Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tips for Homeschooling with an Infant

Our third child was born on August 17th by the grace of God. Luckily, I had begun our homeschooling year in the summer to ensure that I would have organized a schedule and activities so that we could just continue after taking maternity break. This plan worked out extremely well. After I had the baby I was able to take ample time off from schooling and once I was able and ready we got right back into somewhat of a routine. Although we don't manage to get through all our daily lessons every time I have come up with several tips to make this transition a bit easier for all of us.

1. When you know you will be busy with the baby, pull out some independent work for your child to complete.
This has worked really well for us in getting things done. Ameera who is now 6.5 is able to complete math worksheets, handwriting, foreign language, phonics and reading lessons on her own. That is a huge chunk of work. She also does Quran everyday via Skype with a tutor.

2. Use nap times to complete work that needs your attention and assistance.
When my baby is napping I will also usually put my toddler down at the same time for a nap. This gives me a good 1.5 hours to sit with my daughter and complete our history, science and literature lessons which are all done through read a-louds. We can also work on projects during this time.

3. Use weekends to catch up with school work.
The great thing about homeschooling is that everyday can be a weekend. This way I can utilize the weekends when my husband is home and I have some help to catch up on any subjects that have been neglected. This brings me to my next tip.

4. When possible have your spouse help with schooling.
If your spouse is good at something that you are not particularly strong in, have him help out in that subject over the weekend. For example, I am not strong in teaching math concepts, but my husband is so I will usually give him the task of explaining and teaching concepts to her that I am unable to do or do well.

5. Realize that every moment can be a teachable moment.
I will usually let my daughter prepare lunch for herself and her younger brother. Then she can clean up after herself by putting dishes in the sink. She is also able to change a diaper and quiet the baby by keeping her company. She can fold laundry, and perform loads of other household chores. This helps in character and confidence building and teaches her responsibility in the house and toward her siblings. She is also responsible for watching over her brother when they play in the garden and park.

6. No matter what make sure bedtimes are always consistent. (Same goes for naps)
Consistent bed times means energetic and fresh, focused children who are capable of very full days. Less tantrums and crankiness also come from well rested children. This also gives me time I need to recharge and have some much needed alone time. I can also do any planning I need for the following days.

7. Keep your schedule relatively free.
With a baby it is not a good idea to pack in so many activities or field trips through out the weeks. Pick one or two activities that you can manage to do consistently every week. Infants in their first few months thrive on routine and prefer being home to being shuffled along from one activity to the next and are more likely to have crying fits. At the moment Ameeras schedule includes 2 weekly activities, 1 biweekly activity and 2 monthly activities that require me to leave the house. I also sign up for filed trips that I feel are really beneficial and will be pleasant and easy for baby. Remember that educational field trips and activities can take the place of a days lesson. For example, a trip to the museum can be the days history lesson.

10 Grammar Rules Every Homeschooled Kid Should Know



1.       Beginning and Ending Punctuation

2.       Paragraphing

3.       The Parts of Speech

4.       The Sentence and the Fragment

5.       Subject, Verb, and Object Forms

6.       Verb Tense

7.       Punctuating Dialogue

8.       Rules and Uses for Commas

9.       The Apostrophe & The Dash

10.   The Semicolon and the Colon

 
Suggested Reading and Resources:

·         Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss

·         The Power of Grammar by Mary Ehrenworth

·         The Elements of Style by E.B White and William Shrunk

·         Sentence Composing for Middle School by Don Killgallon

·         Discovering Voice by Nancy Dean

When it comes to writing kids need to care about what they are saying. They need to feel a sense of purpose that sharing their stories matters. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s voice is important. The sooner they understand this, the sooner they will take pride in becoming writers. Grammar should be taught not as a list of rules, but as a means to make writing meaningful and powerful. Therefore, Grammar should be taught to children through Story-telling and Narrative. Explain to kids the “Why” of Grammar and then demonstrate its power in writing through examples.

Ex. Why is Harry Potter a World Favorite? How does the author use her writing? Explore the structure of writing in favorite novels.
You can have your child write a story and then teach grammar concepts through his own story, explaining how each rule enhances their work. Or make up a story of your own, thereby engaging the child in the plot, you can have teachable grammar moments.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Let the Journey Begin

Up until a few months ago, my daughter has been in a Steiner School. This year I decided to homeschool exclusively, which was a big decision being that I also just had a newborn baby girl. I decided to start the homeschooling year early, a few weeks after Ameeras school officially ended, so that I could get into a routine and test the waters before the arrival of baby # 3. This plan worked out well. I was able to plan for the year, purchase any materials I needed and organize a weekly schedule. We worked off this schedule smoothly until the baby arrived. And then I had to take a break, which was fine, since when you are homeschooling you are no longer on any one's schedule but your own!

