Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Teaching your child the Quran - Part 1

By Umm Abdurahman
Most of us hope that our children will love the Quran, and pray that they memorize it, but many families have difficulty doing so, and don’t know how to be successful in this area. Some may try and after a few failures put it off until their children are a little older whereupon they may look into sending them to classes or paying for a private tutor. However many of us fail to realize that the journey to such a lofty goal starts much sooner than we expect. So what can you do to ensure your child has the best start possible?
1.      Recite the Quran for your unborn child
Research suggest that a fetus can hear sounds from as early as 16 weeks, and around 23 weeks on a baby’s hearing is developed enough  to enable him/her to respond to outside noise. Furthermore studies also show that a six month old fetus can move his body to the rhythm of his mother’s voice. Around this time your baby will use sound as his primary connection to the world and his central source of information about what’s going on outside of the womb, so what better way to bond with your child than by sharing the book of Allah with him/her.  Both parents should recite to their child whilst he/she is in the womb, as often as they can. This is a wonderful way for the parents to interact with their child before the birth. This early bonding will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy relationships.  It is beneficial for mother, baby, and everyone else in the household.
2.      Playing the Quran for your child 
After your child is born continue to surround him/her with the recitation of the Quran. When I gave birth to my first child I had little experience dealing with colic and when my son suffered from it, at times I was overwhelmed. Alhamdulillah we soon discovered that when my husband would pick him up, and recite the Quran to him while rocking him back and forth, he would calm down and fall into a deep, peaceful slumber. We took note of this, and when we moved our little guy into his own room, at 4 months, we would play the Quran for him in his room until he fell asleep. From then on my children have always gone to sleep listening to the Quran. Soon after If turned off the lights and closed the door without the Quran playing they would cry.   I truly believe that the Quran is very comforting for children especially if you made it a point to recite often to your child whilst pregnant.  Another added bonus for me was that it helped them sleep better, my son went from waking up two or three times a night to sleeping all through the night, but best of all, it instilled a love of the Quran in them. Both of my children began memorizing the Quran purely through passive listening. Now 4 years later I cannot put any of my children to bed without requests for the Quran. We found this to be such a powerful tool that we even went on to play Quran for them throughout the day while they played.
3.      Give a personal Quran to your child
Children love to have things they can call theirs. Give them a Quran even if they are too young to read.  Just like with anything else gifts are treasured and seen as important no matter what age you are.  Give it a special place on the bookshelf.  Just make sure you let them hold it when you’re around.  Children can be a bit rough with books when they are young. Teach them to respect the Quran and treat it with care.
4.      Reading with your child as soon as he/she can speak
Children are sponges and each one of us has had those experiences where we find our children using some vocabulary we did not expect they were capable of, but they heard it in our conversation, memorized it and tried putting it to us.   If they can mimic your speech, then why not start them memorizing the speech of Allah?  As soon as your child begins to form words encourage him/her to say things like bismillah, ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem. Go slowly and repeat frequently.  As you keep coming back to it, you will notice he/she will begin to pronounce the words more easily. Soon the words will become ayahs and in next to no time, he/she will be have memorized complete surahs.
5.      Let your child see you reading the Quran often
This is just some basic but often overlooked advice.  The whole idea of “Do as I say not as I do” has not and will not ever work.  Your children love you, they look up to you. For this reason, they are going to try to mimic everything you do.   So you have to ask yourself, what are you teaching them?   If your children see you spending a lot of time on your laptop or sitting in front of the TV, then chances are they will try to do the same thing. Set a positive example by setting aside time for the Quran daily as part of your schedule.  Let your children see you recite, and then let them follow just as they follow with everything else. 
We pray that these tips are benefit to you and your children, and we ask that Allah rewards you for all of your efforts in teaching your children the Quran, and that he makes them of those who memorize it.  We ask that he makes us among the best of people as his noble Messenger peace be upon him said:  “The best of you is the one who learns the Quran and teaches it”.  (Bukhari  5027)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to use an abacus

Why I want to teach math with an Abacus?

I am a bit of an old fashioned type of guy, and I guess it carries into my homeschooling style and this is a perfect case in point.   For me the Abacus is a fun way to start teaching math, specifically counting, as it is simple, colorful, and hands on.   The abacus can be used to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, pattern, and more.  It incorporates the physical participation of the child and makes the concept of numbers easier to visualize and understand.

