Self-development

Bismillah,

 

The girls have been going to swimming for the past two weeks. Alhamdulillah, Big S is swimming so well without armbands. I actually doubted her swimming skills since we have not been at all for the past 6 months (since the birth of baby S, that is nearly half a year subhanAllah). And even before that we were not going regularly due to pregnancy and other issue. Hence I was actually very surprised when I saw her swimming. Especially the second week, she was swimming on her back, on her front, with her head under the water and she tried sideways. So, she was basically confident enough to try out different styles of swimming.

Now middle S is a complete different story. First week we didn’t take armbands so she was constantly either clinging to me or to metal bar on the side of the pool. Second week, with armbands on, she did let the metal bar go a little and she was praising herself so much for that. This girl of mine does not like to challenge herself. SubhanAllah.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about myself and how I am connecting to the children. Since I have come back from Saudi, I keep thinking and rethinking about our set ways of doing things and my teaching and I feel there is something missing. I am often disappointed with myself. Generally speaking, I think one feels quite disappointed to return to this “dunya” where everything revolves around worldly things and you have just been to a holy a place at a time everything revolves around Godly things. Very strange feeling.

So, I keep evaluating things at home and keep asking “What do I want to achieve out of this homeschool thing? What is it really I am striving for?” Yes I want them to be able to read and understand Qur’an. Yes I want them to learn the Arabic language proficiently. Yes I want them to excel in Math, English, Science and in all their academic subjects. Yes I want them to go to top universities and become a dentist, a doctor, an archaeologist and ocean explorer, a story writer and an illustrator. However, the bottom line is, I want them to be good MUSLIMS.  So, before anything else, I want them to have good spiritual connection with Allah the Almighty and submit completely to the will of God. I want them to have that complete tavakkul (faith) and certainty with Allah swt and live their lives according to Islam.

I think we all agree that there is really only one effective way of moulding their character in this way from young age. There is only one thing we can do and that is SELF-DEVELOPMENT. If I really want to instil Islamic values in my children so they build up an Islamic character, the way forward is to start focusing more on myself. Because children will naturally observe, imitate, copy the adults of the household. And I strongly feel that my children are educating me in so many ways. They make me so conscious of what I say, how I speak, what’s my attitude and how I react. I know they are banking all these somewhere in their brain and will have exact same attitude to most things in life later on. That is so scary for me because I know I have a lot of character traits to improve. I am constantly praying that my children will turn up as someone much better than myself. Inshalla they won’t pick up those bad characteristics. Then at night time I lay in bed thinking “You are kidding yourself. The only way forward is to change those bad bits into good bits”. That is such a struggle, to constantly battle with your own self. May Allah guide and help us all.

So I am disappointed every time I shout to discipline them. I want them to have the love of Allah, the love of the prophet saw and the love of deen. But, I am so quick to point out their mistakes and shortcomings. I am so quick to judge and preach them. I lecture them daily about how Muslims should do things in Islam. And I fear that I am doing “more correcting and less connecting”. I am not really connecting to them in a manner that brings the love of learning Islam, the love of seeking knowledge into their lives. Sometimes I hear a friend or a colleague saying “Oh I hated Maths at school” or “I remember hating this or that subject so much” and the worst thing to happen would be one of our children saying “Oh I hated doing Arabic” or “I hated reading Qur’an” or have very negative attitude towards seeking Shari’ah knowledge.

So, I have decided to focus on 3 things for myself and for my family: Love everyone for the sake of Allah (because this stops that judgemental attitude you have towards others, including one’s children), Live in the moment (focus at present, plan as if you have forever but live as if you only have today) and Share the khayr.  When it comes to children, here is my target to do lise

  • Shout less
  • Discipline less- what it really means is criticise less. praise vs criticism ratio should be 5:1
  • Fill them up with love and make them feel loved unconditionally, regardless of what they do, what they say
  • Create such an atmosphere at home where everyone feels appreciated, wanted, valued
  • Listen to them when they speak, get to their level, make eye-contact
  • Say “yes” more often then “no”
  • More connecting through fun family activities

 

Play

Bismillah,

Enjoying a quiet afternoon all by myself I thought I might as well post. Alhamdulillah, it has been nice outside today. Husband took big S and little I swimming. Little S has not been feeling well the past 2-3 days with on-off temperature and cough. So she had to stay behind. After a little bit of cry she quickly fell asleep on the sofa.

