Russian school and British gymnastics


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.

Living Books: Arabic story books


Have you ever come across the term Living Books? A term coined by 19th century British educator Charlotte Mason. Fore a long time I had a hard time to define what a living book might be. I have only understood it better after I read few examples of living books.

Living books present living ideas, they are emotionally engaging and morally-challenging. Living books make child use his/her imagination and pauses some problems for their thought/mind. Children need to extract a conclusion that goes along way in their life. Living books teach children how to overcome certain situations in life, good manners, behaviour and above all they help children to develop relations. Relations with God, relations with family members, relation with neighbours etc.

We have read so many books with my girls and only now I can clearly distinguish a living book from non living. A lot of books are fact/information based, dry and written down to children. The lack of stylistic features of a language, short sentences and incorrect grammar are some features of twaddle. In a nutshell “Twaddle = dumbed down literature; absence of meaning. Living Books = books that are well-written and engaging–they absorb the reader–the narrative and characters “come alive”; living books are the opposite of cold, dry textbooks” (Deborah Taylor-Hough)

I have realized how I should carefully select the literature for my children. Alhamdulillah all the Islamic story books we have would be in the category of living books. But a lot of the English books are not, subhanAllah. They lack the meaning, they don’t pause a challenge of deriving a conclusion for a child that she/he can apply in real life.
Recently I have come across a nice collection of Arabic story books through a sister’s blog. The books are written in beautifully stylistic language using the correct Arabic grammar rules in fus’ha. And when Abu Sumayya read them aloud to our daughters, even they have clearly noticed the difference between these stories and many of the English stories they have read so far. The books are indeed very engaging, puts a child in touch with ideas and excellent sequence of events that challenges their problem-solving skills.
My husband has printed all those books. Initially we have laminated each page and did manual-binding at home to make the seperate pages into a book. SubhanAllah each book contains average 16-20 pages so we gave up after making 9 books. For the remaining 12 books we bought a binding plastic cover. So, Alhamdulillah we have more than 20 children’s Arabic story books to be read aloud at home now.
I am not a fluent reader in Arabic and I should be doing more to improve my own Arabic (learning with kids, smile). But, alhamdulillah, my husband reads about an hour to them daily and yet Sumayya keeps asking for more and more. (I am not surprised, they are awesome books)
So, Abu Sumayya reads books aloud in Arabic and then translates them into Uzbek. We ask kids to narrate the stories.  Each book has a list of vocabulary to memorize and learn. Sumayya has picked up a lot of words and word combinations from being read aloud. She really loves these new books.
Here are some samples of our each-page-laminated home-bound books, on the left. On the right, books made with plastic cover bindings. (These can be bought cheaply at any store)
Here are the sample of vocab sheet to be memorized at the end of each story. Kids will learn most of these words off by heart naturally if they are read aloud often enough to reinforce the story and the morale from it.
InshaAllah I will leave you with a link to a blog where you can download the books and start having your own collection of Arabic story books to be read aloud at bed time.