Monday, November 26, 2012

Tree Swinging

We came across these trees the other day that had long, soft, but very strong swinging rope-like branches. It looked kind of like a lagoon tree, or weeping willow. We were grabbing and pulling on them and realized they were great for vine swinging, so we went at this for a little bit and it was loads of fun for me and the kids.

Beginner Nature Forts

Fall is a great time to introduce building beginner forts. Parks, streets, or forests are just full of natural debris that you can collect and use to build various things that suit a child's imagination. Lately, when the kids and I go to local parks nearby we have been examining the various debris on the ground such as fallen leaves, sticks, pine cones, branches, etc. One day we decided to gather all the things we could find to use for building and put them in a big pile near a large tree. We then began to use the items to try and build a small fort of some sort. It took some thought on Ameera's part at first trying to figure out how she was going to turn a pile of leaves and twigs into anything at all, but with some guidance from me she eventually got the hang of it, and began using the twigs and branches to form a small foundation.

Some of the branches were long and kind of resembled rope, so they were easy to twist, turn and mold into various shapes. With these she was able to form the shape of a hobbit sized door. The shorter, stronger branches she would use to hold the structure in place.

 She then used small twigs and branches to lay over the any holes, then used the dead leaves to cover the fort. Overall it was a small structure, but just the sheer thought process and energy that went into making something out of natural materials I feel is valuable in getting children to think outside of the box, and to build their creativity and imagination.

The following week we were at the park again and she asked if we could build something else. And this time, without much help from me collected materials on her own and began to make her own fort.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bad Days

Let's face it, we all have them, and if you are a stay-at-home and/or a homeschooling mom you may have more of these days than most people. This morning was one of those mornings where I just did not want to get out of bed. I was so tired and I had decided the night before that I would keep my daughter home from school. But once morning came, my daughter was disappointed, being that she is in love with her school, and so I decided to take her...late...but felt it would be worth having one less cranky child in the house even if it is just for a few hours.

My son woke up in a cranky mood, which is unusual for him. He was clingy and needy and crying most of the morning and I could not figure out why, which frustrated me since I was having a mood of my own. Lately I have been feeling a bit confined and cramped, like I need to break free from something. I know this feeling well, and it usually comes when I have been lacking physical exercise. I have a love/hate relationship with exercise being that I love it, but have little motivation to do it and often make excuses for myself as to why I am not more physically active. The truth is as much as I need and want that time for myself, I feel I am not the kids are my priority and with a routine already in place, taking that much needed time for myself does not fit in, or would mean I would have to stray or cut something out. It's horrible that I put myself second when actually my well being and health is imperative to my children and household, because if I am not in a good mood, or sick, or unhealthy then how will I be able to provide a positive example for them and take care of them the way I need to? I forget this fact often, and as much as I am out and about with my kids it doesn't provide the physical exercise that every women needs.

With that being said, I was eager to ease my son and really wanted to take him out for a walk and kept making's too cold, I'm too tired, it's almost his nap time, etc. But the crying didn't cease, so I sucked it up threw on my coat and his, bundled him and myself up nice and warm and ventured out into the cold morning to walk down to the park for the 30 mins or so we had before his nap time. Instantly, as I knew he would, he stopped crying. We strolled to the park, which is very woodsy in nature, and I set him loose. He ran through the grass and trees and straight for the swings, then the slides, then just ran up and down the small hills and big piles of leaves, laughing along the way as I chased him and sometimes he would just lay flat on the ground and stare up at the sky. In the end, he became tired and went back to climb into his stroller. I purposely took the long way back home so that I could get in some physical exercise for myself. Just being out doors was healing for the both of us, even if it was only for 30 or 40 mins. So the moral of my story is this: When in doubt, Get Out!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where we are so far....

Today marked the end of our first unit of study using the Ad-Duha curriculum for Arabic and Quranic studies. During these past few months we have been developing a consistent routine of study and play, as well as incorporating other subjects of interest which added a nice little element of surprise. I decided to jot down some quick notes just to get an idea of what exactly we have covered and what we would like to continue with or omit from our routine. Upon stumbling onto some of our newer subjects I have doing a lot of research and blog reading to kind of wrap my mind around what road it is exactly that we are heading down; that is what method or philosophy of education we will be using.

I feel a bit as if I have been all over the place, but I am somewhat organized, just not as organized as I  would like to be. Blogging has definitely helped me sort through my thoughts and visions of homeschooling, and the blogs I follow have also been a tremendous help and great pool of resources.

I kind of did a quick categorization in my notes of our subjects and topics that I will share here:

Ad- Duha:
Who is Allah?
Shahada- meaning & memory
Quran: Fatiha- Tafseer & memorization 
Math: Arabic numbers 1-10

Nature Study/ Play:
Forest Walks
Seasonal scavenger hunts
Mud Play
Nature Journal
wild flowers, bugs, trees, pine cones
Water and puddle play
Tree climbing & swinging
Fort building
Seasons Theme Pack (taken from a Muslim Child is Born)

Art & Music Appreciation:
Music: Sami Yusuf & I look I see 1 & 2( Nasheed)
Art: Collage Work, Painting, coloring, drawing.

