Battles of the Prophet Seerah workbooks *REVISITED*

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

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It is by the mercy of Allah that – with just a handful of hours before the beginning of Ramadan 1439 – I give you the new and improved version of the workbook “Battles of the Prophet” in not one but 2 different formats. Alhamdulillah.

I put it together the first draft in 2015, specifically for my eldest son who hated writing (the past may not be the most appropriate tense choice but, yeah…). All I did was to tidy it up, correct those mistake that I found and consolidate it into one single PDF document. I also used the same material from the original workbook to make a workbook in a format suitable for children for whom writing is not like having their blood drained. So we have:

Battles of the Prophet SEERAH WORKBOOK – ORIGINAL: The end of the book consists of all the answer pages. Almost all answers – except those requiring 3 or fewer words – are to be cut from the answer sheets and glued into the relevant chapter of the workbook.

Battles of the Prophet SEERAH WORKBOOK – REVISITED: this would be my choice and I actually decided to change the original with my 7 year old in mind (he doesn’t mind writing tabarakallah). Each chapter starts off with a brief text narrating the event, from which the student is to gather the information required to complete the activities in the rest of the chapter, insha’Allah.

No time for inside pictures, sorry, there 5 hours left before Ramadan and I still have tons of prep ahead of me insha’Allah.

Please forgive me for any errors that might still be lurking there and may Allah allow this humble effort of mine to benefit myself and others. May Allah grant us to reach Ramadan and take full benefit from it and carry it through the rest of our lives. Ameen!

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Twenty-four/seven (reflections and humble advice to the homeschooling novice) *the complete post*

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. (apologies, I accidentally posted a draft!)

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When my first child was about 3 and I was just preparing to home educate, I read something that stayed with me. It was a Facebook post by an experienced Muslim homeschooler who was asked “how do you do it?”. Her immediate reply was: “You have to not mind being with your children 24/7.”

This sounds a lot more obvious than it is.

Lately, I have been talking about homeschooling with several people I know; Women who have either just taken their child out of school, have decided to start with their little ones or are seriously considering not sending their big kids to secondary school. Each of them is in a very different predicament in terms of the age of her children and the extent of their experience of public school; what they have in common is that they all are entering uncharted territory. Their situations – different as they might be – all remind me of giving birth (and no – not in terms of pain!!!): the decision to take full charge of your child’s education has a certain solemnity to it. You just know that it will forever be intertwined with your experience as a parent. It is thinking about these friends of mine and their families that some reflections started bubbling up to the surface of my conscience.

I myself feel as though I have entered a new stage in my homeschooling journey. I have been so busy hiking up the mountain, that only now I pick up my head and notice the landscape has changed. I realised that, rather than being “resigned” to it, I have embraced the idea that my children will not go to school. I always vouched for home education but, deep inside, I have been somewhat affected by the notion that “school = real life”. I felt that, for me and my kids, homeschooling was just a temporary solution to the absence of a salafi school where we live; I thought I would hold down the fort as best as I could until this phantomatic move to a place where I could find the right institution to “offload the burden”. In the meantime, my eldest is almost through with primary school. Moving is a remote possibility; our homeschool, on the other hand, has been a reality. It has been so for 7 years and by the sole mercy of Allah. It has been, and continues to be, engaging and a little unpredictable. Fluid and changeable. Frustrating and fulfilling. Subject to moods, light-bulb moments, phases of near obsessive interest and a few fads too. It defines our family. It moulds our relationships with one another. It is heart-warmingly good, spectacularly bad and everything in between.

Before I share my two pence worth of reflection and advice about homeschooling, know that – 7 years ago – that “24/7” statement felt like a slap in the face, because the thought of my 3 year old boy being with me 24/7 for the foreseeable future terrified me. Not to mention the guilt aftershock.

So, new or aspiring homeschooling people, gather around! these are more M&Ms than pearls of wisdom, but here you go:

  1. LITTLE CHILDREN DON’T NEED A CURRICULUM, THEY NEED A LIFE.

A life with you, to be precise. The need to do what they love with the person who is their whole world. And tons of books, to be read to them by the aforementioned, who is also required to slow down and be present. They do not need instruction, but first hand experience. And, that way, they learn. “Learning through play” means exactly that. It doesn’t mean putting up a puppet show to teach a 4 year old to solve equations or write cinquains. Don’t do that. Please.

