A Muslim Homeschool blog started as the documentation of personal experiences from a home educator 3 years ago. It evolved into a means to share educational resources and articles relating to the Muslim child, education and family life.
Recently I ran a pole over on Instagram, asking if your children ever fight, bicker and squabble. A whopping 82% of you answered "all the time".
This is what I know....when your children are at each others throats, it always seems like they are the only children in the world who don’t seem to be able to get on.
It can also feel at times that they seem to hate each other, which is heart breaking to see.
Firstly let me assure you that your children truly are not the only ones in the world who are always bickering (I personally attest to that!). Secondly, they don’t hate each other - even if it might seem so at the time.
You and I both know that it’s so easy to pick up on the negative interactions between siblings and point them out. However it's not so easy to notice when they’re actually getting along nicely and make a show that we saw it in quite the same way.
So the first thing you can do, is make a conscious effort to notice the children getting on together, so that both you and they realise that it’s not all quite so doom and gloom.
You see, when we have the idea in our mind that things are a certain way, we look for situations to affirm that, becoming locked in this perpetual state of negativity. So look out for the positive and make a big deal out of recognising it to break away from that search for constant battle you're so used to seeking. This will help you to see things are not as bad as you have yourself believe, and also, it will allow the children to feel their good behaviour with one another has indeed been recognised and affirmed which should help encourage more of the same inshaAllah.
This is all indeed well and good; looking for the positive. But what about when they are thick in the midst of a physical or emotional fight! What then?
To stop our children fighting, we parents have to be proactive not reactive. It is so easy to react to the war cries of our children with our own screams and frustration; especially when they are trying so hard to drag us into their sorry dispute.
But you need to remain cool as a cucumber. For you are most certainly the captain of this ship and its your job to make sure it doesn't sink. Once you let panic and emotion take over, you've lost before you've even tried.
So be proactive to the situation; take charge and maintain control instead of reacting to it. Remember that your kids may be at war.....you my sister are not.
Acknowledge your child's feelings instead of dismissing them The story each child tells around the events of fighting with their sibling, will undoubtedly be subjective and highlight the plight of their own victimhood. It isn’t about trying to work out who is in the right and who is in the wrong. Because whatever the case, it doesn't really matter "who started it", they are both now hurting. Whilst any child feels unheard, resentment will always ensue and the root causes of their apparent bickering will rarely get resolved.
So talk to them. Let each tell you how they feel about what just happened. Don’t shut their feelings down or dismiss them. Rather, acknowledge them. Put how they feel into words for them. Doing this doesn’t justify anyone’s behaviour choices. However, you are merely allowing each child to be heard; to have how they feel recognised and acknowledged…because the reality is, whatever they’re feeling (regardless of whether its justified or not) is their truth.
So when someone comes running screaming that a sibling said something mean or punched them in the leg, instead of telling them to ignore it, acknowledge them. Put into words how they feel.
"Being punched in the leg hurts" "Hearing that makes you upset." "You look frustrated and angry right now." "You didn't expect her to say that."
You’re not condoning what was said or done on either side. Nor are you taking sides. You’re simply acknowledging the subjective feelings that are felt in that moment; because those feelings are true for that child, and often all our children want is to feel we have heard them. Its when they don't, that they will more often than not take matters into their own hands and more chaos rains down.
Help your child to be proactive instead of reactive You might encourage your child to think proactively himself instead of reacting back, asking him what could he do to handle this situation? In this way he might suggest himself he should ignore his sibling, or come tell you when there is a problem he can't handle. Usualy our children know what the right thing to do is....but their emotions often get the better of them. Gently prompting your child to think rationally helps to bring back calm, and helps to build the idea of new behaviour patterns and understanding that he doesn't always need to react, and by not reacting he actually maintains control of the situation (which when you think about it, often siblings are fighting because they feel that control has been lost to the other).
Encourage him to remember the Sunnah, and prompt him to recall what our Prophet taught us to do when someone upsets us, or we get angry.
End sibling rivalry with sofa talk Something else you might find helpful, is sofa talk. Sit both / all the kids down and have a ball or a cushion ready. Invite each child by turn to communicate to their siblings how they feel and why. They can only speak when they have the ball or cushion in their hands, until then, they must remain silent.
Once the first child has got everything off his chest, the ball goes to the other child/ren, who will then repeat back what he heard was said. It is important they are only repeating back what was said; regardless of whether or not they agree with their siblings interpretation of events, and without adding their own narration or feelings.
Go back to the first child and ask if what was repeated back is correct.
Then the second child gets his opportunity to explain how he feels and why. In the same way the other(s) repeat back, and continue until everyone has been heard.
Doing this firstly, helps to calm the situation. And secondly, helps them to talk through feelings that quite often children have difficulty articulating which is why its so easy for the fists to come out in the first place!
Will they ever stop squabbling? Many of us have grown up arguing with our siblings. And most of us outgrew it as we aged alhamdulillah. It seems that sibling rivalry is part and parcel of family life. Whilst it wreaks distress upon mothers across the world, it is something that should phase out inshaAllah, so long as we keep making dua, and be proactive ourselves in helping them to manage and control their own feelings and actions.