Spelling Dictation: 3 letter words
Reading: Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons (Lessons 1-30 completed)
Read-Alouds done daily during story time hours

Listening: (Audio books)
Alice in Wonderland
Just So Stories-Rudyard Kipling

Arabic  (Ad-Duha curriculum & Sunday School)
French, German & Luxembourgish (Waldorf School)
Film: Subject and Topic related
Geography: based on our travels

Waldorf School
Sunday School 

Looking at this now I see I still need to incorporate History and Math into our schedule. I think I feel pretty good with what we have accomplished so far. But I would like to adopt a method of education and I think for homeschooling we are going with the Charlotte Mason Method. I think it's smart because it coincides nicely with the Waldorf philosophy that she is getting at her school. I also am comfortable with our schedule and feel for the most part that things have been going smoothly. We have our good and bad days, and some days we accomplish a lot more than others, but it's not a race, I just go with Ameera's mood and let that dictate how far we go. Some days we don't feel like doing anything and I am fine with that, but for the most part we work 4-5 days a week consistently, and above all I like to keep things light and fun.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Walk in the Woods

There is something about walking in the woods that is so alluring, and haunting at the same time. I believe it is that sense of mystery that the forest holds, and a fear of the unknown; of what could be lurking behind the trees far beyond sight, or what could be lying under that old fallen tree limb, or inside a rotted tree stump. Forests are usually eerily dark in Luxembourg, except for rays of light that shine down through holes in the trees. And then there is the silence, and the stillness of the woods, which is ironic because the woods are anything but still. Leaves rustle,  branches crack, winds whisper, insects hum, buzz, and scratch. Animals scurry, and the birds soar through the intricate maze of sky. Spotting a simple mushroom can lead to endless questions and hours of observation and wonder. The aroma of the forests are so thick and rich, I find myself inhaling and exhaling like I have never done before just to try and capture and identify every complex scent .  The woods are captivating and beautiful and provide a limitless selection of learning opportunities. It is here where one can feel most close to Allah (swt) our Creator.

Over the past few weeks I have begun to incorporate Forest Walks into our weekly activities. Luxembourg is rich with trails, forests, ponds, parks, and paths through woodsy areas of all sorts. People here are generally very outdoorsy and really love horseback riding, biking, and hiking, so it is not uncommon to walk through a forest on a Sunday afternoon and pass by people riding their horses leisurely through the woods. The first time I mentioned a forest walk, my daughter was terrified and said, "No Mama! I don't want to walk in the forest, it's scary!" She had never been through any kind of wood, her only knowledge of the forest consisted of late bedtime story versions of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, characters, all of whom, encounter danger and near death experiences in the Forest. But upon walking through a small passageway, just over a bridge in Esch sur Sure, we came upon a path leading into the woods. My daughters breath almost stopped for a moment as she tried to take it all in. After looking around in wonder and awe, she instantly began to run down the path exploring leaves, trees, bushes and insects traveling along through trodden path.

I remember being young and going on numerous camping trips with my mom and clearly recall how uncomfortable it was camping in the thick of the woods, sleeping on top of roots, rocks, pebbles and dirt, and being hot and sticky and getting bitten by bugs. Back then they did not have these well organized and modernly equipped camp sites with outlets to plug in your portable tv's and bathrooms buildings where you could wash up. If you had to go, you had to find a big tree to hide behind. When it was time to eat, there were no bbq grills standing by, we had to collect wood and build a fire to cook whatever food we brought. It was that very raw kind of camping that is still instilled in my mind till this day, but is something I have never done with my own least not yet. And now 20 years later, I am surprised by the deep sense of calm and relaxation I feel in my heart and mind the second I step into the forest. It is as though time stands still; everything seems to move very slowly as we try to take it all in. We stop to examine old tree stumps, and burrows. Or we try to find the perfect walking stick or walk through the remains of dead trees, leaves and branches. My son stoops over looking at the ground, pointing with his small fingers at something I can not see. But upon closer look they are black forest beetles which cover the path we are walking on. He is not pointing, but touching them as they creep along.  

The longer we venture down our homeschooling journey, the more drawn we have become toward the study of nature and the wilderness. I feel as though it is a neglected field of study, and is not given much thought or importance. I cannot simply walk up to a tree and be able to identify it as a Pine or Oak, which is quite sad. I have never studied the seasons up close observing their temperatures and processes, the simple joys and pleasures of this world I have been taking for granted. I want my kids to be able to study birds, insects, and animals and be able to identify the wild flowers growing in our garden in a very real and personal way. These are the fundamental basics of nature study that I feel every child should learn or at least be exposed to, as well as myself. It would be a learning experience for the whole family if we perhaps kept nature journals as we do writing journals. For now however, I will begin this new journey with the simple explorations of the woods and see where it leads us.

There was a child went forth every day
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

---Walt Whitman

"In the woods we return to reason and faith."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson