Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homeschooling: Where and How to Start (Part 2)

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته


How do you start?

Now that we've talked about a good starting point being the point where your child demonstrated they need more guided and/or direct instruction we can explore "how" you might choose to start. 
  1. The first thing when starting any and all endevours is to have the correct intention insha'Allaah. Our goal insha'Allaah, is to, for the sake of Allaah, raise our children to be Muslims who understand and practice Islaam according to how the Salaf-as-Salih understood and practiced it.
    عن أمـيـر المؤمنـين أبي حـفص عمر بن الخطاب رضي الله عنه ، قال : سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عـليه وسلم يـقـول:

    ( إنـما الأعـمـال بالنيات وإنـمـا لكـل امـرئ ما نـوى . فمن كـانت هجرته إلى الله ورسولـه فهجرتـه إلى الله ورسـوله ومن كانت هجرته لـدنيا يصـيبها أو امرأة ينكحها فهجرته إلى ما هاجر إليه ).

    رواه إمام المحد ثين أبـو عـبـد الله محمد بن إسماعـيل بن ابراهـيـم بن المغـيره بن بـرد زبه البخاري الجعـفي،[رقم:1] وابـو الحسـيـن مسلم بن الحجاج بن مـسلم القـشـيري الـنيسـابـوري [رقم :1907] رضي الله عنهما في صحيحيهما اللذين هما أصح الكتب المصنفه.
    On the authority of Ameer ul-Mu'mineen (the Commander of the Faithful), Aboo Hafs `Umar ibn al-Khattaab radiAllaahu anhu, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam say:

    "Actions are but by intentions and every man shall have only that which he intended. Thus he whose migration (Hijrah to Madeenah from Makkah) was for Allaah and His Messenger, his migration was for Allaah and His Messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated." {Bukhari and Muslim}
  2. After conducting and reviewing the results of the assessment, sit down and think about your child and what you would like to accomplish with him/her. Think about the time frame you wish to accomplish this in. Be realistic and be flexible. Consider your child's learning style. Is he very energetic? Then perhaps, flashcards and worksheets may not work well for either one of you. They might bore him and his lack of interest may frustrate you. Try hands on learning with him. Let him move if this is the way he takes in information best. There will be times that he needs to sit and do something but make these times brief and not too frequent. This is not to say let him run wild and unencumbered, disturbing others around him and being excessively loud. This means if he learns by moving and has the energy to compliment this method of learning, teach him with activities that require and encourage movement.
  3. The step just mentioned is leading you into developing and drafting a long range plan for your homeschool. The questions you will begin asking yourself: "What do I want my daughter to know in 10 months time?", "Are there certain things I want to teach her in certain months (i.e. Ramadan, Hajj, Eid, etc.)?", "Are there certain things that seem to be related and I can teach them together in a theme (i.e. Eid, Sunnah, Bid'ah)"? All of these questions will lead you to organizing your thoughts and putting them on paper. This is the beginning of your long range plan for your child. Once you have written your thoughts out (rough draft), consider the following: a). does your province/state require that you keep records and/or report your child's progress to them? b). does your province/state require that you follow the provincial curriculum established by the Ministry of Education (or Board of Education in the states, if I am not mistaken)? c). are you going to be following a pre-written curriculum? If you intend to use a pre-written curriculum and/or your province requires you follow theirs, now is the time to take it out and begin matching your goals/expectations with the goals and expectations outlined in the curriculum you will use (modifying when needed - add in Ramadan, subtract the music strand for example). If you intend to write and follow your own curriculum, check to make sure that you cover the major expectations that pre-written curricula have outlined (i.e. make sure you teach your child the shapes, colours, the essential things that children need to know insha'Allaah). See a sample of what children in JK (Junior Kindergarten - is that considered pre-school in the states?) are expected to learn prior to moving to Kindergarten here and view the Kindergarten expectations here insha'Allaah.  
  4. As you are looking at your provincial (or state) curriculum, keep in mind that you do not have to teach each expectation in the order it is presented. Take time to look/read through it, notice topics that are similar and can be taught in tandem (i.e. together).
  5. Doing a long range plan is a step worth taking (and not skipping). By seeing the school year in front of you, the long range plan will serve as your map; your guide. It can help you stay on track and if you happen to get off track, this plan can help to center yourself again and help you regain your bearings. A long range plan is not a detailed plan but a very general one and is not set in stone - if you need to change,modify,delete or add things to it...do so. The long range plan helps you answer the question, "When will I teach certain things to my child?".
  6. If you were to look at the Month of September, for example, you can ask yourself certain questions like:

    a). Are there any Islaamic holidays in this month?
    b). What is the weather like in this month? What season is it?
    c). What commonly happens in this month?

    If we look at those three questions alone we will come up with a plethora of things we can teach in this month alone. 

    - Islaamic holidays? No
    - The weather: Autumn/Fall is coming. Teach about this season. This season has activities that span the curriculum: math, science, literacy, social studies, art, gym, etc. Try to integrate your activities (i.e. link them to each other. If you are going to do a Fall theme for September, make your math activities about Fall somehow. Let the children use leaves to learn addition.) When teaching science, you can teach about hibernation and migration as this is the time when animals begin preparing to do these things.
    - September is when many children return to school from the summer break. Transportation themes fit well here because children go to and from school using a mode of transportation.

    Your goal here is to try to teach subjects/material when they are most relevant. It is easy to teach about Fall in September because children can go outside and experience it hands on. It would be much more difficult to teach about Autumn in the Summer and may seem irrelevant to children due to the contradiction in weather and the natural world around them.

  7. Another aspect of "what to teach my child and when do I teach it" that must be kept in mind is your child's developmental stage. By reading pre-written curricula, you can see when certain topics are generally introduced to children. For children under the age of 4, you may wish to consult texts (and your child's pediatrician) for information about what your child is able to do at certain stages. This milestone chart is a good example. Knowing what your child is capable of doing (emotionally, physically and mentally) , helps you search for and design developmentally appropriate activities for your child(ren) with the help of Allaah.
  8. Now that you know "what" you'd like to teach your child and you know what he/she already knows, you need to look at your long range plan and ask yourself what materials you will need to teach these ideas/concepts. What books might you want to use as resources that you can go to when you need ideas and information? What materials do you feel will be useful to help you child learn these concepts (i.e. blocks, chalk, crayons, games, etc.)? Do not worry too much about the curriculum just yet, that will come insha'Allaah. Now you want to get your thoughts organized so you can map out your homeschooling journey insha'Allaah.
  9. Knowing what you want to teach helps you know what you will need but there are certain things that seem to be standard in classrooms and homes (depending on the age of your child(ren):
    1. non-toxic glue
    2. construction paper
    3. non-toxic paint
    4. wooden blocks
    5. child scissors
    6. crayons and markers
  10. And when you come to your lesson planning stage, the materials you will need will show themselves insha'Allaah. As you are writing your lesson plan, you will begin to see that you cannot teach your child about the passage of time without a calendar. So you will then be led to acquire a calendar that includes the days of the week, the months of the year, etc. We'll talk of lesson plans and curricula later insha'Allaah *smile* but this point supports the desirability of writing lesson plans (ahead of time). A lesson plan helps you avoid certain pit-falls that can lead to a frustrating lesson for both parent and child. If you start an art activity and then realize in the middle that you are missing and essential component and your child cannot complete the project without it, your child may be disappointed and their frustration may transfer to you. Things such as this can also disrupt the learning process. If the child was focused on the activity, although we cannot "see" it, their mind was piecing things together and making connections. If our lesson goes awry because we are missing materials, that focus and concentration is broken. A maddening search of the house for a missing resource/material is also a concentration breaker. Lesson plans take time but it is time well spent insha'Allaah. Try your best not to skip them. But again, I am jumping ahead *smile*.
  11. Part of deciding what materials you will need also leads into another topic: "With so many pre-made materials available, how do you even begin to organize it and then make it coherent so that you can teach your child effectively?" This is a question that I personally enjoy hearing because it reveals the parent's strong drive to give their child the absolute best! Parents may feel flooded by all that is available on the Internet and they search and search trying to find the best for their child and this is a great and wonderful thing insha'Allaah. Try this: after you have drafted your long range lesson/curriculum plan and you know what topics/subjects you want to teach in each month, and you have decided the method of learning that best suites your child, ask yourself what is the minimum you will need to teach that topic to your child and he/she will have fun learning it. Will one workbook and one hands-on activity plus some art be effective? If so, find the minimum that you need. Refine your Google search skills and bookmark sites that you feel have materials that don't require a lot of planning on your part, and are fun for children (and of course Islaamically appropriate). Once you've found a few sites that you feel have what you need, create folders on your computer for each subject and when you download your resources, download them to the appropriate folder right away. This way when you need math, you simply open your math folder and look for what you need insha'Allaah. You will want to have a selection of sites so that you can vary your child's learning experience.