We have generally enjoyed quite a few sunny days over the past two weeks. As such, children have been spending a great deal of time outside, playing, planting, digging, cycling, watering flowers, collecting bugs and getting up to all sort of messy things.

One big news since I last posted is that big S has taught herself how to cycle on big bicycle. She had really old bike which her dad got her in car boot last year. She was riding it so much and poor thing broke. We got her a new bike 2 weeks ago. MashaAllah, we have been going to Lister park 2-3 times a week to cycle. Usually kids cycle and I just go for long walks. Now it is time we buy a new bike for little S as she still uses her old toddler bike. She grew out of it ages ago…. needs to pass it on to little I.

Hifdh. Alhamdulillah we have hifdh revision session nearly every day. I use the Qur’an tracker charts for both girls. When they feel demotivated, we talk and discuss how Allah elevates their status in the HereAfter with each new surah they learn. Sometimes we read the English/Uzbek translation. Alhamdulillah, it helps.

Arabic. Mainly revising what we have learnt before. We still focus on topic-based vocabulary. Use Arabic HandWriting Book and worksheets for handwriting, Madinah Arabic Book 1 for vocab and grammar.

Islamic Studies. Reading lots of Islamic story books, prophets’ stories, seerah stories and have a follow-up discussion. I try to develop their oral expression; they can answer the questions, explain the Islamic concepts learned, illustrate the Islamic concepts learned with real-life examples from their own daily life and experience. We pray together once a day; usually asr prayer these days. Review how to make wudu, what to say when dua cards, a box of manners cards 2-3 times a week. MashaAllah they always remember their duas when entering/leaving bathroom, entering/leaving the house, before/after a meal, going up/coming down the stairs etc. They often remind us and have taught little I a number of duas. For example, he always says “Allahu Akbar” going up the stairs and “SubhanAllah” coming down the stairs.

Maths. Big S is finishing her Maths workbook. She still struggles with some problem solving and mental maths concepts presented towards the end of MEP Year 1. These are mainly working with calendar, clock/timings, speed and measuring different things etc. Little S is doing MEP Year 1 too and currently finished working on operations up to number 9. She is really good in Maths and I generally do not push her as much as I used to do her elder sister. Sometimes she does a page, sometimes 2 pages and sometimes refuses to do maths. So, we just revise and review old maths concepts like shapes, colours, numbers up to 20, repeating patterns, counting by 2’s.

English. As usual, we all spend a great deal of time reading books. We go to the library every Saturday morning. Children take part in story time followed by an activity. We take out between 20-30 books each week (took out 20 books yesterday). Little S’s reading improved but I can see she is not a bookworm like her sister. She enjoys being read to but doesn’t read more than one book at a time by herself.

Her sister, on the other hand, refuses to do anything until she finishes all 20 books in one go. I had to ask her 10+ times to have her lunch and then keep reminding 20+ times to put all the books away whilst eating. I remember my mum used to get annoyed when one of us kids sat down for dinner with a book in our hands. She would get so angry if we kept reading whilst eating….And I used to think “what is it to you mom, as far as I have my dinner, with or without a book, what difference does it make to you” etc. But, honestly, I find it so annoying as a mother now. Every time I see big S with a book on dinner table, I am like “Go now and do not come back until you put that book away”. I must be ageing….

Chapter Books. Big S enjoyed reading the following chapter books last week.

