Thursday, December 24, 2009

Recent Meeting Summary

Asalaamu Alaikum

Our recent meeting was a success! We had several 'new' sisters to our group, and enjoyed meeting each other. There was a mistake made on my part in the renting of the rooms, but we finally got ourselves where it was best we be, in the boardroom and the adjacent room, and then were able to get down to 'business'.

Topics discussed were choice of curriculum, and sticking to it. Since one of our members uses Calvert nearly exclusively, she gave us a beneficial description of the pros and cons. Other sisters mentioned that they create their own curriculum from what they have available.

A website was mentioned that I have found very useful that is on the links on the side, Homeschool Inc. It has a free planner that you can plan out your whole year, by semester, even down to daily assignments. All the sisters seemed excited about that one. Since using it, I am petrified that something should happen to my computer or internet access, I rely on it so heavily!

I expressed a problem I was having and got some excellent answers to it. My oldest homeschooled daughter shows a lack of initiative to the point where she is behind. She is very intelligent and insightful and reads books like other kids eat candy, but to get her to practice her handwriting, writing of any kind at length, and math is like pulling teeth! I have other kids to homeschool so her work often gets untouched, and postponed from day to day. There were two suggestions made that I will avail myself to:

1. Offer her curriculum as much as I can in the form of reading.
2. Get her around other girls her age who homeschool, to motivate her

We agreed to meet monthly and that the time and day was good for everyone. InshaAllah I will post to the group and possibly on the blog here when our next meeting will be, but shoot for approximately a month from now. I would like sisters to be more vocal about what they would like for the kids, and themselves, to do during our meetings. Please reply to this entry, or post to the group!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Muslimville Contest makes Ramadan Cool!

Asalaamu Alaikum

The Muslimville "Making my Ramadan Cool" contest is such a nice way to spend Ramadan. I remember as a child in the days coming up to Christmas, we'd have a little box and opened a door each day to reveal a chocolate to eat. It was a reward for patiently waiting for the holiday.

While I know that Muslims have now begun producing this type of thing for children to use after iftar during Ramadan, the activities in the Muslimville contest far outrun a chocolate a day.

Four programs in the contest focus on each of the main areas that Muslims should be improving themselves to get closer to Allah: Gaining good habits, charity, staying away from bad habits, and learning more about Islam.

My family is going to participate, and the class I teach on the weekends is in it's second year of participating.

I have already invited the Muslim homeschoolers of Ottawa to the contest, and whether or not you want to actually register, the materials for participating are sure to be of use during this blessed month. I create activities from time to time for my weekend class, and for my kids, so check the link to the HILAL class to download coloring pages and learning activities to use with your kids through Ramadan, and of course anytime in the year.

Alhamdulilleh Ramadan is finally here, and we can start working on ourselves. Our children are able and willing to do this too, so don't make the mistake of simply offering them sweets at iftar, but involve them in whatever you do to get closer to Allah, and then they can taste the sweetness of iman!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Good ol' parenting advice - from July's Muslim Link

World-seasoned educator shares knowledge with Ottawa

Staff Writer

If there is was just one line that would sum up Maria Khani’s perspective on the role of parents in their children’s lives, she says it’s this one, found written on a t-shirt during one of her many trips:

"Don’t blame me, blame my parents!"

In other words, parents are responsible for how their children turn out, says the educator, activist, and world-traveler.

Khani, who currently resides in the U.S., was in Ottawa on a personal visit in May and she offered to share her experiences and reflections with the community.

An engaging storyteller, Khani filled the ears of audiences with advice ranging from how to make your child love to get up in the morning (without wanting to hit you with a pillow), to how to instill a love of Islam in his or her heart.

Here’s are some of her tips:

1- Play

Quoting a saying of Imam Ali, may God be pleased with him, where he says children should be played with until the age of seven, after which they are disciplined for a further seven years, and then befriended for the next seven years, Khani suggest ways to do it.

For example, prayer times should be a time of great joy for young children, not something that is rushed. Parents can tickle and play on the prayer mat and display affection before starting, so that children have a positive association with this important ritual.

2- Love

Parents can nurture love within the home and love for Allah and His Prophet through gentleness and warmth.

