Thursday, March 15, 2012

Teaching your child the Quran part II

The Quran holds an important place in our hearts and lives and we all hope that our children grow to love the Quran and live by it. However such an aim requires the parents to strive in order to attain it. Rather than giving you a specific “this is the way” set of instructions to memorizing the Quran I think there so many factors at hand that require a program to be changed in order to suit the individual student and teacher.  Therefore I think that you should take into consideration the following points before looking towards our program as a strict model for your child.
1.      Being honest with yourself:  What do we mean?  Read points 2, 3, and 4

2.      Knowing how much time you can give:  We are all busy. Life is as such.  Memorizing the Quran by age ten will take a lot of devotion never mind 5 or 7.   Don’t set goals of a page a day if all you can give is a half an hour. It might work in Juz Ama’ but once you get past 4 sections of the Quran and you’ve got 80 pages to review with a child who is not going to do it without supervision, 30 minutes will not cut it. 

3.      Knowing the limits of your child:  Sometimes we forget we are dealing with children.  Our high hopes for our children sometimes blinds our vision and we expect more of them than they can really give.  Especially if your child does not understand Arabic, memorizing all of these sounds that they do not understand may not be as interesting as running around and making a mess in the living room, or sneaking into the fridge.  Even if you have 5 hours a day to spend on Quran, your children don’t.

4.      Understand that this becomes cumulative:  This refers back to 1 and 2   In other words it builds up.  The first day you start memorizing you are reading one chapter that has a total of 21 words.  This may not take a lot of time, but when you get to Baqarah it will.   One of the most important things to remember when memorizing the Quran is staying consistent.  You want to set a program that you will be able to see through till the end.  A program that is too easy is not difficult to add on to.  On the other hand, a difficult program that you cannot handle normally makes people go back to the drawing board, wastes a lot of time, is frustrating and self-defeating.   Let me put it this way.  If you had memorized half a page a day yourself, you would have memorized the Quran in less than 4 years.  That is pretty embarrassing for those of us who have been at it for God knows how many years and we are still struggling with a few chapters.   This happens because we are not consistent.  One way to destroy consistency is to take on more than you can handle.
The steps
1.      Intention
You must remember that what you are doing is a form of worship and therefore you must be sincere that you are doing this for Allah’s sake and his alone.  For your child to carry in his heart the last revelation for mankind.  So that he or she can recite the words of Allah and exemplify their lessons through his or her actions. 
2.      Asking for Allah’s help
Embarking on such a test is no easy feat but it is accomplishable.  Allah chooses whom He wills to fill such a noble position and it is only befitting that we ask Him to make us and our children amongst them, that He makes it easy for us, and that He gives us the patience that it requires to complete the journey.
3.      Memorization
With everything we talk about here, there is no golden rule in terms of how much, be it in Quran or time.  This goes back to you and your child.  You can add or subtract as you need.  Our program is the following.
a.       Read each verse a couple of times for the child (2-3 times)
b.      Read the verse again and then have the child repeat after you. (3 times)
c.       Have the child read the verse by themselves without assistance (2-3 times)
d.      Move to the next verse and repeat the process
e.       Once you have completed the surah, page, or section you have decided to memorized, recite it for your child from beginning to end
f.       Have the child read it back to you from beginning to end.  Help them along the way, remind them as they forget what comes next.
g.      Repeat this until they are reciting that section or surah nearly by themselves.
We will not move on to a new chapter until the last one he memorized is perfect.  This is absolutely essential to this program.  Moving onto something new before he has mastered the previous chapters we have found to be unsuccessful and detrimental to making progress in the long run. 
4.      Review
If it were not for the fact that without memorization you would have nothing to review, than this would be the most important part of memorizing the Quran.  We absolutely will not move onto a new chapter until all previous chapters are memorized by heart and read without mistakes.  We will review all of what has been memorized previously before we move onto memorizing something new.  Each day or week this will eventually add up, so there is a need to eventually divide it in half, or thirds, or fourths, as well as adding a second time during the day that you just sit to review.  Most of your time should be spent reviewing what you have already memorized.  If you find yourself in a review to memorize ratio where memorization is more than 30 percent you are most likely going to hit a point where the child is going to forget the old memorization and when you go back to it you will have to rememorize it all over again.  This wastes precious time and is demotivating.  Just remember a 3rd of a page a day is the Quran memorized in 5 years, so don’t feel like you have to memorize too much too fast. Once your child is able to read Arabic this will add another dynamic where you can set aside time for your child to review on their own without your assistance and time for review will inevitably increase.  Here you would set an assignment based on your child’s ability to sit on their own without supervision.    

