Monday, 6 October 2014

Bush craft

We recently found out about regular activities the local park rangers organise for homeschooled children out in the woods or local parks. We have been to a few and they are absolutely fab! Definitely the highlight of our homeschool week. They are informative and very hands on. The rangers really encourage us to be very involved in the session. They are also very flexible so if the kids have an idea they are left alone to run with it.

This week was all about using tools. As it was the first time tools have been introduced the kids were just doing simple tasks to get used to the feel and capabilities of the tools.

They were also showed a couple of basic knots, although not basic enough for me (!). One of the older children with the help of their mum managed to use the knots to assemble a very decent swing from a tree.

Even baby N got involved.

At the end of it, some of the children started building a den and it was really heart warming to see them working as a team. Since the weather was really nice we decided to have a picnic, perched on the logs. These sessions gets us out into the woods, engaged with nature, learning new skills and meeting new people. Having practical sessions such as these in the woodland environment is such a huge benefit to the community especially since we live in the city and wouldn't normally be exposed to such knowledge and skills in our day to day lives. We are very gratefull to the rangers who work hard to deliver these forest schools and really look forward to going to more!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Nature walk lessons...seed dispersal

When we were out for one of our walks this week the kids picked up assorted nature finds, which they almost always do. Most of the time they load up on leaves or wild flowers but this time they got so excited at finding so many conkers and all sorts of other seeds. Usually I let them load up the buggy with their finds as they can't fit it all in their hands and pockets and I let them take them home then after a couple if hours when they have lost their enthusiasm for their new found treasure I discretely shift the load into the back garden. However this time since we weren't pressed for time and actually went outdoors in order to enjoy the sunny, cool and dry autumn weather, I thought I would make the effort to actually join in. When I started taking notice of what they brought to show me and the questions they asked I realised its the perfect opportunity to learn how seeds are made and dispersed. We found so many bushes with berries which gave perfect examples of how plants produce seeds in fruits to entice animals to feed on them and so the undigested seeds in the fruit just come out with the animals waste, preferably away from the parent plant so as not to have to compete with the parent plant for resources essential to survival. We also came across dandlions, which had gone to seed, and also Sycamore seeds which gave perfect examples of how they have been designed to be caught and blown by the wind. We also saw bees visiting a flowering bush which reminded them of how seeds are made from pollinated flowers and the key role insects play in this. We even went and striped down a flower and had a look at its component parts and had a taste of the nectar...not sure about how fit this is for human consumption but it was yummy!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Poetry Teatimes

It's not often I fall in love with educational products, curriculums or philosophies. I usually just do lots of reading around, pick up various ideas from here and there and weave them into our days.

However there has been one blog that I have repeatedly gone back again and again, several times a month, for many months now and that's the Bravewriter Blog. It's a very inspirational blog to help homeschooling mothers teach writing. But it does more than help with the academics as its encourages adopting a lifestyle within the home that facilitates writing. There is a manual that you can buy that explains the Bravewriter philosophy and products that give direct teaching instructions, but as yet I hadn't bought any. It is quite pricey. I suspect that it is worth it's price but having been following the blog for long time, I feel it's been enough to give me the confidence to follow my children's interests for writing projects. When necessary I transcribe for them, writing down their ideas that they are not able to write down as their ideas exceed their stamina for writing. Bravewriter encourages acting as a scribe for your kids, or working in partnership with your kids. This has been a bit of a breakthrough for me as I used to think if I wrote it down for them it would be like cheating, or they would always rely on me and become lazy writers. Instead I have found, that by writing for them, they are more keen to have their ideas down on paper and they themselves have taken to writing independently more and more. What I absolutely love about the Bravewriter philosophy is that instead of presenting writing as another academic subject to be taught using workbooks and exercises, it helps one to really embrace writing as just another extension of thought and speech so communication between mums and kids are encouraged, as is nature walks to increase awareness of ones surroundings and increase experiences that will fuel ideas for writing. Reading aloud together is off course a top priority but Bravewritier also promotes watching programmes and having discussions based on these.

The part of the Bravewriter program that my kids love hands down though is the "Poetry Teatimes". This is where we prepare some hot drinks, yummy snacks (even more exciting when homemade by the kids), and settle around the table with a stack of poetry books and we each take turns reading a poem. When I mention Poetry Teatime my kids almost quiver and shoot off to grab the books and pour over them selecting their poems to read aloud. They love it. I love it. What's more to say?! Head over to the Bravewriter site and the Bravewriter blog, I really doubt you will regret it.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Hifdh Diary: Two months on...