A book I've personally found quite helpful is Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It's a pretty awesome book full of practical strategies to help manage our children's sibling battles and can be picked up second hand on Amazon or Ebay. So if you want a helping hand getting control on your kiddos constant feuds, I'd recommend taking a look. It goes without saying, as a secular book not absolutely everything will comply with our principles as Muslims, but the authors still hold many valid points of benefit, with practical examples of how we can help our children to communicate their feelings through means other than their fists or horrible words.
Whatever disputes your children get into, maintain your own composure. Don't let your emotions react to meet theirs, because then you're entering the war with them.
I'll end here by saying, take some comfort in the fact it's not just your kids who fight....82% of us face the same.
Following the pre-Ramadan prep planner, designed to help mums get organised; this week I'm sharing a set of guided activities for the whole family to come together on.
This short activity guide has been designed to help you figure out along with your family what is important to you all around Ramadan; giving you time to put things in place so that you can focus on what really matters bi'ithnillah.
Ramadan is the time of year where routines change and focus shifts. We look forward it, and many of us move things around so that our families can take as much benefit as we can from this time bi'ithnillah.
Yet despite our best intentions, it can be easy to get swept along and find ourselves lost in and amongst all our many responsibilities; struggling to find a balance between what we want to achieve over Ramadan and our everyday ordinary life.
Defining our Ramadan goals and preparing for challenges
No matter the ages of your children, your Ramadan aspirations are not a secret from them. Talk to the kids about how important striving to do good over the month is, and get them in on planning their own good actions. What do you yourself hope to achieve?
Think about what challenges you might face in reaching your own desired outcomes. What potential solutions can you prepare to help you overcome them inshaAllah?
What difficulties might the children face and how can you help surpass them bi’ithnillah?
If the kids are in school but you all want to pray Tarawih at night, what will make getting everyone ready on time in the morning easier?
What can be done to prevent fasting kids having late afternoon melt-downs because of tiredness and hunger?
How can you organise your time so that you're able to take care of everyone's needs as well as take care of your own ibaadah?
Identify all your potential challenges and have a list of solutions ready.
This Ramadan activity guide will help you and your family talk about these matters and help you to find answers to your difficulties.
I've shared some images but I have to hold my hands up...my camera quality is really poor. I feel I have to state the obvious so we can ignore the obvious!
Activity 1: Sticky note fun; what are your family's Ramadan aspirations?
The first activity invites you all to start thinking about Ramadan; what it is, why it's important and what you all hope to achieve.
All you need to do, is grab some sticky notes, a cork board or large sheet of card...even straight onto the wall, and ask everyone to jot down what they know about Ramadan and what they'd like to work towards inshaAllah.
Normally, us Mums think about these things on our own. We look at what we'd like our kids to value and achieve over Ramadan, and try to steer them in that direction.
However, with this simple activity you're able to invite the whole family to participate in creating your Ramadan plan, asking them to think about its purpose and digging deep to look at what each of you would like to achieve.
By getting everyone involved like this, you'll get a greater level of interest, excitement and efforts because you're prompting the family to think about and reflect on their own purpose.
When every one has had a hand at sharing what is important to them, you'll get a greater level of investment from them.
Activity 2: Big Juicy Conversations
This second exercise, follows on from the first.
During the sticky-note activity you probably already were able to generate a lot of conversation around Ramadan.
However here, you're going to take a look at each of the sticky notes, and explore them further.
Why are some of these points your children have written down important to them?
Why are yours important to you?
Activity 3: Ramadan good deed brainstorm
Next you're going to brain-dump all your good deed ideas that you might like to try over Ramadan. Listing them doesn't mean you have to go out and do every single one. But it will allow you to pull together possibilities to encourage your family to take certain steps to work towards accomplishing them bi'ithnillah.
Activity 4: Your family's top Ramadan priorities
You're a busy mum with a busy family life. Whilst absolutely you want to do as much as you can over Ramadan and encourage your family, so many of us get overwhelmed at wanting to do so much out of the ordinary that it can become easy to feel lost.
So here, use your sticky notes, and talk about what are the most important things you'd like to prioritise in relation to:
How your days are spent
How your nights are spent
Extra good deeds
By listing out your top 5 priorities in each area, doesn't mean you're limited to these. But it means you can put things into place ahead of time to help you accomplish them inshaAllah.
Activity 5: Our Ramadan Action Plan
The last activity, you'll identify what a successful Ramadan for your family would be, and think about practical strategies to help you achieve that bi'ithnillah.
You'll also address any potential difficulties or challenges which may come up and look for solutions.
You'll also look at your homeschool or school, and think about how you can overcome potential difficulties....there are two sheets for this activity, so only print the one you need (whether you're a school or homeschool family).
Who else is excited for the approaching Ramadan? I love this time of year and always feel it comes at a much needed time where I feel in desperate need of a boost.