5.      Consistency
Review without consistency is no review at all.  The Prophet peace be upon him said “The most beloved actions to Allah are the most consistent even if they be small”.  365 days a year, there is no summer vacation when it comes to the Quran.  The prophet peace be upon him said "The example of the person who knows the Qur'an by heart is like the owner of tied camels. If he keeps them tied, he will control them, but if he releases them, they will run away." 

6.      Incremental strictness
This is the Fluency vs. Accuracy argument.  You don’t put a child in the pool expecting him to swim like an Olympian before he can take off his floaties.  Reciting the Quran properly is a must, but in the beginning especially with a child you need to be lenient in their learning curve.  You should not expect your son or daughter to sound like Hudhaify with perfect makharij (proper pronunciation of each letter) and tajweed (rules of recitation) for each chapter before you move onto the next.  We make certain first that our son has the words in the correct order, and we are strict with this, while we may let pronunciation, and tajweed slide.  As the memorization becomes solidified we become stricter with making sure that letter and sound is pronounced correctly.  As we move along in the review process we will slowly enforce more rules of tajweed. 

7.      Listening to the recitation of the Quran
Children are great imitators.  Allowing your children to listen to the specific chapters they are memorizing will help as they will try to imitate the reciter. As for whom to let your children listen to, we all have our favorite reciters, but this should not blind our desire to have the most correct recitation.  I have asked this question to many teachers of Quran and the one name that always comes up is Muhammad Siddiq Al-Minshawy.  You can download his recitation here.

We hope that this post is beneficial to you.  We pray that Allah makes all of your children and our children amongst those who memorize the Quran.  May Allah reward you for taking the time and having the concern to look into how to go about doing so, and may He make you successful.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bedtime Stories Review: White Fang

By Umm Abdurahman
My sons are both very energetic, active and lively boys. Honestly, sometimes it is a little hard for me to keep up with them. You would assume that most children their age that wake up at 7.30am, do not take naps and spend all day running around would be exhausted by bedtime, but this simply does not apply to them. A great way to get them to wind down and ready for bed for us has been reading a bedtime story to them.

We started with a series called classic starts, and the last book we finished was White Fang written by Kathleen Olmstead. Abdurahman really loved this story. Normally we read a chapter or two per day, however he loved this story so much that at the end of every chapter he would beg me to go on to the next and would say: “this is the last one”, so on average we were reading four to five chapters a day.

The story is about the life of a young wolf pup that is born into a harsh world, in which he faces many hardships, but finds the strength to survive. From losing his siblings, his father, his mother, living through famines, discrimination from other dogs and facing torture at the hands of humans, white fang forms a harsh reality and grows to be a stern and cold character. His life changes drastically at the hands of a new master and he learns about kindness, love, and happiness.

My son found it to be highly addictive and emotional.  There were a lot of new things that he was introduced to that I would either have to explain or show a picture of, in order for him to understand. As I read the book to him and watched him, it was amazing how engaged he was, as though he were imagining the scenes unfold before him. The more you expose your child to, the more stimulating it is for their minds. Books are a wonderful way to broaden their minds and encourage their imagination and understanding.  I am in no rush for my children to grow up, however I do feel that exposure to a broad range of ideas and materials really increases their maturity. My son’s speech, his questions and understanding all reflect this.

I think this book is great for kids starting at around 4, 5 or 6 years olds depending on your child. I think it will be especially popular amongst boys. They love animal stories and this one definitely left its mark on my child. I think it has a lot of great lessons and has nothing questionable. Naturally the next book my son chose from the series was “the call of the wild”, as he assumed the picture on the cover was of a wolf, and said he wanted to read another story about a wolf. To be honest I enjoy the bedtime time stories as much as they, especially if I had never read the books before. It is a nice way for me to relax with them at the end of the day, and enjoy their close company.