It's been really busy the last couple of months...but in a good way- alhamdulillah. We have been out and about getting involved in alot of outdoor activities organised by our local park ranger services, and as always at this time of the year the kids really get interested in gardening- although this year it really has been a bit of a flop as we haven't had the time to water the crops regularly. U and A are continuing thier weekly swimming classes and U has also been attending his weekly football classes. We have also been doing alot of experiments and activities related to science. I have been taking pictures of the more interesting parts but all the pictures that I wanted to share are all on my old phone that has a cracked screen rendering the photos inaccessible!!!!

In the midst of all the things we have been busy with, U has increased the daily time he spends on hifdh, as planned. Most days we try to get in 2-3 hours, but because of the amount we have been going out, its very fragmented and sometimes it feels like a bit of a strain trying to do it all. Its entirely my fault! Its not really fair to expect U to be able to focus on Qur'an for lengths of time when the rest of the day is packed with activities that divert his mind and energy on so much else. So inshallah we will be stepping down a few notches on outside activities and engagements. Despite all of the distractions, alhamdulillah U has still made alot of progress, compared to the rate he was going before and he is on the penultimate surah of Juz Amm.

The method that we have fallen into is that he memorises three lines a day. On the fourth day of the week he reviews all of the lines he has memorised for that surah. And then day five, six and seven....well its weekend by that time, and housework to catch up to, other chores that have piled up, guests visiting, or going out as a family....and well just a general running out of steam...until Monday when we start the whole cycle again. We are definitely going to need to organise our time better so that almost half of the week doesn't escape us.

I just noticed today, a sister very kindly commented on the previous post that memorising a page shouldn't take that long if one is consistently memorising everyday....umm well, we are still very far from that level, but again much of this probably has to do with us getting distracted with other activities. However the sister's comment has re-motivated me to double up on our duas and efforts. The sister also mentioned that revision is the harder part. Although U is good with his revision, I can see that it is getting harder to keep up with so I also hope, with more time at home, we can concentrate more on revision which has so far been done mostly in the car on the way to and fro places. But it is still early days, and that why I'm sharing our hifdh process right from the start so that others may learn from our mistakes!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Hifdh Diary: Day 1

At the beginning of the year I had a conversation with another homeschooling sister which we mentioned our plans for our kids to finish memorising Juz Amm by the end of this Ramadan. Now that it’s almost Ramadan the sister reminded me of our plans and how far off we were from our target! This has really made me contemplate how to proceed with hifdh because what we are doing is not really enough to realistically finish memorising the Quran within a few years as those in full-time hifdh schools are doing. I am always amazed when I hear stories of how much those memorising the Quran learn a day and I've always thought that when U reaches an appropriate age we will inshallah work towards memorising the whole Qur'an in this way. But now that he has recently turned six, although we do daily Quran lessons and alhamdulillah they are going honest truth, at the rate we are going it would take almost a lifetime to complete- and that is if he lives beyond sixty!!! So last week I sat down with U and explained that I wanted to use the next couple of months as a trial to see how much we can memorise each day and see if we can complete the remainder of the Juz by the end of Ramadan. We decided to dedicate the morning to hifdh which would work out an hour first thing, a break in which he could do what he wanted, and then another hour, and then again he could do what he wanted until after lunch. Last week we spent every day revising all of his previously memorised surahs (Naas to Inshiqaq). And then today we went for it! When I say we I really do mean we as I've promised him that I will be doing hifdh with him. After going through today I've realised how important this is as firstly, my own dream of memorising Quran has not really got very far (having spent the last thirteen years memorising Surah Baqarah...and still not finished!) it’s a great excuse and opportunity for me to slack on the other household duties a bit and concentrate on Quran first thing in the day as opposed to the last thing. I also realised today that sitting doing it with him side by side I could emphasise with his frustrations especially in the case when after repeating an ayah twenty times I still made mistakes so I could really emphasize with him when he couldn’t do it.