Pick up the Quran, take your child in your arms and read together. Ask him or her to point out words they know or that you want them to learn.

Move beyond memorization alone, and capture your child’s imagination by telling them the stories that would make a typical fairy tale pale in comparison. Flying creatures? Al-Buraq. Miraculous objects? A Pen, which wrote about everything that would happen. Look for topics that would engage children – study the animals in the Quran and work on crafts that relate back.

Make the adhan a fixture in your home.

3- Encouragement & Support

Respect is key to the success of any family, and translates to communities where children are heard and are encouraged to participate. This starts at home. Parents should make time for their children – why do teachers often know more about our own children than we do? If that’s the case, more time with your child is in order.

Respect your child’s needs. No one likes to get up in the morning and immediately head to work, for example. Give children at least one hour and a half before they have to leave the house, or start an activity. How best to wake them up? Massage them, kiss them – make waking up a bonding activity that everyone looks forward to. Make sure children are well fed before starting the day.

4- Teach generosity

Encourage children to share with others. Only buy them what they need, not what they want. Let them give of their time and their effort, and they will soon prefer to give, rather than receive.

5- Muslim versus mainstream

Make Eid an awesome party. Talk about the point of celebrating achievements – for birthdays, celebrate mothers who achieved giving birth and raising children! Show how every day is St. Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, through promoting love and respect in the family.

Teach about sensitive issues – like sex education – through references to the Qur’an and Sunnah (which a parent can slowly impart between grades 4 to 7). Other health topics from the Seerah include information on how to keep bodies clean.

For daughters, show the honour of hijab, emphasizing its beauty as something a woman voluntarily does for the sake of Allah. Mothers should talk about how they feel about their hijab, and share their own experiences with it.

6- Father’s Role

Parents should consult each other on how to raise their children. In Surah Al Baqarah, Allah Talks about the decision to wean a child as one that both parents should make.

". . . but if both desire weaning by mutual consent and counsel, there is no blame on them," (Quran, Chapter 2, verse 233)

Nowadays, many fathers have given up this responsibility, but it is important for them to remain involved in the upbringing of their children.

7- Remember the goal

When Prophet Zachariah called on God to grant him a son, he wanted someone to carry on the Prophetic tradition. The aim of having a child was to raise someone up who would carry on the mantle of righteousness.

"And surely I fear my cousins after me, and my wife is barren, therefore grant me from Thyself an heir, Who should inherit me and inherit from the children of Yaqoub, and make him, my Lord, one in whom Thou art well pleased." (Quran, Chapter 19, verses 5-6)

Remember, Prophet Noah lost his son because his son’s actions had cut him off from his own father (which shows that ultimately, even the best parent cannot be sure of the outcomes.)

"[God] said: O Nuh! surely he is not of your family; surely he is (the doer of) other than good deeds, therefore ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge; surely I admonish you lest you may be of the ignorant. "(Quran, Chapter 11, verse 46)

Raise your children with love and kindness, and pray that God will save us all.

Friday, July 3, 2009


A list of favourite books – by the Ottawa Muslim Homeschooling Network



Annotated Bibliography:


Hilmy the Hippo series by Rae Norridge; the Islamic Foundation


Hilmy is an endearing hippo who shows patience and thoughtfulness in his actions. Pictures are well-done, showing nature scenes that are peaceful but in which real questions and conflicts occur. Good for exploring feelings.


Allah Gave Me series; the Islamic Foundation


Lovely illustrations, easy and fun rhymes.


I CAN! Series; the Islamic Foundation


After one reading, my five-year-old tried reading the rhymes herself. She had already memorized most of the catchy phrases – or was trying very hard to!


Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan, by Tony O’Brien and Mike Sullivan; Bloomsbury Children’s Books


We’re studying Afghanistan right now, so you’ll find a few books related to this country. This book is a lovely non-fiction collection of pictures and voices of Afghan children talking about their dreams. Brings their reality home to young children (my daughter is fascinated by the lives of Muslims abroad, particularly those in conflict zones.)


