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!)

japan-food-1544889_960_720

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 taking 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 a 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.

Advertisements

Ramadan Family Journal: 30 days of prompts

Assalamo ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

fotor_152509911048331315534705.jpg

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

…and what is Ummi going to do this Ramadan?

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

FotorCreated

Us mothers, we tend to be very concerned with our children’s education and development into strong and sincere Muslims – and rightfully so. But do we give at least the same amount of thought and care to our own growth, strenght and sincerity?

This post is NOT about me. I am not going to sit there and expose my shortcomings. It is about people in a situation similar to mine: Muslim women that are at a stage in their life in which they are (intensively and extensively) caring for others.

Let’s take a hypothetical sister which we will call Umm ‘Abdullah. She is feeling somewhat apprehensive  at the thought of Ramadan approaching. That could be due to a low point in her Imaan, to the fact that she knows one should do so much more in Ramadan but the reality is that she doesn’t do much even outside of it.  Not much there to build on.  She might also feel overwhelmed by her committments and poorly equipped to make her Islamic education a priority in her life.

Wouldn’t it be great if we also had someone staying up late in the evening to prepare us a Ramadan calendar with daily treats? Maybe some Ramadan themed party games and a treasure hunt? or a month long “craft-athon”???? … maybe. But Allah has put us in charge of ourselves (among all the other people we care for). Each of us will not have to respond to Allah about little ‘Abdullah as much as she will have to respond about herself.

So, basically – and by Allah’s leave – it is down to us to take action to benefit ourselves.

Let’s ask for guidance: Allah is All Able to sort out the universe and everything in it so He can most certainly help us up on our feet and beyond. We must remember to ask.

Let’s take a look at ourselves: Right now. Not the way we used to be and do things before having kids, nor the way we envisage life when they will have all grown and moved out. Now. What do we need to learn about the most? In which area are we most deficient?

Let’s consider our individual skills and inclinations: What comes easy and what do we enjoy learning that can bring us closer to our Creator? What is the most efficient way for us to increase our knowledge of Him, ou love for His Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), our connection to His Qur’an…

Let’s take into account committments and time constraints: We must be realistic and flexible and don’t set goals that are to high and/or strictly connected to Ramadan. Leaving our husbands and kids to have to find their own dinner on a regular basis while we study all day is not a good idea. At the same time,  thinking that the children/babies/husband/work/mum/dad/chores/you name it make it impossible to take a little time to study something beneficial is simply not true.

I think a small and steady start is a beautiful thing. For example:

  • Choose a book to study or a set of lectures to listen to (plenty of very beneficial lessons on salafisounds, masha’Allah). Take notes. Draw mind-maps. Even better: pair up with a friend! you don’t have to meet up  necessarily (which could be difficult to keep up) but you can quiz each other, exchange notes and just share the benefits that each has found, as well as ideas to apply them to our life. Do what it takes for you to actually learn what is in the book/lecture.
  • Pick 4 ahadeeth (40 Nawawee is a great place to start) and memorise one each week of Ramadan, as well as studying the explanation. List benefits. List ways in which the hadeeth does (or should) impact on your life.
  • Attend Umm Mujaahid’s FREE daily class for sisters on WizIQ (to be notified about the course, create a Wiz IQ account and add Taalib Al-Ilm in your contacts); it is based on the book Fasting from Alif to Yaa, or just go through the book on your own or with your friends.
  • Dust off your Arabic books for the sake of Allah. Maybe conjugate a verb a day. Make flashcards. Use Memrise! It is such a wonderful tool for learning vocabulary and you get to use your competitive side to the advantage of learning (there is a score chart)! By the mercy of Allah, the Memrise course Arabic Through The Quran (based on the Alan Jones book) changed my relationship with the Qur’an because all of th Qur’anic vocabulary I learned. Alhamdulillah.
  • Try to speak Arabic. Maybe read a children’s book in Arabic everyday to your kids. Even the same one. Everyday.
  • Pick up your copy of Thalaathatul Usool or another core classical work. One of those things you never read enough, masha’Allah. Read the Arabic text and colour every word you understand. Try to memorise it. Learn the explanation. Teach it to your kids.

In fact, share any of the above things with your kids. Delivering what we have learned to others is one of the steps in consolidating that knowledge. Tell your husband/parents/siblings/friends what you have learned.