“Puppy Gets Stuck” by Sue Mongredien

“Little Lost Hedgehog” by Jill Hucklesby

Writing. Following Ch. Mason’s narration method, we do not use any “Learn How to Write” workbooks or programs for composition, spelling and general writing. Alhamdulillah, their writing skill is developing naturally. Their typical daily writing activities include:

  • Writing letters to their friends, to me, to grandma, to grandparents back home
  • Shopping lists
  • Writing captions for the pictures they have drawn by themselves
  • Writing short stories by themselves
  • Rewriting the stories they have read

Little I is always copying his sisters. He tries to write and draw. When it comes to reading, he is just like big S. He can sit down and read books for hours. He is always after me, dad and grandma trying to get one of us sit down and read for him. We were watching a really interesting documentary about African Cats with kids yesterday afternoon. He quickly got bored, even though it was so interesting and made for children by Disney Channel. But, he absolutely loves books and does not seem to get bored with books. He is good at narrating and retelling the events too. He talks so well in full sentences, alhamdulillah. He has learnt some English phrases thanks to my neighbours and often uses them when we have visitors. He likes playing with legos, foam and wooden building blocks and his animal collection.

If anything we have been doing most lately, it is The Play. Like I said, due to nice weather outside, they have been playing so much. Our daily homeschool session does not last more than an hour. I try to vary the subjects and types of activities we do daily. But, I have just realized recently how much a child can learn by playing, by using her own initiative and imagination, by exploring things on her own. I often wonder why I used to worry so much about big S when we first initially started. All those concerns seem to have faded away and I am becoming less and less reluctant to send her to school even when she is older. I pray when the time comes, Allah will guide and help us to make the right decision. But for now, we are all happy with the progress and learning at home.

Islamic Books for Children

Bismillah,

So, your child can read. She is reading books. I suppose after children start reading and have developed the joy of reading, the most important task for parents is to provide them with good books. Books that help them to broaden their horizons; Books that help them to understand the world; Books that help them to differentiate between what is good and what is bad; Books that help them to shape a morally responsible character; Books that promote virtue and discourage vice.

Alhamdulillah, there are many Islamic story books out there than ever before. I would not say we get lots of choice or we always get the quality we want. Nevertheless, the market is developing and with each year behind, we can see more and more Islamic story books aimed at Muslim children of all ages.

Here is my long awaited book review for some of the books we have purchased awhile ago. Alhamdulillah, children have learned so much through these books.

1. A Concise Children’s Encyclopedia of Islam– big S is very much into encyclopaedic books at the moment. I would especially recommend this for children between the ages of 7-10 as they get to read about various phases of Islamic history, Muslim countries, inventions made by Muslims scholars, Islamic rituals and much more. Very interesting to read and beautiful illustrations (with no eyes)

2. Room 101 and Other Stories– I was very much impressed with this book. It is definitely a MUST have book for each Muslim household. Stories were originally written in Arabic by Dr. Ahmad Bassam Saeh, later translated into English by Dr. Imran Alawiye. There are twelve stories altogether, written both in Arabic and English (half a page in English, half a page in Arabic). A great tool for those children who need to practise their Arabic reading and vocab through stories. The book is made using great quality paper, hardcover and contains beautiful illustrations. Each story is so relevant and appealing to today’s society.  Children are encouraged to draw their own conclusions through characters’ behaviour and actions. They learn through each story that whenever a bad/evil is committed there will be a consequence to meet; Whenever good is done there will be a reward to reap; The head of all good deeds is the obedience to Allah swt. Big S (who will be 6 next week inshaAllah) loves this book and reads it every night. Little S (4 year old now) loves to be read as this is too difficult for her to read by herself.