Listen to the Wind; the story of Dr. Greg and the Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth; Dial Books for Young Readers


Gorgeous collage photographs. Beautiful true-story with real-life photos at the end. Emphasizes the goodness of humanity and how people of different faiths and backgrounds can work for the common good. Absolutely splendid. There is also an early reader based on the ‘three cups of tea’ that we are in the queue for at our library.


The Rooster’s Gift by Pam Conrad; A Groundwood Book


Beautiful tale about a rooster who realizes it isn’t his morning call that brings up the day – an Islamic teacher would continue the story to explain that it is Allah Who Brings it on. Otherwise, the story does not lack in imagination, or attractive images. Reminds readers indirectly that every being has its purpose but it is Allah Who Controls everything (connection would be made by the educator).


Stem Series; Learning Roots


This publisher has a number of books out for different levels. We just happen to have borrowed the highest level from a friend but I’ve been able to modify it for my five-year-old. However, after looking at their website, I realize they have a lot more available! From the Stem Series, though, I can see these books are extremely well thought-out and challenge children to think, as well as absorb Islamic stories.


Qur’an Stories for Little Hearts; Goodword Kidz


Of course Goodword Kidz has a lot of titles to choose from and it makes for lovely introductions to the tales of the Prophets, etc.


The Roses in My Carpets by Rukhsana Khan


This is for mature six-year-olds or older. It is sensitive subject matter referring to war and pain. I am actually not yet sure if I will introduce it to my daughter yet. Perhaps mature seven-year-olds? But my daughter is so interested in learning about others and about war so I might try it with a lot of explanation and talking. I want her to be sensitive to the word, but not fearful of it.


Kids Will be Kids series, Nabeel Akbar; Kids Will be Kids



On a lighter note, these books are terrific in showing Muslim kids having fun in typical pursuits – sledding down snow-covered hills, looking for bugs in the garden, going to the playground. The stories rhyme and are very enjoyable. Pictures are cute.



The following are further lists / comments submitted by OMHN members, (sorry if there are duplicates):




"A to Z of Akhlaq" - Goodword

"Goodnight Stories from the life of the Prophet Muhammad" (may peace be upon him)- Goodword

Uthman ibn Affan (may God be pleased with him) adapted from the Arabic by Amal Khatab published

by Ta-Ha Publishers

The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) by Ahmad Thomson published by Ta-Ha

Portraits from the lives of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad

(may peace be upon him) 3 volumes by abdur Rahman Al-Basha translated by Alexandra S,

Al-Osh published by the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in


The Prophets of Allah by Suhaib Ghazi Vol 1-5 published by Iqra

The Prophets of Allah published by Safeer

The Great Light series of 12 books about the Seerah published by Safeer

My Moroccan Village by Nagy and the whole set


When the Moon Split by the same author of Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtoum

Books by Harun Yahya


Tell Me About.. series by Saniyasnain Khan, Harun Yahya, Luqman Nagy

published by Goodword Kidz


The Ramadan Adventures of Fasfoose Mouse

The Hajj Adventures of Fasfoose Mouse

Saladin Heroes of the East series

Muslim Nursery Rhymes by Mustaf McDermot

Books by Khurram Murad --some were liked better than others

Tapes by Anwar Al-Awlaki


We love the Arabic books produced by Scholastics. There is just so many of them. We ordered a set for grade 1, and it seems that Haajar enjoys most if not all, alhamdulillah.


Books by Noura Durkee

The Eman Series, edited by Bilal Philips

Muslim Child by Rukhsana Khan

The Amana Reading series by Uthman Hutchinson { Jamal's Jam,

Crocodiles Pray, etc}





"Ten little ladybugs" - Melanie Gerth

"If you give a mouse a cookie" - Laura Joffe Numeroff

"Cock-a-doodledoo! Barnyard Hullabaloo" - Giles Andrea & David Wojtowycz

"The Giving Tree" - Shel Silverstein (MY FAVOURITE)

"Sitting Duck" - Michael Bedard

-Most Robert Munsch books.

