Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just for Dad: First Aid & CPR Training

{And whosoever saves a life it is as if he has saved all of humanity}

Quran 5:32

As part of our just for dad series, learning first aid is not only a life skill that every Muslim man and women should know, it can also save lives. On top of that it can be a really fun, practical, and a motivating lesson for our children. We ask Allah to protect us and our loved ones from any harm small or large, but whatever He decrees will happen, and accidents and emergencies do. Providing first aid education to our children may not only help them save a life someday, but can build their self-confidence, and maturity, through becoming more responsible and valuing the blessing of life, by realizing how fragile it is.

Knowing what to do is important.

Unfortunately I have had the experience of watching someone die, laid out on the ground as a crowd stands around waiting for an ambulance, and one untrained onlooker decides to try some Hollywood pumping on the chest, which probably resulted in nothing more than broken ribs. This experience for me was a classic example of two types of people in an emergency situation when knowledge of First Aid and CPR is absent. Type One is a deer in headlights, shocked at the situation or panicking, becoming just as helpless as the injured victim. Type Two thinks he is MacGyver and tries to help, only doing more harm than good. We want our children to avoid falling into either of these two categories. We want them to be strong, responsible Muslims, who can help out their fellow citizen when in need.

The way to do this is to get formal training.

First aid is something that should be practiced. Just like a martial artist who trains blocking a punch hundreds of times, in order to prepare for a possible situation, first aid must also be learned and practiced. Emergencies can catch the strongest of individuals off guard, especially if they are faced with a loved one who is hurt. Training, practice, and review can help to turn off the minds panic mode when and if a situation occurs, and allow that training to take over like instinct. Your son or daughter might not ever need to use it on a loved one, but chances are they may see a situation in their lifetime varying from someone choking, cutting themselves badly or suffering a severe injury from a fall, to any number of varying incidents. The ability to step in can be the difference between life and death. It doesn’t take long to die, but it can take a few minutes for an ambulance to show up. The average arrival time for an EMT may be about 6-10 min, and a lot can happen in that time. Thankfully most situation will be minor, but someone with experience can bring a lot of calm and comfort to those in need. In all situations the reward is great.

Getting Certified

Taking First Aid and CPR certification classes can be a lot of fun. They may run between $60 to $110 which is a small price for the information gained. Especially for homeschoolers it can be great to take a break from mom and dad to go and have a professional instructor teach them some practical life skills.  To find a first aid/cpr class near you click here

Because these are adult-education based courses, the minimum recommended ages for certification is 13 years old. However, if a student can understand the information and pass the written and skills testing, then he or she should be issued a certification card regardless of his or her age. Also the child would need about an 8th grade reading level, which may vary depending on the emphasis you have put into your reading curriculum. If there are age limitations where you are located, you can always take the course yourself, and later review what you have learned witih your family. It will be well worth it regardless.

You can also watch the video below.

This is in no way a substitute for actual training, but will give you a small idea of what training is like and can offer.

What lesson are can you extract and include into this?

1. First aid

2. Responsibility to your brothers and sisters in humanity

3. Self confidence

4. Anatomy of the human body

5. Life and death

"More than 1,000 "saveable"lives are lost needlessly each year in the nation's biggest cities because ofinefficiencies in the cities' emergency medical systems"  -USA Today-

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Just for Dad: Making a compost bin

What is composting?
Composting is the process of decomposing organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. All living matter decomposes.  In the forest when plants and trees die and fall to the forest floor, they slowly decompose and eventaully enrich the soil.  Composting for gardening or farming is an acceleration of the same process. When we compost our excess fruits, vegetables, and other organic materials, we are able to return the nutrients from those materials back into the soil.  Plants planted in this enriched soil will take these nutrients helping them become strong, healthy, and fight off diseases.  Adding compost to our gardens helps us to recycle and avoid waste, as well as increase the quality of the food we eat.
How does it work?

Composting allows for control of the four factors that affect the speed of decay: oxygen, water, food and temperature. By managing these factors, the naturally slow process of decay can progress much faster. Carbon rich material is known as 'brown' stuff. Nitrogen rich material is known as 'green' stuff. During composting micro-organisms from the soil eat the organic (carbon-containing) waste and break it down into its simplest parts. This produces fiber-rich, carbon-containing humus with inorganic nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The micro-organisms break the material down through aerobic respiration. Through the respiration process, the micro-organisms give off carbon dioxide and heat. The more heat generated, the faster the decomposition occurs. (source) Or for another explanation click here.
Why are you doing this?

Is this really apart of homeschooling?  You bet it is!  Education isn’t just about reading and arithmetic; we want our children to learn real practical life skills.  On top of that, there’s a lot going on in the dirt you are working with and this can become quite the science lesson incorporating Biology, Chemistry, and Agriculture.  Not to mention it’s a good lesson to help children understand where their food comes from, and how to avoid waste by recycling

What will you need?

