Learning in Context

Z Book: Bugs Are Insects

I love these Let’s Read and Find Out Science books! I’ve been hunting for them at the library and Z loves them too! They’re great for learning science. I wonder if they have Let’s Read And Find Out History books. They should.

Yesterday, Z chose for me to read to him Bugs Are Insects by Anne Rockwell.

He’s really hooked by the ladybug, and so I googled ladybug on Youtube, since he asked for it.

We watched ladybugs laying eggs,

ladybug being eaten by a Venus Fly Trap,

and eating aphids,

and I love this new find- Painting with Mr. Kindergarten!

We watched it and Z painted his own ladybugs; one red, one black with colorful dots. We also did the butterfly paint folding and some playing with paint with toilet paper rolls that I’ve been saving for him.

I printed Umm Nu’man’s Ladybug Math Mat and counting activity, and we spent quite a while doing the addition activity, much to my surprise! Z doesn’t really like to count, read aloud or pretty much anything where he has to use his voice. But he was excited that I had printed some more thing for him and so I quickly cut out the ladybug counting pieces and he patiently waited. Pretty soon we were doing the addition problems, but with a twist. I made up stories when we did each addition problem, and he loves it! That’s what kept him going actually. some of the times, I forgot to make up a story and he would say,

“Ok, where are the ladybugs going now?”

So we had ladybugs getting ready to go swimming, go to the playground, have a party, getting in a van, etc. And I also had been googling activities on ladybugs and saw a math mat activity where a baking pan is used and so the pieces were magnetized. I decided to glue magnet strips on the ladybug counting pieces and we used them on the baking pan. It was MUCH easier and more organized in a way. I love that he loved this activity because I feel like his math is a bit poor compared to his reading.

 

And subhanallah, I found out that this boy can really read mashaaAllah. I knew he can read but since he doesn’t like to read out loud when I ask him to, I never really knew how well he can read. I was spending time with him with the activities and thenI also printed another copy of Umm Nu’man’s winter color cards (though I printed it on portrait format so now I have one set of cards bigger than the other, which I guess is fine. It makes for easier separating if we only want to use 1 set of cards for a game) so that we could play Snap. We played Snap and then he wanted to know how to play go Fish, but I told him to let’s play memory game first so he would know the names of the colors in Arabic. We did this but of course we need to do more so the Arabic colors are consolidated in his vocabulary.

So I decided to take the Bob Books I had since the 3 older kids were younger and I asked him to read it, encouraging him by saying that this book once belonged to S, N, H and that they used to read it. So he did and mashaaAllah he did very well. Before long we were reading more of these books and then I got Wake Me Up In Spring and he read this book all by himself, out loud to me. Turns out, his reading speed is pretty high. I had to help him a bit with the ‘ed’ past tense but he did very well. All this while he’s been able to read but keeping it to himself. Well, hubs said that when hubs would read a book by mistake on purpose, Z would correct him. So we knew he can read, but just not how well. Alhamdulillah, doing the Glenn Doman reading method really works, even if I just did it with him when he was a baby (actually i did it with him when he was about a few months old, I think even soon after birth when I felt ok enough to do it with him). I remember, he was still in the crib when I did it. But because of his allergies, I stopped because I had to focus on dealing with his extensive eczema. I resumed it when he was older, at about 1 yr old, we did also on powerpoint, with sound effects, and by and by I did it but I didn’t really complete the program. But subhanallah just that little exposure helped! When I did it with S, I didn’t realy finish it either because she was already reading before I finished it. With N and H, I didn’t complete it either, as they were learnng to read also from watching Between The Lions along with the program I was doing on them. Alhamdulillah, Allah made it easy in this regard. And he wasn’t just reading it blindly, he understood what he read too, as evident from his smiles and responses as he was reading the words out loud. Allahu Akbar!

So With Z, I think I have to focus on his handwriting and math and especially his Quran. This actually motivates me to work more with him on Quran. InshaaAllah may Allah make that easy too. Ameen!

Yesterday, we were eating chips and all of a sudden as he was about to pick up the bag and put it bag in the kitchen,  he said,

“North, S, East, West!” while pointing in the right direction. He later asked me what S stands for. He read it on the bag of the chips bag.

Today, I went googling for more ladybug activities and ended up joining Learning Page. I had used it way  back when the 3 older kids were younger too so I was somewhat familiar with it. I printed some worksheets and inshaaAllah, I hope he works on them and improve in handwriting and benefit from the other activities.

Last weekend, during our tennis Sunday, Z had been observing a ladybug too, so the reading of this book is quite relevant to his most recent animal-experience. In fact he was telling me as I read him the book about the ladybug’s wings.