"HOP ON POP" - Dr. Seuss

"Green Eggs and Ham" - Dr. Seuss

"The Berenstain Bears and the dinosaurs" - Stan and Jan Berenstain

"Now you can read about Whale and Sharks" - Mary Hoffman

"Arthur's Reading Race" - Marc Brown

"Arthur's Promise" - Marc Brown

"Mole in a Hole" - Rita Golden Gelman

"Thomas' Big Storybook" - Random House Children's Books


A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Charlotte's Web by E B White

Star Wars The Clone Wars by Karen Miller

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

The Secret Garden by F Burnett

Heidi by J. Spyri

The Swiss Family Robinson

The Meat Eating Vegetarian

Cheng Ho

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

The Bernstein Bears Go to the Moon by Stan and Jan Bernstein

Beatrix Potter books

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

There's a Wocket in my Pocket Dr Seuss

A Dragon in a Wagon by Jane Belk Moncure

Rabits' Habits by JB Moncure

"Let's Talk about... " (Tattling, Disobedience, Bossing etc)


Books by Robert McCloskey

Curious George by H.A. Rey

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

Some by Robert Munch

Some by Nancy Tafuri

Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne


* * *


Toddlers to Preschoolers

Berenstein Bears (especially The Berenstein Bears and the Messy Room, ... and the Gimmes - mom's favourites - and the Great Honey Hunt

All of Richard Scarry

Are you my mother?  By PD Eastman

All of Dr Seuss (especially The Lorax, the Sneeches, Horton hears a Who ...all a profound social commentory - as well as the rest)

Some of Robert Munsch (Paperbag Princess; Andrew's Loose Tooth; Smelly Socks)

Silly Chicken by Rukhsana Khan


Early Readers

Amelia Bedelia

Berenstein Bear Chapter books

Beverly Cleary

Rohld Dahl - selected (Fantastic Mr Fox; the Enormous Crocodile)

Enid Blyton

Encyclopaedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol

Joy Berry's Lets Talk About ...

Joy Berry's A Fun and Easy Way to .... (I remember the books, but think the series may have gone under another name, but the content still appears to be the same.)

The Boxcar Children

William (a series by Richmal Compton)

Bob Books


Friday, June 19, 2009

Not so fast: Home schooling trumps full-day kindergarten

Research shows home-schooled kids outperform their public-school peers. So why so is there little or no financial encouragement for parents to take it on?

Some time ago, our library held an information night for home-schooling parents. The room was jam-packed.

Seated beside a mom with coiffed hair, polished nails and an elegant suit, I listened wide-eyed as audience members talked about a world I had totally misunderstood and stereotyped.

They talked about children who weren't being challenged at school - one daughter came home crying, begging her mom to let her stay home and “teach” herself. Another parent described a school that just didn't know what to do with her rambunctious boy, so she decided to take over. He excelled.

None of them were hippies. None seemed overly religious or way out there. In fact, the only trait they shared was a conviction that they – as moms and dads – could better prepare their children for life.

And you know what? They can.

A 2001 study by the Fraser Institute – updated in 2007 – looks at the growing phenomena of home schooling in Canada and the United States and sets out compelling evidence.

“Many studies, Canadian, American and international, have found that home-schooled students outperform students in both public and independent (private) schools,” write the authors, Patrick Basham, John Merrifield and Claudia R. Hepburn.

They point to a 1994 Canadian study that found that home-schoolers would score, on average, at the 80th percentile in reading, the 76th percentile in language and the 79th percentile in mathematics. Those in school score at the 50th percentile, on average.

In England, a three-year study concluded that home-schoolers achieved better results in both literacy and mathematics. Home-schooling movements are growing there, as well as in Germany, Japan and Switzerland.

So why isn't any of this mentioned in Charles Pascal's report on full-day kindergarten?

I'll quote from John Taylor Gatto to answer that one. He's an award-winning public school teacher from New York who retired after 30 years on the job when he realized school systems were failing students.

“We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think ‘success' is synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, ‘schooling,' but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial sense,” Mr. Gatto writes in his 2008 book, Weapons of Mass Instruction . He argues that mass schooling is actually meant to serve economic and political interests, not those of the child.

