Ramadan Battle

Bismillah,

What have we been up to since the 15th April 2014? Well, a lot, really. But, first of all, let me wish all of you a Happy Belated Ramadan Kareem!!! May Allah enable us all to really change and improve ourselves for the better this Ramadan amin.

Home-educating is going well. We do almost nothing structured with regards to academic subject on a day-to-day basis. Both big and little S attend Maths, English and Science classes once a week at Raising Explorers (where I work) and they go to madrassah there Tues-Fri afternoons 4:30-6:30pm. So, what do we do at home?

Gardening

We have done a lot of gardening this Spring/Summer 2014. We have planted strawberry plants early in Spring and they were all growing so well. They all had 5-6 fruits each but the slugs started eating the leaves. My neighbor suggested I put some salt on all plants which had a disastrous ending, the fruits and leaves dried up. They have all grown out by now but  no homegrown strawberries for us this year. InshaAllah, I am hoping the plants would double by next year and we will have some fruits.

We have also planted an apple tree and a pear tree. They both blossomed well but we have got no pears for this year. Alhamdulillah, we have plenty of apples and we can not wait to bake an apple pie with those.

Pear tree

Apple tree

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

Trips and Outings

We have been going on a lot more trips lately since the arrival of my parents. We want to show them around as much as possible. We have been to quite a lot of local parks, including:

Roberts park in Saltaire; Roundhay Park in Leeds, Chellow Dene Reservoir, Ogden Waters, and of course our local Lister park. I have made a list of few other free places to go after Ramadan inshaAllah: St. Ives Park in Bingley, Shibden Park in Halifax, Stockeld Park, Cliffe Castle in Keighley, Bolling Hall, Bolton Abbey and Manor House. I am trying to make use of all free museums, galleries and parks as the costs can easily add up when multiplied x8 in the family lol. We may take them all to Yorkshire Wildlife centre for Eid

My mummy at Chellow Dene

Arabic and Qur’an

We have not been doing much Arabic language at home except what she learns at Raising Explorers. We revise the surahs of the Juzz Amma they have memorized and Sumayya reads half a page of Qur’an daily. Safiyya has just started reading too, mashaAllah but no pressure. She reads when she wants to. Having attened Tajweed classes recently, I have just started explaining the Tajweed rules to big S recently. Up until now, she has learnt how to read by listening only and kind of figured out most rules (without knowing the names such as Idghaam, Izhaar, Iqlaab etc). 1-2 daily they pray with me, again no pressure, hence not very regular. As big S turned 7 this year, I should be encouraging her more inshaAllah.

Russian progress

Alhamdulillah, big S  has been going to Russian 3 times a week. She goes to Russian class organized for the children of local Russian families on Monday afternoons. Then WEd/Fri mornings she goes to her tutor’s house for 2 hours. She can now read, write and speak a little bit of Russian. She can talk about most topics including her family, likes/dislikes, animals, fruit/veg, about her house, about her grandparents and weather etc. They do little bit of grammar but mainly conversational Russian as I want her to be able to speak and understand first. She has learnt so much vocab and can use them well. Alhamdulillah. There is also a farm next to her tutor’s house. So, we have been going 1-2 times a week to feed the horses, see llamas, donkeys and a pony.

Kids trying to feed horses

Islamic Studies and Self-Evaluation

All of us have to work on our manners, especially myself as I have to model the exemplary behavior for them. This thought has been troubling me so much lately. My confession yesterday was “I have always known that children learn by example. They are the best imitators, regardless of weather you do a good thing or a bad thing, they will try and copy the adults around them. Seems like I have known it theoretically up until this point. So, I have recently discovered that before fixing everyone else around me, especially my poor kids, I should first fix myself. As an adult and as a mother of 4 home-educated kids I see some major flaws in my own character. I can lecture my children about what is good and right thing to do but the children mirror and project my own faults which is scary. I am almost always battling with my own self and questioning “am I doing the right thing/wrong thing” and worry a lot about my children’s character too. But, like I said, I came to the conclusion that as long as I work hard to try and fix my own problems, inshaAllah Allah will take care of my children and how they are going to turn out as a person. The battle with the self continues….May Allah give all mothers out there an immense amount of patience and make parenting easy for us and give us a good ending. Amin ya Rabb!!!

