Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Last Stretch

Yes, packing has taken its toll but alhamdulillah I have plastered the last reminders on my front door. It says, "YOGHURT, CHEESE, ICE PACK, and POTTY." The last items I have to stuff into the car. ie, the last things in the house that I have to stuff into the car. Of course, alongside are the water bottles the monsters will still be using tomorrow morning.

So the last stretch is finally here. The monsters are asleep, hopefully dreaming of Singapore Zoo after two days of not having my undivided attention. I did still PAY attention, I just had to divide it amongst the seventy-two luggage bags I stuffed into, onto and around the car.

Intermittantly, we did do some school, although Yusuff did not feel like being attentive. Even Scrambled Eggs Super didn't do the trick. He didn't like the birds, he said.

But Tasneem, alhamdulillah is always helpful when it comes to doing something different. We ran out of our colour cartridge, so clever little Tasneem had to colour in the MRT / LRT lines on this poorly printed map. Yusuff coloured his in too - but only wanted to colour the "shapes" the MRT lines made. That was kind of funky - me thinks he is going to be an extreme non-comformist when he grows up. And that picture is not upside-down, it's just how he happens to like to do his work.

I had my own map of course since I had to actually colour code in a way I would understand it and pin point our destinations for the next week.

And to give them a time-out, I brought the elder two out for dhaal morning. Considering the fact that I have been running up and down with clothes, diapers, swimsuits, baby food and everything in between, they have been very well-behaved alhamdulillah. If you're wondering, DH was away for the whole two days on work. Yeah, how convenient. Alhamdulillah my mum's maid stayed for the day, so the baby who does not sleep during the day nor the night, was pawned off to her for a morning nap.

We talked about Singapore some more and all the cool things we were going to do inshaallah. I do hope it all goes well and I hope whatever they are dreaming of now, will come true. Ameen.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Places I Want them to Go!

This is not in lieu of the impending Singapore trip. Though, it may be. Tasneem and I try to read one Dr Seuss book each day, and ever since she picked up "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" she has been asking to read it everyday.

I realise that as a Seuss Buff, I don't remember this book. Reading it again though, brought back many important lessons. Lessons I forgot on my journey until today. I'm thankful that I am reading Dr Seuss again and will remember to remind my children of the places they will go.

"Congratulations! Today is your day.

You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.

You're on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go."

Isn't that pure simplicity at its coolest? I find there is so much more to teach the monsters about how to be intelligent and brave at the same time. How important it is not to dawdle around problems or difficult situations. I want them to know if they can do something - they must decide to and see it all the way through.

I'm not violating every covenants here. Dr Seuss talks about failure and how to rebound.

So we got all Allah-centric, and I reminded Tasneem and myself that we have to make du'a everyday for all our plans to be answered. And if the answer is "NO," we still have to see ourselves through that situation and ask for guidance to overcome our adversities.

"It's a nice story, Mama."

Yusuff sat through one reading and for the first time kept still until we finished the book mashaallah.

"You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.

About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,

You're too smart to go down any not-so-good street."

Ameen, for my children. It is always a worry that they will wander off into dark alleys and I think every parent worries about that. I have to remind myself to have another talk with them over that paragraph. It's quite hard to actually analyse literature with three inquisitive children. Reading one para takes twenty seconds, answering their endless questions, an additional 20 minutes. Twenty minutes worth of questions per paragraph. Beat that!

So I remind myself now that when I read this book again, I will remind the four of us (Idriss has joined the fray): How to always choose right from wrong and how to say no, especially when the right answer is no.

We didn't like the waiting place, so we talked about that too. Tasneem wanted to know why people were just sitting around doing nothing. That's alien talk to her. She and her brothers, including the baby who does not sleep during the day nor the night, are always doing something. There is a never a dull moment in this home of pure havoc.

And that is a du'a I will always make for them too.

For them never to be idle; for them never to lose hope in their dreams; for them never to believe they don't have anything to do. Inshaallah my little ruffians will never wander into the waiting place. Because there are so many places I want them to go and the last place would be Jannatul-Firdaus. Ameen.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Homeschool's Holiday Packing List

We are trying to travel light this holiday, as if there is no lighter oxymoron than that. But besides the necessities, we have decided that a few books, their new art kits and their handy-dandy journals will suffice as far as homeschooling is concern. What do you think of our kits? Little Monster Heaven? Well, we hope the handy-dandy journals will keep the colours of the walls.

So this is what our vacationing homeschool will look like:
1. An Art Kit each.
2. A handy-dandy journal each.
3. Three books each.
4. Whatever that can fit into their tiny backpacks. That's an hour's worth of packing, prioritising, unpacking and repacking.
5. Some toys for the baby who does not sleep during the day nor the night.
6. Swimming suits.
7. A float each.
8. A pair of sandals each.