3. Stories of the Prophets– again this book was written originally in Arabic by Sayyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, translated into English much later. This is ideal for more older children between the ages of 9-12, as it uses text only and no illustrations. It presents the lives of major prophets’ sent by Allah in more greater depth, using Qur’anic and hadeeth references. It is very informative, yet simple and easy to understand for children 7+. Ideal to be used as textbook in class, at home or school etc. It helps a child to understand all prophets’ mission through perceptive observations. Highly recommended

4. Allah and Me- Learning to Live Allah’s Way, teaches that a Muslim does everything for Allah. The book helps to form a strong faith in “Allah knows what is best for us”. The stories are short, simple and easy to understand. There is a Q&A and task based activity after each story. So, you can invite a child to have a follow up discussion after each story to find out what Allah expects from children, what He likes, what He dislikes etc. I find this book very practical as we often refer to one of its stories during the day. The stories are appealing and relevant to most children’s daily life. Allah and Me discusses some Islamic virtues/rituals which we should practise in our daily life in order to live according to Allah’s will. A perfect book to link child’s every action to Allah; to introduce a healthy dose of love of Allah and fear of Allah. (Illustrations are okay)

5. The story of Muhammad saw in Madina– simple and concise introduction to seerah for slightly older children, I would say 6+. Our 6 year old really enjoyed reading it all by herself. Great book to be read to children 4+. Excellent quality paper and excellent illustrations. Stories contain informative explanations and vivid descriptions.

6. These are set of story books published by The Islamic Foundation. We have had them for awhile now. I would say big S grew out of them but they are perfect catch for small S, so ideal for children between 4-6.

Hilmy the Hippo series, 5 books with excellent content and illustrations in this set titled: Hilmy the Hippo learns to Share; Hilmy the Hippo learns to be Grateful, Hilmy the Hippo learns about Death; Hilmy the Hippo learns about Vanity, Hilmy the Hippo learns not to Lie. 

I Can series, 4 board books with awesome illustrations in this set: I Can Read Qur’an Anywhere, I Can Wear Hijab Anywhere, I Can Make Dua Anywhere, I Can Say Bismillah Anywhere.

A Caring Neighbour– A Caring Neighbour

Our Grandad– 

 

 

Cindrella- an Islamic Tale- Cinderella - An Islamic TaleFinally, the set of books about “Know How’s” by Writeway Publications for younger children. These are not story books but lists a number of things about How To Be a Good Muslim on various topics with beautiful illustrations on each page. There are 4 books in this set titled  How To Eat and Drink; How To Be A Good Child; and How To Be Safe; How To Keep Clean. These have been little S’s favourite books recently and little I loves them too.

Alhamdulillah, we have been so far very pleased with our purchase of Islamic books for children. I have to admit that they are a bit expensive sometimes. But, we can not purchase them in charity shops, most libraries in the UK do not provide great variety of Islamic story books for Muslim children and these books are definitely not available in car boot sales. So, we have no choice but to buy them sometimes. InshaAllah, it is a good investment in shaping our children’s character. I can see this especially in big S since she reads these books all the time and then questions me on certain aspects of our life in order to understand more; or certain actions of book characters to make out the conclusion.

How to instill the love of Allah….

Bismillah,

In our second Islamic Parenting course that took place on Friday the 25th of January 2013 we discussed and learned more about “How to instill the love of Allah in children”

We have first started discussing this question in pairs. Alhamdulillah, most of our moms gave the same response as the counselors on the website and suggested what steps should be taken to prevent this from happening. But, ultimately, everything happens according to the will of Allah swt, and this could be a means of test for those parents. May Allah keep all our children on the straight path always, amin.

So, how to instill the love of Allah? First, as with everything else, by example. The love of Allah is one of the basic requirements of being a Muslim. As parents, we must instil a healthy dose of Love and Fear of Allah in our children. In order to do that, we must first have that dose of Love and Fear in ourselves so children can observe and imitate us.

Allah has made His love obligatory on the believers. To attain the love of Allah, we have to do the things that pleases Him and stay away from things that He forbid for believers in the Qur’an. As the scholars have stated if we don’t strive to achieve His pleasure then most likely we will be following our desires and temptations for temporary life. And Allah said in the Qur’an “That is because they followed that which angered Allah, and hated that which pleased Him. So He made their deeds fruitless” (Surah Muhammad: 28)

Once we say we love Allah, then we have to back the statement up with our actions. What do we have to do to love Allah? Again, Allah gave the answer in the Qur’an “Say, (Oh Muhammad saw to the mankind) If you really love Allah then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Surah Al-Imran: 31). So, the first thing we have to do in order to instill the love of Allah in our children is to accept Islamic Tawheed with our heart, and follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah in our everyday life with our actions.  Children will learn most things by example and imitation.