I don’t know why I feel so burdened, so pressured these days with mothering duties and responsibilities…I have terrible mood swings at times and end up feeling so guilty for having shouted at kids…I am always asking for more patience in my duas as I am quick to criticize my kids. How do you deal with your inner critique that sets up the standards so high for your kids? I am finding it so hard to just let it go. Alhamdulillah, slowly but surely I am working more on myself rather than kids and feel moving in the right direction. I am praying to have a better week ahead inshaAllah: less yelling, less shouting, less correcting, less critique; more encouragement, more peaceful, more connecting and more praise.

General Home-Ed Review

Alhamdulillah, I am happy where we are at. Like I said, at this point in life we are focusing much more on character-building rather than in any form of structured academic lessons. Above all, I would want myself and my children have a good personality. I just want to be good inshaAllah…

Once again Ramadan Mubarak my dear sisters and wishing you all to have the best Ramadan yet!!!

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Russian school and British gymnastics

Bismillah,

We have lately adopted more of Unschooling Approach to home-ed. Alhamdulillah we do English 2 times a week, Maths 2 times a week, Qur’an daily, Arabic 3-4 times a week. There is no timing, when and how long the lessons last depends on their mood and aptitude.

Hifdh/Qur’an Reading. Sumayya still reads tons of books a week. I am seriously thinking of cutting down on her reading hours as she is again having meltdowns when it comes to Qur’an time. She has forgotten some of the surahs she has memorized previously. Incident today gave me a final push to reach a deal with her; we have agreed every day after breakfast she goes back to her room to revise 2-3 pages I set as a task and come back down when ready to read to me off by heart. We are also reading 5 ayahs a day from surah Baqara and have read 4 pages of it so far.

Safiyya and Ibrahim do their Hifdh every morning without a problem, mashaAllah. Safiyya can read the surahs she has memorized and still on Nurani Qaida too. Ibrahim has memorized surah Fatiha and the last 3 surahs from the back (Nas, Falaq, Ikhlas). But we have to prompt the beginning of each ayah sometimes. We all use the same method: Listen and repeat.

Arabic. Alhamdulillah, Sumayya can read, write and understand a little bit. She has built on the vocab and some grammar with Gateway to Arabic Book 2. We practise handwriting too, though I decided it is not so necessary at this age. I think the main focus should be understanding from reading, hence building on vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Safiyya can read, tries to copywrite and learns vocab.

Maths. We have not done MEPs in 3 months now. Sumayya attends Maths classes at RE once a week and I do follow up class at home on what has been taught  once a week. Alhamdulillah for this opportunity and a blessing as I feel the burden of teaching Maths has been taken away. But again, I dont think this is enough once she is past 7 and should definitely be doing more at home.

English. The same old way- reading lots of books and follow up discussion with Q&A. We practise story-telling sometimes where I ask them to narrate a story off memory to me. Sumayya still reads a lot. She read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in just around 4 hours (though I dont think the content was appropriate for her age as she could not differentiate if it was real life story due to world war 1, which was a fact but then how come wardrobe can be so big to host kingdom? Children at this age do not get fantasy and it is best to delay any such books). Then on the weekend we watched the film, only half of it as it was too long. We are going to watch the next half on Saturday inshaAllah. Meanwhile she is rereading the book. She takes on a lot of writing porjects on herself simply for pleasure: writing letters, writing stories/poems, making posters etc.

Safiyya reads shorter story books but needs encouragement to read. I do guided reading even though she can read on her own. I was wrong to assume that once a child learns how to read, their reading interest will just take off and they will be flying with so many books daily. Safiyya is more interested in helping me around the house mashaAllah. She does so much tidying up, polishing and general cleaning. Everyone is always shouting out her name in our household “Safiyya, get me this. Safiyya, get me that. Safiyya, take this upstairs. Safiyya, take this downstairs”. I find it difficult when she is not around *smile*

Russian School and British Gymnastics. They have been attending gymnastics and Russian school on Mondays. MashAllah, it is the girls only session at gymnastics where they have learned a lot in just 3 weeks. They enjoy it a lot and we sometimes watch Olympics gymnastics videos and attempt to do some basic movements.

Russian school is going great too. Finally, after so many months I have enrolled them and Alhamdulillah, I am so glad I did. Although Safiyya is not much interested, it still benefits her to be in that environment where everyone speaks Russian. Sumayya, on the other hand, has picked up so much. She can read, write and understand a little bit. She has memorized poems in Russian, learnt the colours, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, fruit and vegetable names in Russian. She can say few odd words in conversational Russian and always eager to finish her homeworks on time.

