Monday, 10 March 2014

Our Prayer Tree

Our Duaa Tree


Although the description for this preschool activity is primarily designed for Muslim children, preschoolers of any faith can benefit from it by simply substituting the Arabic word ‘duaa’ for the English word ‘prayer.’

I believe it is important, whatever your faith, to teach your children concern and compassion for others. Some children are naturally inclined to be caring and sympathetic to the needs of others, and some kids need a little encouragement! This preschool activity is designed to nurture and foster compassion and empathy in our young children.
Making a prayer tree

Making a Duaa/Prayer tree


The inspiration for this project came from a wonderful publisher, GreenBirdBooks, who have published a beautiful book called ‘Lets GoDuaa Catching.’ It is the story of a little boy, who every day travels through beautiful scenes, looking for his duaa/prayer, so that he can ‘catch’ it and pray for his little sister too. The illustrations are beautiful. I think that this simple but powerful story would suit a child up to five years-old.
After enjoying this book with my two boys, I looked at the publishers website. The publisher was asking people to make a ‘duaa tree’ and send photos of it to them.

Lets Go Duaa Catching
Published by Green Bird Publishing

The principle of a duaa tree is; everytime your child makes a duaa/prayer for another person, he/she can add another apple (pom pom) to the tree.

I found that this really encouraged my boys to think about others and what they might need or want, or what they might be worried or scared of.

To make the tree you will need:


1 cardboard toilet roll
1 square piece of cardboard
Multiple pipe-cleaners
Scissors
Paint (for the trunk and grass)
Pom Poms
PVA glue
Paint brushes
And that’s it!!!

1)      Begin by asking your little one to paint the square piece of cardboard, this will be the base of the tree, and the cardboard tube, which will be the tree trunk.

2)      Once these have dried, cut long slits (approximately 1 inch / 2cm) into one end of the tube, and smaller slits (approximately 1/2 inch / 1cm) into the other end of the tube.

3)      Fold down the longer slits, and glue them to the square cardboard base.

4)      Once dried, the tree trunk should be secure and your child can begin slotting the pipecleaners into the smaller slits on the top. You may wish to cut them to different lengths, to give the appearance of different size branches.

5)      Further pipe-cleaners can be wound around the existing ones, to create more branches.

6)      Once you are happy with your tree, ask your child to pray for someone, and when they do they get a pom pom! My boys liked picking which colour pom pom themselves. They even started to chose the colour according to which colour the person they were praying for liked. The can be secured onto the tree with glue. Younger children may find this tricky, and may need your help.

Choose any colour paint or pom poms your child wants. It is not important that it looks perfect. What is important is that your child enjoys and learns from the experience.

Duaa tree
Dino-boy's Prayer Tree


This activity can be done once, or you could return to the tree regularly to make duaas /prayers for other people and make it part of your weekly/daily routine. When the tree gets full, just take the pom poms off, and start again!

I hope you and your family enjoy this activity. I would love to hear how you get on, see your pictures (you can tag me on Instagram or Twitter) or hear other ways you encourage your children to think of others.

Please remember me in your duaas.


Peace and Love.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Our Typical Day 2013

A day in the life of this Muslim Homeschool
Truth be told, I wrote this piece around 6 months ago, but I never mananged to post it. Things are still very similar, but the kids are a bit bigger now. Dino-boy has moved on from preschool, and is doing Kindergarten/Year1 work now. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy seeing how our typical day goes for us. I will write another similar piece in the summer, to give you an update of how things have changed a year later.

Routine, routine , routine! As someone who used to hate routine, I have come to realise that without it our house descends into anarchy. Finding a routine that worked for us has taken time, and even now has to be altered if someone is sick or there is an important family event; but this is how our day usually works.

Muslim Homeschool

My day begins at five o’clock when I wake up for my morning prayer. I’ll then try to read some Quran and have some quiet time to reflect before the children wake up at 6 o’clock. Between 6 and 8 the children play and eat breakfast and it’s a very relaxed time. Whilst they are eating, I try tell them some of the stories from the Quran, like Noah’s ark, the story of Moses, Jonas etc. 