  12. Try always to prepare the materials for each lesson ahead of time. You are a teacher. Come to your lesson prepared and ready to teach. No matter the age, when the time comes for homeschooling, you should be ready. There should be little or nothing for you to cut out and/or assemble. This will help you teach calmly, effectively and confidently insha'Allaah. This way your focus will be on your child(ren) and you both will enjoy the lesson. If possible, do any art activity that is new to you before you teach/present it to your child. This allows you to know what parts may be difficult or if there is potential for the lesson to go in directions you would really not prefer it go.
  13. The last point (is your coffee cold? gone? *smile*): how long should each lesson take?
    1. Kindergarten = total homeschooling time should not exceed 30 minutes (for all subjects)
    2. Preschool = each lesson can be between 3-5 minutes in length and should be as hands-on as possible (depending on your child's learning style) insha'Allaah. It may be a good idea to try to keep this "formal learning" to about 15 minutes total each day you do your homeschooling...waallaahu a'lam.
    3. But...each child is different. If you notice that your child is very engaged in an activity and it's been 15 minutes and their focus is still strong....leave them with the activity. Do not interrupt unless absolutely necessary.If you find that you will have to interrupt, try to give your child advanced warning (i.e. Fatima, in about 5 minutes insha'Allaah we have to start cleaning up because we have a doctors appointment).
    4. You do not need to try to stretch your homeschooling day to match the length of a traditional school day. You may wish to try to homeschool around the same time each day as this structure and consistency is important for children but the amount of time it will take you to teach a curriculum is flexible when homeschooling. If you don't finish the theme when you originally planned, you can keep going. There is nothing that says your curriculum must be completed within 180 days. Of course, you do not want to stay on one topic too long so that your child's interest does not wane.
  14. Okay, another last point...so number 12 was the penultimate last point *smile*. Homeschooling allows you the freedom to break the traditional classroom mold. Learning at this age occurs all throughout the day. Every interaction a child has teaches them something. You can teach math to your toddler when you are cooking. When you are getting him/her ready for bed. Allaahu a'lam how many children have learned to count because mother and/or father always counted the buttons on their clothes as they dressed them. Transportation does not need to be taught with a book. When you go outside your child sees modes of transportation all around him/her. Talk about them. Discuss them/compare and contrast them. What colour are they? (math) Is the sound they make loud or soft (science), Do they travel fast or slow (science), How do people in other countries travel from place to place? With cars, horses, donkeys? (social studies), etc. If you have plants in your home, this is a science lab all by itself masha'Allaah! Reading aloud to your child each and every day teaches reading/pre-literacy skills and so much more. Learning at this age does not need to take place at the table. It does not need to take place every day at 8:30 am if you don't wish it to be that way. Learning at this age (Birth to 5) takes place all day, every day. Your manners with your child and with others teaches akhlaq. You reading the Quraan each day and reflecting upon it teaches your child Quraan. Allaahu a'lam how many children have memorized a surah before the adult just by hearing it every day as the parent was learning it. Allaahu a'lam how early children know the steps of as- salat because they witness it every day in their home (the same for wudu). I believe my point here is: Trust yourself. Believe in your ability to teach your child. Make dua' and tawakaal. Take the asbab and tawakaal. As I stated in the first post in this series, rare is the child who comes to a teacher a blank slate. They learn so much at home before they even get to our classrooms. And who is at home? Father, Mother, older sister, older brother, Grandfather, Grandmother, etc. This being the case, trust your ability to teach your child...you have been doing it since your child was born. May Allaah reward you and grant you the ability to teach your child knowledge that pleases Him and may He grant you success. 
Next post in this series: It will depend on any questions/comments. Are there questions that I did not answer in this post that you would like to have information about?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Transporation Theme: Adding Depth Part 2