Something I like to do during this season, is get everything in order at home before Ramadan begins....or at least try to anyway. I will tell you I often still end up running around like a crazy person trying to get everything in place once the new moon announcement has been made (if you know the phrase last-minute-dot-com....well, that is me.)
However, I will generally try to get as much stuff done as I can ahead of time. I always feel I need to gut the house from top to bottom in the weeks approaching Ramadan's arrival; deep clean everywhere and have everything straightened out. I also like to get as much ready for E'id as I can, so that I'm not having to waste valuable time during Ramadan that could be better spent in ibaadah.
4 tips to help you get ready for Ramadan
Here are 4 things you can get done in the weeks approaching the start of Ramadan inshaAllah…..and if you read all the way to the bottom I have created a gift for you to help.
1 Declutter, reorganise and tidy
Looking at the whole house can feel like operation-overwhelm. When looking at it as one big job to do, it is just that….a big job.
However, it doesn’t need to be.
The easiest thing to do when wanting to tackle the whole house, is taking one thing at a time. Spread out your decluttering and tidying over the coming weeks instead of trying to get everything done in just one or two days. Little and often works wonders.
Make a list of all the jobs you want done in every room; all the cupboards you want reorganised and cleared, all the dried up felt tip pens that need sorting, all the clothes that need packing away or donating to charity, the random drawer with things that have no apparent home…. Everything that needs doing, write it down.
I’m a big believer in writing.
Brain dumping all your thoughts onto paper helps free up valuable brain energy so it doesn’t need to keep juggling a million different pieces of information you don’t want to forget.
Writing a list of everything you want to get done around the house, means your brain can breathe….it knows you know what needs to be done, so it can relax and let anxiety go.
Once you have your list, you can see exactly how much needs attending to so that you can space all these jobs out over the coming weeks. Working through just one or jobs on your list each day, breaks up the massive task of clearing the whole house into smaller, manageable bite size pieces, and will have your cupboards gleaming and shelves organised in no time.
2 Deep clean
This tip goes hand in hand with the first…but obviously you need to declutter and tidy before the deep cleaning can begin!
Just as before, write a list of everything you want deep cleaned before Ramadan inshaAllah, from the skirting’s to the ceiling light shades, get it all on the paper. Then simply work through your list tackling one or two items each day.
Get the kids involved and let them choose jobs they’d like to do from the list to help (I say “like” very loosely!).
3 Get kids activities ready
Whether you want to have something to distract fasting children from their hunger or keep little ones busy to make your day easier, plan some activities, games and lessons to take you through Ramadan inshaAllah.
Make a list of all possible suggestions, firstly so that you have ideas to run with, and secondly so you can see if there is anything you need to go out and buy or prepare ready.
4 Get your E’id preparations done
I think it’s so easy to waste time letting E’id preparations distract us from more important things we could be doing during Ramadan.
So here is another list to make….everything you need for your E’id celebrations; from clothes to gifts to food. Write everything down.
With your list in hand, take a look and see what can be done now. Get your E’id gifts bought and wrapped. Get your clothes ready if you’re buying new. And with food; what can you make ahead of time to freeze?
Something I’m going to try this year that I haven’t tried before, is freezing cake sponge to take out a day before E’id that will just need decorating quickly inshaAllah. I have frozen cake sponge once recently when I had baked too much, and it seemed fine after defrosting. So this year, I figured having cake sponge baked way ahead means time saved in the last ten days of Ramadan that can be better spend with ibaadah bi’ithnillah.
Pre-Ramadan prep planner
I’ve put a little something together to help you get your pre-Ramadan prep done inshaAllah.
Whilst this planner is short in pages, it is concise. You don’t need to spend hours planning your pre-Ramadan prep. No busy mum has time for that.
It has been designed to help you quickly map out your preparations so that you can focus on executing them and save the last-minute-dot-com feeling so many of us get in the days approaching the new moon sighting.
As I said earlier, when it comes to prep little and often works. Spread out your deep cleaning, your organisation, your meal prepping, your E’id shopping and anything else that can be done ahead of time. A little each day will achieve much better results than cramming everything into a single day or two…and much better on your sanity!
So grab your favourite hot drink, sit somewhere comfy and make your pre-Ramadan preparations so that you can enjoy and benefit from the coming month without getting caught up in time wasting distractions inshaAllah.
It has come to my attention people are taking my work and either uploading to other websites, removing my copyright or logo / web address, editing the resources into different languages, and even adding their own copyright or logos.
It’s that time of year where we find ourselves waiting to welcome Ramadan into our homes again inshaAllah; may Allah allow us to witness it.
As parents and educators, we love getting ready for this special month; we love teaching children to get excited in anticipation of its arrival, and we love encouraging them towards good.
To help kick start your Ramadan preparations, I’m super happy to introduce to you this doodly note-book style Ramadan Journal with a twist...
It's been designed with two parts; the first to be used before Ramadan, the second during....and it includes 13 cover designs to choose from so the kids can all have something different (if they want to!).
Preparing for Ramadan The first part consists of a 14 page pre-Ramadan introduction to the month; exploring some of the important elements to help your children or students get ready.
The fun doodle style pages can be coloured (with a little writing or drawing), covering a brief look at the following topics:
• Ramadan (Surah Baqarah 2:183) • Why did Allah create me? • The 5 Pillars of Islam • What is Ramadan? • Our special meal (sahoor) • What the fasting person is encouraged to do, and abstain from • The Night Prayer • Laylat-ul-Qadr • Zakat-ul-Fitr • E’id-ul-Fitr
As well as activities including:
Good deeds brainstorming
Getting my Ramadan goals inshaAllah
Ramadan Journal Daily Log The second section is the daily log to be used throughout the month of Ramadan consisting of two pages to complete each day:
• Progress tracker page for each day (x30) • (Ramadan related) Hadith of the Day for the whole month (x30)
Encouraging children this Ramadan If you’re looking for something fun to help encourage the children to increase their understanding of this month before it begins, and work harder to achieve some of their goals, this will help you do that bi’ithnillah.
It encourages children to look at Ramadan and how it fits into their life; guiding them to think of as many good deed ideas as they can before setting their own goals and working out solutions to challenges they may encounter.
The daily log provides a tracking tool where they can record each of the daily prayers completed, set a goal for the day, colour their attempts of fasting (whether a full fast or part fast) and record a good deed they did. It also helps to encourage daily reflection of the Qur’an, asking them to choose an ayah to copy each day.
The purpose of this page is to help motivate our children to make efforts in seeking good for themselves inshaAllah; to help them pay greater attention to their actions and see the progress they are making.
Who is this Ramadan Journal for? I'd say the Ramadan Journal would probably suit children between the ages of around 5/6-ish to 10/11-ish .....although my 13 year old has seen it and is begging for a copy too (she might not like I told you that...don't tell her!). Younger children who are eager to get involved with the rest of the family can benefit too; colouring each page and using drawings instead of writing, or help from a parent / older sibling to transcribe.
It is a simple journal...designed to be fun, with lots to colour and get creative!
Its something which most children can work on pretty independently....and would even be a nice activity for those of you who take children to the masjid for Tarawih to help keep them quiet so as to prevent disturbing those who are standing in prayer.
Whilst the "Preparing for Ramadan" section does provide some basic information around some important topics to help prepare before the month begins, it is not a comprehensive explanation, rather a simple introduction which can be read and further discussed together....a great dinner time conversation, or an addition to your Ramadan lessons.
Fun for everyone The nice thing is, you only need to purchase one Journal and all your children (or your classroom) can use it...because it is a PDF you don't need to buy separate books for everyone....which is especially great for those of you blessed with larger families Allahumma barik. (please note: teachers can use this with their own class of students, however different teachers will need one purchase each)
The Ramadan Journal is an 80 page (A4 size) PDF, and has been designed to allow borderless printing to give a professional looking finish inshaAllah. This means when you select the "print borderless" option in your printer settings, you won't be left with a white edge around each page (my camera and photography skills are not awesome....the journal pages are designed with a square paper background....if you squint real hard you might just see them on the photos!).
I know we like to use our printers wisely, and so the journal has purposefully been designed to go easy on the printing, so you don't need to worry about working your printer too hard!
You will receive 13 PDF files in total......a file for each cover design so your children or students can have fun picking the one they like the most. Plus I also think having unique covers helps make it feel more personal to each child.
Purchase of the Ramadan Journal is for one customer only for use with your own children or classroom.
You can print as many copies of the journal as you need for your own children or classroom, and can reprint year after year. (separate teachers with separate students will require one journal purchase each for your own classroom use please).
It is not permissible to share, resell or distribute the Journal whether in digital or printed form.
It is not permissible to buy one file and share the cost as a group.
What sources have been used? Whilst the information presented is very basic, to help compile this journal, the following sources have been used and all references are included:
Sittings During the Blessed Month of Ramadan, Shiekh Muhammad Bin Salih al-Uthaymin - Riwayah Publishing.
Sahih al-Bukhari, English Translation, Darussalam
Sahih al-Muslim, English Translation, Darussalam
Riyad-us-Saliheen, English Translation, Darussalam
The Legislative Rulings for E'id-ul-Fitr, Shiekh AbdulQaadir al-Junayd, Muwahhideen Publications
Order your Ramadan Journal £5.99 My Ramadan Journal PDF can be purchased securely through PayPal below, and will be emailed to you within 12 hours of receiving payment inshaAllah (usualy you should receive it a lot sooner than that, but please allow up to 12 hours.) Buy My Ramadan Journal PDF £5.99
I hope your children or students enjoy using the Ramadan Journal as much as I enjoyed preparing it!