Anyway, I thought I might use this blog as a place to record our journey as most of the Quran hifdh stories I've come across mention their schedules once it’s been fine tuned and they are already in the full swing of things. But I've always been curious to know what process they go through to get to the "memorise a page in twenty minutes" stage. From all who I've spoken to and what I've read the three essentials is dua, persistence and consistency...and then it just get easier with time.

So today is officially day one for U and my hifdh journey, and although we have been memorising for longer than this it feels like today is day one as we have put into action what we say we want to do by seriously devoting proper time to with a set plan. Our target was to learn three lines (not ayahs but three lines of the mushaf). I chose this amount because if we do three lines a day, we will inshallah memorise a page each week which means we will achieve U’s target of finishing Juz Amm in August and my target of finishing Surah Baqarah before the end of Ramadan.

The method we are using to memorise is an ayah by ayah method (or line by line if the ayah is longer than a line). So we recite an ayah twenty times by looking, then ten more times alternating with looking and not looking. Then I test U on the ayah five times. If he can do it on the fifth time he continues to the next ayah and so on. At the end of the three lines, he reads all three lines twenty times, then ten times alternating looking and not looking then I test him on the whole three lines five times.

That's what we did in the morning split into two hour-long lessons. He had a break in the middle which ran on longer than expected (an hour and a half) and when he sat down again it took him a long time to focus and he got quite emotional as he was finding that he couldn't remember even after the twenty times. We both agreed that we would keep the break shorter and indoors to see if it helped keep his concentration better. I tested him again later in the afternoon on the way to A and U’s swimming lessons. He said he had forgotten it all. Now normally I might have flown off the handle a little bit with that remark…not because he forgot it but I always tell the kids that I never want to hear them say ‘I can’t’ but ‘I’ll try’, but having memorised three lines myself in the morning, I tried reciting my ayahs and actually at first I felt ‘Oh my gosh I can’t even remember the first word!’. It took a while to recall them and even then I got stuck halfway through. So instead of making a huge deal about his attitude, I just recited him his ayahs a few times and he recited with me. After the swimming lesson on the way back he still couldn't recite it independently. So in the evening I got him to sit down and read his three lines a few times, to test himself then I listened to him. However I fear it will all be gone tomorrow and he will be demotivated and that's something which I have felt myself. But I have to remind myself and him that with dua, persistency and consistency it will get easier inshallah. It’s not the amount that we can recall which is important for us right now but that we get in the habit of doing this daily and that week by week we improve.

This week as we are new to memorising three whole lines at a time and its taking a lot more time than I imagined and its actually quite tiring, I have decided not to get U to revise his other surahs. I will also probably not ask him to do any ‘school work’ but in honest truth he will probably get a lot of things done anyway as he loves reading and is very very curious.

I’m still trying to work out how to fit in revision of old surahs into our routine. Also tomorrow we are meeting some other kids in the park so I’m wondering how to work our hifdh around the times we have to go out for most of the mornings or the day. U wakes up really early so the simple solution would be for me to wake up with him and we would start earlier than our usual 9am. But I’m so tired in the mornings as baby N is still nursing and keeps me up at night. But I think it’s the only way not to miss a day of hifdh as I really feel that daily lessons is key to keeping up the momentum.

Last thing to mention about today is that we started watching the series “Traveller with the Qur'an”. We watched it as a family and it was so timely that we started watching it today because mashallah it was a brilliant motivating way to end the day. I really recommend everyone to watch it!

Australia lapbook

The kids have just finished a project on Australia that was completely dictated and worked upon by themselves! Finally, the moment I've been waiting for, I can relax and leave them to teach themselves...(well I can always hope).

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Weather and transport Arabic crafts

Arabic has never come easy for us so I’ve always tried to include lots of play and craft into our lessons to make it easier on the kids. I’ve also been trying to learn myself in my own time and it goes without saying that the more I learn Arabic the more easier it is for the kids to pick up as I can use more during our daily activites. Alhamdulilah, although we are still in the beginners phase, it is becoming easier and more interesting as we can make little sentences in all sorts of contexts.
Also we are still going to the kids and mums Arabic class which is always fun mashAllah as we have a great teacher whom the kids really love. Topics covered in the class recently included clothes, weather and transport. At home the kids made a weather wheel and a vehicle mobile which helped a long way in remembering the vocabulary. Making crafts that the kids want to display makes it more likely that we will revise the topic and not keep on going round in circles of remembering and forgetting.

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