As we were reading this book, I reminded myself to always bring Allah into it. It’s so easy to forget an focus a lot more instead on the science. So when he was reading Wake Me Up In Spring, we also talked about how out of Allah’s mercy, He makes the bears sleepy so that they hibernate in winter. In winter there are not food for the bears, so sleeping is easier for them. I also realized how just talking about Allah providing for His creatures actually trigger alot of thought process in a child, subhanallah. When we talked about this, he asked me questions that I never expected. It’s amazing subhanallah. It also benefited me because it made me reflect about Allah in ways I never would have based on my adult thinking. Subhanallah.

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Categories: Animals, Arabic, Books, Kindergarten Math, Learning Aids, Learning Games, Learning in Context, Living Islam, Reading, Science, Z's learning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Learning Moment

It’s amazing how learning can occur in such a simple act as watching Afasy on Youtube. N is crazy over Dawud Wharnsby’s anaasheed. Z is closest to her and would follow her every act. At one point, I saw N at the computer, and Z by her side, standing, with the headphones on and I guessed what he was listening to.

“N, let him listen to Afasy. Not too much nasheed.”

Z used to watch a lot of Afasy on Youtube. At one point he was just fixed to it watching it again and again.

I reminded him of this.

“Z, you used to watch Afasy a lot remember? ”

Last night, he asked to watch Afasy, but he especially likes the one where people are praying on the street. When we looked for it, I clicked on the Fussilat video, but apparently I got the wrong one. He pointed to the correct one:

He started asking question as we watched it:

“Why is he crying?”

When he asked this question, I told him about the ayah he was crying about, that it talks about hellfire and how one’s face will be burned and that he is afraid of that happening to him, that’s why he’s crying. I balanced this with telling him that Allah loves us so much that He has prepared Jannah for us, but we have to work for it, and then we can see Allah. We have to listen to Allah.

“Why are they praying on the street?”

Because it’s Ramadan and they go for taraweeh, and there is no space in the masjid because so many people want to go.

“Why do men and women pray?”

Everyone has to pray.

“Why do they go to the masjid?”

Because Allah likes it. The masjid is Allah’s house. So we need to keep it clean, don’t fight in it, don’t say bad stuff in it. We should pray and read Quran in the masjid.

I also started telling him about the crowd at hajj. As we were watching this, I told him that at hajj there are more people than this.

I also pointed out at the straight rows and how everyone moved together and how it looks so organized and neat.

As I’m typing this, he’s asking me

“Why does Allah put the people in the fire?”

Because the people didn’t listen to Allah. These people did bad things, they hurt other people, they even killed some people, and Allah already told them not to do this, but they didn’t listen, they still did it. Allah already told them that if they don’t listen, He will put them in the fire, and they still didn’t listen. So it’s their fault, not Allah’s because Allah already warned them.

At one point before this, he had declared that he wants to see Allah. He had been talking to the girls about Jannah and he asked to see Allah. They told him he will see Allah in Jannah.

Subhanallah. This is learning in context. This is a teaching moment. Sometimes, you don’t need worksheets, activities to teach something. You just need to live life. Allah has created children with innate curiosity that makes them avid observers and question-askers. Sometimes, the best learning comes from unplanned activities/teaching moments. Especially in teaching Islam, which is not just a religion, but a way of life, learning comes from living it. That was how the prophet saw taught the companions, though they would also have formal learning sessions. It’s always about balance. Not being extreme.

In education, there are many schools of thoughts. In homeschooling, there are also many methods and schools of thoughts. Sometimes, we waste our energy debating with each other over why our method is the most correct, when there may be more than one way, or there may be a middle, balanced way.

When we started homeschooling, we started with the school-at-home with OHVA. Then I tried unschooling. Finally, we ended up eclectic. I have leaned to one side too much at one time or another, but it always felt somewhat wrong, and so I would pull myself back up to the middle. At times it’s a constant yo-yo, at times, the pendulum remains still.

Alhamdulillah. Sometimes you really just have to pay attention to things. Allah talks to you through the Quran and in other ways. He is Al Lateef (subtle, gentle, caring) and He is al Aleem (all knowing) and He is al Hakeem(All wise). You just need to use the intellect you’ve been blessed with and reflect, take note of even little things, and you will realize this precious connection subhaanallah.

Sometimes you know something, but in the course of life, you forget that you know this, or you start to worry. Allah reminds you what you know. The Quran is also called zhikr, a reminder. That is why there is a lot of repetition in it, because human beings forget a lot. The root of the word for human means to forget. Go figure.

Categories: Homeschooling, Learning in Context, Living Islam, Quran, Thoughts, Youtube, Z's learning | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind The Scenes in Dallas

Our 10 hour drive to Dallas was a very rainy one. It rained the whole way that I was left wondering if it was raining all over Texas. And the next day, it’s still raining. There were a lot of accidents on the way, that traffic was held up a couple of times. They were reminders subhanallah of Allah’s decree and Allah’s power and blessings.