I love, love, love to see my printables being used, so if you're on Instagram be sure to tag me if you share a pic (@amuslimhomeschool)
I receive questions all the time, asking how to homeschool. From sisters wanting to begin but not knowing where to start. And whist I always endeavour to reply to each one the best I can, I am limited in the time I have. And so it hit me, why not produce a ready-to-go guide, responding to this ever popular "how to start homeschooling?" question. So here it is, a completely free, 8-step E-Guide to starting homeschool.
I would have loved something like this when I first began. Whilst I did find local homeschoolers and random snippets of information online, I didn't really understand what homeschooling should look like, or where to begin. I imagined what I knew of school and tried to fit that into my home.
I was desperate for someone to tell me something to help me get started. But those I knew, were in a similar situation in their early stages and equally as clueless. Those who were more experienced were hard to get hold of because our children were different ages and so we rarely bumped into each other in the same places.
To be honest, the difficulty in finding this help was a large part of why I originally set up this blog back in 2011; to inspire and help others on their journey as I muddled through my own fog.
And so I hope that with this short digital publication, you will have the answers you are looking for.
It's simple yet concise and will provide a gentle spring board into the begining of your homeschool adventure inshaAllah.
Home education is not the same thing as school education. It won't look the same and it won't work the same. You have to remember that school has been designed for the masses; for a large group of same age students in one classroom setting with one teacher. Your home is not a classroom. It is your own private space, and a place of family, connection and safety. Embrace the qualities of home as an important part of your learning and realise that it won't run in the same way as a school....because its not one.
Step #2: Be a mother not a teacher
One thing to understand, is your kids don't want to live and be raised by a school matron. They want and need a mother; they need you.
When we're talking about homeschool, you're not looking at developing your skills as a teacher because teachers belong in school. Rather you're seeking to develop your skills as a mother because it is a mother who belongs at home.
Step #3: Choose one thing to start with
Don't jump all-in on day one. As Julie Bogart of Brave Writer says, "go slow to go fast".
Start with one thing. Choose one thing you all enjoy, do it consistently and do it well. Give yourself a couple of weeks or even months to establish this as a comfortable part of your daily routine before adding something else.
Step #4: Create an inviting learning space
If we want to embrace the freedom to learn that so many home educators go on about, then we need to cultivate an environment which nurtures our childrens curiosity and sparks interest.
It's not the size of your home or the scale of your budget which matters here. Rather it is the environment which you cultivate and the messages you send to your children which does. So think about the space you have (whether that is an elaborate homeschool room or huddled closely around the kitchen table) and see how you can craft it into a space which invites and welcomes learning and curiosity.
Step #5: Develop a routine not a schedule
Homeschool doesn't need the scheduled time-tables found in school. If you find the kids are deeply engrossed on something they're working on, don't tell them at 11:30 its time to swap books. Leave them to it. The next thing on your "agenda" will still be there later; tomorrow or next week. But the children's inspiration and interest for the thing they're working on may not be. Remember home thrives on routine and flexibility, schools thrive on schedule.
Step #6: Discover education methods
I knew nothing about education philosophies when I started homeschool. I'd never heard of them, I didn't know such things existed.
Spend a little time exploring different education styles. These offer insights into different methods of teaching and learning.
The temptation when you start out home educating, is to buy all this stuff and lots of it; manipulatives, curriculum, crafts, books....everything to help your children learn. Yet what tends to happen is, most of us don't really know what we are buying, or rather why we are buying it. Take your time. Ask around.
Step #8: Trust the process
Make dua'a for the success of your homeschool and children. Then take the means to get there. Trust yourself, trust your kids, trust the whole homeschool process.
When it comes to crafts supplies and learning resources, so many of us keep them safely locked away in unreachable cupboards or shelves; partly because some things are expensive and we don’t want to risk damage or loss, and partly because we don’t want a hot mess to clear up and we don't trust the kids enough to give them free access. But in doing this, we need to ask what message are we giving to our children about our learning environment?
Something to consider is when things are out of sight, they are often out of mind.
When we have things hidden away in storage, how often are they thought about? How often do we ourselves make the conscious decision to get them out?
Whether you're reading this as a homeschool or school parent, I know if you're a responsible and interested Mum, you 100% want your children to enjoy learning and discovering new things.
What message does your environment at home give them? What does your learning space say?
Does it encourage the children to explore and discover new things?
Does it invite to creativity?
Does it welcome ideas and thinking?
Does it send a message that you not only support but value their efforts and offerings?
Does it support yours and their learning goals?
Is your child able to access everything she needs, or does she need to ask for assistance?
When she does ask for something out of reach, do you provide what is being asked for, or do you say “not now” because either you’re too busy to go get it, or you just don’t have the energy to supervise right now?
When your child has finished working with something is he able to clear up after himself, or do you need to go fix that?
Most of us want our children to develop independent skills in all areas of life and learning. What we should understand if we want to support our children in taking control of their own work as they grow, is that the environment we provide can either help or hinder that goal.
No matter whether our child is 5 or 15, they are often capable of a lot more than we give them credit for and also a lot more responsive to the messages we give them.
Take a look at your homeschool space, and ask yourself what environment it is cultivating? All too often, so many of us proclaim we want our children to be independent learners, and we want to help provide the skills they need to be able to do so.