At 8 o’clock the arts and crafts materials come out. For an hour I allow them to create whatever comes into their imagination, with as little interference as possible. Yes, they do make a mess, but it’s something that they love doing and it’s wonderful to see them express themselves and create something they feel proud of. Whilst they are busy, I try to clean the kitchen and put some clothes on to wash etc.
Early years craft
Making a pizza!

Playdough !!!


At 9’oclock Baba has a short nap. During this time, I like to have one-on-one time with my eldest son. This usually involves reading to him, but sometimes he enjoys doing phonics exercises or just playing. At 10 o’clock, without fail, we all go out. It is so important for my mental stability that I get out the house every day! We might go to the park, to the supermarket, a mum-n-tots group, or once week we go to the library and museum. I try to keep these trips as engaging as possible, by giving them shopping lists in the supermarket, or discussing the things we see around us. If we see an animal we might talk about how Allah made it, and then say ‘Thank you Allah.’ If we see someone begging I wil ask  the children give him something and then we pray ‘ Oh Allah please give him a home, Ameen.’ I try to teach them to have a constant awareness of God, as well as the power of prayer.
Early years numeracy
Early years numeracy ... in his pyjamas!

The kids have the lunch at 12 o’clock, and are in bed at 12.30. Sometimes they sleep, and sometimes they don’t!  During this time I try to catch up on any work I might have. By 2 o’clock they are up and I try to get them involved in the household chores and cooking. At 3 o’clock they go and play outside. I am a big believer that children should be outdoors as much as possible. However, living in Liverpool, England, that means you have to get them used to playing in the rain and wind, which is shocking to many parents. It’s like they say, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.’

Importance of outdoor play
My little farmer!


Importance of outdoor play
He's so cute!

They eat they diner at 5 o’clock. Quite often we will all have the evening meal at my in-laws house. It is so important for us to see them regularly and for the children to really know them and learn from them. The bed-time routine begins at 6, with bath and story, and hopefully the children are asleep by 7.30.

Throughout this very ordinary day it is important for us to incorporate the Islamic traditions that they would not be exposed to at school. This means witnessing, and occasionally taking part in, the five daily prayers; saying the prayers we say before eating, using the bathroom, leaving and entering the house, greeting one another, to name but a few. When we see something beautiful outside, like a butterfly or a bee, we teach the children that Allah made it and we should be gentle with it and take care of it. We have taken great steps to show the children where their food comes from. They help us to plant the fruit trees and vegetables in the garden, and we regularly visit the city farm to see at the farm animals. Purity of food is very important as we believe that what you put into your body will not only affect your health, but maybe even your spiritual growth. In addition to this, we have been showing the children that man is the custodian of the earth and we will be accountable for all our actions and choices in life, even down to the food we chose to eat.  As such we eat as much organic produce as we can afford, and grow some fruit and vegetables in our little garden.

Homegrown carrots
Home-grown carrots

In addition to the usual secular subjects, the children are also beginning to learn the Arabic alphabet, so that they can begin to read the Quran and study the religion further. We have also just finished the month of Ramadan, where we went without food and water for 19 hours a day, for one month. Although the children didn’t take part, they witnessed it and were a part of the excitement and atmosphere that surrounded our holy month.

Our Muslim homeschooling family is much the same as any other homeschooling family in terms of our day to day activities, but perhaps where we differ from some (but not all) is the emphasis we put on connecting all our activities with God, and teaching our children the manners and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace by upon him). We hope and pray that our efforts will raise righteous, intelligent, God-conscious boys, who love their religion and who can contribute to the world, and make it a better place. Isn’t that what we all want as parents?

Love and peace.


