Tuesday, 18 November 2014

History lessons

My kids have taken an interest in history!!!! My first reaction was "yikes!!!" as I have little knowledge and interest  in the subject. They got into it by browsing through an encyclopedia of world history we have. It goes through the history chronologically starting with prehistoric times to the present day. Since they are keen on learning more about history I supose we will be spending some time doing it but rather than investing in more books that I don't have space for, I thought we would use the encyclopedia as a guide and top up with library books from whatever period we are studying. Doing an internet search also brings up more than enough reading materials, videos and activities related to an era in case we can't make it to the library. Because I don't want to pass on my dislike of history to the kids I intend to make it as interesting as possible...in our house that translates as lots of art, craft, paints and mess!

So, we've made a start...our first couple of sessions we just talked about what history is and how we learn about history from not only written documents but also evidence left behind by those from the past which have been dug up or discovered. I thought the kids would understand this better by actually doing an archeological dig themselves...well not a real one, but they got the gist of it...

I placed a few items in a large tray and covered it with rice (its been raining and I really couldn't face getting muddy). The kids dug in the rice and "discovered" the various items and we discussed how we could interpret the finds to give us clues as to how the people may have lived.

We read about Prophet Adam (a) as the first person Allah created and placed on earth. And this week we've been reading up on the earliest people, the hunter gatherers. We had a look at some pictures of the tools they made and used, and also their cave art. Naturally the kids wanted to do some of their own cave paintings...

So far it's been a great start to a topic I wasn't looking to teach at this early age (or ever). I'm learning right along with the kids and I have to admit, I even catch myself  completely absorbed going through the stack of history books we got from the library as I'm really getting into it now. I suppose it's an example of yet another subject that school took the fascination out of for me but I'm rediscovering it through the eyes of my kids.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hifdh Diary: 5 months on...Juz 30 completed!

Alhamdulillah a difficult period has passed but I'm sure not the only one we will have. I say difficult because I was really questioning U's ability to do hifdh because of the time he was taking to memorise. I've mentioned before that we've set a daily target of doing three lines a day, five days a week with the idea of finishing a page a week. However, it has been more like memorising two days, then as the memorising was not solid we would spend the rest of the week consolidating it in addition to the rest of the juz memorised. Also the actual memorising was taking more than two hours for just the three lines! In the end I asked a sister I knew who has alot of experience teaching Qur'an and is very versed in Quranic sciences mashallah to help us out. So she took U away to a room by themselves and appeared fifteen minutes later declaring that U had just memorised two lines! And a few more minutes with him, and he had memorised a further line. I asked what she had done and she replied that she had done nothing. She guessed the problem lay with the fact that U gets very easily distracted and him knowing that he had a large amount of time to memorise made him more susceptible to daydreaming. She asked that I limit the time he has to memorise to 45 minutes maximum. She also requested that I sit with him the entire time to make sure he keeps his focus and at the end of that time to take his Qur'an away regardless of the fact of whether he has completed the days portion or not, and he should just continue memorising the next day. If at the end of the week he hasn't memorised his page page he has to sit with her to memorise the rest of it. Doing it this way has been such a relief as it would seriously eat up most of our time. We've been trying this method this week and alhamdulillah it's been working. It seems that the problem really was the fact that I gave him so much time that it relaxed him too much.  And I can relate to that. I'm more productive if I have a deadline or am seriously time constrained. When I have alot of time to finish a task I waste so much time. I'm not sure if we can keep up with memorising daily five days of the week, but inshallah we will continue to try andadjust plans if we have too. In addition to the morning memorising, we also sit for an hour in the evening (A included) to go through the weeks memorisation and review the previously memorised portions. On the weekend anything that is left that hasn't been reviewed yet gets done in one or two big sittings.

Mashallah U has now completed Juz Amm. We have both started on Juz Tabarak and have finished Surah Mulk this week and are reviewing everything before moving into the next surah.

So in summary, despite the excruciatingly slow progress, things seem to be picking up, and I've also changed my mentality from completing hifdh as soon as possible to letting it be a very long term goal as long as we are consistent and what we have learned is solid in our memory inshallah. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Chameleon crafts and project

asked me how chamelons change colour. I really had no clue, so we just had to find out. got interested as well and since they wanted to document their findings, the rest of the week was spent on this project. They also came across some chameleon related crafts that they wanted to try out, so we did the ones which we already had the supplies at home for.

I bound their drawings and writing together using some ribbon and using their woven chameleon pictures as the front and back cover. The result is a lovely keepsake.

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!
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