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Continuing with the Transportation theme and the added layers of depth,  students can be introduced to counting cards:

After re-reading the story from this post, students are shown the counting cards. The set of cards pictured is not in order (i.e. the cards do not have pictures of vehicles in the 1-10 order). The cards are random (i.e. one card has two vehicles while the next card could have 10 pictures of a type of transportation vehicle). This was done intentionally to prevent students from guessing and encourage them to take the time to count the pictures on each card.

The cards are printed on card stock and mounted on very sturdy cardboard and then clear contact paper is placed over the front of each card. A hole is punched in the upper right hand corner of each card and a small/medium metal ring is used to hold each set of cards together.

On the bottom of each card a box is present to allow the child to write the number of vehicles they have counted (if the cards are laminated) or in the case of children in the pre-writing stage, they can affix the numbers with velcro insha'Allaah.

This set (which has 12 cards in it) introduces children to vehicles not shown in the book and a small discussion can occur wherein you ask the child where each type of vehicle might be used (i.e. land, air, sea, space). 

Here, velcro is used for students in the pre-writing stage. 
Students in this stage may require teacher/parent assistance in choosing the correct number
if they do not know their numbers on sight (i.e. they do not know what the number 5 looks like, so after the child counts the vehicles, the teacher/parent picks up the number 5, shows it to the child and tells them that this is the number 5)

Counting cards can easily be found on the internet but you can also make your own to fit your specific theme/topic. Made sturdy enough, these sets can be placed in your math centre and children can be invited to use these whenever they wish with little supervision. If you would like these in English please leave a comment and insha'Allaah, I will upload the file soon.
 

Enjoy insha'Allaah!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recommended Book: Night Shift Daddy

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Sometimes, there is a book that a teacher, when she reads it, she knows that she will not only read it aloud to her class insha'Allaah but that she will buy it and it will become part of her classroom (or personal) library. Night Shift Daddy is a book that may be one of those books. 

This is a story about a father who works nights as a janitor. Despite working nights and needing to sleep during the day, he and his daughter have found a way to spend time together in what has become their special routine. The story is told in such a beautiful, gentle way and it captures the child's perspective so effectively. The story also resonates with affection and it is always nice to see stories that involve father in the children's lives.


Another aspect of this book that you may find appealing is that it presents a family that is representative of many many families (economically). The family is not middle class, they do not have a big home, they do not even have a car. But in the story this does not make them less happy or cause them to smile and love one another less or any differently than a family who has these things.

Aside from the wonderful relationship the father and daughter in this story have, children may find aspects of their lives in this story that help them relate to it. And, they may just like the story as the gentle affection throughout may be comforting...waallaahu a'lam.

If your local library has Night Shift Dadddy, consider taking the time to check it out insha'Allaah.

Enjoy insha'Allaah!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homeschooling: How and Where to Start (Part 1)

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Insha'Allaah, over the next few weeks, I hope that Allaah will allow me to complete a series on How and Where to Start when you have decided to homeschool. 

Allaahu a'lam but it may be that the most common topic I receive correspondence and questions about is wanting to start homeschooling but not knowing where to start.  