However, if the learning environment doesn’t send out that message to our children that they can indeed go and discover, create and explore independently, what are we telling them?
Pay attention to your homeschool space and the message it sends to your children.
My family is in our 9th homeschool year alhamdulillah, and I have to tell you, it sometimes feels as though I’m always trying to reinvent our learning space. Just when I think I have the perfect lay out, things change; kids grow and new ideas are needed.
Some of you may already have a beautiful large room dedicated to everything homeschool....I know you do because I've seen the Instagram pictures Allahumma barik! And if that is you, still go and have another look and check that it is continuing to serve its purpose to meet your goals inshaAllah.
Some of you like me, may live in smaller homes, and I realise it is a much tougher task to design your homeschool space, however it is certainly not impossible. You just need a little imagination.
Honestly, it is not the size of your home or the scale of your budget that matters in creating a thriving, inspiring, inviting homeschool environment. What does matter is you and what you bring to the table.
You are so important to the atmosphere set at home. When your children see that you care about learning and creating new things, they will want to do more to show you new discoveries and ideas they're making.
Where your attention goes, they will follow.
If you yourself live a life which promotes discovery and growth, they will imitate that, and follow you. Partly because that will just seem like the natural thing to do, and partly because they thrive on your attention and will do anything to get your approval.
Take advantage of the libraries
Get into the local country parks to connect with nature
Plan trips to museums and local places of interest
Have an area in the home filled with whatever craft resources you can afford; plain paper, coloured paper, different sized paper, scratch paper, pattern paper, scrap paper, water colour paper, card, glue, watercolour paints, poster paints, acrylic paints, oil pastels, sequins, stamps & ink, washi tape, blank canvases, felt-tip pens, pencil crayons, water colour pencils, chalk pastels, cardboard boxes, empty containers, packaging, washed out empty food tins, beads, stencils, clay, wood scraps, zig-zag scissors, scrap magazines, fabric scraps.
Bring in new books to the house; they don't need to be new, second hand or borrowed is fine....the point is to see that continuing bringing into the home new knowledge to benefit from.
Pay attention to what your children are interested in, and help facilitate their interest by bringing things they need to them, or taking then to places they need to go.
Your homeschool task is to create a welcoming learning space: I want to invite you to have a look at your homeschool space, and think about how it invites your children to discovery, creativity and learning.
When I say learning space, I’m not talking about a homeschool “classroom”, but rather your environment.
Your homeschool is your home, not a school. And the properties of home are very much different to that of school (remember home comes before school in homeschool) So when addressing your learning space, think of home and think of learning; and see how those can fit together. Do not think of school.
The biggest take away I want to give you, is our children's learning starts with us. It begins with how we show what we value, and how we translate that into encouragment through the environment we provide. So make sure yours reflects and nurtures your family's goal.
Discover more about the importance of creating a homeschool space and get help designing yours... If you're a new homeschooler and would like to learn more about setting up a positive homeschool space, my new online workshop "Homeschooling with Confidence; a beginners guide to starting homeschool" looks at this as part of the syllabus. The workshop doesn't officially launch until April but you can download the information guide here: Homeschooling with confidence; a beginners guide to starting homeschool brochure.
This is the first in a two part series of month long workshops (all completely online), designed to help you build the Muslim homeschool of your dreams inshaAllah. Whilst this first one is ideal for new homeschoolers and Mums wanting to begin as it guides you through the nuts and bolts of getting started, the second workshop later this year is designed for Mums at all stages of homeschool so look out for information on that when it comes out soon inshaAllah.
Some days you wake up, and there is only one thing on your mind: survival. Your goal is simply to get through the day; feed everyone, end the sibling conflicts without anyone loosing an eye, and hope that at least some maths gets done. Survive.
Deep rooted in amongst all the chaos, we know that there is more to this homeschooling life than just survival. None of us are home educating so our family can just merely survive. We want everyone to thrive.
Yet somehow, the success of the long game thriving seems to be blown into the waters when the short game moments of surviving present themselves; the laundry that needs doing, the nappies that need changing, the squabbles that need separating, the dinner that needs making, the matted knots of tangled hair that needs brushing, the tantrums that need calming (and we're not just talking about the kids here!), the dishes that need washing, and in amongst all this we need to fit in homeschool, personal hygiene and sleep.
And so its too easy to go through each day in survival mode rather than thriving mode. Do what needs to be done in the moment that presents itself.
Ask yourself what is it that you really want for your children? Because you and I both know we want more for them than to just survive.
What qualities do you hope to cultivate within them that they will be able to carry and take into their own adulthood?
Now, take a deep look at your family, and ask yourself what percentage of your time do you actually spend intentionally developing those qualities in your children?
When we are in a state of survival, its really difficult to pay attention to creating experiences which truly seek to carve a path which allows our children to thrive not just in the future, but today as well.
You see, what we're missing is all these moments of survival we encounter, are in fact teachable moments to pass onto our children to help them thrive inshaAllah.