If we look at child development in age-range, from birth-6 years old, most children absorb what they see and hear. Copying and imitation is their way of learning. So, we have to give them great things to imitate by setting the example ourselves. With children of this age group, we have to emphasize the understanding of Aqeeda, Tawheed, one’s purpose of life and memorize as much Qur’an as possible by active listening.

And to show and prove that we-adults of the household- love Allah, we have to follow the prophet Muhammad saw in our everyday actions as prescribed in the Qur’an. Simple things like always sitting down to drink, saying Bismillah before eating, entering the house with the right foot, entering the bathroom with the left foot, always saying the daily adiyah (duas like when entering/leaving house) will give them initial training as children will be establishing habits during these early days. In other words

They will also find memorizing verses from the Qur’an and other Learn By Heart tasks so easy at this age as their brain does not make extra effort at those. They just absorb what they hear and listen, whatever the language the piece might be. So, it is best to listen to the Qur’an around the household, when travelling in car etc by using every possible technology we have at hand (Alhamdulillah, most of us can use IQur’an apps on our smart phones, Ipads, Tablets, digital Qur’an players, laptop/PC etc. Just make use of anything at hand for the hifdh of Qur’an. Remember, we do not have to do anything else except just getting our children listen to Qur’an by playing it in the background at all times/sometimes)

In addition we have to start explaining the reason behind our actions. For example, “I want to pray on time because this is what makes Allah happy”, “Let us say Ghufranak now because the prophet saw always said this when leaving bathroom. We have to follow the prophet saw if we want to go to Jannah” etc.

From age 7 years onward, we have to start somewhat more formal training of our children. We have to ask them to start praying with us, making wudu, be more strict and regular with their everyday manners through habit-training. For example, everyday eating habits would include- sitting down to eat, eat with the right hand, eat from your own side of plate, wait patiently for the elders take the 1st serving, eat slowly by chewing properly, say alhamdulillah on finishing etc; Everyday dressing habits would include generally start dressing modestly, covering awrah, wearing hijab every now and then for the girls etc;

Boys should start attending masjid at this age and boys and girls should start praying salah at least once a day. Also, most scholars have taken the understanding that age 7 is kind of turning point in child’s training from the hadith of the prophet saw “Teach your children to pray when they are seven years old, and smack them (lightly) if they do not pray when they are 10 years old, and separate them in their beds.”

As we do not believe in the notion of “Teenagers/Adolescents”, we have to start giving our children responsibilities around the household and start treating them with respect and maturity they deserve. Our aim is to raise morally responsible and integrated individuals who can truly understand that one’s purpose in life is to seek the pleasure of Allah swt for the attainment of Jannah in the HereAfter. Our children have to fully understand that upon hitting puberty they become Young Adults rather thanTeenagers.

We know that Qur’an states ” (Remember!) that the two receivers (recording angels) receive (each human being after he or she has attained the age of puberty), one sitting on the right and one on the left (to note his or her actions).  Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it).” (Qaf: 17-18)

According to statistics, most girls will begin puberty at 8-14 years of age, with the average age being 11. And most boys start reaching puberty at 10-15. In today’s society, in the case of both genders most would have definitely reached puberty by 15 years of age.

So, 8-14 years of age is crucial point in our children’s lives and in our parenting style. We have to do lots of talking and ‘connecting’, doing things together in and out of household, let them explore and understand the world with our guidance. We have to stop treating them like a child, but rather start consulting with their opinions when deciding on important household/financial/other matters.