At times I come so close to giving up the idea of homeschooling simply because of sibling fighting and rivalry in the house. Sumayya is always arguing with Safiyya, Safiyya is always fighting with Ibrahim and Ibrahim is always jealous of baby Saida. At times dealing and judging between them is just too much, especially if they start complaining that “I am not being fair. I am taking so-and-so’s side because I love him/her more”. I am sure this is nothing new to mothers who have multiple children within short age gap. I think of the peaceful days where I can have 5-6 hours all to “myself” without kids. But then comes the painful thought of sending them to school and I start putting the pros and cons of home-ed and public school on two sides of my scales. And then I say “Have some sabr and these days will pass”. I am having more of these thoughts lately and praying Allah will guide me to what is good.

Multi-lingual children

Bismillah,

There are so many benefits of having a second language in your pocket; for employment, for communicating when travelling, for accessing the literature etc, the list is endless. And there are so many benefits of teaching a second language to children from young age. Their brain will become more receptive to a new information, their ears will get used to various different sounds in different languages and a child who knows 2 or more languages find it very easy to learn a new language. When we were at school we learned about the 12th century Central Asian scholars like Mahmud Qoshg’ariy who could speak, read and write in as many as 9 languages very fluently. Most scholars of the region were multi-lingual having Turkish, Farsi, Arabic as their language of communication, language of reading and writing.

As a language teacher, I was very interested in experimenting SLA theories with my kids. Their first language is Uzbek but obviously because we live in England, they speak English the minute they leave the house. Although they are bilingual, I would say at this point their way of expressing themselves is far better in Uzbek than in English. But they read more books in English due to shortage of good story books in Uzbek. So, their Uzbek is very much limited to conversational Uzbek rather than stylistic literature.

I was so inspired by sister Umm Ibrahim bint Milton over at Talibiddeen Jr being able to homeschool 9 children in English and Arabic. I used to read her posts back in 2007 where she said you don’t need to be a fluent Arabic speaker or reader in order to teach your children Arabic. Because I always had this fear that unless I am not confident in a language I can not teach it. MashAllah, time has proved that I can learn alongside with my children. I dont have vast amount of knowledge of Arabic. Although it would have definitely been of benefit if I was taught Arabic as a child, not knowing the language should not hold me back from giving the chance to kids. Especially at this day and age where you can find plenty of free resources online be it interactive websites, printables, books and games.

So, our children are bilingual- Uzbek and English. And we have started teaching them Arabic from early age, starting from Arabic alphabet then building on the vocabulary, as well as memorizing the surah from the Qur’an, which is in Arabic. Currently my daughters go to Sunday school organized for children of Arab families living in our area.  Also they watch Educational Cartoons in Arabic about 20-30 minutes daily on youtube. Alhamdulillah, they are motivated to learn Arabic because they know it is the language of the Qur’an, the language of the prophet Muhammad (saw) and the language of jannah.

Sumayya just started reading in Arabic recently. She reads from her Reading Book given by Arabic school, she reads the vocabulary worksheets from Arabic comes first, and she could read the small surahs on Qur’an centred word workbooks. She copies sentences from her Uhibby Deeni book given by school for her handwriting.

Safiyya alhamdulillah has learned all the letters of the Arabic Alphabet and currently learning new vocabulary through her reading and vocab books given by Arabic School. She does lots of Arabic Alphabet tracing worksheets to improve her handwriting too.

Recently I have been thinking of adding Russian to our list of languages to be learnt and researching where to start teaching Cyrillic alphabet. And I know inshaAllah it will not be a burden on the girls as both are very interested in Russian. We read Russian books and they get to watch educational cartoon series in Russian called Luntik. They know how to count 0-10, and names of animals etc. They dont know the Russian alphabet, but when they see something in Cyrillic they recognize it immediately being in Russian language. I always have the feeling that if I make the effort, they pick up very quick on this. We even found local Russian school that runs on Saturday mornings for children of Russian families who live in our city. But at the moment it clashes with our Saturday’s circle that we do in our house for Sumayya’s friends.

I really need some inspiration to start with Russian. I can imagine my multi-lingual children speaking in Uzbek, English, Arabic and Russian in a couple of years- it doesn’t hurt being ambitious right lol…inshaAllah perhaps they will if I make the effort. It is not the case that children get confused between several different languages, NO, it is just the case of me finding the resources needed and making the effort.