Friday, 28 February 2014

Arabic Alphabet for Preschoolers

Teaching the Arabic Alphabet to Preschool Children


Teaching the Arabic alphabet to Muslim children in the West is often done after the English alphabet, as a second language. Despite this, there are so many way we have found to make it fun and enjoyable for your little ones. Below I have listed my favourite resources and activities to help all Muslim kids learn the Arabic alphabet and have fun doing it:




1.       Montessori cards

As I was beginning to discover the Montessori method of education  and browsing through the plethora of information online, I stubbled across a great website, ‘Noor Janan Homeschool’. In amongst her free printables, I found these lovely Arabic Letter Cards. After printing and laminating them, we have used them a multitude of ways. I ask Dino boy to name the letter, or to pair with matching letter, put them in order or we play a memory game with them.
Arabic Alphabet Montessori cards


2.      Playdough

On the same website (Noor Janan Homeschool) there are Arabic playdough cards, where you  mould the playdough into the shape of the letter on the card. Dino boy was not interested in these, so after laminating them, we now use them as colouring in sheets, and simply wipe clean after. As he is colouring in, we talk about the letter, its sound, words that begin with this letter or what its shape reminds us of.
Arabic Alphabet playdough

 3.       Telling a story

I came across this method on Youtube on the safida34 channel where you tell a story with the letter. For example with Ba, Ta and Tha:
“Ba, Ta and Tha are three boats. One sunny day, they decided to go out on the seas and catch some fish. Ba was not a very good fishing boat, and he left his fish in the water (Where the fish are representing the dots on the letters). Ta did very well mashAllah and caught two fish and Tha, who had the longest fishing rod (sticking your tongue out to make the sound of the letter) caught three fish.”

4.       Puzzles

We have been fortunate to receive a few puzzles, wooden and card, of the Arabic letters. These are available from amazon and many Islamic bookstores. I use these when I want to kids to do some Arabic, but they are not in the mood for anything ‘heavy.’
Arabic Alphabet Puzzles

 5.       Islamic Playground


This website Islamic Playground is a recent discovery of mine. Although I do try to limit screen time for my kids, there are occasions when they deserve a treat! There are two lovely games on this site
-          Drag and match game where the player has to match the letters and as they do it the letters sound is played.
-          A journey through the Arabic alphabet. The player has to walk along the letter and as they reach an obstacle on the path they will be asked an ‘Islamic’ question to get past. Although this one does require mum or dad’s help, it is well worth it.

6.       Painting

Sometimes the simplest things work the best! Either write out the letters yourself, or ask you child to, and then paint them . Simple but it holds their concentration!

7.       Workbook

The website  rahmahmuslimhomeschool  has a wonderful workbook for ages 3+ to help your child recognise and begin writing the letters. Dinoboy LOVES this. I’ve put it in a ‘grown-up’ folder for him which only adds to his excitement!



Arabic Alphabet Workbook


8.       Youtube

There are many songs and videos on Youtube to help you child become more familiar with the sounds and shapes of the letters. These are our favourites:

The main thing that I always need to remind myself of is, that at this young age, it should be fun. Make it light, frivolous, smile and make happy memories!

I would love to hear how you have taught your little ones the Arabic alphabet. Please leave a comment in the box below. 


Peace and Love.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Making an Alphabet Caterpillar

This homeschooling activity was inspired by the book 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle. This preschool activity helps with letter recognition, putting the letters in the correct order, sequencing, as well as letting the lil' ones be creative and have some fun.
Alphabet Caterpillar
Alphabet Caterpillar

How to Make An Alphabet Caterpillar


Begin by having you child draw around a circular object, like a cup, to create at least 27 circles. We used lots of different coloured paper, to make it more interesting.
Tracing a circle
Tracing around a cup

Then either cut the circles out yourself, or let him/her have a go. In my case I did most of the cutting myself as Dino-boy is still a little young.

Next ask you child you put glue the circles down in a particular order (Blue, green, red, blue, green, red etc.). I was amazed at how excited Dino-boy got by this exercise. It was wonderful to see.
Gluing the circles in a sequence
Adding the eyes

Then draw on /stick on the eyes. We had some foam eyes left over from another craft pack, so we used them. It gave our caterpillar a rather menacing  look!