Pretty light for the likes of us. Hopefully this will be enough for the homeschooling besides all those trips around the island. More planning to do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homeschool Heading for a Holiday

This will be our first official holiday as a family of a homeschooling-five. Inshaallah things will go well. We're visiting Singapore, by the way - just so I can say I brought the children on an international holiday. Heh heh. Kidding.
We chose Singapore because it fit our budget, is not too far from home (ie, my dad can collect us if we ran into any trouble), and there are plenty of sights for the homeschoolers. Besides, it's clean, as compared to the places here, unless they are heavily privatised, which equals more money.
Our places of interest include the Singapore Zoo, The Jurong Bird Park, The Underwater World, The Butterfly and Insect Park - see where this is going? Before children I doubt I would have been this bothered about animals and nature. It takes the innocence of children to appreciate both, so I look forward to what the children have to say about the visits. They are ecstatic about this trip and we have been browsing through the Visit Singapore website for ideas. This is my second time there by the way, and the first must have been 20 years back - and boy was that a boring Chinese New Year - visiting old aunties in old high rise buildings. It sounds mean but at that time... I would have like to go to the zoo.
Besides the animals, we have also thrown in the Science Museum and Toy Museum as part of our agenda.
Inshaallah I'll be blogging / reviewing the trip so perhaps other families with children who have never been to Singapore can read up on free, honest testimonies. And for homeschoolers, I'll probably be sharing ideas for unit studies later. I hope this works out for our family. Ameen.
Until then, I have set up the spending budget; I have to fix a schedule so that we don't end up at locked gates of the wrong location on the wrong day or time. I also have to make a list of things to pack - which is the hardest bit. Somehow, on the morning that we leave, I would have forgotten something important - like a toothbrush or the potty.
Well, until we leave - have to get cracking with that extra planning.


Elmo has been my co-parent eversince I began WAHM-ing. He's adorable, intelligent and I believe is where my children get their very high pitches without volume control. He is also why I call them monsters. Get it? Elmo Monster?

Yesterday, one monster said "We want to draw Elmo." And the other monster said, "WE WANT TO DRAW ELMO."

Here is Yusuff's Elmo. I was so tickled I had to restrain myself from overly praising him. He dislikes praise and has often stormed off or ripped up his work when we make a big deal out of his accomplishments. Strange little boy, but that is who he is.

I loved his Elmo so much I quickly took a picture and asked him where Elmo's arms were. He said: "ELMO ONLY LOVES TO WEAR PANTS!" and walked off. I took the opportunity to stash away his drawing into his green file. Phew, he did not notice. This is the first drawing by Yusuff (now 2 years, 9 months) that does not look like a peacock going ballistic in a blender. Check out the fine motor skills. Mashaallah, clever, concise and thoughtful little boy. I love it to bits.

Then Tasneem showed me her Elmo. Or should I say, the whole Elmo-tribe. She's such a social animal and loves people. It shows in her drawing. Or should I say drawings. There was one more part to the Elmo-tribe and a few other drawings to boot.

Two different children. Two different personalities. Both unique and grossly appreciated by their Mama. I love homeschooling.

I Love Allah (and so does Tasneem!)

I was working on an iBook called "I Love Allah" when Tasneem poked her nose into the gap between my typing thumbs. Don't ask me how she does it, but she always does. After explaining to her, my latest project, she said she wanted to write an "I Love Allah" book too.

So with her very LOUD dictation, I obediently typed:

I love Allah
Because He gave me my eyes
So that I can read and write
He also gave me hands and legs
That I use to play, run and jump
He gave me an idea
To draw and paint my picture
He gave me oxygen
So I can breathe and pray
He gave me taste and smell
So that I can eat and smell flowers

by Tasneem Amelie Nizam

Awww, mashaallah. My little girl has talent. And then she read it back to me. Writing IS reading!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Islamic Homeschool Advisory Network

Islamic Homeschool Advisory Network (IHSAN) is a network you can join if you are homeschooling, considering homeschooling, or like the idea but are not homeschooling. Joining IHSAN will allow you to build networks with other home educating parents, and this way, educating your own child will become a shared responsibility of those who want to bring their children up as God-fearing, successful Muslims. Ameen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Malaysian Homeschooler leaves for University in the States

Now that I am actively following Out of the Box Learning, I read that David BC Tan's son, Ethan, has left for Hardin-Simmons in Texas. Congrats to the whole family!

It was pleasant to read Ethan's delightfully witty rendition of his departure from his family and entrance into a "schooling" environment for the first time. It just goes to show that there is comedy relief and excitement in education, rather than just grades and stress.

Well, now that I know an Ethan has made it to University, I will also be hopping in and out of his blog. It sort of jives with my current state of sleep-deprivation. I know my children will not be babies forever and one day, they will be 17 or 18 or 19, and leave the nest. With that, I am also paving paths for them, even if I still have over a decade to go.

Our Children are Borrowed and Need to be Returned

Not many people know I came to homeschooling through my work as a freelance writer. I spoke to several sisters on a topic I had never even fathomed.

But Allah knew I was struggling with pre-school and through His guidance I embraced homeschooling, with some nerves but a lot of interest. This did not happen until I spoke to sisters like Umm Raiyaan, after reading her amazing blog, and getting know her lovely children.

What a blessing.

Not only did I continue to homeschool (and plan to homeschool well into the future), I also made great friends and found parenting networks I would have not heard of if I had not discovered the true simplicity of educating your own children.
This is the first time I "spoke" with Umm Raiyaan. It was a year ago, and her interview was not published due to erratic working timelines. Browsing through my old emails, I found this treasure, and just had to share it here. I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.

[Kindly note that every homeschooler is different, and decisions to homeschool come from different paths. This is Umm Raiyaan's story].

Homeschooling by Maria:
Why homeschool? I know there are plenty of reasons for a parent to choose the homeschooling route and they are all commendable – but what are your reasons and how did you come to making this choice?

Umm Raiyaan: If a friend lent you a personal item and entrusted it with you, you would return it to them in the same if not better state that they lent it to you. This is what I am doing. I choose to homeschool because my children are an amanah (a trust) from Allah (Swt).

They do not belong to me. They will return to the One whom they belong to, and I wish to return them back to Him (Swt) in as pure a state as possible.

I passionately believe that the school system, whether state, private or Islamic does not provide the means to raise my children as pious and devout believers. I have great aspirations for my children, both Islamic and academic.

I do not want them to merely pass through this world as muslims, but to be the BEST Muslims. I want them to follow their interests and to contribute to the world based on those interests. I want them to be unique and not merely conforming to what the majority say, do and wear (even if the majority are muslims).
I have other reasons why I homeschool, but these are my main reasons. I always knew I wanted to homeschool and it was very easy for me to make the choice due to Allah (Swt) allowing me to befriend sisters who were also homeschoolers. The choice wasn't a difficult one because when anyone believes passionately about something, they just simply go for it!

Homeschooling by Maria:
How old are your children and what homeschooling methods have you adopted for educating them? Again, why would you choose these methods over others since there are so many?

Umm Raiyaan: My daughter is going to be 5 years old and my son is 1 year old [note: this interview was conducted in February 2009]. I have been homeschooling my daughter since she was 2.5 years old. Many people laugh when they learn this. But after taking a look at my blog or visiting our home and seeing what we have done, they realise that you can indeed start homeschooling at such a young age.

As for methods, there are so many! I remember the day I began to look at the type of approach I would take to homeschooling and I became so overwhelmed! There are so many books, so many approaches, and 1000s of websites! I didn't know where to begin. However, I took my time read many books, website pages, and spoke to many sisters.

I knew instantly that unschooling was definitely a 'no no' for me. I just couldn't risk allowing my special sprouts to do as they wished, hoping to learn something in the process!
I then came across a book called The Well Trained Mind and knew instantly that this would be the approach I would take with my children. It is a classical method of education, whose foundation is the trivium.

The trivium organises learning around the maturing capacitiy of the child's mind. The theory of the trivium is that there is a three-part process of training the mind.

The first stage is the 'grammar stage' where memorization of facts is the focus. This stage is language-focussed. This normally occurs between the ages of 5 to 9 years old. For example, rules of phonics, vocabulary of a language, human body facts. The second stage is the 'logic stage' where the child from ages 10-13 pays attention to cause and effect, the relationships between fields of knowledge. For example, analysis of texts, why wars were fought in history. The third stage is the 'rhetoric stage', ages 14-18. This stage builds on the previous two stages. Here, the child learns to write with originality. The child uses the rules of the grammar stage and the reasonings learnt in the logic stage to express conclusions in clear and elegant language. As a result of all of this, the child then follows the branch of knowledge that interests them.

I chose the classical method as I believe it fits in with the fitrah of the human being. I also believe it ties in with Islamic teachings, in that a memorization of Qu'ran is learnt before studying tafseer. Now, I must state that this method can sound quite rigid and dull. It isn't at all and actually there are many blogs of homeschoolers who have lots of fun following this method.

Homeschooling by Maria: How do you feel homeschooling has affected you as a mother and a person? How do you feel as a student under your own education system?

Umm Raiyaan: By the grace of Allah (Swt) it has brought me closer to my children, it has made me value them. It has given me many opportunities to hope for reward from my Lord as every second of my homeschooling is insha'Allah an act of ibadah. As a person, I have learnt how important the foundation of a Muslim is.

My daughter's face changes whenever Shaytaan is mentioned. She really does hate him. As a revert, I do not have that same amount of hatred and I can see how important it is for the foundation to be correct from such a young age, in order for that child to grow into a true believer.

Homeschooling by Maria: You live in the UK, and most people would be envious that you are privy to one of the best educational systems in the world. At least, that is the perception – how would you explain that to those who are skeptical about your choice of educating your children on your own?

Umm Raiyaan: Well, let me tell you that I was educated all the way through the UK system and it wasn't the education system that led me to Islam. Only later in adult life as a result of soul searching have I finally found what 'truly' interests me.

The education system in the UK places the child in a box. 30 chidren must be taught the same lessons with perhaps slight differentiation. If a child who is in year 3 actually performs at a year 6 level, there is no way that a teacher can tailor the education to that level.

So, what happens?

The child is not challenged, is utterly bored and as a result develops behavioral problems. It is the same with a child who is at a lower level. If the child is falling behind, that child does not receive the attention that she needs and again, problems in behaviour occur.
Our children have the right to follow their interests and learn in the individual ways they grow academically and Islamically. School just doesn't allow that to happen.

Homeschooling by Maria: How would you compare a child’s development being homeschooled as opposed to those who attend public institutions?

Umm Raiyaan: I think I pretty much answered this question in the previous one. However, I will say this: Is development merely an issue of exams and tests that are passed or how that child develops into a well-rounded young adult who loves Allah, is fearful of Him and is happy in life? The answer to your question lies in this answer.

Homeschooling by Maria: What are your aspirations for your children? What are the du’as you usually make for them?

Umm Raiyaan: My main aspiration is Jannah al-Firdous. In the dunya, I want them to be happy. This may sound simple, but we are living in an age where most people are desperately unhappy.

It is my firm belief that happiness lies in our relationship with Allah (Swt) as well as fulfilling our potential and engaging in our own personal joys and interests. Homeschooling lays out the path for children to insha'Allah achieve these things.

I do make dua for my children, and home education would not work without Allah (Swt) help and guidance. I make dua for my children to die as good muslims. I make dua for Allah to increase them in understanding - academically and Islamically.

I make dua for them to become learned in the deen and to become hafidh. And I make dua for them to achieve happiness and contentment dunya wa akhirah.

Homeschooling by Maria: Do you have advice for other mothers interested in homeschooling? From a Muslimah’s perspective?

Umm Raiyaan: Pause and reflect.

Why are we breathing and living?

Why are we mothers?

What do we really really want for our children?

Although home education is on the rise alhamdulillah, a lot of homeschoolers are still attacked for the same reasons again and again: You're not qualified to teach. What about socialisation? They need to learn how to deal with people, etc.

My advice is this: Don't listen to people. Go for it. Speak to those who homeschool. Read read and read. And of course pray salatul istikhara and make dua to your Lord to make it very easy for you.

Believe passionately in the aspirations you have for your children and Allah will facilitate the rest.

Flying High (with Support)

I know we are barely in the second week of the New Year, but I count my accomplishments as and when they come, no matter how tiny they are. It keeps things in perspective. Dawdling on mishaps used to be my thing, and it did not really help.

Alhamdulillah, homeschooling is going well so far, especially with some better planning. It also helps since the children's attention spans' are lengthening. They can actually sit still for a few minutes at a time and appreciate the effort they put into their work.

I am counting my blessings because I often have to remind myself not to keep second-guessing my progress or the children's. Homeschoolers, like outschoolers, are all unique and develop at their own paces. It's hard enough to not compare ourselves with outschoolers: (Are they (my kids) on the right track? Can they read as many words as so-and so? Are they still allowed to use their fingers when adding?); but it's also hard not to compare with other homeschoolers.

Thank God, the homeschoolers I have met and read have been supportive and keep reminding me (directly and indirectly) that the point of homeschooling is not to test if your child reaches certain stipulated standards, but to raise children who love learning and continue learning without pressure, rather than feeling continuously pushed to be a high-flier. Yes, yes... I remember, and remind me often!
Reading David BC Tan's post here, was the ultimate reminder. Homeschool support rocks! I also found the story of the twins astonishing by the way.

So, I am smiling well into week two of the New Year. So much so, when the kids brough back party streamers from Cousin A's birthday, I blurted, "We could make kites!" What a mistake, especially when the sun had already set and I needed my time to start on a new project.

We had the great battle between the Now-now's and the No-no's. And our kids - with attention spans of mutated goldfish and memories of elephants - reminded me at the crack of dawn that we had to make kites today.

So we made kites. Easy-peasy, fun and easy - but to two Now-now toddlers, it was complete bewilderement. They discovered the joy of running around in circles with a kite, instead of without a kite. I told them one day we will take them to a beach where we can fly real kites, instead of modified A4 papers, held together with satay skewers and cellotape.

But to them, their kites sufficed and they have been flying high ever since.

I kept the party streamers in an empty ice-cream box as part and parcel of our recycling oath. I will remember to use them again, whenever I need another vote of confidence as I have archived in my subconscious that party streamers equals high flying homeschooling support.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let's Look it Up!

Just before bedtime we were watching a National Geo segment of the Liger. It was really interesting as I had no idea this animal existed. Questions of morality aside, I was impressed with the story of this creature and how a hybrid between a Lion and Tigress would actually turn out twice the size of the male parent. The liger is also considerably stronger than both parents; swims like a tiger and socialises like a lion.

The short segment really captured our attention and the children had many questions. It is fun to know that their world is their classroom. We have the opportunity to learn together and answer each other's questions. There is no shame in not knowing the answers either. And with the wealth of information the net has to offer, we can always google on up and find the answer side by side. We're each others' teachers as much as we are students, and as every student should know, learning really has no end.

A few weeks back we watched a part of "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader," and the show focused on laughing it out as a 5th Grade Teacher with a decade's worth of experience could barely get by the simplest questions without the help of one student each time. When the host asked how she answered questions in her class when she did know the answer, she said, "I tell them, let's look it up!"

We only watched National Geo for a while as bedtime was imminent (itchy heads, red beady eyes), so we said goodnight to the Liger once the credits were rolling. Ten minutes of that was enough to remind me that DH and my collective knowledge would never be enough to satisfy those endless questions. But that is one the advantages I feel we have in homeschooling. When we don't know the answers, we will look them up. And in time, as most homeschoolers advocate, their children take the initiative to look up things that capture their interest and their curiosity.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Less than one minute preparation. The kids love it. Fun, nutritious (especially on wholemeal bread) and filling. Just nice for breakfasts, second breakfasts or afternoon snacks. Fits conveniently into a tupperware. Perfect for hectic days on the go.

It's a Blessing to Know

I had recently signed up for eHomemakers only to find out that I had signed up before but had forgotten my password. It's a good thing though, there are some interesting networks going on in there, especially for mothers / WAHMs.

I was browsing around the forum and naturally I clicked on a discussion about education. I was actually in search of other homeschoolers for playgroups with my children. Unfortunately there weren't any so I continued reading the existing sections.

That was when I stumbled upon a thread on "knowing what your child was doing wrong" (something to that effect) and a mother had posted a query on how to get her daughter's maths grades up as she was falling below 80%, (read as, falling below grade A).

Her daughter was still in primary school and she was worried that caning was no longer working. Ouch.

I'm reminded why I homeschool. The other mothers were quite supportive, though they agreed that they could not always about know what was happening in school. That's quite obvious. If your child is away from you for a few hours a day, there is no way of knowing exactly what happens during that duration, even if she or he tries to tell you in detail.

I notice that parents who send their children to school do worry about what their kids do not know and it's expected as this void reflects the fear of not knowing what they know, about their children.

When speaking to Coachsha the other weekend, besides her normal advice:,"if you have a choice, homeschool," she also said that one big difference between homeschoolers and outschoolers is that homeschoolers, know what their kids know.

Simply said, homeschoolers tend to concentrate on what their children know. And it's easy to know what they know, because we educate them ourselves. We notice their development at minute level and champion them on.

We don't dawdle around the areas that they need coaching in, getting stressed out and frazzled. Sure, it can poke on nerves, but we know what our children know, and that is enough to provide assurance that they are developing. Development does not necessarily have to happen in accordance to what is stipulated by the State.

Homeschoolers recognise development from a holistic point of view, where learned principles are carried out through living, and not just by book.

That alone realigns priorities on a custom-fit route for each child. We slowly encourage them to improve at their own pace filled with positive affirmations and support. This gives us, homeschoolers, the time and energy to focus on our children's strengths, which generally represent their interests - and children - as adults - are the happiest when they are engaged in the activities that interest them the most.

For the mother on eHomemakers, I believe her worries stem from not knowing what her child is knowing - translating it into the concern for her child's B's in mathematics. She could be scoring A's in all other subjects, but this mother was more concerned than ever about what her child could not do.

I think I was a bit agitated after reading the thread so DH asked me to quit for the night. It's good to take his advice and it helps when spouses support each other when educating their children. Homeschoolers are generally teams. Very rarely are mothers able to homeschool alone with peace of mind. If their husbands are supportive, the task becomes lightweight - lightweight and rewarding.

But it's also nice when both parents are in the know of their children. It's hard enough for one parent to keep track of a child's education in a institutionalised setting, so for both parents to know of their child's daily milestones in intrinsic detail is definitely a blessing like know other.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pencil Porcupine

This idea came from Cows & Crayons. We love that show and well, the homeschool becomes a little more bizarre looking after each episode.

Not bad though. At least they know where they keep their colour pencils. And they did it all by themselves too.

Unfortunately the Pencil Porcupine lived a rather short life. I suspect it was due to its removable spikes that were constantly being removed and poked back in. It's a good thing Tasneem keeps track of her artwork with my (her) camera.

Magnetic Mayhem that Makes the Home, Our Home

Every time we end up at a stationery section, the kids flock to the magnets and insist on choosing one. Today was no different, more magnets joined the fray. Check out our magnetic board.

It started when the kids realised a magnet could stick to the stairs banister and they hung up an art piece each. Soon they were scaling the staircase on a daily basis. So we bought the board.