Today, a lot of girls and boys of that age group want to be ‘independent’ and yet depend on their parents in so many ways. I have seen girls as old as 15-16 years old (from a very respectable Muslim families) who can not even make a cup of tea for themselves. Mother still does all their laundry and ironing not to mention cooking and cleaning for the whole family. All because the girls are studying and have exams. I do not mind them being excused on the day of exams, and few days before to get ready for it. But, asking the mother to do absolutely everything and anything for them is not accepted in my terms. Several occasions I have asked the girls Why? questions and was answered that they do not know how to use the washing machine, the iron, the microwave etc.

On the other hand, Alhamdulillah, I have also come to know families in which girls as young as 12 has been given the task of cooking for the family once a week and boys as young as 8 being responsible for household tidiness on certain days of the week. MashAllah, these ‘teenagers’ have so much more to do than just studying and on such friendly terms with their parents due to participating in full family life.

In conclusion, we should not be scared of giving our children responsibilities between the ages of 8-14. We expect them to conduct themselves like an adult and start feeling accountability for their actions as soon as they reach puberty. In order to achieve this, we have to respect them, treat with maturity and give them tasks and responsibilities regarding all aspects of our family life/their own life.

Anyway, I will finish have to finish off with this video of the sheikh. Food for thought inshaAllah

Islamic Parenting Circle

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, we have launched a much needed project on Islamic Parenting at Raising Explorers. From the start, it has been our aim to work closely with parents. My experiences of teaching has convinced me long ago that educating children would be much more effective if parents understood some basic principles about training a child and how to engage them in learning.

Our first Islamic Parenting Course took place on 21 December 2012. It was titled “Meeting the challenges of parenting in the West, an Islamic Perspective”. Much of what was delivered through an interactive presentation was taken from the book which has the same title.

Parenting, in general terms, refers to caring for a child, helping him/her to be spiritually and mentally healthy at different stages of child development and help him/her reach their full potential as an individual in life. From an Islamic perspective, however, the first notion of parenting that sets the difference is that WE DO NOT OWN OUR CHILDREN. Our children are entrusted to us by Allah swt and we will be responsible for their well-being until they reach maturity.

Allah swt said in the Qur’an “Verily we shall give life to dead and We record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We taken into clear account” (Yasin 36:12). Most commentators derive from the phrase “what they leave behind” is one’s offspring/how they are brought up and other continuous charity. They cite the following 2 hadiths in the tafsir. First, the Prophet stated the two ways of pioneering which will continue to influence and affect others separately: “Whoever pioneers a good practice is given thawab both for that work and for people who will take it as an example for themselves till the end of time. And whoever pioneers an evil practice is given the sin of both for that work and for people who will take it as an example for themselves till the end of time.”  Second, “After one dies, his book of deeds is closed. Yet, rewards for these three things continues: freeing a slave, a useful knowledge that is permanent and a good son/daughter who prays for the good of the dead person.” (Muslim). So, based on these and several other hadith, Children are our sadaqah jaariya- continuous charity. They are the blessing from Allah swt and could be the means for us entering Jannah if we nurture their soul in the right way.

Children have been created by Allah swt with an individual soul and pure fitrah (nature) to worship Allah alone. First and foremost, parents have to help them understand the purpose of one’s life through the worship of their Creator.

Children have 3 rights over their parents. In other words, Islamically all parents are responsible for providing the following three for their children: good name upon birth, good tarbiyyah and get married when they become man/woman of age (Muslim). Very often we give our children good names and majority of Muslim parents do help their children to get married. But we often struggle what comes between these two: giving them the right tarbiyyah.

In the first Islamic Parenting Course, we covered some basic principles for tarbiyyah including

  • Understanding a child
  • Family atmosphere
  • Linking child to Allah swt, incalculating the concept of  ‘La ilaha Illallah’
  • Instilling the love of the Prophet saw
  • Favoritism is not allowed in Islam
  • Setting age-approporiate tasks
  • Showing love and compassion
  • Disciplining without disrespecting

Unfortunately I can not stop in detail about each point here but each is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Those who have attended the course had the privilege of finding out that precious information, discussing each point in detail and enjoyed the company of sisterhood and motherhood (hint-hint, try to come to the next session). Alhamdulillah, we had really good feedback from all mothers who have attended.