This depends on your situation, if you’re living out in the woods somewhere than you’ll have more options and more space to use.  If you’re living in the city you’re going to be limited in space. 

1.       A container (unless you’re out In the country then you can just make a pile somewhere)

2.       Green organic material: Leafy greens are the best but all your leftover fruits and vegetables will do.

3.       Brown organic material:  twigs, straw, sawdust, shredded paper, and even coffee grounds

4.       Water

5.       Sunlight

6.       Oxygen (either by holes in your container, turning the compost, or both)

What do you do?

Set up your container.  If you’re outside then consider into choosing your container that the more air you get to it the better.  If you’re keeping your container inside just remember you’re going to need to turn it more frequently and maximize sunlight to avoid it going moldy.  We’ve used a deep bucket in the past and left it on the roof, and I turned it every few days. 

Once you have your container or space picked out you are going to make a compost lasagna.  You want to layer your compost alternating between the green leafy materials, and the dry brown materials.  It is suggested that you want a 3 to 1 ration of brown to green materials.  Add some water give it some sun light, turn it as often as you like, twice a week maybe and pretty soon you’ll start to see the material decompose, and eventually you’ll have your own compost to start gardening.  If you want to just leave it, time will do all the work, but mixing it up will speed up the process.

Also remember that almost any organic material can be added, from grass clippings (so long as you don’t treat your lawn) to all fruits and vegetables, ash, eggshells, manure, and leaves.  You do want to avoid, anything processed with chemicals, meats, oils, dairy products, or diseased plants, for either odor reasons, attracting pests, or compromising the quality of the compost.  It’s also ok if you want to start by using some earth, or organic potting soil just to get you started. For a list of potential materials check here.

What’s next?

Well hopefully you’ve assumed that if you’re making a compost pile then you must be getting ready to do some gardening.  Stay tuned as we’ll be posting soon on starting a window garden so you can put that compost to work.

What are you learning out of this lesson?

There is a lot that you can extract from this lesson, and it depends on the age and ability level of your child, but for a few ideas.Gardening and Agriculture
Life cycle of a plant
Where our food comes from
Self sufficiency
Recycling & avoiding waste
History (this is no new invention)

If you would ike a visual explanation check out this video tutorial. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teaching your child the Arabic Alphabet

Whether you have plans for your children to read the Quran or if you have a more ambitious goal like having them understand or even speak Arabic, then the first place you are going to need to start is teaching them the Arabic alphabet.  This is something I’ve done successfully with both of my sons and have a program that I think can be applied to any child even those with parents who do not speak Arabic.

The first hurdle:  Can you pronounce the Arabic letters properly yourself? Normally Arabs and non-Arabs alike have two issues with the Arabic alphabet.  One; pronouncing the letters incorrectly, such as   ض ع غ ق ح ه خ  or Two; not differentiating between similar sounding letters such as ع and أ , ص and س , or د  and ض .
If this isn’t a problem for you excellent, if it is then try to find someone to help you out as it is important that you give your children the best start with proper pronunciation. This will not only benefit you in your reading of the Quran, it will remove this small obstacle to helping your children learn as well and save them a whole lot of trouble later on down the road. 
When do you start? 
Every so often once your child is speaking you can test to see if they are ready.  You will need a set flash cards of the Arabic alphabet (the ones we use are featured above) and you will start with three separate flash cards.  The best three to start with are 
ب   أ  and  ح  as each three are distinct from each other in their sounds, the part of the mouth used in pronunciation, and their written appearance.   If your child can recognize all three letters separately than he or she is ready to start.

Step 1: Teach your child أ  and ب  .  You can do this in multiple ways.  First show your child أ   pronounce it for him / her, repeat this several times.  Then ask your child while pointing at the card “What is this” if you child responds  أ then move on, and repeat this process with ب . 

Step 2: Once your child can recognize أ  and  ب  separately you want to test them together.  Now rotate between the cards أ  and  بwhile pronouncing each one and pointing to each card.  Then flip through them one at a time asking your child, “what’s this?” when you show each letter.  If your child responds correctly then you’re ready to continue.   Another activity you can do is ask your child to hand you one of the letters, and then the other to test his/her recognition. 
Step 3: The real test is when you add the third letter ح .  This is going to show if your child can differentiate between the letters.    Start again from the beginning  Show your child the   أ  card, and pronounce it while pointing to it, then repeat for  ب ,  and then  ح .  Now point to each card asking your child what it is and God willing they will respond correctly and you can move on, otherwise wait and come back to it next week.