2. HAVING YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOU 24/7 DOESN’T MEAN THEY MUST BE ON YOUR LAP 24/7.

When people ask me,”So, basically your kids are with you all the time?” In my head I chuckle and answer,”Where else should they be?” (They aren’t by the way, not all the time). School is a perfectly legitimate solution for some families, but when did it become the default place for kids to belong?

Having said so, some sensible boundaries have to be set. My kids are with me all the time, but they are not engaging me all of the time. When I am busy (meaning: late) making dinner, and each of my 3 comes to me simultaneously with a very specific snacks request for the fourth time, I joke with them saying that I am not a tapas bar. Or one of those sushi places with the little plates of food on a conveyor belt. Kids tend to be what, in adults, we call “self-centred”. They expect it to be an “all day breakfast” kind of situation. And it is, except that it would be impossible for a Muslim mother to carry out her other duties efficiently if she went along with it 24/7. Children are quite unlikely to think, “Hmm… I see Mother is looking quite drained after spending all day responding to our physical, educational and emotional needs. She should have a quiet hour a day to deepen her knowledge of the religion without any disturbances or endless requests,” (right???). So, instead of ending up resenting children because they can’t give us a break, it is up to the parent to create that time and guard it, put it in place and make it a routine. These are some ideas:

  • Get up before your children. Snatch that hour even if you have to study in your pyjamas to save yourself the time it would take to get dressed.
  • Have a bedtime and stick with it. Bedtimes are cherished in this house (and not just because they usually mark the end of my working day). An adequate bedtime must apply also to older children, or at least a time when they are expected to be in their room for the night.
  • When a toddler outgrows the need for an afternoon nap, nap-time can evolve into “quiet time.” With the exception of prayer at the masjid or any scheduled activities they might have outside the house, our boys will spend a couple of hours in their room in the afternoon. They may rest, read, play, draw, do homework … anything, as long as it is quiet. They are not locked in, they simply know that is a time we spend doing separate things and whatever is not urgent can wait a little.

By the mercy of Allah, this can allow for part time work from home, online study, exercise and any job that is best done without kids around. It provides much needed rest if one is unwell/pregnant/fasting or simply in need to pull herself together if it has been a hard day. Creating these pockets of time help us being more available at all other times, to give every ounce of us when our kids are around (which is most of the time anyway) and achieve some of our personal goals.

3. EXPOSING OUR CHILDREN TO MASSIVE FITAN FOR THE SAKE OF THEIR SOCIAL LIFE IS AGAINST THEIR BEST INTEREST.

We wouldn’t give our children a tub of ice-cream at every meal time instead of proper food just because they like it. Nobody could accuse us of starving them if we did, or argue that ice-cream is not food. Yet we don’t let them have that for every meal. Similarly, we cannot cave on this: If we consider the school environment available to our children to be a highly toxic one, one that could tarnish their morals and attack their deen, then we cannot overlook this just so that they can hang out with a bunch of people their age. This is ice-cream for dinner, just with even more harmful and far reaching consequences. The aspect of socialisation for homeschooled kids is like broccoli: wholesome and as appetising as you make it! Few things make us happier than giving our children what they desire and – especially as they grow into teenagers – their need for their peers is real. But we also know that what we desire is not always what is good for us. Moreover, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:  “A man is upon the religion of his close friend, so let each of you look to who he takes as close friend.” This couldn’t be more relevant in the case of older children and teenagers, for whom Ummi is no longer the whole world! This is not to demonise school in general, nor to point the finger. It might be that a family genuinely does not have a choice, and surely all Muslim kids have available to them the guidance Allah and the teachings of His Messenger (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), whether they are homeschooled or go to school. Having said so, parents who send their Muslim children to school uniquely out of fear that they would not be able to provide an adequate academic or social experience otherwise, should re-assess their priorities and give themselves a chance in this sense. And never underestimate what we are up against, in terms of desires, as we strive to give our children a good upbringing.