For us, it was raining, and we were traveling, so our dua were high priority, alhamdulillah. Everytime we travel I would recite out loud the dua of traveling and then the meaning. It’s really deep and profound when you reflect over the dua of a traveler subhanallah. For me, it’s also profound that there is a part that asks for the distance to be covered quickly, especially as it pertained to us. We were trying to get there in time for class. Despite the rain, we covered the distance in good time, alhamdulillah, but the few traffic that we had held us up, and everytime, I’d make dua, and when I thought we would definitely make it, we encountered traffic again. Subhanallah. We had entered Dallas but there were more traffic at the flyover which Z was very fascinated with. He kept pointing out the train tracks,

“Why are there many tracks?”

“Are we up?”

“Why are we up?”

“Are we going down?”

“I don’t want to go down.”

“Are we up Ummi?”

“Are we up a little bit, Ummi?”

“I want to go on a train.”

“Are we almost there?”

The first time he asked about the flyover, I realized that he had just realized about the differences between a smaller city and a bigger city. We have been traveling a lot before, but he had never noticed these things or at least had never asked about them. So I explained that this is a big city and there are so many more cars and people and they had to have trains, and they had to build the roads in such a way that we have flyovers. He seemed entranced by the whole experience.

He kept asking where we were too.

Oh and he did ask,

“Why is that moving?” (the windshield wiper)

“To wipe the water away.”

“Why do you need that to wipe the water?”

“So we can see.”

“Why is it raining?”

“Because Allah told the ngels to let the rain cloud let down water so the animals can drink, the grass can drink, the trees can drink. They need water too. Otherwise, who will give them water?”

“The people.”

“No, the people don’t give them water. They need water too.”

“Does the water fall on the trees?”

“Yes, but they suck it in through their roots.”

Subhanallah, we did make it to class on time though, miraculously, with Allah’s power of course. It was amazing. I brought Z in with me, and I gve him his Quran Maze sheet, and his crayon pouch, and told him to whisper and color. It was hard for me to fully take notes because of this, but I wanted so much for him to be in that environment, like the 3 older kids were when they were that age. At the registration table, the sister did mention that there was Mommy and Me room for mothers with young children. I didn’t want to take Z there. I want him to be trained to sit quietly in such an environment, even if he does his own things. That’s how it ws with the 3 older kids. I had taken them to Al Maghrib classes at that age and trained them to sit quietly and ‘take notes’. I would accommodate some fidgetyness, but no ruckus.

With Z, it ws okay Alhamdulillah. He did run to the front for  bit but didn’t make any noise. He did move between me, S and N, but was quiet most of the time. He was doing his Quran mazes and came to a part where he had to write down words. He encountered the word worship and when I told him to copy it out, he made a face and said,

“I don’t want to.”

I told him then that ok, he can just put it away and I turned back to my notes. When I looked back at his paper, he had written the word out. That was quick! I realized that he has the ability to write quickly but it’s just a matter of whether he wants to or not, which makes it both easier and harder for me.

We survived 3 hours of free Friday alhamdulillah! I didn’t have much notes but at least I had Z in the room for 3 hours without much trouble.

Today, I spent the morning doing the Human Body activity sheet with him. I truly enjoyed it!

I had to spell the words for him. I just realized that we probably need to start work on uppercase and lowercase soon.

It didn’t take that long for him to write, so he can write pretty fast but it’s just training him to write on the lines, lowercase, uppercase, basically penmanship. I hate training kids with penmanship. I hated doing it in school too.

 

S doing her Algebra and Z working on his maze when I was done working with him.

He seemed to enjoy it too and actually cooperated though with reading and writing, he did make faces and refused but I insisted. I realized that this is what his therapists had to do too. We actually finished working on the whole activity set by lunch time. S did her Al Huda studying while I was working with him.

I also let him do another Quran Maze set.

We also read Hey, Little Ant. As we read this book, I asked him,

“Is the boy nice or mean?”

“Mean.”

Is he being nice or mean now?”

“Mean.”

“Do you think he should squish the ant?”

“No.”

“Do you remember when H squished your ant?”

“Yeah.”

“Were you sad ?”

“Yeah.”

“Your ant was bringing back  leaf, so maybe it was trying to build a nest or eat.”

When we reached the end of the book, he seemed pretty distraught because there was no given definite ending. For quite some time he looked very disappointed.

I then asked him which was his favorite page. I chose the giant ant. He did too. I love that page.

As for the older kids, we are kind of worried about N and how good she can retain or grasp the material taught in class. I looked through her notes last night. Pretty quirky and funny. I also noticed that she missed the important points and wrote down the jokes and elaborative points. I asked her if she likes the class. She said,

“Yeah, he makes lots of jokes.”

H said today at lunch break,

“It’s kind of hard.”