This is of course NOT meant to be an exhaustive list. Just a few ideas off the top of my head. Things that appeal to me personally.

Insha’Allah, let’s do something. Let’s take a step and may Allah grant us to please Him.

Of course, if anyone also wants to prepare a Ramadan calendar with a daily treat for me…. I like my chocolate dark. Barak Allahu feekum.

 

 

 

Summer : Thinking outside the bucket

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

I have learned what a “bucket list” is from Pinterest. I kept coming across them and, since me and the boys keep talking about what we should do in the Summer (only because the UK weather is likely to be less rainy then, we don’t really take Summer holidays…). I thought it would be fun to make our own. Especially today: baby H and myself have a cold and – alhamdulillah – last night was rough and I woke up feling a bit overwhelmed by my unwritten to-do list. For once I prioritised fun with the boys over the washing up. I did the most urgent jobs and left the dishes while we painted.

I let the boys pick the summery element we would use to write each item of the list. They picked ice lollies. I wanted pineapples (or t-shirt hanging on a string washing line… but I feared it would make the poster too heavy). I got to choose the technique: of course watercolour. Masha’Allah. Minimum skill, maximum splendour. I think most mammals with opposable thumbs could achieve a good result with watercolours!

You litterally just have to teach the child to use strokes rather than the back and forth motion we use to colour with pencils or felt tips. Masha’Allah. The beautiful layering of shades and transparency of watercolours creates a brilliant rendition of juicy ice lollies melting.

20160521_200800.jpg

I cut a template of the main shape from thin cardboard, we filled a few watercolour friendly sheets and coloured them without minding the lines (we were going to cut them anyway). Then we cut the sticks out of a brown envelope I had lying around. TA-DAH!

So here it is:

20160521_200410-1.jpg

(This lovely font is called “KG love you through it”)

I put it up in our usual poster display spot in the entrance after the boys’ bedtime. I can’t wait to see their reaction tomorrow morning insha’Allah.

Initially we kept it really simple and easily achievable, with entries such as these (even B had a go at writing on his own masha’Allah!):

Then Y started becoming much more ambitious…(the left photo below refers to archeological research, expressed is Y’s characteristically coincise style! … he has been digging up the garden in search of an ancient town…)

wp-1463859939792.jpeg

Until, when we were about to finish and I had popped upstairs to change H, Y shouted up to me to ask whether he could write this entry and I though “yeah sure, why not?!”

wp-1463859891557.jpeg

If our Summer is as fun as it was to make this poster, insha’Allah, it will be wonderful. We probably won’t need to go that far.

Clearer cupboards = Simpler life

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

Simplicity is not easy to achieve. In fact, it is a journey more than a destination. Alhamdulillah, it might have been the onset of Spring, or the fact I came across a couple of interesting articles about decluttering and minimalism that encouraged me to tackle my cupboards. To tackle the STUFF. AH! the STUFF!… you know what I mean when I say STUFF. I mean those piles, bunches and bundles of objects that once had a function and a place in our life but no longer do – or never had one to start with! And we just hang on to them because we think we *might* need them or we are just too busy (or lazy) to sort through them. And – alhamdulillah – the years pass, the family increases and so does the STUFF.

In Islam we know that every possible human action falls in one of 5 categories; it is either waajib (obligatory: you are rewarded if you do it and punished if you don’t), mustahabb (recommended and pleasing to Allah: you are rewarded if you do it and not punished if you don’t), mubaah (neutral – no punishment or reward), makrooh (displeasing to Allah: there is no specific punished associated to it, but it is sure blameworthy) or haraam (forbidden: you are punished if you do it and rewarded if you don’t). It is often the case that we can, with a little thought, raise the level of something we are about to do by adjusting our intentions.

How does this apply to the STUFF? Well, are we hoarding so much that we don’t actually know what we have and what we don’t? in that case it is easy to end up wasting money ( buying the same thing more than once, food going bad – hidden at the back of the cupboard, buying more and more furniture to store everything…). This is not just about waste, it is also about creating a clearer, cleaner space for the whole family to enjoy and to get better use out of, and – even more importantly – about correcting our mentality and rectifying our concept of need.

Do I really need 19 mugs when I am the only one in the house that drinks hot beverages??? But what if someday I need them? What if someday – in the middle of a cold, stormy night – a coach breaks down in front of my house? the coach taking the “Coffee Lovers Society” on a trip? and I would surely want to help them, you know, that’s good da’wah!….right?