If we take a step back, and allow ourselves to look objectively at what is going on, being proactive rather than reactive, we will see that amongst all the chaos are priceless teachable moments about love, connection, responsibility and consequences.
These important lessons help develop our children's brains, their thinking, their values, their relationship skills, their character and how they view themselves.
They are still learning what will happen when they snatch a toy or hit their brother, they are still learning what will happen when they tantrum over maths or empty the liquid soap into the sink to play with it like slime.
Look at the chaos from the perspective of being teachable moments.
We don't need a lesson plan or to schedule in time to teach our children about resolving conflict, managing a home, or getting the right nutrition.
We teach them these things in each moment which presents itself...even if the timing is not quite so convenient.
Keep cool. Stay calm (or at least fake it). We can't control the speech and actions of others, but we can control our own. Be proactive instead of reactive.
Transform these moments of survival into ones that help you all thrive inshaAllah.
There is a consensus that when it comes to homework, this is something which a child should be left alone with unless they really need help. And certainly it should never be done for them.
When I think back to my own school days, I notice that the kids who tended to be at the top of the class and well-liked by the teachers, generally seemed to be the kids who had parents (whether one or two) at home supporting them through their education. They didn't just leave it to the teachers.
As a mother, we have a huge influence in our children's learning growth. We have a hidden strength that even the best teachers in the world will never have...
We. Will. Never. Give. Up. On. Them.
Our investment to their success in both this world and the next is greater than anyone else. No matter the struggles we face or the adversities that hit us, we will always be there to support and guide them to be the best they can be inshaAllah.
So when it comes to homework (I know I'm a homeschooler, but yep, I'm talking about regular school homework here...and if you are a fellow home educator, then this comes into all our regular studies with them at home too), I want to tell you that helping always helps.
When they were babies, we didn't expect them to learn to crawl, walk, talk or feed themselves without help. Nor did we expect them to try mastering these skills without making bumbling mistakes along the way (which we all in fact thought were so cute!). Rather, we modelled for them, and they observed. We encouraged them, and they gave it a go. We praised and cooed and jumped in the air with excitement when those first steps were taken and first word was spoken.
Yet when it comes to education, the older a child gets the more we seem to expect that he should be able to do it all by himself.
We forget that much in the same way as everything to a baby is a brand new experience, our growing child's education is brand new too, no matter his age or stage.
Helping helps. Model how to answer homework questions What would happen if we modelled maths homework the same way we modelled how to talk to our baby?
What would happen if when they are really struggling, we do half the maths problems for them whilst they observe, before giving it another try? Or take it in turns completing one sum each back and forth to the end?
What would happen if we modelled how to construct a written answer for their science homework when they're having a hard time knowing where or how to start? What if we guided them through it?
Would that mean they didn't benefit from the assignment? Would that mean it wasn't their homework? When we help them bake muffins, do we say it isn't their muffins?
Getting a poor grade and loosing confidence in their own ability doesn't benefit, because grades don't show what a child needs to do to improve. It just tells them what they were able to get right, and what they did not.
Teachers don't have the time to give the level of personalised instruction to really benefit each and every single child in the class. Thats why it's not often we find huge numbers of kids raising levels in the classroom beyond what appears to be their natural capability.
But you do.
Even when you think you don't, you can always find 10 or 15 minutes to help coach them through their homework and studies inshaAllah.
What if I don't understand my child's homework myself? If you don't understand the homework yourself, that's great because here you have an excellent opportunity to demonstrate one of the biggest life skills they will ever need to learn for success, and that is knowing how to learn. Knowing how to find the answer when you don't know it.
So together, go and discover the answer. We're living in an age where information is a click away.
Google and YouTube are full of experts in every field, with many professionals creating free websites or video lessons to teach you almost anything you can imagine for every stage of education. Believe it or not, even school teachers are there dishing out lessons for anyone who is interested to watch and learn...free!
Always remember you are your child's supporter and champion. Helping them with homework doesn't take away from their learning experience, rather collaborating with them aids and enhances it.
Out in the real world, many of the best ideas come from team work and collaboration. Get on your childrens team.
I was asked recently how can we keep our young children away from mobile phones and other electronic gadgets?
You might not like my answer.
Don't use them.
I've seen too many mothers handing their young child a mobile phone to keep them quiet at the masjid, to get them to eat or when they are busy and need the kids to be quiet.
Our children wouldn't have quite the intense reaction they do around these mobile appliances in the first place if we didn't use them as a pacifier to hush or entertain them...and....
….if they didn't see us with them in hand so often.
We have a big part to play in this, because many of us ourselves are addicted to our phones.
Yes, addicted and often in denial.
Mobile phone addiction Mobile phone addiction is a big problem across the whole globe today, and for the children who follow after us I can't even imagine the potential long term damage its usage will have on them.
What many of us don't realise, is that the mobile applications, games and social media feeds we commonly use have been designed purposefully to draw us in and keep us using them. Because the more time we spend using them, the more money some one else is able to make advertising to us.