Now baby Aleena is 3 weeks old and we have started to slowly return to our schedule, doing short lessons and activities when time permits and attending the children's outdoor activities as well. This year we are predominately using the Charlotte Mason method and curriculums along with other resources from the Classical Method. However, my main goal is to work on family bonding with the addition of our new baby, and to teach the children about family transition when a new child enters the family and all the beauties and hardships that it comes with. Patience, compassion, and responsibility are 3 major characteristics that my children will take from this experience. They will be home to see first hand the demands of a newborn and the help needed to maintain the household and physical and emotional well-being of me (the mommmy) and the other kids. :)

So far we have had some meaningful trips and activities beginning with a trip to Kidzania (which is a a town created for children to work and earn money and then they can spend this money on activities and leisure's of  their choice just like in the grown-up world. We make weekly visits to the library for story-time and picking of new books. And we have begun our weekly Science-Coop with a small party and roundtable discussion on 3 topics the kids would like to learn more about this year. Ameera has chosen to further explore the Sun, the Earth, and babies. Homeschooling with a newborn has caused me to research more about unschooling which is a child-led learning method. This method seems to somewhat take the pressure off of following a specific curriculum or maintain a schedule, but Im not certain if it's any easier. It just makes me more aware of the questions Ameera and Noah ask me and I try to jot them down so we can further discuss their interests. For example, yesterday Ameera asked me about Sap because she was playing with sap from trees in our park outside. Then at dinner she asked me why money was important...(very good learning question, with lots to discuss there) and she asked me why numbers are infinite while she was playing with a calculator!!  Three very amazing questions that we could probably spend weeks on discussing and doing activities with.

I'm going to explore this method a bit and see what works out for us.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trip to Abu Dhabi

A few weeks ago we took a day trip to Abu Dhabi. I have always believed that travel was an essential component to a child's education, but now I am slowly starting to see the difference it is making in my children. While at Abu Dhabi we visiting the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque. This was actually the first time my kids and I have experienced a mosque of this magnitude, grandeur, and beauty. Until this point we have been traveling around Europe and have only been able to see beautiful Cathedrals and churches, but to actually come face to face with a holy place our your background and religion is an incredible feeling. One that makes you feel proud and thankful to be who you are and to know that you are not alone, when sometimes it easy to feel that way, even though it is a known fact that there over 1 billion Muslims world wide.



Since arriving in Dubai my kids have become obsessed with Masjid's (mosques). They never fail to point them out as we pass them, and if you have ever been to Dubai, then you know that you will pass a mosque every 2 minutes :). We were able to pray inside the Grand Mosque, explore, and take in the beauty, and the smells of the incense. Children reading Quran and praying besides their parents. Even the bathrooms were made of marble stone and had flowing fountains for making Wudu (the cleansing ritual before prayer). Its a shame that in the USA we weren't able to be in such amazing homes of worship.

But being here was important in solidifying our roots and beliefs as a family. It is something tangible to show my kids that our religion is beautiful, it is serene and peaceful, and clean and demands attention. And I didn't have to sit down and giver my kids a lesson on these facts or a lecture. All they had to do was observe, and use their 5 senses to gain an understanding of these important concepts and to gain a respect for their identities. Hopefully, our next stop will be Mecca and Medina inshaallah. Religion is something that is often very abstract for children. But as Muslims, we live our religion day in and day out. We praise and seek guidance in our creator in everything we do and every thought that we have. The daily obligations are easily seen and learned so that it becomes apart of the children as they grow up. It becomes a natural habit for example to pray 5 times a day. But there is a bigger picture to paint, and by seeking out these kinds of experiences and taking these sorts of trips aids in instilling this larger message in a child's mind.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A loss for words

Sometimes I feel like I should have so much to say and experiences and thoughts to share with the world, yet my mind is a blank slate. My thoughts are jumbled, my emotions unstable and these days I seem to feel mostly like I am drowning in a sea of confusion and indecisiveness. We have been in Dubai now for 4 months and more than ever I find myself constantly questioning my decisions. Knowing that I could somehow make better ones and do more.

It's a strange feeling to have no control over something. And while there are certain things that will forever remain out of our control, there are others we can control. For me, I feel like I have lost control over my daughters education. I have placed her education in the hands of others. And although I am happy with her school as is she, and while she is visibly learning so much everyday, I cant shake the fact that somehow I could provide her with more, with a better education, more experiences and learning opportunities and that  I am limiting her. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week, months in year, and so on. I am losing time with every day that passes. All I notice is how much she has grown as a person and physically of course. But is she growing into the person I want her to be? Are our priorities for her education being placed above everything else? Most of the time the answer I come up with is NO! And that causes me to feel like I must make immediate changes.

These changes will not come easy either. Making the decision to pull her out of her alternative school and homeschool her full-time would mean a major life transition and adjustment. Especially with a 3yr old and a baby on the way. But I have been unable to school her at home the way I used to when she was only in school until 12:30. Now the day has extended to 2pm as she has gotten bigger. Although I have managed to fit in a couple of extras such as swimming and Quran, I don't like to put too much into the week. I like the kids to have lots of free play time. Hopefully I will continue to make improvements in their education that I believe in and that these changes are the right decision.