This is a good question....Where do you start? 

The same sentiments and concerns are often mirrored in a similar question that is asked often: How do I start?

And, like its predecessor, this is another good question...How do you start?

A third and a fourth question are so intricately related that I will merge them into one post insha'Allaah. The two questions are: 

  • How do I begin to put together lesson plans?
  • What curriculum should I follow and/or how do I write my own?
The answers to these questions may be best discussed over a cup of tea insha'Allaah (and in parts) because they are not short answers *smile*. Tayyib, have you got your cup?


The first thing I will tell you is that I am not an expert and what suggestions will be made are only suggestions. It is hoped they will help and if they do then alhamdulillaah. All of the good is from Allaah Alone. The second thing I will tell you is something that may not provide the same comfort that your cup of tea is providing but it is very true: Where to start and how to start varies from family to family and from child to child. I do not know that one method prevails over all others and effectively suites all families and all children. But...

....do not worry. 

Let's take one question at time and insha'Allaah, some of the suggestions listed may help you or fit the design or structure that you would like to see in your homeschool. First question:

Where do I start? 

To this question, the answer that I prefer is: not at the beginning. There is no hard and fast rule in homeschooling (or teaching) that says you must start each child at the beginning of each subject in the curriculum and then go page by page - in order - until the topic is completed. If teachers did that our students may find their learning community very boring places indeed. In classrooms across the country, teachers differentiate their instruction (you can learn more about differentiated instruction here insha'Allaah) because while children may be the same age or same gender, they are each unique individuals whose experiences and exposure to certain knowledge can vary greatly. Respecting this fact, you start where the child is at. Meet them where they are at and move them on from that point. What does that mean?

In classrooms, we assess our students to get an understanding of their existing or prior knowledge (i.e. what do they already know about a particular subject/topic). What knowledge is already with them? Rare is the student who comes to a teacher a complete blank slate. This being the case, as a parent, after Allaah, you are the most knowledgeable person regarding your child. Assess your child.

For the age group addressed on this blog, it is not necessary that a pencil and paper assessment be conducted. Although as a parent, this would be helpful for you when you get to the curriculum/lesson planning stage. So while not necessary, you may wish to consider it. But do not be alarmed, this does not mean that your 4 year old sits down dutifully at the table and is handed a pencil while a test is simultaneously placed in front of him/her. What this means is that, after locating or designing a skills/knowledge checklist (assessment) that you feel comfortable with, you observe your child and/or do activities that will answer the questions on the checklist. Does he/she hold pencils or crayons and "write" stories, "draw" pictures and colour? Does he/she try to dress him/herself in the morning without assistance? Does your child know the names of the primary colours and can he/she identify them on sight? Questions such as these will provide you with the knowledge you need to tell you "where to start" when you wish to homeschool. So perhaps the answer to the question where do I start is: Start wherever you child is at. If your child knows all of the items listed in an assessment (or the content in the preschool curriculum you may be considering) there is no need to drag them through formally learning information they already know- start with the next level. There is a thirst and love of knowledge and learning that we do not wish to dilute or extinguish altogether. Our goal is to nourish and deepen it. To guide it in the direction that pleases Allaah. Our goal is to quench that thirst with beneficial knowledge. 

