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.

Back to home-school 2013

Bismillah,

This is my very late post on our back-to-school life.

The thing is, I have not been able to do much planning for this academic year. With the birth of a baby in the summer holidays; followed by Ramadan (I was fasting as well as fully breastfeeding the baby); followed by me going back to work; followed by preparations for Hajj (inshaAllah we are off to Hajj in 2 weeks) there just seems to be not enough time to plan and teach everything I want to. So the bad news is that we are not as organized for this year. However, the good news is that I am totally loving it! LOL

We tend to go more towards unschooling approach, taking each day at a time, trying to follow the flow of life, let the kids dictate what they want to do each day and follow their lead. The number of articles I have been reading and the past few months experience teaching and working with parents have somewhat made me more relaxed towards my children’s daily routine. The fact that big S is still not yet fully 7 contributes to this fact of me “chilling out”and “taking things easy”. I keep telling myself that we will start our more regimented/schedule based lessons when they are older. I will be spending more time “teaching on the table” at least after a child turns 7. Of course, I am still teaching all day long on the go, very informal kind of teaching where I have to answer their 101 questions on various topics. Sometimes I just say to them “Go and do your own research on google” lol. And they just love it since they get to use the laptop.

Anyway, we plan and Allah plans and in the end He knows best. Here is what I have planned and what they have been doing this school year so far.

English– Big S is always reading. We are all concerned that she is reading too much and missing on some life-skills she could be learning. Sometimes she spends 6-7 hours in her room reading whereas her little sister spends just as much time helping me around the house by tidying up, polishing, arranging the books neatly on shelves, arranging everything in cupboards around the kitchen, peeling and washing the vegetables I need for today’s cooking etc.

I am trying to get Sumayya to narrate more and Alhamdulillah she is just coming out of her shell. She still does not acquire the skills to narrate the stories she has read in nice chronological order of events, using rich vocabulary to get consistent, smooth flow of events happened in the story. But at this point I am happy with what she can do in narration.

Her composition skills are just coming along and we still practise story-writing. I give a topic to write a story or the first 1-2 sentences and ask her to finish off the story. She writes short stories quite comfortably. I correct her spelling and grammar mistakes. It always strucks me how little grammar or spelling mistakes she makes, even though I have never taught her any grammar and we have never followed any spelling programmes. Alhamdulillah, the magic of reading a lot!

Safiyya can now read short story books. But, the truth is she does not enjoy reading. It is a struggle for her to finish even one book from beginning till end. I remember at her age Sumayya would read as many as 10 such books a day. But then again, Safiyya has excellent narration skills. She mostly analyses the illustrations and comes up with her own story. And she tells me any story so nicely. Her imagination is just awesome and she is way too creative for her age. Alhamdulillah.

We wont do any official writing with her but she is always writing me letters, making cards with messages inside, drawing pictures and writing captions etc. Again, I am happy with her literacy skills at this point.

Ibrahim has been going to Raising Explorers with us since August. Alhamdulillah, he is very social even though he has very limited vocab in English language. He communicates mainly in Uzbek and still learning English. We will start the phonics when I think he is ready. He tries to write when his sisters are writing and has good hand-eye coordination.

Maths- Big S finished MEPs Year 1 and we have mainly been revising the topics. I have to say that this is very challenging Maths programme for both of us. I have tried to teach some of the things inside to other kids at work and most of them were blown away. I have reviewed some other Maths programmes recently, namely Singapore Maths, Kumon Maths and in the end decided to stick to MEPs for a number of reasons (explaining them would require another post). So, inshaAllah we shall proceed onto MEPs YEAR 2 with big S next week.

Little S did MEPs Year 1 up to number rounds up to 10. She is very good in Maths. Indeed kids come with different packages of skills. Sumayya is good at English/literacy and a bit weaker in Maths. Safiyya is weak in English but good at Maths. So, alhamdulillah she will continue with MEPs Year 1 (although she is officially reception kid in the UK for this academic year)

We have just started learning shapes, colours, numbers 0-10 with Ibrahim. We use shape sorters, coloured foam and wooden building blocks, flashcards, coloured stacking cups to learn those. (He is now 2 btw)

Science- nothing formal, no workbooks, no special programmes, except watching and observing things/movements around us and learning about them.