History of the Abacus
An abacus is an old counting tool dating back to the period 2700–2300 BC in Mesopotamia.  Today, abaci are often constructed as a bamboo frame with beads sliding on wires, but originally they were beans or stones moved in grooves in sand or on tablets of wood, stone, or metal. The abacus was in use centuries before the adoption of the written modern numeral system and is still widely used by merchants, traders and clerks in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.  In this post we’ll be discussing how to use a modern abacus shown at the top of the article and not one of the older versions shown to the side.

How we make it work
As soon as your child can speak and differentiate between more than three objects than I think you’re more than ready to start. 

First Step Start counting from 1-10 

1.       Demonstrate  Start counting  from 1 to 3 and just do it for your child.  Every time you count a number placing your finger on the bead and sliding it to the opposite side, while saying the number out loud.  Repeat this a few times before asking your child to do the same.

2.       Let them try it on their own.  You should make sure that your child follows the same pattern as you so that you build up consistency.  Make sure he/she slides the bead in the same direction as you, one bead at a time, while saying the number out loud.  If at any point he/she starts to make mistakes, just demonstrate it again and ask him/her to repeat.  There’s no harm in coaching by saying the beginning sound of each number if he/she forgets.  

3.       Move up Gradually.  Once you he/she can count up to three, go to four, once four is easy go up to five, and continue until you’ve reached ten.  This may be very easy for you, especially if you’ve been doing some of the things we mentioned previously regarding counting things in the house, the steps of the staircase and so on, but don’t rush it.  The numbers one through nine will be the foundation for everything he/she will count after this.

Step two Counting from 11-20.  This is the hardest part regardless of what language you are teaching as in most languages 11 and 12 just don’t seem to follow the pattern.  In English even those learning it as a foreign language ask “why don’t we say one teen, and two teen.  Be patient with them getting over this hump as it is all downhill after 20.

1.       Teach them eleven and twelve.   Try counting it out with them without the abacus.  After they are running around the house saying eleven and twelve enough times, try it out on the abacus using the same method mentioned above, then once they have got it, have them start from one and count all the way up to 12. Make sure they go one bead at a time maintinging the same direction and saying the number out loud and don't forget to demonstrate each time. 

2.       Teach 13 to 20.  I found this to be the hardest part of teaching counting.  I was stuck on this for a few months, trying and then giving up, then coming back to try again.  The best thing to do is demonstrate as much as possible.   Remember to “help” by sounding out the beginning of each number if they need help.   Add a number at a time just as you did with one through ten.  If you feel they get stuck try starting at ten or fifteen rather than returning all the way back to one.  Just remember to not have too high expectations, move at their pace and do not discourage them. 

Step Three Teaching from twenty to one hundred  This is the easiest part as the numbers all follow the same pattern.  So once your child learns how to count from twenty to thirty, he has learned how to count all the way to one hundred, so long as he/she can remember the tens. 

1.       Teach them to count by 10’s.  Show them by sliding all of the beads 10 at a time to one side, counting out loud saying ten, twenty, thirty, and so on up to one hundred.

2.       Adding the ones placement Teach them to add one through nine at the end of the twenties.  Saying out loud and demonstrating for them twenty one, twenty two, all the way through to thirty. 

3.        Let them try After demonstrating for them twenty one to thirty, let them try it out, give them help when needed and repeat as many times until they are able to do it themselves. Then move on to teaching the thirties.

4.       Review In-between each set of tens, go back and count by tens.  In other words, once you’ve reached thirty, go back and count for them while sliding the beads by tens, ten, twenty, thirty, until you’ve reach one hundred.  This will remind them of the tens placement as they move along. This will serve as reinforcement for them so they don't get stuck at 59 going to 60, or 69 going to 70.

5.       Keep it easy As you’re teaching the tens you can try to have your child start from one and count all the way up to fifty, but if they find this difficult or hard at any point, or for example if he/she is having difficulties in their sixties, then start them at fifty and let them work their way up.

Sometimes the abacus can get a little bit redundant for the child and they may need a break.  Here are some ideas of how to keep things lively and fun. 

1.       Celebrate every new number like a grand slam in the ninth inning of the world series.  Jump up and down, clap, yell for joy, get your other children in on the celebration.  Kids love to be praised.

2.       Don’t call it anything but play.   I noticed my son receives studying a lot better when we refer to it as “playing”.  So don’t ask your child to come study numbers or math, tell him/her we’re going to “play” abacus.

3.       Bring out some m&m’s.   I love this exercise.  If my son does well, I am happy, if my son does not do so well, I eat the remaining m&m’s.  Every once in a while I will lay out a bag of m&m’s on the table and line them up in a row.  For every m&m my son counts, he gets to eat.  The rest go to me. 

We hope this was beneficial and not too confusing without a visual example.  In the future God willing we hope to post a video tutorial to make the process easier to follow. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Teaching your Child Math; Where to Start

By Umm Abdurahman

We all realize and understand the value of Math in everyday life. For this reason, all parents want their children to have a strong foundation in mathematics. However for many children math is one of their weaker and less enjoyed subjects. Whenever a child has a difficulty with a subject, the parents must go back and ask why, because if a child does not ‘get it’ then the fault is not that of the child, rather with the syllabus or the parent. So how do we teach our child math in a way that is enjoyable and effective? We hope to give you some ideas of things that we have tried with our children, in hopes that you may benefit.

Early mathematics in the home

Because mathematics is such a practical subject, and can be applied to almost all aspects of life, you can start as soon your child can talk. Teach your child to count by going up the stairs and counting the steps, or picking up blocks and counting them. Try to count items with your child as often as you can and with as many different items as you can. Teach him/her about classifying and sorting. Go pick fruit with your child and ask him/her to group them by size or color. Teach your child to identify shapes with a shape sorter. Counting books are another great resource and young children love them. My youngest son’s favorite book is a counting book. Also invest in an abacus, as it is an excellent visual and physical way to learn counting. Provide your child with puzzles because they encourage logical thinking. Teach your child about patterns by creating patterns with different colored Legos on the floor. The possibilities are endless, all of which will help lay a foundation for your child to move forward in his/her study of math.

The next step

Once your child has grasped most of these basic mathematical concepts, like us, you may want to start using a formal guide to continue teaching mathematics. There are many free resources available and several homeschooling curriculums for you to pick from.  One of the first things we tried was The MEP math program, which you can download from here.


·         It is free

·         You can download each level as you need it

·         It starts from kindergarten and goes right through to high school


·         It can be a lot of printing out, and in color this can cost quite a bit.

·         Can be redundant in the early levels.

·         For my son, I found he just didn’t enjoy the curriculum, and he was quickly bored with it. For this reason when I found he dreaded doing it, I decided to stop with it and went on to try Singapore math after hearing so many positive things about it.

As soon as we got the Singapore Math books my son seemed very excited and I let him glance through the pages before starting it. 


·         The layout of the books is very appealing and friendly

·         Repetition is not too excessive but just enough for the child to get it.

·         It is very thorough and lays sound foundations in mathematics.

·         It’s FUN! I was sold on the curriculum when I found my son saying    at the end of each lesson: “I love math, math is important” or insisting that we start with math before any other subject for the day.


·         It can be pricey for all the books, however from my experience and from what other parents have said it is not necessary to buy all the books. For example, the teachers Manuals you can really do without, especially as they are the most costly.

If you are looking for a math syllabus that your child can really excel with, I think Singapore is a great choice. I really feel it has had a profound effect on my son and have been very pleased with the results so far and would recommend it without hesitation. If you have any suggestions about what you have used, please share so that we may all benefit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where is the Islam?

What’s the problem?
Have you ever looked for a curriculum, and found the material questionable?  Or maybe you feel like the Islam is missing from the text?  I’ve recently come across a similar issue while looking for a science curriculum.  When I look for material, I often find myself sifting through Christian websites, and rightly so, for they as a group have done a lot more ground work in the homeschooling arena.  This causes me to choose between either secular, Christian “new earth”, or Christian “old earth” curriculums.  Which leads to my question for us all, where are the Muslim curriculums? 
Many homeschooling parents get along just fine with the do it yourself method of searching and pasting together lessons, but not all of us have the abilities to sift through all of this material, and determine what’s good and what’s useless.  I know through experience how relieving it is to find a well-structured curriculum that I can use as a guide while adding and subtracting where I see fit, or completely rely upon it and saving myself the time. 
When choosing a curriculum why do I have to be sifting through new Earth, Old Earth, Secular, Darwinism, yet nothing with an Islamic approach to science, math, or social sciences?  Singapore Math seems great, but where’s Medina Math?!  One might say “but you can just incorporate the Islamic information and benefits alongside the lessons”, well not everybody has this type of knowledge or has the resources to do so.  Can you teach math without Islam?  For sure, the question is do you want to?  Muslims often claim that we were the groundbreakers of mathematics and science.  Where is this to be found in our curriculums?  Also what effect does this have on our children, to study a subject and have it completely vacant of Islam?  Does it subliminally send the message to them that worship and practical knowledge are two separate entities?
Why we need an Islamic Perspective?
This isn’t just about how the Earth was created, and did Darwin derive from a monkey or is he just a human like the rest of us.  It’s that knowledge is much deeper than one plus one equals two. We want our children to see that Islam has influenced every aspect of life.  You want to teach mathematics?  Teach them through problems of inheritance and zakat.  It is practical, and closes the door to “when am I ever going to use this?”  You want to teach the solar system, the sun and the earth, teach them how to recognize when to pray Asr by the angle of the sun, the length of the shadow, how it changes throughout the year due to and the rotation of the Earth on its axis, and the revolution of the earth around the Sun.  We can teach how this all relates back to Islam, and that Allah is the one who created it all and gave us this knowledge.  If we don’t know where we came from we’ll never know where we’re going.  Islam made an impact on this earth and that history must be taught to our children.   There is not a facet of life which it has not made an impact on so there is no subject which we should not relate it back to Islam.
What we should do?