Designers use hooks to imitate the powerful addictive tricks that gambling casinos and the like use to keep us going back for more.
I'll give you one simple example.
As Muslims we don't gamble alhamdulillah, however I'm pretty sure we all know what a slot machine is. Its leaver is pulled and a few moments go by whilst 3 image appear. Often these images don't match, but sometimes they do. And so the leaver is pulled again and again by the gambler who is waiting in anticipation for that moment all three images align matched, and they are rewarded with the endorphin hit from a win.
You see, this is what many mobile apps, games and social media sites are doing to us to replicate that rush of a "win"; typically in the form of notifications, likes and messages.
You will know if you have ever been part of a watsapp group or if you have something like Facebook. We don't want to miss anything. Yet we know that 99 out of 100 notifications mean nothing to us, but, we can't help checking our phone a gazillion times with the anticipation that one good one comes up (the images matching) and we have received our win.
The tech guys designing this stuff know the danger One of Facebooks founders, Sean Parker said that its addictive qualities "exploit a vulnerability in human psychology...God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains." (1)
Jony Ive, chief design officer for Apple, said that "constant use" of the iPhone was "misuse". (2)
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was asked back in a 2010 interview if his children loved the ipad. He responded "They haven't used it...we limit how much technology our kids use at home." (3)
When the daughter of Bill gates (the former CEO if Microsoft) started developing an unhealthy attachment to a video game, he implemented a cap on screen time. His children didn't get a mobile phone until they turned 14.
Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, has put time limits and parental controls of every device in his home. Speaking about his five children aged between 6 to 17: "My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules....that's because we have seen the dangers of technology first-hand. I've seen it in myself, I don't want to see that happen to my kids." (4)
So if these are the guys designing and making these mobile-devices and apps, and they are all saying they keep them away from their own children or strictly limit use, then why are the rest of us not waking up to realise the danger on our own families?
It starts with us So you see, our children's mobile phone and gadget usage begins with us and the example we are showing them through our own actions.
We are showing them what to value in their life through what we value.
If you want your children to limit their usage of mobile phones or tablets, then you have to limit its usage for yourself first also.
I realised that I couldn't keep my own children away from these things if I was using them constantly.
I had to get real and be honest with myself.
So I started hiding my phone. Not to hide it from the kids, but to hide it from me.
What I do, is a couple of hours before bed at night, I put my phone inside my bedroom drawer. I don't look at it until the next morning, some considerable time after getting up. And then, unless I know I need the camera to take photos for the blog or something, I leave it upstairs as much as I can, where it is out of sight and out of mind (usualy).
I know I'm not going to miss an important call. Family all have my home number. And even if there is, I can call them back later when I check in.
Usualy its just a bombardment of watsapp group messages or social media noifications which I don't need to pay any attention to.
And so I hide my phone, from myself. And (try to) check it more consciously. Believe it or not, we don't have to respond to every call or message immediately. I know...thats a shock right!
When you really stop and think about what we are all collectively begining to do as a society, we can see that the culture we're developing today says that those who are away from us are more important than those who are right here physically with us.
Think about that.
And then decide if this is a value that you want to instill in your children. If it isn't, then you absalutly have the power and responsibility to do something about it.
So back to the original question, how to keep our young children away from mobile phones and other devices? We can't say to our children that they can't have the mobile or tablet if all they see is us all day long using it.
Young children model us. They want to do what we do...and will do what we do.
So hide your phone and surround both yourself and the kids with things to inspire you all.
Provide things and opportunities to capture interest and imagination.
It's so easy to keep things hidden away in cupboards for supervised use and play, but when things are left out of sight, they are often out of mind also.
Instead, have some low level shelves or cupboards which the children are able to access as and when they please. Teach them how to get these resources and put them away without you, giving them this responsibility allows them to have more freedom on how they choose to spend their time wisely.
Ask yourself, does the environment you offer, help or hinder your child to be able to explore new ideas and spend their time in ways which provide real value?
Does your environment offer opportunities for fun and curiosity?
The environment you carve for your children can change the kind of activities or work they do. Try to make sure that yours inspires and invites.
A few suggestions...
Cooking / baking
Art & craft materials; different papers, glue, scissors, card, watercolour paints, stamps & ink, punches
Small hand made scrap books ready to use to create a project (staple some paper together)
Play doh or kinetic sand
Weaving board and wool
Nature study resources
Recycled cardboard bits and bobs or packaging to create your own imaginary play or make their own home made toys
Bug viewing catchers (to find, catch and free)
Get outdoors, go to the parks, go for a walk....there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
Visit places; museums, the beach, country parks.
Meet real people
Many of you probably have or do a lot of the things suggested here, but a lot of it is hidden away and inaccessible.
So create an inviting space, and offer the invitation for their use. You don't need to have everything out at once (I know that is asking for chaos!), but just a few selected items each week will do wonders to how your growing, curious child will choose to spend his free time.
And if you're not using your phone so much either, this will help keep him away from desiring it too.