I will soon be typing up the contents of our 2nd Islamic Parenting Circle inshaAllah but off to a class now.

News news news….

Assalamu alaykum,

We have so much news after our silence that prolonged over 2 months. Wierd, but I do not miss blogging though I believe it is a good opportunity for self-reflection in our home education. Naturally, we have a lot of news to share.

The kids are doing well, all three are developing mentally and spiritually alhamdulillah.

The first kind of big news is that I have started working since last October. It has now been 3 months and alhamdulillah Allah has made settling back to work so easy for me. An opportunity knocked the door and I grabbed it.

I work as Head of Education at Raising Explorers , an out of school Learning Academy. Coincidentally, we just happen to have very similar names but the organization was set up and name was chosen before I came to work. We are open Monday to Friday 4:30pm-8pm and Saturday to Sunday 10am-4pm, teaching children both academic and Islamic subjects. So, we offer classes in Tajweed/Qur’an, Arabic language, Islamic Studies as well as Maths, English, Science. We also offer recreation facilities, namely 2 games rooms equipped for that purpose.

I teach Islamic classes to 4-6 year olds, and English to older students. My job also involves the whole responsibility for what takes place in classrooms- designing/producing documents relating to curriculum development, syllabus design, classroom management, behaviour policy and then overlooking implementation of those policies and procedures in the classrooms.

Second, due to the arrival of cold weather, we were unable to keep the big house warm enough for all of us. So, we moved back to our 3 bed house back in December. Though our girls were much happy to be reunited with their old friends from neighbouring houses, they missed the massive gardens where they spent a lot of happy times. Especially climbing trees and doing lots of nature-exploring with various plants the garden hosted. SubhanAllah, how it was so nice and big and how I miss that garden too (not the house itself). But, deeply, I am so much happier in our smaller house where it is cosy and warm. So, we had to endure another round of packing, unpacking, settling etc. Alhamdulillah, Allah has made it so easy for us this time.

I registered both of my girls for Islamic classes during the week at Raising Explorers. So, I usually take them with me to work. Safiyya is in my class. Although Sumayya is not yet 6, she attends Year 2 classes as she is a lot more advanced than most students in my class. Alhamdulillah, it took at least one of my fears with regards to “socializing” away since they get to do a lot of group work, pair work and general play with other children. The advantage for me is I work there which means I am always watching them. The children are all Muslims (we have non-Muslims attending academic subjects only) and the atmosphere is Islamic. Since they started attending classes at Raising Explorers last October, our home-ed journey took somewhat very relaxed and even more play-based tone. So, what do we do at home?

They get their daily structured/formal Tajweed/Qur’an, Arabic language and Islamic studies intake at Raising Explorers (RE). We do lots of practical activities at home.

First, the three of them PLAY a lot. They have been spending so much time with legos, both wooden and foam building blocks, small animal figurines I bought from ELC ages ago etc and use their imagination to such an extent that it amazes us. Naturally, Ibrahim copies his sisters in whatever they do and developed his motor-skills a lot with the use of those small objects/toys playing with his sisters. They are getting so creative that they started independently making stuff without my supervision. They decide to make a horse from cardboard, or candle holder from orange peels (Sumayya has read it in the book), or an owl from paper etc and get on with it based on their imagination. They know where to get cardboard, scissors, glue etc so when they have proposal for a project and present me their long-list needed items, I say go and get them from this and that cupboard. So, given the time and resources, their creativity is coming along.

They read a lot of books. 80% of books they read is in English. Last month I purchased 3 children’s novels for Sumayya. She took about 2 weeks to finish all three, they were about 200-250 pages each. Safiyya can read most words in stand-alone form but still has not read one whole book from beginning to end. I wonder sometimes at her reading: she chooses a book, opens a random page and reads 2-3 words and then in this manner goes backwards and forwards. But then, she is like that with everything else too. She wants to do things differently….it is hard to describe her care-free and relaxed nature. (The only time she is under pressure is when she is hungry lol)

Occasionally AbuSumayya reads to them one of their Arabic stories or I read to them one of their Russian books. I started reading very popular Russian stories about Doctor Aybolit at bed time. I read a chapter a day, translate and then do quick vocab check on animals (doctor treats animals and all stories in the book revolves around different types of animals). They love it. We read Uzbek books too but mainly fact-based information books. We do not have very engaging Uzbek story books collection yet.