Then I asked Dino-boy to stick some alphabet stickers onto the caterpillar's body, in order. In hindsight, it may have worked better if the stickers were stick on first, before each circle was glued down. However, both achieve the same learning outcome. If you child is older, you cold have them write out the letters on each circle.
Sticking on the letters...

Next, we drew on the legs. Technically a caterpillar has only 6 legs, so I guess ours is more like a millipede!
Draw on the legs...
Our Very Hungry MILLIPEDE!


Then we added some grass and a sun, and got a bit creative! 

Peace and Love 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Our Moroccan Family Holiday

Morocco has always been the one place that I really wanted to visit, and it didn’t disappoint.
Moroccan holiday
Our Moroccan Family Holiday
We flew into Agadir and then stayed in a small village called Tamraght. Tamraght is still relatively untouched by tourism and so it was wonderful to see the real Moroccan life. Walking through the village was a treat. There were goats grazing along the sides of the dirt tracks, children playing football, a small shop selling handmade tagines and a chicken shop where you pick the chicken (still alive) you want for dinner, and they slaughter then and there.  There was a beautiful mosque at the end of our road, and the athaan (call to prayer) would echo through the empty streets. 
The air was dusty and dry, but not humid or unpleasant. You could very easily venture out in the midday sun, without feeling uncomfortable. The beach was just a five minute walk, all be it over some very dusty scrubland, and it was beautiful and we had it all to ourselves! Sandy expanses stretching in every direction, shallow   blue waters, and nobody trying to sell you anything! It was the vision of tranquility.
Deserted beaches

Nobody but us!

Digging in the sand

Baba climbs the rocks, while Dino-boy hunts for dinosaur bones with his Dad


Dinosaur bones collected, now lets make a sandcastle


The hotel was also so picturesque. It was a traditional family-run Moroccan riad with a central courtyard and pool,  with rooms circling it. We were given traditional Moroccan mint tea when we arrived, and opted to have home-cooked tagines for dinner every night.
Tranquility of the hotel


Add caption

Windows overlooking the courtyard below

Practicing his letters on our veranda

Open fire 
Traditional Moroccan Mint Tea

We visited a local souk where I think we were the only tourists. It was incredible. There was beautiful silver teapots and jewellery strewn on dusty blankets on the ground, piles of multi-coloured spices for sale, you can see shoes being made from scraps of leather, and they sell everything from kitchenware, to bicycles, clothes, to vegetables and fruits. It was a real treasure trove. I wish I had some photos to show you, but I didn’t want to get out my camera and reveal that we were tourists!

In amid all this peace and calm, we had to contend will two small boys, temper tantrums, and their favourite word ‘No!’. It was not easy, and I think being away from home made Dino-boy feel insecure and his behaviour became a real challenge. Despite these small difficulties, it was a wonderful break and a real privilege to see such a beautiful country. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Muslim Children’s Books – Our favourites


Islamic Children’s Books for the under 5's


I thought I’d share with you my favourite books for Muslim children, in particular Muslim preschool children (under 5s). Reading to children is an important part of their homeeducation. We read both Islamic children's books and secular non-religious books to the kids at home, but we do try to read one Muslim children’s book to the once a day. There are an ever increasing number of Islamic children’s books written in English now available online. However, the following few books are great in my opinion, and have been enjoyed by Dino-boy many times over.

Muslim children's books

A Trust of Treasures by Mehded Maryam Sinclair

This book introduces the concept of caring for our world and all of creation, as well as introducing the story of Prophet Adam. The language in this book is exquisite, it is beautifully written. The illustrations are incredible. It is aimed at the slightly older child (5+) but Dino-boy (3 years-old) still enjoys. I highly recommend this book.

Amira’s Totally Chocolate World by J. Samia Mair

In this book a little Muslim girl called Amira, prays for a totally chocolate world, and her prayers are answered. A sweet book with a great moral at the end.

Thank You O Allah! By Ayesha bint Mahmood

I love this book! It is written simply but beautifully, and Dino-boy has enjoyed it since he was 2 years-old. The author goes through some of the beautiful things in creation and tells us to thank Allah (God) for them; a wonderful principle and habit to instil in our children.

