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

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25 responses »

  1. JazakAllah khair for taking the time to review these books, and for sharing your thoughts with us. I noticed a while ago you were using the Seerah book by Iqra publications. I realise these are not quite the same product type, but just wondered how you think they compare in terms of activities, authenticity, difficulty etc. Hope that’s not too big a question!
    Wasalam

    • Ws wr wb

      Wa iyaki sis. Yes, we were using the Iqra books for seerah. Well, these books are just about the seerah so its a small chunk of Islamic studies in comparision to the ICO full curriculum. Personally, I think the ICO curriculum is better as it includes other subjects in its activities. I haven’t had a chance to scrutinize the curriculum but it looks like they are on the right way inshaAllah. And what I liked about it is that there seems to be more referencing to Quran and sunnah than other curricula I have seen. Hope this helps sis.

  2. Assalaamu Alaikum sis, Jazzakillaah khayr for the review. Sis one question is this curriculum done by salafipublications? If not then are the contents authentic Insha Allaah?

    • Ws wr wb

      Wa iyaki sis. No, the curriculum was not made by salafipublications. The Bradford shop just happen to sell them. As far as I can see, the content seems authentic. I haven’t been able to look at everything thoroughly but there seems to be referencing to Quran and sunnah. Hope this helps inshaAllah. x

  3. As salaam alaikum,

    May Allah reward you for trying to improve the condition of the Muslims.

    This series looks very similar to the I Love Islam series, maashaa Allah.

  4. As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah
    sister happy to find your review of these books, thank you for taking the time to share. I am excited about the books and hope to buy them shortly inshaallah

  5. As salaamu alaikum have just come across your blog as interested in alternative Isalmic curriculum for my children whom I home educate. We use IQRA at the moment. Am looking for something that adheres to the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah especially in the latter years/grades In sha Allah. How do ICO/ IQRA compare?

    Jazak Allah Khair

    • Ws wr wb

      I used to use Iqra but I find that ICO is more colourful, more child friendly etc. Personally I would go for ICO.

  6. These books are excellent, I have bought the whole set for future use with my young boy… he’s not 2 yet!! but after having a look at them they seem to be a must have for muslim families whether you are or aren’t homeschooling.. some adults could learn a thing or two also!!

  7. asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    Jazakallah khair for your review, very interesting. I have a question please: how do you plan your lessons: going first through one unit and than the second one etc…or do you go through the book crosswise: first chapterof each units, say…taking one different unit each day?

    your advise would be truly appreciated.

    jazakallah khair.

  8. Inshallah we intent to start an islamic school,i would like to have more information about the Islamic curriculum.Pls let me know how to go about it.

  9. asalamu alikum sister I don’t know if you are still active on this site but i too have been looking for good Islamic studies syllabuses and have come across one that is very comprehensive and thought that it might be of interest to you too. My husband runs an Islamic school and we are about to introduce this complete program inshallah. http://www.weekendlearning.com/WLP_Curriculum_2011.pdf
    I really like their juz amma book. it even provides talking points around each surah that relate back to children’s lives!

    Pls let me know what you think inshallah.

  10. Assalamualeikum sister…do you still using these books? I was thinking to use the Jamiatul Ulama books from Talimi board but when I saw your review I thought about using these ones…Jazak Allahu Kheiran

  11. Just another question in sha Allah sister…I will start homeschooling my children this year in sha Allah and finding very helpful information in your blog…may Allah grant you and your family Jannat in sha Allah. I’m from London too and living currently in Hackney – but moving to Ealing soon in sha Allah – and I’m looking for Islamic homeschooling groups but couldn’t find…do you know any group in London? Jazak Allahu Kheiran.

    • I know some sisters who homeschool in West London. Please email me and I’ll inshaAllah forward you some details.

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