We do Qur’an hifdh revision only. With Sumayya we revise 1/4 of Juzz Amma a day and she reads 1-2 pages from the Qur’an in her class. She started reading Qur’an from back to the front as she was familiar with many surahs in 29th Juzz and found it easier reading that way. Safiyya memorized surah Tiyn. She knows 15-16 surahs of by heart altogether and older students at RE find it really interesting. Most have limited themselves with 4 Quls, as they say themselves and never found motives to memorize more. Unfortunately, we dont listen to Qur’an as often as we did, or indeed, as long as we did in the past. We have to resume this, even though they are not memorizing much.

Writing, again they do a lot of writing activities independently, outside my supervision. Usually one of their role-play games require writing, such as writing prescription (doctor-doctor game), writing shopping list (mother and daughter game) or doing register (teacher-teacher game). Sumayya does not write as many stories as she used to do. But, she still writes a lot of letters to her aunties, uncles, grandma and grandpa back home. Even little Ibrahim has been trying to write the past 2 weeks, he has such a good grab of pen/pencils though does no meaningful writing yet.

Maths, they both finished 2 maths workbooks each very casually. Sumayya is confident in addition/substraction. She can add/subtract 2 digit numbers. I fear she has forgotten much of mental math activity she did in MEP YEAR1. We have to revise it sometime as I have not taught any new mental math topic since finishing the programme 3-4 months ago. In fact, I have not been able to teach any maths formally, i.e on a more structured format. They loved the workbooks and finished them by themselves. They would complete 2 pages a day and I checked the answers whilst cooking or doing some other jobs etc. Safiyya, mashaAllah, is doing basic addition/subtraction with smaller numbers (0-5) and often using her fingers. MashaAllah, she is very confident in maths these days.

Arabic, Sumayya is learning from Gateway to Arabic 2 and Madinah Arabic 1. Safiyya is learning how to read with Gateway to Arabic 1, Arabic handwriting book 2 (from Goodword books). Both of their Arabic is limited to Arabic classes at RE. We don’t do anything extra at home.

Islamic Studies, reading and talking. We read and reread prophets’s stories or other Islamic story books. I ask them to narrate for reading comprehension or do quick Q&A. We talk a lot about Islamic topics, subjects, heroes, places etc. And doing things together like reading Qur’an, occasionally praying together, making wudu, doing some charity work etc helps a lot.

Another good news is concerning Ibrahim. He started talking about a month ago and has been amusing us with his funny speech ever since. His sisters find his way of talking so funny as he pronounces words in such cute manner. He demands to be read even more. Sometimes with hours on end grandma sits and reads to him. He has been writing everywhere. He tries to help us clean when me and his sisters start tidying/cleaning the house. He loves outside and does not mind the cold at all. SubhanAllah, I just can not believe how fast he has grown. The only thing is, I think he misses us when we go to work. We come home around 8 pm by which time he will be asleep. So, I and the girls say goodbye to him at 4pm daily, only to see him the next morning. But, he spends the whole day running after his sisters and copying them in every thing they do. Alhamdulillah, it is so good they have each other to play with and to learn together. I can see it more now how and why only children differ from children who grow up with siblings….

My plans are to do more literacy/numeracy with all 3 at home. Ibrahim started learning phonics. I intend to do more guided-reading with Safiyya, more narration for Sumayya’s reading comprehension, dictation for spelling and story/letter writing for her grammar and creative writing. And we have  resume MEP programme with the girls, revise Year 1 for now inshaAllah.

May Allah make things easy for us.

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.