4. WE DO NOT HOMESCHOOL BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID OF THE WORLD.

Homeschooled kids don’t live under rocks. The fact that we don’t just throw them out there in any environment and in any kind of company does not mean we want to keep them within our 4 walls. Where there are homeschooling families, there will – in sha’ Allah – be activities for your child to participate in with other kids. If something is not available, you can start it. Either way, your control over what kind of influences your children are exposed to will be far greater than in mainstream education. Beneficial companionship and friendship can and should be facilitated for our children and school is not necessarily the answer to this (in fact, for a Muslim in a non-Muslim land, it is hardly ever so).

5. HOMESCHOOLING OLDER CHILDREN MEANS TO BE THE MANAGER OF THEIR EDUCATION MORE THAN THEIR TEACHER.

You will not always have to sit and feel the sandpaper alphabet with them. As they grow, there seems to be less teaching and more organising. I sometimes feel like I am my 10 year-old’s secretary: Filling the calendar, setting the alarms on my phone for each activity (with one hour to spare – in case I completely forgot there was something and I need to give people lunch before it), remind them of any change of plans, liaise with other parents to plan activities, arrange meetings, outings, invitations, check that homework for other teachers is done, keeping an eye out on the local homeschooling community to see what is going on, etc. My 10 year old’s column in our family calendar is by far the busiest! Which brings me to my next point:

6. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL BY YOURSELF.

Usually a child would have two parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, older cousins, family friends: each of these people has something he or she could bring to the education of your children, some talents and abilities your children might be able to learn from. Then there are other homeschooling parents that may want to set up clubs about something that they are good at and/or that interests their children. There are homeschooling co-ops, tutors, online courses… There are countless ways out there to get help in teaching our children, if one can be proactive and a bit creative.

7. IF YOU FEEL LIKE NO OTHER OPTION IS GOOD ENOUGH, YOU WILL MAKE IT WORK – BY ALLAH’S HELP.

Being Muslim is not the easiest thing in the world nowadays. Our Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told us that Islam started as something strange and, towards the end of times, it will again be seen as something strange; that to hold on to it will be like holding on to hot coals… yet we wouldn’t consider any other way, because – alhamdulillah -we know that it is the Truth and nothing compares to it (may Allah keep us firm upon it). The status of homeschooling is nowhere as absolute as that, of course, but the point here is: If we feel strongly enough about it, we will seek the means to achieve it – even if it is not the easiest or most convenient option. Rectifying our intentions and seeking the help of Allah are the first and most crucial of those means, and with the help of Allah nothing is impossible.

It is by the help of Allah that not only am I no longer scared of being with my children 24/7, but I am grateful not to have to give a school such a large chunk of their time – their childhood: a precious time that passes quickly, as does our life.

Ramadan Family Journal: 30 days of prompts

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

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Another Ramadan is fast approaching and I ask Allah to let us all live to see it through in His obedience and to let us benefit greatly from it.

The concept of a Ramadan family journal has been a rather shapeless idea of mine for a while. Ramadan is such a special time – despite the relative hardship that comes with it – that we cannot help having a special drawer of our memory full of “what we read that Ramadan” or “what we ate that Ramadan” and “… remember when you used to fast only until lunchtime?” All the memories related to our journey as slaves of Allah; the kids *and* the parents! All that Ramadan learning.

I mentioned the idea of a Ramadan scrapbook to some sisters, worrying it would be too open and slightly daunting; then my friend – and home educator extraordinaire (Allahumma baarik) – Umm Saphia suggested putting together a set of prompts that could help structure the activity. Some friends have helped with prompt suggestions, may Allah bless them.

Why is it called a “family” journal? because – I don’t know you – but this Ummi is totally taking part in sha’ Allah!

Below you will be able to download 30 journaling prompts for Ramadan, either as a list or in a chart (in case you want to make them in small cards, to be hidden in small envelopes, to surprise small people!). We will work on loose papers and then collect everything in a clear display book, which will accommodate (and in sha’ Allah keep in one place!) all the bits and bobs that my younger ones may want to include (dandelion heads from the garden anyone? I expect about 75 of them).