Why all this redundancy of checking?  You don’t want to push your child, especially if you are a really motivated parent hoping to give your child an early start.  Doing so can put too much pressure on the child, disappoint yourself, even allow you to become frustrated and put your child off from future attempts even when they are finally ready.  So just take your time.

Final Sequence: Now that they can differentiate between those three letters.  I would highly suggest that you follow the following pattern.   Although it is tempting to follow alphabetical order, when teaching any alphabet you want to avoid teaching similar letters one after another as to not confuse the child and or deal a blow to their motivation.  In Arabic, there are lots of letters that either A. sound just like another letter, and or B. are written exactly the same as another letter with a variation of a small dot or two or three.   Although it may be obvious to you or me it can be real problematic for a young child who just doesn’t see the difference between ت  ب  and ث , or can't hear the difference between ق  and ك . 

I always teach two new letters at a time. In the same manner as presented above I will introduce two new letters ر  and س for example, and once my son recognizes them I will add them to the group of already memorized letters ( ب  أ  and ح ) and order them in alphabetical orders, and review them in alphabetical order.  This allows for the child after recognizing each letter separately to slowly memorize them again in order without the confusion of similar sounds and shapes during the initial learning curve.

Follow this sequence in your introducing the Arabic letters two at a time after the first three letters (first row, then second, then third, two at a time, left to right) 
    ح   ب    أ
ل   ص   د    و   ن    م   ك   ف   ع   ط   س   ر
ظ    ز  ض  ت   خ   ش  غ    ق   ج   ث   ه    ي

Each day before I start a new lesson I review all of the letters that my child has previously memorized, then I teach the two new letters before adding them to the group of memorized letters.  Finally I go through the letters one last time.  It's important to note that at any time you feel like your child is struggling than it is a good idea to stop and review what you have covered until it seems strong enough to continue. 

There are two videos that I think are beneficial that will help you during this process and are good for your children to listen to.  They will not only help your child with the correct pronunciation of the letters but will also help in their memorization of the alphabetical order.

please note in this first video they seemed to have forgetten the letter  ط  in their intro.

This is another good video which just focuses on the alphabet and is good for anyone who wants to memorize the alphabetical order

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Just for Dad: 5 Pallet Projects

Just as promised in our previous post, this is the first in our series of posts of hands on activities to help Dad (Abi) get involved in the homeschooling experience.  Especially for those dads who prefer to work with their hands as apposed to diving into some books.  And although dad's are our target audience moms are more than capable of carrying out these tasks, and highly encouraged to do so. 

Before we get started you’re going to want to have some tools.   It is a good idea to have some fix it tools around the house, and if you don't have any then you should go buy some.  Learning to fix minor repairs around the house is a lesson in itself for you and your child.  First it teaches self-reliance, and two your children can learn from all your painful mistakes as you develop your carpentry skills.  Again there’s no point in teaching your children to do as you don’t.  Our children love to mimic us, and leading by example is one of the best teaching methods.

If you do have the tools, great.  If not, then start this lesson with a field trip to your local hardware store and pick up some of the following...

1.       A Hammer
2.       A mallet
3.       Some nails of vairing sizes
4.       A saw
5.       Glue
6.       Sandpaper
7.       A square
8.       A measuring tape

This could be a great field trip exercise, and make for an excellent introduction.  If you call in ahead of time or find the right associate at the store, you may even be able to  have them give you a tour of the store and explain a little bit about what each section of tools and what the different types of materials are used for. 

Back to Palllets… Why pallets?  First and foremost they are free and you can get them anywhere.  Most pallets meet their end in a trash dump, so wherever you take them from they won't be missed.  They most often can be found left out near the trash or you could coordinate with local stores that offload trucks and have extra pallets laying around for you to take.  Most often they just get thrown away so people will be more than happy to let you take them.  This is also an excellent lesson for your child in recycling, and avoiding waste. 

Step One: Break the pallets down.

It is a pretty simple process.  Take the mallet and bang out each side.  Then remove the nails with the back of the hammer, or with a crow bar.   Cut them to appropriate size depending on the project, sand them down and you are ready to go.  Watch this YouTube tutorial for a better idea of how it’s done.

Pick a project
Now you might be wondering the extent of projects that you can accomplish with just some wooden pallets, but the reality is your possibilities are quite extensive from chairs, to bird houses, bed frames, tree houses and more!  Below is a list of five projects that you can start with. 

1.       Project one: Shoe Rack    


                                        2. Project two: Planters or compost bin

3.       Project three: Adirondack Chair 

                                                                          4.       Project four: Coffee Table

5.       Project 5: Bed 

 If you’re looking for more ideas, check out this slide show. (turn off volume for music)

What are you learning with your child in these lessons?At the end of each of these lessons I will try to list several ideas for how you can relate your projects back to the books, and their relative sciences, and or practical applications.