Qur’an– my aim for this Year for big S is start reading the Qur’an cover-to-cover from back to front inshaAllah. We still mainly focus on hifdh and I ask her to read a random page or  a random surah here and there. She can read alhamdulillah. Still using Madinah Arabic Book 1 in Arabic.

Little S is still on hifdh. She has a long way to finish Juzz Amma inshaAllah. She can read a stand alone words from various surahs but can not read on mus’haf as reading is not her thing. Still using Gateway to Arabic Book 1 in Arabic.

Islamic Studies- again very much hands-on approach. We talk, discuss, explain all Islamic concepts, rituals, practices all day long; we try to pray together; we try to read Qur’an daily; we try to say all our daily duas; make dhikr and dua etc. We read books and stories. They both won an Islamic activity book each at Raising Explorers Eid party recently and have been trying to complete them.

Sumayya was awarded as one of the best achieving students in her class. She is half way through this book

Safiyya won this book in the Qur’an competition for her age group

InshaAllah, Sumayya will start attending Maths/English/Science classes at Raising Explorers from next Saturday. She will be attending an hour of each class on Saturdays only, a total of 3 hours, Safiyya is too young to attend those classes yet. We will carry on at home.

My rough scheduling is that I am aiming to have at least 4 hours of Maths a week with each child, 4 hours of Qur’an, 3 hours of English inshaAllah.

Geography and Science

Bismillah,

This is a short post to update children’s progress on Geography and Science. We are using workbooks from Evan-Moor for both and doing other supplementary activities of our own.

In Geography we have reviewed and finished the 1st chapter. We have learned (children are telling me)

  • Map is a drawing of a place from above
  • Map Key helps us to read the map because it tells us what symbols on map stand for
  • Map Grid is a square boxes that has letter and number. It helps us to easily locate/find the places on the map
  • Map Scale tells us the real distance between places on the map
  • Compass rose- is a compass to show us 4 main directions= North, South, East, West

Some of the practical things we did

  • We made a compass craft from paper and real one using the same idea here
  • We drew map of our bedroom
  • We drew map of our house and made a Map Key by drawing little picture for each room. Bed for bedroom, Cooking pot for kitchen, bath for bedroom, bookshelf for living room etc.
  • We measured the distance between London and Bradford on the map of UK and worked out how far the distance was between London and Bradford using map scale

We have moved on to learn more about Desserts and their Habitats. And they have some really good fun craft ideas which we are going to make inshaAllah

In Science, we have learned about The Sun

  • It is a star of hot gasses
  • It gives us light and heat
  • Animals, Plants and Humans need the sun to survive

Some of the practical activities we did

  • We have talked about the daylight and night change and read from the Qur’an surah Shams and surah Layl. We discussed that it is only by the Mercy of Allah swt that He brings daylight following the night and He makes dark again so people could rest.
  • They made the Sun puppet by painting painting the picture of sun, cutting out after it is dry and sticking the straw.

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We had visitors on Thursday for iftaar. There was no talk of puppet show and without planning or anything Sumayya decided to show us puppet show using her Sun puppet. She was asking the audience from behind the sofa if they knew any hadith of the prophet. And we all said, “You tell us one”. And she said “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty”. And other children joined and they were the Sun puppet was asking us questions about different prophets and they were telling us the story of the prophet Salih a.s and the camel.

  • We have observed how the plants grow yellow and eventually die if we block the sunlight. Use a piece of wood/plank and cover the grass in the garden. Have a look every day and it takes 3-4 days for grass to turn yellow

We have also learned about the Water in the Air in Science class.

  • There is water in the air that we can not see. It is called water vapor
  • When water vapor gets cold it turns into water drops
  • This process is called condensation

Practical activities

  • Experimented when ice cubes are put inside a glass water drops appear on the glass. Or when the weather is cold in the mornings water drops appear on windows even if it is not raining. Or the water drops on the grass in the mornings
  • Although it is not related to condensation, we have observed how wide open pine corns close in water. It took 20 mins for two acorns to close in water. When we put them out to dry, they start opening again, subhanAllah

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