Monthly Archives: April 2010

Review of ICO Islamic Curriculum

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A few days ago I received Grade 1, 2 and 3 of a new Islamic curriculum by the ICO (International Curricula Organisation). There has been quite a bit of excitement about this Islamic curriculum which runs from grade 1 (age 6-7) all the way through to grade 6 (age 11-12).

For each grade (or year for us UKers!), there are two Student’s textbooks (part 1 and part 2) and two activity books (part 1 and part 2). So, that’s four books in total per grade/year (this excludes the teacher’s manuals which can be bought separately).

So, educatingmuslims.com kindly sent me grade 1, 2 and 3 to sample and thus this review. Upon receiving the package and opening it, my daughter became excited when she saw the colourful attractive front covers. I had to hold her back from starting to use them immediately!

When I had some time to myself, I browsed through the books for grade 1. It seems that each grade covers 5 main areas:

Aqeedah

Quran and its sciences

Seerah and Islamic History

Ibaadah

Morals and Manners

Memorisation of juz amma is also taught in grade 1-3 as well as explanations of the surahs that are being memorised and activities based on those surahs. I suspect that grades 4-6 covers the hifdh of juz tabbarak.

The curriculum uses the spiral approach. This means that the children revisit the above areas in each year/grade and study/learn about it in greater depth each year.

Okay, now on to what I thought of the ‘meat’ of the curriculum! The student books are colour printed and the Islamic knowledge that is delivered in the student books is written to a level whereby the child can actually read it on their own. I like this as the child practices literacy skills and it also encourages independent study. The student books are broken down into units and each unit begins with the text followed by activities. The activity book follows the same sequence of the student textbook and offers further activities.

As I was flicking through the books for grade 1, the activities varied. There were wordsearches, painting activities, fill in the blanks, discussions, memorisation, copywork, colouring activities, making games and much more.

Each activity is based on the Islamic concepts that are being taught and the activities are fun and simple for the child to complete independently. Looking through grade 1, I do think younger children can also complete the activities and that perhaps ages 6-7 would actually find it a little easy to complete. But this depends on the ability and level of each child.

I wanted to see what the older years had to offer and so I browsed through grades 2 and 3 and immediately noticed that there was quite a bit of a ‘jump’ in the level of the activities. For example, in unit 1 of grade 2, the child is now required to find a specific ayah in the Quran and copy it in Arabic and English. There are also more comprehension based activities. In the activity book for grade 2, the activities are well designed and encourage the child to really think deeply about what they have learned. For example, children are asked to close their eyes in the grade 2 activity book and imagine that it is the day of judgment. They are asked to discuss their feelings with the rest of the group. This would be an excellent activity to conduct in the form of a family halaqa. Also in grade 2, children are asked to write down three ways in which a boy can purify his heart.

In grade 3, children are now writing reports and essay style answers to questions but the activities are still designed in a way which is interesting and fun. Examples are imitating a Quraan reciter to improve in tilaawah, a presentation about the first man to accept Islam, drawing a map of Makkah Al-Mukarramah and Jabal an-Noor – marking the distance, working out how long it would take to climb the mountain (seems like a math lesson to me!)

What really appealed to me about this curriculum was the spiral approach that it adopts. In Unit 2 in grade 1, children learn about the shahaadah. In Unit 2 in grade 2, they are still learning about the shahaadah but in greater depth. And this continues right the way through the entire curriculum. I can see that by learning in this way, a child will not forget the concepts that are taught, because everything is covered again but in more detail year by year.

I also found myself planning add-on activities or unit studies or lapbooks that we could do in other subject areas which would be linked to the main curriculum. As a homeschooler who doesn’t yet follow a pre-made science or geography curriculum, I could see myself teaching my children these other subjects based on this Islamic curriculum. This actually made me feel quite excited as I now had a structure for other subjects which would always be linked back to Islam! Brilliant! I’ll give you a few examples of my ideas as I browsed through grade 1:

Pillars of Islam unit is taught with a picture of a tree and its branches are the pillars – I thought that we could then go off and do a science lesson or project on trees, photosynthesis, trees in their seasons etc.

Allah’s creation unit actually covers the creation of Allah by discussing living and non-living things. Again, we could then spend some time covering this science topic.

Unit 6, which is an introduction to history discusses family history. I had ideas of our family trees, unit studies on the different countries I and my husband come from – the food that is eaten there, the climate, the flags of the countries, muslim and non-muslim ratio etc.

My only ‘issues’ with the curriculum is that it would have been nice if the images of Allah’s creation in the books could have been defaced seeing that it is an Islamic curriculum. Also, the books are designed for use in schools, so sometimes you find activities asking the children to discuss something with their partner or to listen to the ‘teacher’ read something etc. But these are small issues and activities such as these would actually encourage beneficial discussion between siblings and children with their parents in home educating families.

Overall, I am quite impressed with the curriculum. It is great that I don’t have to plan all of this myself and this is a huge bonus for any sister who knows the demands of family and homeschooling life in general! I initially wondered whether the children would be completing colouring activities all the way through. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the activities in grade 3 were engaging, thorough and challenged the children in their literacy skills and tests them in their Islamic knowledge, understanding but most importantly application in every day life. And this is what I liked most about the curriculum. The children are encouraged to implement what they learn whether they are at home or outside in public. And is this not what our deen is all about? I would definitely recommend buying this curriculum for your children whether they are home educated or go to school. The curriculum is sold per individual grade or you can buy grades 1-3 (years 2-4 on the website) or grade 4-6 (years 5-7). Or the entire curriculum can be bought. Alhamdulillah, www.educatingmuslims.com have arranged a small discount for those of us who are home educating. The discount is a small one as the company is quite small. If you visit the website and upon checkout enter the code: islamichomeeducation (or alternatively call educatingmuslim.com and tell them the code), it will give you £5 off any purchase you make.

I hope this review was helpful for you all and if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a message on the blog

www.ummihomeschoolsme.wordpress.com or reply to this thread on the IHSAN forum or you can email me at ummraiyaan@googlemail.com

Smart Ark Review

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So, here is my review of the Smart Ark Islamic products that the sister kindly gave to me. Aside from the fact that all of the products are Islamic in nature, they are all made from recycled materials which in my opinion, gives it an extra thumbs up!! So, not only are you getting educational Islamic toys and books, but also they are ethically made. Alhamdulillah. Do read to the end, because there are items for different ages.

Made by Allah Alphabet Book

This hardback book teaches the Muslim child that Allah is Al-Khaliq -The Creator. It is colourful and the pictures stand out mashaAllah. What I like about this book is that children from as young as the age of 2 are repeatedly told that all of these things were ‘Made by Allah’. This is a great way of teaching tawheed to children between the ages of 2-4. It also teaches the English alphabet and older children could read this book when they first learn to read. A good book to have on the bookshelf for any family with young children.

Illustrated Bookmarks

Okay, so we are book lovers over here and I have always collected bookmarks since a young age. These are just toooo cute mashaAllah. I think I might be fighting R for them! lol What do I love about them? The colours are just right, the designs are beautiful but the reminders are just perfect to soften your heart. Great for adults but a very good reminder for the kids. R was reading a couple of them which initiated interest in the meaning. I think this would make a nice gift for your kids or even a nice gift for your kids to give to someone else.

Animals in the Quran Snap Game

Ooh! This is different and nice. Okay, so its your normal snap game. However, this time you have pictures of animals that are mentioned in the Quran (no faces are on the pictures) and underneath the name and picture of the animal is the ayah number where the animal is mentioned. Not only can snap be played, but this would be good to initiate discussion based on the stories in the Quran the animals feature in.

Arabic Alphabet Colour and Write Book

This is a normal colour and write book. Unlike the other smart ark products, nothing really made me very excited about this product. It is very similar to other products similar to it from other companies/publishers.

Notebook

The front cover of this book is very attractive.  I believe they have a few that are more ‘boyish’ too. The ruled lines are quite narrow so I think it would be more suitable for ages 7/8+. It would have been nice to have had some blank pages in there for some drawing etc. Other than that, it would make a nice gift.

Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle

When R and I were at the sister’s stall at the souk, this was the one product that got R all excited! lol Probably because we did a mini recycling project earlier in the year. A brilliant book in my opinion mashaAllah. Covers an important topic – looking after the earth which is a duty upon Muslims. And in the blurb, it says that this will be a Zaynab and Zakariya series covering ‘a wide range of social and ethical issues…and how to deal with situations from an Islamic perspective’. I think I would buy more titles from these series when they come out inshaAllah. And another bonus is that there are no faces! lol

R read this book to herself and her thoughts (in her own words):

I think it is really good because I can try and recycle. This makes me feel like I should stop putting rubbish in the bin. What  I really liked was that Zaynab gave naseehah to Zakariya about recycling. And that is why I am now going to think carefully about where I put the rubbish.’

Illustrated Journal

So, R got excited about the book. I got excited about this! This product is just brilliant mashaAllah. 5 stars in my opinion. It is a hardback journal. Inside are the following features:

– This Journal belongs to….

-Notes

-My details

-My contacts

-My journal pages ( children fill in: what I did today – What I learned today – Date)

-My drawings

-My poems

-Verses from the Quran (Children fill in: My favourite verse from the Quran)

-Quotes from the Sunna (Children fill in: My favourite hadith)

-The people of the sunnah (Children fill in: my favourite sahabah/sahabia)

-My duas (Children fill in: Dua I am learning – Date)

-My goals inshaAllah (Children fill in: Deeds that I intend to do for the sake of Allah)

-A pocket at the back to hold additional pages.

Each section has its own colour and the quality is just ‘mashaAllah’. I think R is going to have a lot of fun using this and filling in all of the above sections at various points during the year. I think I will encourage her to fill in the above sections after discussing Islamic manners, reading a story from the Quran or just after a trip somewhere. I think I might buy one per year inshaAllah. It is a good keepsake and interesting to see how the child would fill in the above sections at different stages in his/her life. I would highly recommend buying this for your children.

Islamic Card Making Kit

And finally we have the card making kit. Very very very nice. The card making kit comes in a box which stores printed envelopes, printed cards and stickers to decorate the cards. The cards and envelopes have a kind of landscape print on them so that the children can create pictures with the different stickers based on the landscape. Stickers include greetings in Arabic and English such as Eid Mubarak, JazakhaAllahu khairan etc, various pictures. There are 180 stickers, 18 envelopes and 18 cards. Very good quality mashaAllah. I think R will be sending a couple of these to her penpals! I really like this. Wonder if the sister could design some for adults. Although, this card set could be used by adults too I think.

The sister also sells a charity shop game which I am gutted we didn’t get to review as based on the quality of her other products, I’m sure it would have been a brilliant game as well as teaching the importance of sadaqa.

To conclude this review, I am very impressed with the quality of these products. I find that a lot of the Islamic products out there are of very poor quality. But this sister has really excelled in the quality and presentation mashaAllah as well as teaching very important Islamic values. Do visit her website inshaAllah. http://www.smartark.com

I hope this review was helpful. If you have any questions about the products, just leave a comment inshaAllah.

Decluttering the mind!

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I have a lot of thoughts going on in my mind and I feel like I need to ‘declutter’. I find that making dua and writing helps me to do that. Plus some good advice from those who are sincere and know me very well.

Okay, so I have seriously felt like I’ve been drowning. This is not as a result of anyone or anything, but its because of me and the expectations I put on myself. For those of you who have been following this blog for a long time, you will know that I live and breathe by routine and organisation. Naturally that is going to fly out of the window when change (like a new baby) arrives.  I am not complaining about having a new baby – no no. My issue is with myself. And things have got to change otherwise I am heading for depression!

I just feel that I put too much pressure on myself and unintentionally do that to my children, particularly R. I want the best for my children like most mothers. But if I don’t change my ways, I won’t achieve anything near to what I want for them.

Yesterday, I met up with a very very close friend – she is the sister who called me to Islam almost 11 years ago. May Allah (Swt) bless her immensely and reward her abundantly. Ameen. She knows me better than anyone I know and she gave me some really good advice. As our girls who are 5 days apart in age ran around a beautiful inner city park, she spoke to me about reliance on Allah. In the days that she knew me as a non-muslim she always thought I was a bit OTT (over the top) with the whole organistion thing and in some ways it has got better and in others it has become worse. She advised me that the tarbiyah and the guidance of our children are not as a result of what we do, but only lies with Allah (Swt). All we can do is try our best. We are not in control of anything, not even our children. How true she is!

Another dear sister got in touch with me recently after a few years of no contact. Herself and her husband were very active in the UK’ years ago. They lived abroad, studied the deen, were very protective over their children, gave them a good Islamic upbringing etc. A few years ago, they divorced after many years together. Unfortunately, their eldest daughter is not wearing hijab any more. The sister told me that she would never have thought that her daughter would end up like this. And it just goes to show that the best thing we can do for our kids is to make a lot of dua that Allah continues to guide them and keep them on the siraat al mustaqeem.

I think for someone like me who likes to be ‘in control’, I have to accept that I am not in control. You see, it is easy to say that we have tawakkulAllah. But where is the proof in our lives? I am not suggesting that every sister who is ultra organised has a problem with reliance upon Allah. No, not at all. But when there is a lack of balance in anything in our life, we need to ask ourselves why.

Right now, I am seriously thinking about how I speak to my kids, how I discipline them, how I spend time with them, how I educate them, my expectations of them and whether I need to have such expectations.

Life continues to change, but what I do not want is for years and years to pass and I have not changed. I want to enjoy my children and enjoy life without the internal pressure/stress and anxiety surrounding those things just because I need to stick to a routine and check something off on a checklist. I am my worse own enemy and it is going to stop inshaAllah.

A couple of days ago, I seriously seriously seriously contemplated putting my DD in school. I was very close to calling a school I would put her in. But then, I realised by talking to another dear sis who knows me so very well that the problem is not Home Ed – it is me! If I were to change the way I do things and the expectations I put on myself and my kids, home ed would be even better than what it is, life would be better than what it is.  Sweeter. And at the moment, I feel many things that could taste very sweet are tasting sour because of this whole routine/organisational ‘thing’!

I have been absorbing the comments of a few lovely home edding sisters on the IHSAN forum in response to a post I wrote. And they are right in that home ed should not be something separate from ordinary life. If it is viewed in this way, then it is another thing that needs to be ‘checked’ off – and that is where the stress comes in. If, however, home ed is viewed as a part of life itself then a completely different experience unfolds.

Just as I need to change my way of viewing family life and all that routine palava, so too do I need to change the way I see home ed. Even though I was close to giving up, I don’t think I ever will (inshaAllah) as I feel so strongly that it is the RIGHT way for my family. Something internal has to change and subhanaAllah, I feel that it is slowly beginning to do so. Home Education is just that – it is education at home and home/family is a 24 hour thing, isn’t it? So, enough of seeing it as something separate and here is to a new perception, a new change and a new beginning…inshaAllah.

Last Week

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Last week was quite a busy week for us. On Tuesday, we attended an Arts and Crafts day organised by a dawah organisation I used to work with. It was so nice seeing all the sisters again. I really do miss them. But I guess when you move to a different area, you tend to lose contact with those that you saw regularly. Life goes on eh?

Anyway, R and Z had a wonderful time. There were so many different activities to do mashaAllah and all the proceeds were going towards the organisation. R made some candles, did some glass painting, made a ‘scratch’ mask, had her face painted, bounced on the bouncy castle and generally had fun seeing old friends mashaAllah.

A couple of days later, we were invited by a sister to  join a small group of sisters at our local museum and the weather was just superb mashaAllah. The company was really nice mashaAllah and we had a lovely picnic ‘ Bengali’ style! lol We visited the aquarium in the museum. The children climbed trees and became quite muddy!! But it was just really nice seeing them be children. For those who know me, I am very much the ‘observer’ lol. And our conversations led me to think a lot about where my life is going from here in terms of home ed. I have a very active toddler and a newborn to tend to and as I’ve said previously, things will not be the same. But I’m trying my very hardest to accept that and adjust inshaAllah. I’ve had so many ups and downs over the last year or so. I am very much pro home ed, but there have been many times where I feel like giving up, not because I do n ot believe it is the best thing for my kids. But I wonder if I can ever continue with it and I really do want to give my children the best and sometimes I don’t know if if I can give my best through home ed. The day we went to the museum was one of those days. Although it was a lovely day, I came home and wondered whether this is indeed the best path for my children…

 Here are some pics:

We are still not back to our usual routine. At the moment I am trying to figure out what to do and how to do it! I have been doing a lot of organising though. A sister came to visit us and the new baby and she commented on something she heard a sheikh say. He said something along the lines of, ‘ The home environment of a child should be one in which he/she can explore and learn.’ Such a simple statement, but it really made me think about how I provide those opportunities for my kids. Most of R’s learning resources have been in cupboards. So, instead I took them all out and placed them in containers (separated by subject) and they are laid out on the floor. Everything can be seen and nothing is put away in a cupboard but instead just placed back into the box when she has finished using it.

 There were so many resources that she hasn’t used because they are stored away in boxes and do not see the light of day. Since doing this, R has been using the resources more and actually uses them as aids when she wants to do something. I find that by doing this, she is initiating her own learning more.  

 This week she received mail from her two penpals! She couldn’t believe it when she received one at the beginning of the week and then another at the end of the week. She immediately took pen to paper. I let her write her letters to her penpals on her own first and then we go over any spelling mistakes and she writes it out again. Is this a good method or not?

We’ve also kept up with Quran – mainly revision. She has started back at her Quran classes and was very happy that she was one of only three students who got a lollipop for their good work and behaviour mashaAllah.

Finally, yesterday we attended the Family Fun Day and Souk at Regents Park mosque. It was packed! But again, perfect weather mashaAllah. It was nice seeing old faces again and the kids had a lovely day running around. We came home with some books in Arabic about the Prophets and Islamic manners. They were on a special deal and my husband said that the Stories of the Prophets books were a good find because most childrens books about the prophets are very basic in detail. But these went into more detail and still enjoyable for the children to read/hear. Here are some pics in case you want to look them up:

 

 A sister who I’ve only ‘met’ online had her stall there. She runs a company selling educational Islamic toys/stationery. When I saw her table, I immediately went over and introduced myself and it was nice putting an ‘online name’ to a face. I couldn’t believe it when the sister started filling bags with items from her stall. She gave me a whole bag load of items free for me to review! I was very grateful and quite excited about all these goodies. My next post will be a review of these items. She really has made some wonderful products mashaAllah of a very high quality. In the meantime, check out her website http://www.smartark.com/  and watch this space!

Finally, I have spent these last few weeks contemplating a lot about my parenting skills. There are so many things I am doing wrong and I’m really trying my very best to become a better mother. A very dear and kind sister came across this site and wallahi it has helped me so much. Check it out! http://www.screamfreemuslims.com/