We need a collective of experienced homeschooling parents along with the cooperation of professionals in all fields who are grounded in Islamic sciences.  We need to take a look at what’s worked for the non-muslim communities, and improve it. Be critical about what has not worked and loose it.  We need to bring in our own creativity. At the end, if it doesn’t exist and it’s needed it’s the perfect opportunity to the get reward for taking the first step.  We need to struggle in every way shape and form to change ourselves, change our communities, and one of the ways we can do that is focusing on our children.  We have to realize that we may not be the ones to see the light at the end of the tunnel of darkness we are walking through right now, but that our children may, but only if we give them the tools to do so, and we’re not going to get new results, by trying the same old broken methods. 
Could you imagine what could be accomplished if we all worked together, if we had a place where we could submit lesson plans to committees that will collect and organize these plans into a series of books and curricula , overseen by people specific to each  field and were well grounded in Islamic sciences.  Such an accomplishment requires a great deal of time, research, initiative and teamwork.  Such a great responsibility would take more than just one parent.  I have hope that something like this could come into fruition in the near future from homeschooling parents more so than Islamic schools. Why? Because homeschooling parents are generally far more involved and concerned with the direct education of their children. There are no weekends, or summer vacations, we realize the world is our classroom and with it comes new lessons each day.  The reward for doing such a thing would be immense.   An example of an ongoing charity, as It could be used for generations to come, adopted by Islamic schools across the English speaking world, even translated into different languages.  The question is, are we willing to put in the effort?  I would like to start.  Would you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Raising Bilingual Children

Why raise bilingual children?
Children who are raised bilingual have many advantages over children who can only speak one language. Languages open up the doors to knowledge, culture, ideas, dawa, travel, friendships, and economic opportunities.  It’s one of those things where you don’t know how much it is worth until you have it.  We now live in a global village, more so than any other time, therefore knowing more than one language is very valuable.   Adding a program to your homeschooling curriculum for your child to grow in a bilingual environment is an excellent choice and we hope this article will help you make the decision that’s right for you.
Why we did it?
We have raised our children to speak both English and Classical Arabic.   English obviously because it is our mother tongue, it’s the language of where we are from, and where we plan to spend our lives.  English is also the language of business, and most modern sciences.  As for Arabic, it is the language of Islam, the Qur’an, our Prophet, and all of the Islamic sciences.   I went through a lot of effort to learn Arabic and I hope that my children won’t have to go through the same hardships.  I don’t want them to have to look at a translation in order to understand the Qur’an, I want them to hear it as if they were alive during the time of the prophet peace be upon him, because it is the language they were raised upon, the language of the Qur’an.  
How we did it?
After reading about different approaches, we decided that I would speak Arabic to my son and my wife, and that my wife would speak Arabic to me and English to my son.   This provided two benefits.  Firstly between me and my wife, she would have someone to practice her Arabic with, and this also allowed my son to hear others conversing in Arabic giving him additional practice.  Deciding on this plan was half of the journey; the rest has been all about consistency.   
Abdurahman was able to practice his English with his mom, his relatives, and eventually his reading programs.   As for his Arabic, my son’s only exposure was through me and listening to me and my wife speak.  This is an important point as many people would think that they would need to be in an Arab country, enrolled in Arabic schools, or maybe even marry an Arab to ensure their child speak Arabic.  It’s not true.  In fact I purposely limited my son’s interactions with Arab children so as to protect his language from being influenced by local dialects. 
Another source of practice for him now is his younger brother. When Nuh was born we would act out his voice in Arabic, pretending that he was speaking to Abdurahman, and in return, Abdurahman would respond to him in Arabic. This became so habitual that by the time Nuh was speaking they preferred to speak to each other in Arabic. This process of dividing the languages between us has proven to be so successful that even if I slip up and speak to my son in English he responds to me in Arabic.
Obviously Learning Arabic is a blessing, but even if you’re a household that speaks English and Urdu, or English and Spanish, or any other language for that matter you never know the benefit that your child may have from it.  And although they might not thank you for doing so if you do, they’ll surely ask why you didn’t, if you didn’t.
What you should do
1. Have to have a plan.   You may try what we’ve done where each parent speaks a specific language.  Some people suggest if you’re living in a country that speaks English for example than inside the home you make a rule where no one is allowed to speak anything but the second language.  Whatever your plan is you need to make sure that the child is getting enough exposure and practice on a consistent basis without mixing different approaches.
2. Stick to the program.  Flip flopping programs is going to be detrimental to the consistency that your child will need in order to make progress.  If you’re not consistent, you may find that either the child blends the two languages, or allows one to become predominant while neglecting the other.
3. Exposure. The child needs to have as much exposure as possible.  You might not be strong in the language you want him/her to speak so he/she may need additional practice.   You can do this by bringing him/her into communities that speak the target language, through social gatherings, clubs, or sports.  This way he/she has a variety of people to practice with. You can also use various online resources, like language podcasts through ITunes, online learning with CafĂ© Mocha, or documentaries in your target language. 
4. Listening:  We have the Qur’an playing in our house all day.  Our kids pick up a lot of new vocabulary words and try to make sentences out of them.   Maybe you can find material online to listen to, or documentaries to watch in order to increase child’s vocabulary while learning proper pronunciation.
5. Read to you child.   If you know the language than try to read a story to the child in that language on a consistent basis.  This is another fun activity for your child that will allow him/her to expand their vocabulary, and it allows for the best question of “what does that mean?” 
In closing
We couldn't be more happy with the decision we made.  Our children are both speaking fluently in both languages and continuing to improve.  If you have the ability to do it, think it over and give it a try, you’ll save your child a big headache when they grow up. Trying to learn any language through a classroom environment is less preferable and more difficult than growing up with it.  As with any homeschooling endeavor there are doubters, and discouragers, promoting fears that your child won’t speak until they are 3, or that they’ll get confused.  We haven’t found this to be the case.  We thank Allah that our children have had the progress that they have and we pray more parents are able to try and have the same success.  If you have any questions please let us know, as we would love to help.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Geography Matters

