek. Since recently Sumayya has been doing most of the translation herself. Still, I would say her English vocabulary is limited compared to her Uzbek vocabulary. She can’t express her opinions as clear in English as she would in Uzbek. Now she can read books like children’s encyclopedia, but I am not sure of her comprehension skills.

Anyway, this note was supposed to be about different methods of learning how to read and which one worked best for us. I just wanted to clarify the fact that for those who are native English speakers, maybe your children can start reading even younger. I have read and heard of cases where children started reading at 2, though I personally think it is too early. Perphaps, age 3 is ok to introduce a child to reading. what do you think?Anyway, the first thing I have used to familiriaze my daughters with letter sounds were wooden ABC puzzle and ABC building blocks (wooden cubes). Sumayya could recognize all the letter sounds of English alphabet at 18 months. Make sure you teach a letter sound not the name of the letter. Many ABC nursery rhymes, alphabet friezes follow the names of the letters instead of a sound. This can then be confusing when child shows interest to read. To get better understanding of what I am saying, you may watch “Apple apple a a a” song by Barbara Milne on youtube inshaAllah :). So I would get Sumayya to finish the puzzles and sing along to Barbara Milne’s song above, pointing to letter sounds on our puzzle. We have used this puzzle set extensively in a number of ways. For example, when finished sorting the puzzle, I would ask her point to sound “K” and she may point to letter ‘c’ or ‘k’. Both would be correct and I can remind different words with both ‘K’s. Later on we started playing a different game, I say K is for and pause. She then had to think of a word beginning with ‘K’ sound, as in ‘cat’ or ‘kitten’. You may take the chance to explain both ‘cat’ and ‘kitten’ begin with the same sound, but they are written differently. Sometimes we swap roles. We enjoy swapping roles where sumayya or safiyya becomes mommy and teaches me. So, they point to letters, explain what sounds they make then ask me the kind of questions I usually ask. Swapping roles can always be enjoyed when learning any subject, Alhamdulillah.

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