What do we say ... (A Guide to Islamic Manners) by Noorah Kathryn Abdullah

This book is not a story-book, but rather it helps children to memorise the daily duaas (supplications) that Muslims use in everyday life. From 3 years old


Quran and Seerah Stories by S.Khan

This is a collection of stories from the Quran and the Seerah. At the moment we only read one story from here, which is called ‘Allah made them all.’ This talks about how Allah made the birds, and the animals, and has been a wonderful tool in introducing the concept of Allah (God) to Dino-boy from a young age (18monthsold). The remainder of this book is filled with other stories from the Quran/Serrah which I hope Dino-boy and Baba will enjoy from 4 years-old.


Assalaamu alaykum by M.S. Kayani

Written for Muslim children aged 3+, this book encourages Muslim children to use the traditional greeting ‘Assalaamu alaykum’ (Peace be upon you), whilst encouraging unity and brotherhood/sisterhood amongst one another.


I Can say Bismillah Anywhere by Yasmin Ibrahim

Part of the ‘I can’ series, this book introduces the concept of saying Bismillah (in the name of Allah) before everyday actions, with lovelymatching illustrations. It is written is simple and easy-to-understand English. From 2 years-old. This has been invaluable at teaching Dino-boy to say Bismillah. Highly recommend it for stubborn little boys!


I Can Pray Anywhere by Aisha Ghani

Again, part of the ‘I can’ series, this book introduces the concept of prayer in Islam. It is written with an easy to read rhythm and is suitable from two-years old. Dino-boy loves this one as it goes through various modes of transport (he loves his trains and planes etc) and various different landscapes of the world and the moon!

Islamic children's books


What are your favorite Muslim children's books? Please share them in the comments.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Chicken and Mushroom Pie ... real comfort food!

Well the weather has once again turned and the grey clouds and rain call for some hearty wholesome comfort food. In my opinion that means PIE! A happy homelife is always helped when the house is filled with the smell of home-cooked food, and everyone comes together around the table to share it. Here's my favourite pie recipe at the moment. It turns out great every time and, if you are short of time, frozen pastry works well. 




Chicken and Mushroom Pie

Feeds 4 people and takes 90mins to make. 
Preheat the oven to 200C
Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up (helps the pie to cook more evenly)

Ingredients:

Butter (50g)
Plain flour (50g)
Whole milk (400-500ml)
Boneless chicken (500g) - Thigh meat is tastier but breast meat will also work
Olive oil
Stick of celery
8 small mushrooms, halved
Dijon mustard (2 tbsp)
Short crust pastry (500g) - home-made or frozen
Egg


Method

  1. Melt butter in a heavy-based saucepan on a low heat
  2. Slowly add flour, mixing until it becomes pale and sticky
  3. Take off the heat and slowly mix in milk, so that you have a smooth, lump-free white sauce
  4. Cook for around 5 minutes until the sauce is the consistency of spoonig custard
  5. Add the chicken, and cook for a further 8 minutes. The water from the chicken will add liquid to the sauce. If it is too thick, add some more milk
  6. In another pan, fry the celery and mushrooms in olive oil until the celery is tender
  7. Add the celery, mushrooms and mustard to the chicken
  8. Allow the mixture to cool to warm.
  9. Butter a 20cm pie dish (or 20cm cake tin)
  10. Roll out 2/3 pastry and line the pie dish. Chill for 10 minutes.
  11. Spoon mixture onto the pastry
  12. Roll out remaining pastry
  13. Score the overlying edges of the pastry that is in the dish, and brush with a beaten egg
  14. Lay remaining pastry over the top, cut back overlying pastry and seal edges with fingers or a fork
  15. Make small two holes in the top of the pie, and decorate with a criss-cross pattern, or cut out some leaves from the remaining pastry and stick on top with the beaten egg
  16. Cook in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.
  17. Rest for ten minutes before cutting
  18. I like to eat it with homemade chips, or green beans. 
Enjoy, I hope it turns out well. Please share your thoughts. I'd love to see your photos too.

Peace and Love.