*A word of caution before proceeding to the next question.*

I do not know if, as a teacher, it is easier to be impartial when the job of assessing students is at hand (many teachers love their students and like parents, they genuinely wish to see their students succeed). A teacher cannot afford to mark off that a student knows something when in reality the students knowledge, while not absent, has not developed to a level of mastery. That would be a great disservice to the child. So when teachers ask a student to please place one sticker in each box and the student for the most part does that but several boxes have several stickers in them and some have no stickers at all, the teacher does not mark down that her student has mastered one-to-one correspondence. The student certainly shows that they are on the road to mastering it, but the student has also demonstrated that he needs more exposure to this topic to help him master it insha'Allaah. With this knowledge the teacher, when designing math activities for this child, will not start at the beginning for one-to-one correspondence because the student has shown that he does have existing knowledge of it. The activities this child will receive will simply serve to help him master one-to-one correspondence. Taking this example, this child might receive an activity that involves him using a pointer and talking his way through placing stickers in the box (i.e. student uses a Popsicle stick and points to the first box and says, "Just one box, just one sticker" - moves to the next box and repeats - "just one box, just one sticker" and continues in this fashion until all boxes have one sticker only). So the teacher, no matter how much she desires to see this student perform flawlessly on the assessment, cannot cheat the student by not accurately recording the level of knowledge the student displays. As parents we must use this same objectivity and be impartial when assessing our children. If your child does not know the material....alhamdulillaah...she does not know. Not a problem insha'Allaah...teach it to her...

Insha'Allaah, the next post will address the second question: "How do I start homeschooling?" This post will, insha'Allaah, answer questions such as: 
  1. What materials will I need?
  2. With all of the pre-prepared information/worksheets/etc. available, how do I organize it all to start teaching my child?
  3. How do I know what to teach and when to teach it?
  4. How long should each lesson be?

  Comments from sisters who have homeschooled are most welcome but I will ask that any advice be limited to the current topic in each of these posts insha'Allaah. We may also have some quest posts from sisters who have been homeschooling for a while and will share the structure/curriculum that works for their family. Also, if you wish to ask questions about this first question: "Where Do I Start?" please feel free to do so by leaving a comment insha'Allaah. 
So dear sisters, when you decided you wanted to homeschool your child(ren)...Where did you start?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Transportation Theme: Adding a layer of depth

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

For the topic of transportation, this year I've added a layer of depth to the theme. After reading aloud a few books whose theme (in general) is transportation and getting from place to place, children hear this book read aloud (sample pages below): 




The book specifically talks about how we move from place to place but the book ends by telling students that this is all a mercy from Allaah and then the dua' for alighting means of transport is taught. You can download the text for the book here (with English) and the transportation pictures used here and the planet pictures here insha'Allaah. 

To make the book requires that you cut around the pictures leaving no white showing. To make the scenes I used a combination of construction paper, paint, cardboard, aluminum foil, markers, foam and glitter. To give the space scene an outer space look, I put a thin coating of Mod Podge over it (i.e. the scene). 

Then to add a little more depth to the unit, I made a board that has the same scenes from the book. A discussion follows the read aloud about what types of transportation are used in different places (i.e. air, land, water and space). For the game pieces, I mounted them on thick card board and then covered them with clear contact paper.

After watching a demonstration of how to use the game, students are then invited to work on the board and place the types of transportation in the correct scene. This involves students being able to a). recalling relevant points of the story from memory b). sort the types of transportation based on the concept of where they are used

This allows teacher/parent to assess if the story comprehension was mastered or perhaps another read aloud is needed with a bit more discussion.

This game can be placed in a learning centre or on a low shelf to allow students to play with it when they wish. Additionally, you can record a story that talks about how we get from place to place and leave it in the listening centre for children to listen to. The book can be placed in a book basket or in your classroom library to allow children to re-read it when they would like (before placing homemade books in the classroom library it is recommended that you laminate them to help them survive student handling).

Students can also make mini-books about how we get from place to place. These can either be found on the internet or you can make your own that your child helps out with. Some other transportation material from the past can be found here insha'Allaah.

A math add-in to use is the popular "How Did You Get To School Today?" activity that is done at the beginning of the school year. The children tell how they get to school each day (i.e. which method of transportation they use) and together the class makes a bar graph showing which method of transportation is used by most of the students in the class.

The following books are nice to go with your transportation theme and may be found in your local library insha'Allaah.

 



Insha'Allaah, there will be a few more posts about adding layers to this theme.

And then there is the Autumn (Fall) theme to get ready insha'Allaah.

Enjoy insha'Allaah!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Will return insha'Allaah

 السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Insha'Allaah, posting will resume soon.

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