Ever since then, (and believe me, there are MORE magnets behind those layers of art), they have been rotating their artistic expressions on a daily basis. The nice (but tired) ones later go into their colour coded files and the ones that are found on the floor, (and within seconds ripped up by the baby), are discarded.

I think the board and the gazillion magnets managed to tickle their creative nodes and with that came waves and waves of self-appreciation and expression. I LIKE...! (As Yusuff would say heh heh). There is no day that passes without an activity related to magnetic mayhem.

Unlike in school where their artwork would be "judged" and graded, they take pride in every single unique piece they create and subsequently find more than many, that are important enough to put up for show.

Some parents have advised me to move the board into the back room so it does not clutter the living room but others have appreciated the mess they make, and even more so, the art. I like the latter better.

Having their artwork and magnet collection as part and parcel of the living room reminds me of why I homeschool and that my kids are the ones who make this house a home - more importantly, our home.

They are the source of magnetism between these four walls, holding all that is worthwhile in one piece, even if they are screaming on top of their lungs and running in circles trying to strangle each other.

I want them to know that their creativity and expressions are welcomed in our home and are not just clutter and mess that should be relegated to the back room to be kept out of sight. And besides, it's THEIR home, not the home to the critics. Let it be... I LIKE!

Above all, I want them to know that we appreciate their self-appreciation; we love watching them think on their own and build their own personalities. We don't always smile at the mess they leave behind, but we enjoy watching their creativity, and how proud they are of their achievements, no matter hard they are to decipher.

They are not going to be like this forever. Already some of the magnets are missing, broken or just plain forgotten about. The kids are going to change and one day they may forget they ever had an obsession with their magnet collection. Luckily I have this blog to remind them. But no matter how much they outgrow their art exhibition board, I know that they will always be the magnets that hold up the creativity and expression on the walls of our daily lives. Ameen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Self-Fashion Designing for Teenage Girls

I just had this funky idea for unschooling teenage girls. Inshaallah if I keep this up until 2020, I'll share this idea with Tasneem, and the two of us could do some online shopping and designing.

This store, eShakti, allows shoppers to customise their own clothes. Well, you pick out a garment that catches your fancy and you have the choice of ordering a standard size one (XS to 3XL) or customise it according to your own dimensions. Cool or what? You have to fill in all your measurements, by the way.

Wait, there's more though. You can literally choose to change the neckline, length of tunic and sleeves. Let's say a dress catches your eye, but the length is only to your knees and you want it to sweep the floor. Just, select the option! Or a tunic's high neckline looks uncomfortable - you can change it to a v-neck. Did I mention this site was cool? If all this does not make sense, just click on over.

This way you and your teenage daughter can have shopping fun, while testing out new fashion styles. A young fashion designer may be sitting right next to you.

For Muslim parents... aahhh... I haven't lost my marbles. This is a perfect way to help your girls self-design modest clothes when on the move. Modest, fashionable, good material quality and affordable items are sorely lacking in many markets. This is one way to create your own wadroabe and have fun at the same time. And of course you can customise items for indoor fun too.

Of course, this "fun" includes spending money - as shopping usually does. So, save this for a time that you need to buy new clothes and have a budget for it and throw in an unschooling module on "budgeting for apparel," in addition to unschooling "self-design fashion." Pretty cool, me thinks. Remind me in ten years time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

IXL Maths Programme for Preschoolers to Elementary School

The kids have been using IXL for the past couple of days, just to play math games. I did not subscribe to the site as I felt they are still too little to commit to that type of fee (USD10 for first child, USD2 per additional child).

Personally I think it's alot, but if you have many children between the 3-12 year old age group, it's worth it. Let's say 5 kids - that would be USD10 + USD2 + USD2 + USD2 + USD2)= USD18. That's less than USD4 per month!

The site is interactive and very pretty, meaning it's well designed to engage with that multimedia baby. Both my homeschoolers love these types of programmes that give instant results. (By the way, a small drawback would be there are no worksheets or printables, so every single exercise or game is online). But there are report cards to chart their progress.

Maybe when Yusuff is a little older I will subscribe to IXL. At the moment we are just using the limited free exercises (they ration the number of exercises you can do per day, if you're a non-paying visitor. A drawback here is that all grades are open up for students (obviously, because it's not customised). So when this happens, Tasneem clicks all over the place. One day she got so stressed out because she couldn't figure out an answer for a third grade question. I think if I subscribe they would "limit" her to work on stuff by her level. I think.

Well, free IXL for now, subscribing later inshaallah.

"You Must Love to Share Your Toys!"

I have this conversation every day with Yusuff. Born shortly after his dictatorial, loud, lime-light loving and extrovert bigger sister, Yusuff is my little mysterious thinker who can sit in a corner dismantling electronic items all day long.

We waited in anticipation for him to start talking but all he would do would be to bat his long eyelashes over his big round eyes listening intently to our conversation.

"Share what, Yusuff?"

"YOUR TOYS!" When he did finally begin to speak, it all came out full sentences and in ALL CAPS to boot.