So… get your gel pens out! dig out your secret sticker stash! let the washi tape roll! And – in sha’ Allah – let us capture the benefits and the memories this Ramadan.

DOWNLOAD 30 Days of Prompts – Ramadan Family journal as a LIST

DOWNLOAD 30 Days of Prompts – Ramadan Family journal as a CHART

WORKBOOK COVER & INTRO – 30Days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

I perfect Umm Yusef’s style, the cover and introduction to the workbook come at the end!

Alhamdulillah.

Please find the links to the workbook pages for the four weeks (or so) of Ramadaan here: WEEK 1, WEEK 2, WEEK 3, WEEK 4.

Please, do NOT skip the introduction: the correct understanding of the Names and Attributes of Allah is vital to sound belief and so many in have gone astray because of deviant understandings of this topic…(may Allah protect us fro that). The following is a super simplified 1 page version of the guidelines on the correct way to understand the Names and Attributes of Allah according to the methodology of the salaf, alhamdulillah. I couldn’t make it any simpler. Alhamdulillah.

RAMADAN WORKBOOK – 30 Days with the Names of Allah – COVER AND INTRODUCTION

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I ask Allah to keep my intentions pure and for this little effort of mine to benefit my family and yours.

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PART 4 – Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

Please find below the last instalment of the Names of Allah workbook I will be doing this coming Ramadaan with my children, insha’Allah. (Here you will find my original post with week 1 ,week 2 and week 3) Alhamdulillah.

May Allah purify my intention and help my family and yours benefit from this little effort. Ameen.

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 22 – Ash-Shakoor

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 23 – As-Samee’

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 24 – Al-‘Azeez

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 25 – Al-Ghafoor

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 26 – Al-Ghanee

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 27 – Al-Fattaah

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 28 – Al-Qaadir

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 29 – Ar-Rafeeq

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 30 – Al-Malik

PART 2 – Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

Following my previous post on the Names of Allah Workbook I am putting together for my kids for the upcoming Ramadaan insha’Allah, here is the pages for week 2. Alhamdulillah.

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 08 – al-Baseer

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 09 – at-Tawwaab

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 10 – al-Haafidh

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 11 – al-Haseeb

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 12 – al-Haqq

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 13 – al-Mateen

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – day 14 – al-Hakeem

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Ramadaan: 30 days with the Names of Allah

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Assalamo ‘alaykum.

In an attempt not to let it creep up on us, I started thinking about Ramadaan. As usual, I plan for it to be our yearly break from formal homeschooling insha’Allah, but with some sort of Islamic activity for the boys.

Masha’Allah, I have a 9 year old who loves learning (but hates writing) and a 5 year old who cannot sit down for more than 3 minutes at a time but would be terribly offended if I didn’t plan something for him to do too…. so I thought: meaningful & simple.

I am working on a little workbook on the Names of Allah, something that both boys can do to their level, insha’Allah. They will be given a page each day (in the usual Ramadaan mailbox, they don’t want to let go of it!).

My sources are:

Each page focuses on one of the Names of Allah (I chose 30 of those I found easier to understand and explain) and will include:

  • The Name of Allah in Arabic with some Arabic writing practice
  • The short translation of the meaning of the Name
  • An absolutely minimal explanation of the Name.
  • An exercise to find the shaahid (proof) of it being a Name of Allah in the relative ayah of the Qur’an (which they will be required to copy out in English translation too).
  • A small space for reflection on how to implement belief in that Name of Allah in their life.
  • Title, banner, and little things that can be coloured if the child is in the mood to do colouring (but not so much that it looks incomplete if left in black & white!)

No frills, as usual. Because I can’t and I don’t have time to learn right now .

Here is what it will look like:

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Alhamdulillah, I am posting a week’s worth of pages to stop myself making further changes or additions and spending more time than needed in putting this together (insha’Allah!). Click on the links for the PDF files insha’Allah. Don’t forget me in your du’a.

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 01 -Allah

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 02 – al-Ahad

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 03 – al-Mujeeb

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 04 – al-Awwal

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 05 – al-Aakhir

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 06 – al-Baatin

Names of Allah RAMADAAN WORKBOOK – Day 07 – al-Baaree’