1.      Woodworking tools (what are they, how do you use them)
4.      Carpentry
5.      self sufficiency

Now depending on the age of your child you might be saying to yourself “wait a minute, I’m going to be doing all the work, my child is just going to watch”. Yes Sir!  That’s right, in the beginning your child is going to do a lot of observing, and this is a major part of learning.  The key is to try to incorporate your child into the project at every possible safe moment.  Finishing banging in the last micro millimeter of a nail, sanding down the wood with sandpaper, anything to make them feel involved, and as they become more capable giving them more responsibility during each project.  I hope this lesson works for you and your children and it would be great to see pictures of your projects as you progress.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where are the Fathers?

One of the reasons I see our homeschooling experience as being a success, is that I work as part of a team with my wife.  I find it sad that often times if I meet someone whose children are homeschooled and ask the father about it he says; “I don’t know much about it…. My wife takes care of that.” 

This post is not specific to the men whose children are homeschooled but to every man that has a child, regardless of the educational path they have chosen for them.  You’re children are a blessing from God, and as the Prophet peace be upon him said: “You are all shepherds… and a man is a shepherd over his family, and he will be asked about them.”   The educational and spiritual development of a child is not to be taken lightly.  There are many fathers out there who contribute to their childs education and we commend them and pray that more people follow in their footsteps.  This post is not directed towards them, but rather towards those fathers who have not given the idea of engaging their child's educational development much thought, or don't know where to start.  It doesn’t take a genius, and the resources are available in abundance.  The question is; will you put in the time, effort, and commitment? 
In regards to time, there is no reason you should not have time for your children, even if you are working two jobs.   On my best days I wake up at 4:00 AM and I am out the door to a private class in Usuul al Fiqh.  I come back briefly for breakfast only to rush out again to go to University.  I have classes from 7:30 until 12:15 and then I drive to work.  I don’t get home until 5:15 and then I eat.   I usually have about 30 min before I leave again for a private class in Arabic grammar.  When I finish my class I drive to the mosque to pray the night prayer, after which I have classes in Fiqh and Hadeeth.  I normally arrive home between 9:15 and 9:30 PM.  So When do I homeschool?

My trick is in four parts:

1.      I am part of a team with my wife. We split the responsibilities, and sometimes we cover for each other when someone is sick, or caught up with other responsibilities.

2.      A little consistency is better than a whole lot of randomness.  Many of my lessons can be knocked out in 20 minutes or less.  The rest is just about being consistent.  The prophet peace be upon him said “The best of deeds are those which are the most consistent, even if they were to be small”. 

3.      I use the weekends.  Sometimes I use it to fit in a project or lesson that takes up more time, sometimes I use it to catch up on sleep, or my other activities that I’ve fallen behind in.  The important thing is that your time is managed and maximized.

4.      Sacrifice.  Sometimes it hurts my studies, takes away my free time, my social life, or exercise, but if the education of my children is more important, then that is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.

This is if everything goes well.  Sometimes the car breaks down, the fridge is empty and needs to be filled, I get sick, the wife gets sick, final exams, a light needs to be replaced, and a whole slew of other unpredictable events that happen, and that is life.  So when do I rest? When do I prepare for exams? When do I have time to write for this blog?  The answer is that most often times I don’t.  Like a waiter carrying too many plates in a crowded restaurant, frequently things get dropped, but I have to prioritize and there is nothing more important than the development of my children.  My point here is not to flaunt my schedule or show off, but to show you that yes it is difficult, and that it takes sacrifice, and that it can be done, even from the busiest of dads.

Maybe you’re the dad that does work two jobs and when you do see your children you just want to have a little fun.  Well it’s not all about math, writing, and reading.  Education can be as fun as teaching your child how to track animals, recognize tree types and their uses, teaching them to build a tree house, first aid, outdoor safety and many more things.  Understanding the sciences that are involved in these activities and helping your children to make the connection and learn practical skills. 

I want people to get more involved, be more self-reliant, make an impact in their child’s life, and build a positive relationship with them while spending quality time.   I hope that more fathers will get involved with their children’s education, and use this site and others to help give them ideas on how to do so.   This is not a call for you to pull your children out of the public or private school systems.   If the word homeschooling scares you just replace it with “being involved in my child’s educational development”.   Regardless of whether your children are in public or private schools, or homeschooling, I hope all fathers will play an active role in the development and education of their children.

Speaking of a problem without presenting a solution is useless so in the future we will be posting articles for fathers with activities and lessons that you can use to get involved with your child under the title of “Just for Dad”.  We hope you’ll comment, share your experiences, and even send us artilces, plans, and suggestions of things you do with your son or daughter so that we can repost them for everyone to benefit.  Please help us in this effort by getting involved, and sharing these post with others so that we can spread the message that it’s not just mom, but Abi homeschools too.