I tell him that some of my things can not be shared.


Well, before his full sentences, his first word after Mehmeh and Babah was "SHARE!" As you can imagine, this was due his dictator sister hoarding all the toys. In fact, his first three-word sentence was "MUST SHARE, TATAK!" Tatak being Kakak and Kakak being "big sister."


We both look up at my scrabble board, which is stashed away out of reach but unfortunately, it is not out of sight. We have this conversation every single day of why some of Mama's toys cannot be touched. (And I don't have that many anymore, if you're wondering).


I love these little sessions with Yusuff. We talk alot but this is when I can get up, close and personal with him. Tasneem already understands that my Scrabble board is off limits. She also understands why. As for her brother, he's getting noisier and talkative everyday but that's not a patch on the amount of attention Tasneem needs.


It's fun to chat with him, even if he still remains bewildered that I cannot share my STABBLE. And it must be confusing, afterall I'm the one who has been asking Tasneem to share with him ever since he was born.

For the Frazzled and the Weary

Read this blog: Guilt-free Homeschooling. The title itself will make you feel better. I found it when I needed support the most and I especially loved this post.

I think every parent, homeschooling or not, should read this blog and become acquainted first hand at how to manage the ever-changing stress of being a parent.
As one writing mother (whom I look up to) said, "the stress of being a mother never goes away, it just changes." So read that blog! It will give you a new outlook on educating your children.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Scrapbooking for Memories and Milestones

One of my ideas this year is for my kids to start scrapbooking. I would have loved to have done that when young and to be able to look back and sort of connect with what ensued in the past. I googled some scrapbook packages and found Funky Monkey on eBay. Sounds good, will revisit it.
But then I received Alvin and the Chipmunks' journal after purchasing 24 donuts at Big Apple. Pretty awesome. Only now I need to get another one for the other toddler. Tears will ensue if I don't and I don't want to deal with that type of stress. But if I do get my hands on another Alvin and the Chipmunks' journal, those would easily suffice as their scrapbooks for this year.
Anyway, scrapbooking for toddlers, geez... give them colour pencils and get them to write down three words that sums up the day. Tasneem would probably be interested, though her handwriting is gigantic. And Yusuff will only write O's. I plan to coach him a little more to start writing other letters but he's one of those visual learners who sit quietly and observe. He doesn't like practicing, neither does he like praise. Then one fine day, he'll do whatever it was he was watching quietly without any prompting.
And...of course, stickers! Hooray! I love buying stickers for the monsters. Though I wish they would appreciate them more. But that's fine. I'll skip on the embellishments and other fancy scrapbooking decorations (or whatever you call them) but scout around for more stickers than this house can already handle.
So, homeschool writing, creativity, expression, character building and hopefully they will learn a little about dates and months etc. One simple idea, full of homeschooling fun inshaallah.
The best thing about scrapbooking is that it will work for any age group and it keeps valuable memories in tact for those many years later when the kids look back and ask themselves, what was homeschooling really like?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

All, Ball, Call, Wonderific, You're Terrific!

"How do you train your kids to speak English?"

My children blink back effortlessly at the question when other parents are suddenly caught off-guard by their fluent English.

Uhmmm, I begin. I want to tell them I just speak English. I don't train anyone, and certainly don't train my children to speak any language. I talk to them, and they talk back. But before I can even muster an answer, Tasneem swings out Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss and reads three pages without hesitation.

"How do you train your children to read?" Their curiosity heightens.

I don't, I don't, I say. Thinking is sometimes a slow process for me. I just read with my children, I tell them. But it's not a good enough answer. They want to know what programme I use, which preschool curriculumn I follow and what is the fastest track to having their children reading too.

I have read about different methods. But they don't have much impact on me because I have tried out flashcards and such, but using them has just gotten a tad stressful for my liking. And not to mention, flashcards create clutter in this already cluttered house. So I just read with my kids.

I have read of other homeschoolers who have never thought their children to read. Their children just WATCH their parents read and observe their love for books. In the end, these homeschoolers do read in the end, even as "late" as the age of 9. Yep, they are the infamous "late readers," but the difference is they read because of their love for books and a strong interest in learning through reading.

Other children, even at the baby age of 3, who go through reading programmes, have to endure the stress of being labled (think: slow, late, clever, average, B+, not as good as Sara J), in reading and depending on their lable may either cherish their quiet evenings with books or resent the thought of reading all together.

So I discarded those programmes, and my endless search on the internet to keep my 3 year old en par with her preschool comrades and just enjoyed reading with her. This was over a year ago. Then one day...

"Mama, what's this word A-L-L."
"It looks like this word - W-A-L-L."
"Yep, Humpty Dumpty sat on a WALL."

She frowns and stares into the book while her brother is tearing up another book.

"This word too. It looks the same. F-A-L-L."
"What do you think that makes?"
"What sound does F make though?"
"Yep. F-"
"Humpty Dumpty had a great fall."