Mr. Pascal's report is a natural extension of the mainstream's approach to education – let “specialized” people handle it. But parents are often better equipped to know what their children need and how best to deliver it. The problem is, parents get no support, no encouragement, and are usually working.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Jessie Wise, author of The Well-Trained Mind , was also a public school teacher in the United States before deciding to stay home and teach her own children. “When I started, I was convinced I could never do it,” she writes. Her daughter, who co-wrote the book with her, is testament that not only could Ms. Wise do it, she could do it well. “I loved going to school at home,” enthuses Susan Wise Bauer, now a novelist who teaches English and literature at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Most children do love it – research shows that home-schooled children have fewer problem behaviours, watch less television and, overall, are more content.

The Fraser Institute's study also raises two startling points: Children who are home schooled by a parent trained in teaching achieve about the same academic results as children whose parents are not; parents who didn't even finish high school can still do a better job of teaching their children than public schools, scoring “a full 55 percentile points higher in math and 49 points higher in writing than public school students from families with comparable education levels.”

Of all the provinces, only Alberta and British Columbia financially support home-schooling parents in one way or another. Other provinces barely notice them. But the number of Canadian home-schooled children is growing rapidly: One source puts the number at 2,000 in 1979 and 17,523 in 1996, an increase of 776 per cent (The numbers don't include those who aren't registered with school boards, or Quebec home-schoolers who aren't counted at all. Home-school associations put the number as actually being closer to 80,000).

It makes sense for governments to offer parents incentives to take this on. It's cheaper and will give parents more choice while freeing up space in public schools for those without an alternative.

Source: Globe & Mail

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Say it ain't so - a sneak peak at John Taylor Gatto's latest book

From the Prologue of Weapons of Mass Instruction:

“ . . .  Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low-threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they’ll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology – all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone; they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired, quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more important life, and they can.

First, though, wake up to what our schools are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally: its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don’t let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a preteen, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that choke a Yale senior today), theren’t no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress geniums because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”

Wanna hear more? Just say so. . . 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2 more philosophies on education....

Continuing on from several posts back, here are the summaries of a couple more early childhood educating pioneers* - 

Jean Piaget - Switzerland, born in 1896.
& Lev Vygotsky - Russia, born also in 1896.

Jean Piaget

As epistemologist (someone who studies the nature and beginning of knowledge), Piaget asked the question how children learn, rather than focus on the what and when.

He said that learning is either intrinsic -- coming from the child, or extrinsic -- imposed by the environment or taught by adults. Piaget preferred seeing children try to make sense of their world and would say, "construction is superior to instruction." From this, he meant that children learn far better when it is hands-on, building upon Montessori's work.

Like Dewey, he believed that children learn when their curiosity isn't fully satisfied, so KEEPING CHILDREN CURIOUS is what drives learning, is what he theorized.

Piaget developed stages of Cognitive Development that looked like this:

Birth to 6 months --- Stage: Sensorimotor -- Behaviours: learning through senses, reflexes, manipulate materials

18 months to  6 years - Stage: Preoperational -- Behaviours: Form ideas based on their perceptions, can only focus on one variable at a time, overgeneralize based on limited experience

6 years to 12 years - Stage: Operational -- Behaviours: Form ideas based on reasoning, limit thinking to objects and familiar events

12 years and older - Stage: Formal Operational -- Behaviours: Think conceptually, think hypothetically.

Advice for teachers of young learners:

- Provide large blocks of free play time
- Provide real world experiences
- Plan open-ended activities like planting seeds' ask open-ended questions to support cognitive development

* * * 

Lev Vygotsky

Vygotsky's greatest contribution is called the theory of the "zone of proximal development", or ZPD, defined as:

The most difficult task a child can do alone and the most difficult task a child can do with help. He believed that another person, teacher, classmate, etc., can help a child learn a new concept - through the process of scaffolding.

Just like offering a painter something that is out of reach, a peer or teacher can offer the child new information to reach a new understanding. It means that teachers must be keen observers.

To apply ZPD, teachers should 

- observe children carefully and plan curriculum that encourages their emerging abilities
- pair up children who can learn from each other.

Language development

Vygotsky encouraged conversations with children, as well as social interaction among children who can help each other learn new things.

Summaries from the book "Theories of Childhood: An introducation to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget and Vygotsky", written by Carol Garhart Mooney.