Geography is like the ABC’s of the social sciences.  It is hard to get a full understanding of social studies, history, political science, international relations, or even just understand the news if you do not know what is where on our little sphere called Earth.  Unfortunately geography is often overlooked or taught very poorly, putting children to sleep, and resulting in an uneducated public.   For this reasons we don’t teach geography, we PLAY geography as part of our homeschooling curriculum.

I would like to give you a brief description of what we do, in hopes that you may benefit from the ideas. The first step was to explain what is planet Earth, and that it is where we live.  After that we move onto specific studies of regions of the Earth as follows.

1.       Continents

2.       Oceans

3.       Countries (one continent at a time)

4.       Landscapes

5.       Individual country studies in depth

To teach the continents and oceans we used both flash cards and the Find it on the Map game listed below.  Once our son was comfortable at recognizing each of the continents and oceans we moved on to the study of each continent by countries (step 3). We’re currently studying Central American countries.  In general we have four activities for each country that we study.  

1.       Flash cards.  I made my own flash cards (shown below).  On one side a map of the world or region with the specific country highlighted, along with the flag of that country.  The other side has the name of the country in large print.  We play a game where my son tries to guess the name of each country as we show him the map side of the card.  We typically do two to three at a time.

2.       Find it on the map.   We bought a political map of the world and taped it to the wall.  We call out the name of anything we’ve studied, and our son runs up to the map and points to its location. 

3.       Virtual Tours.  Because we cannot afford to travel to each country we take virtual tours via YouTube videos.   We typically will look for a tourism commercial, or a country bio, in order to let him see what the country actually looks like in terms of physical landscape, the people, animals, weather, and its architecture.   You should screen all of the videos before viewing with your child, as some need to be edited for content or muted due to music. 

4.       Color it in.   We have a lot of map printouts that are either continent or region specific.  We have our son color in the maps with each country receiving a different color.  This helps him to get a better grasp of the borders of each section while reinforcing its geographical location.

As we go through this process and accumulate more countries we continue to review them collectively through the flash cards and Find it on the Map game.  Our son loves it and always asks to “play” geography.   If you want to keep up with our progress, check out our geography widget on the side to see all the places we have “travelled” to.  If you’re interested in using our flashcards, map printouts, or a list of video’s we’ve used just send me a message to or on Facebook.