She's grinning now and doesn't notice Yusuff ripping up her art work.

"ALL the king's horses and all the king's men, can not put Humpty together again."

That was before we learned of Wonder Red and the Super Why clan. Since then, she has picked up on so many words just be recognising them and their sounds just out of interest, and Green Eggs and Ham has become second nature to her.

Hopefully I will learn to explain to other parents a little better now that I have written this post. I love reading and I was a really late reader. That's what my school said. "Maria's a late reader. She is slower than her peers." Tasneem just happens to be an early reader, like her Dad, who also started reading at 4. She also loves books but that could be our doing, since DH and I are slightly obsessed by books.

On that note, I would recommend books, books and more books. I would recommend parents to enjoy reading together with their children, every single day instead of worrying about pronounciation and phonics. It may work for some parents, but a phonics "programme" has not worked for me, nor Tasneem. I know one homeschooling mother who just practiced reading to her children every day. Her eldest son is 12 and she still spends 20 minutes a day reading with him. On his own, he reads English classics and him and mum have read-a-thons on unschooling days.

I would also recommend Super Why. It's awesome. Wonder Red's "All, Ball, Call," and similar jingles of rhyming words hit the right chords with my kids. Some Muslim homeschoolers may cringe at AlphaPig, but AlphaPig rocks too. He's one cool Pig. You should listen to his rendition of the Alphabet - my toddlers, including the baby, love it and I think the 6 month old is catching on letters already. Heh heh. I have no idea if my boys will read early like their dad and sister or later like me. Either way, I can't wait to find out.

The Costly Curriculumn Question

I believe there are homeschoolers who like to look at curriculumn for their own home education and consider purchasing those that come with plans so it will help iron out their own home schedules. Teaching is one thing but planning those lessons is another. I know I'm one of them who has that trouble.

There is one question, out of very many, and we do worry about the cost of the curriculumn. Homeschoolers generally live on one steady income, so spending bundles of cash on curricular that may not suit the child is a precarious decision.

One consideration would be to look out for curricular with flexi-payment. It sounds a lot safer than churning out USD500 worth of books and stationery, only to find that the blackboard and chalk are what made the kids tick. There are some programmes with flexi-payment as their only option, but there is a down side to it. These are mostly web-based programmes, that function alot like games. NickJr Boost (USD7 per month) is one of them. The other two I have found are T4L (USD20 per month) and IXL (USD10 per month).

I believe there are plenty more, but these are just the few that have that monthly installment schemes and if you're not into web-based educational fun (not poking fun at anyone here, it's just what I call it) but are more into books and workbooks / exercises then you wouldn't want these programmes as your core curriculumn. But NickJr and T4L have worksheets and not to mention progress reports (which also simplify administrative matters), though bear in mind their curriculumn only caters to the younger age group.

But if your kids are in the younger age group (as catered to by these sites) it may be worth a look. You wouldn't end up risking a large payment, but may lose at the most USD20++ depending on how much you feel goes to waste. You can cancel anytime, so it's a less risker option when considering a home curriculumn. There are loads of upsides. I like learning on the net, and so do my kids - it's an inherent part of their generation, and boy, do they learn quickly.

Personally, I haven't subscribed to any online programme, but it certainly is in the works. I'm testing out some sites and charting the responses of the monsters. If it works out, I'll definitely subscribe to one of those sites with worksheets. I love worksheets and exercises, so it sorts of hits a balance. Of course they are still young and as ans when their learning styles become more apparent and their interests grow deeper in certain subjects and they show promise of consistently following a certain syllabus, and when I have more disposable income (inshaallah), I'll invest in those more complicated but comprehensive programmes. I would love one of those too.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Yoghurt Morning

Yoghurt is the easiest meal for me to prepare because I only need to tear of the cover and hope for the best. Usually the best does happen, alhamdulillah. The monsters love their yoghurt and Yoghurt Mornings are also We-Are-in-a-Rush-Mornings-so-Hurry-and-Eat-Your-Breakfast-Now. Everything works out. Yoghurt is healthy and delicious and requires minimal chewing. Perfect for toddlers.

In fact, at the risk of boring you with this yoghurt post, yoghurt was the only thing the monsters ate during their Picky Eater phases and even when they were unwell. Hooray for YOGHURT! Well, if you love yoghurt too, you may want to stick around this blog a little longer as you might like some of our other homeschooling ideas.

This Year, 2010

One of my resolutions for this New Year is to maintain a blog to chart the progress of my children through our homeschooling journey.
I see other homeschoolers set up their own blogs, and fervently share their adventures with their children and multiple needs.

They always catch me awe, at a strange moment of weakness and I realise, homeschooling really is that fun, when I don't feel nervous or stressed out.

And since I find comfort and support through other homeschooling parents' efforts in educating their children, I shall do the same, not only in hopes to provide the same comfort and support for other homeschoolers, but to remind myself of why I have taken this certain but precarious journey to raise my children as all-rounded individuals inshaallah.