SLA theories and approaches/methods in Language Teaching

Bismillah,

I have wanted to write a short summary of theories behind Second Language Acquisition and give an introductory post on approaches and methods in Language Teaching.  InshaAllah this will help mothers to understand what goes on in child’s brain when they try to acquire a second or third/fourth language. I hope it will help parents to teach their kids Arabic or any other language more effectively .

Anyway, the first thing is, studies have proved that a child’s ability to learn a foreign language is so much higher than that of an adult. It is said that this ability will probably stop somewhere when child reaches the age of 12. That means, a child above 12 needs to make a lot more effort to learn a language.  So the earlier we start teaching a foreign language, the better results we get within shorter space of time.

The language skills are divided into 2 parts: Receptive skills- hear and speak; Productive Skills- read and write. The development of receptive skills will always overtake the latter. Therefore, we should first aid their hear/speak skills in a foreign language. Ideally, they should be exposed to an environment where that language is naturally spoken as much as possible. If teaching Arabic, let them watch Islamic Educational cartoons in Arabic, read aloud Arabic story books, mingle with Arab families where children speak in Arabic etc. Try to incorporate few Arabic phrases and word combinations into your daily life i.e say Ijlis- when asking them to sit down, Ta’li huna- come here etc.

At the same time they should be learning vocabulary. It is best to expand their vocabulary at early stage. Children have no fear of making a mistake when speaking in a foreign language. They are not interested in using the right vocab and grammar rules to construct a sentence. They see language as a whole- a holistic means of getting the message across. Very often they try to express their ideas through one or two words.

We can start teaching them how to read and write once they have developed some receptive skills. If teaching how to read Arabic, for example, child should have some exposure to and understanding of the Arabic language. Some say what is the point of teaching a child to read in Arabic if she/he can’t understand what he/she is reading? And subhanAllah it is so true. But, from an Islamic point of view, we want our children to be able to read the Qur’an. Understanding Qur’an is equally important. But, if child has memorized some surah from Qur’an, they can be taught how to read the Qur’an even if they don’t know the meanings of words used in the book of Allah and their spoken Arabic is very limited. Any other foreign language, I would say a child should have at least enough bank of vocabulary to make out what the story is saying before being taught how to read. But, because children have already memorized certain surah, teaching them how to read those memorized verses would become easy inshaAllah.

A sister asked me recently “what language shall I start with to teach my 4 year old how to read?”. Ideally, she wants to go for English because there are so many resources on the net to help parents. True. But, they don’t live in an English speaking country and they don’t speak English in the family. So the child doesn’t have enough exposure to English. Its sounds, tone and the whole system of language might be very new to her. And what is the point of teaching a child to read in a language if she doesn’t understand what she is reading? It is almost like she recognizes sounds D, O, G and she knows to blend them and pronounce dog but she doesn’t understand what the word means in a language she communicates and uses with the environment around her.

In a nutshell, she might learn how to read in English if taught but she can not relate what she is reading to her own life experience. This might be very frustrating for a child. InshaAllah I would say start teaching how to read in a language a child has most knowledge of at the time. If it is Russian and you live in Russian speaking country, then teach her how to read in Russian first. If child speaks more Uzbek and lives in non-Uzbek speaking country, I would say start with Uzbek and slowly introduce English or the language of the country you live in etc. Remember, we don’t want children merely to be able how to read. We want our children to actually enjoy reading, enjoy learning through books and enjoy what they read to their own life experiences etc. inshaAllah.

I was going to write a short passage about different methods and approaches in Language Teaching with my own preferences. But, subhanAllah this post is taking me  several days. InshaAllah I hope to continue writing on this topic in the future. For now I will have to give a short list of methods I would like to touch on in my upcoming posts. And if moms, educators, parents interested in teaching their children several other languages besides a mother tongue, it would be extremely helpful to learn about these approaches and take what suits them best from each.

Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching

The Audio-Lingual Method

Total Physical Response

The Silent Way

The Lexical Approach

The Whole Language

The Natural Approach

Neurolinguistic Programming

Communicative Language Teaching

Content Based Instruction

InshaAllah, as and when I get time I will try to write more about each and how we can incorporate them in our daily life in order to help our children learn several other languages from young age.