I hope to learn what they learned when they study for the exam inshaa Allah.

As for S, she studied her Al Huda, did her Math, we watched King Arthur’s Britain, and she did some PSAT questions. I finished memorizing my dua ready to be tested soon inshaAllah, listened to part of Juz 2 lesson for LI review purposes, and kicked myself for not bringing my Sahih Bukhari notes. I had the forward vision to ask my classmates to record the class for me because I will be missing two consecutive weeks of it, but I didn’t pack my notes with me! I didn’t think of listening to the recorded class and catching up during the week! Oh well, just more work for me when we get back home inshaAllah.

In all, alhamdulillah I feel it’s a pretty productive day.

Categories: AlMaghrib Institute, Books, Family, Homeschooling, HotelSchooling, Learning in Context, Note-taking, Reading, Teaching Challenges, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Cardboard Ceiling Fan

In a conversation I had last weekend with a sister, I brought up H’s cardboard endeavor jokingly, offering her a homemade cardboard furniture. Of course, she took it as a joke too. I started talking about cardboard engineering but she still had this incredulous look on her face, and I couldn’t help but realize that H was right. People won’t take this seriously, at least not those who are more used to a more refined way of life. I don’t mind having cardboard furniture.

It made me think more about cardboard engineering though. I think it’s a great way to recycle, it’s more eco-friendly. When I googled this area, it seems that it’s not that popular in the US, but might be more popular in the Europe. Of course, right. The US is a bit behind in being green. Europe has always been way ahead in this, so it’s no surprise.

I’ve been trying to look for science fair opportunities for H and his cardboard engineering but logistically it’s not that easy. But  I did find a lot of resources online on ideas for cardboard engineering projects, so I told him to use them for his science this year.

Right now, H is making his ceiling fan. He’s using the motor from our broken fan, and just this morning he managed to get the cord out of the fan by sawing off the enclosure.

He had N helping him and for almost the whole day they were immersed in this project.

It wasn’t that easy taking the cord out of the old fan frame.

But he finally got it out, and I was just relieved he was done using the saw.

The motor and cord ready to be reused.

testing the motor

He decided to use the motor of a bigger fan because this one was too small. Today, he finished it, and demonstrated his working cardboard ceiling fan. The motor overheated pretty quickly though, so he’s thinking of making a vent or hoping that when it’s hung from the ceiling, the wind from the fan would cool it down. But the fact that the fan actually works is exhilarating enough, even for me!

I am noticing that in this project, he’s learning a lot of things, such as the problems he encounters. He made circles from the cardboard without using a compass, and later he had to make sure the radius is all the same throughout his circle. He was trying to find the center. So when he came to ask me how to use the compass and make sure it’s centered, I told him,

“You have to make the circle using the compass to begin with.”

“I know,” was his somber reply.

Later on, he said, while pointing to the compass,

“I need one of these, a big one though.”

He even asked me how to make sure it’s 5 in radius and I showed him.

This is how you learn through doing. It’s the other way around. You do, thus you learn, rather than you learn, then you do. It’s through mistakes and problems that one learns and this reminds me of Roger Schank’s book Teaching Minds. It’s a great read! I would highly recommend it. He basically suggests a high school curiculum where you have the students actually ‘training’ in various areas. For example, first year of high school, they may be doing Health Science, and throughout that year, they will work/train under a mentor as a ‘doctor’ for example, or a ‘health inspector’, or a ‘nurse’, and through this, they learn what needs to be learned, in context.

I had thought of doing something like this for the kids too, but the difficult part about this is finding a real mentor who would be willing to take a teenager under his/her wings for a certain amount of time. It’s akin to shadowing really, or apprenticeship.

For H, because he’s naturally interested in electronics, building, etc, he takes to this willingly by himself. I don’t have to tell him to do it. For N, I’m thinking of something like this too but because she’s interested in creative writing, it may be easier to do this. We’ll see. At the back of my mind I’m also looking out for shadowing opportunities for S, but I think she can also get these through her volunteer activities. The soup kitchen is a good start for her, and then there is the animal shelter. For N, I may need to find writing/publishing opportunities to make it more real and make it a real learning experience. I’m excited about this, and so I look forward to hopefully being able to spend more time on their homeschooling after my Al Huda is done inshaAllah. Though I’m thinking Allah may have other plans for me. Alhamdulillah. Whatever He decrees is best.

This morning (this post is written over a course of a few days) he hung the fan from the ceiling with the help of his sisters. It worked!

And then H edited this video on my Youtube account, but right after that, the fan fell from the ceiling. Another problem he needs to figure out how to overcome. Either way this is a good learning experience, Alhamdulillah!

Categories: Activities - Ages 10 and up, Cardboard, Course Planning, High School, Learning in Context, Project, Science, Thoughts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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