Personally, I fear that having too much STUFF – particularly the STUFF that doesn’t get used regularly – is hurting me and my family, increasing even further our level of attachment to – you guessed it – STUFF. And here is how something seemingly inoffensive can become harmful.

We can choose to sit surrounded by ever expanding mountains of STUFF to store somewhere, dodge, dust, move from here to there, trip into, put some sore STUFF on…. OR we can:

  • Sell it – someone will use it and you will earn a little something to put to good use, insha’Allah.
  • Re-purpose it – the internet is absolutely full of creative ideas to avoid waste.
  • Gift it – some of your friends and family might have a use for – or really like – something that is sitting in your house gathering dust.
  • Donate it to your local charity shop or freecycle.
  • Recycle it.
  • Throw it away – if nothing else can be done – and live with less clutter.

It is a work in progress for me, but I very much enjoy the little victories against clutter -alhamdulillah! like freeing one of my deep kitchen drawers to put the things we used for homeschooling (that used to be dumped on the counter) and not having an avalanche of mismatched plastic food containers falling on my face every time I open a certain cupboard (as witnessed by many people who have been to my house).

And now some pictures I took at the beginning to keep myself motivated (I wish I had remembered to take the “before” picture before actually starting…)

 

wp-1461764781281.jpeg

wp-1461765086254.jpeg

^^These were the easy cupboards –  alhamdulillah

It helps to have a couple of (clearly labeled) empty boxes/bags handy, to sort the stuff into categories such as “give to …”, “put upstairs”, “shred”, “create a drawer for it” etc. Part of the challenge, and of the purpose of this exercise, is to organize whatever you are keeping handy with what you already have. Fight the urge to go out to buy boxes or pretty flowery drawer dividers!!!

You don’t want to go crazy with throwing away everything either (and then buy it again 2 months down the line because it turns out you actually needed it!). Be realistic. Have a box to put things you do use on some occasions, just not everyday, and have it somewhere less accessible. That’s where I put 15 of those 19 mugs, in case I have a lot of sisters over, or the “Coffee Lovers Society” drops by.

 

 

I love paper

Assalamu ‘alaykum.

I do. Brown parcel paper, washi paper, scrapbooking paper, origami paper, wrapping paper, pages of books and magazines… even the plastic wrapping of food packets (which technically isn’t even paper but plastic). Some papers are great to look at, some smell lovely, some are amazing to the touch and some tick all those boxes. It is such a wonderful, versatile material and there is so much all around us, just heading for the recycling bag.

I usually prefer not to wrap presents because I think it is a bit wasteful and also because when I was a child and it was time for the traditional equivalent to “Santa Claus”  that is fed to kids in the village I come from, my mother never wrapped our presents; instead, she would stay up at night beautifully arranging the gifts for myself, my siblings and cousins as though she was dressing a shop window; there were toys, clothes, books, stationary… all decorated with sweets. Looking back, with the knowledge of what the financial situation of my family was back then, I realise it was not mountains of expensive gifts, but that is certainly what it looked and felt like to us children. This is usually how I give presents on Eid ul-Fitr.

Eid ul-Adha usually ends up being a smaller affair (because it follows the day of Fitr quite closely) and my children love ripping through what they call “paper presents” (i.e. wrapped up gifts), so this year I decided to be creative with the pile of cooking magazines I had to throw away (which, incidentally are full of very colorful full page pictures of food).

A quick research on pinterest and here it is: Our recycled magazine paper Eid decorations and gift wrapping! (gift bows included!!!!!)

wpid-wp-1443174989059.jpeg

wpid-wp-1443174957617.jpeg

I had a lot of fun making this, it put me and the boys – who helped with the paper fans – in a very festive mood AND – when the festivities are over – the lot is going the get chucked in the recycling with a clear conscience. It was heading there anyway, at least it went out with a bang!

High expectations

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

A week ago we were blessed to travel to Birmingham to attend the “Hereafter” conference at Masjid As-Sunnah An-Nabawiyah. Alhamdulillah, it was very beneficial (may Allah bless the speakers, organisers and everybody that helped in it).Incidentally, it also delivered an important lesson to me about what I can and cannot do and about accepting the – few and moderate – restrictions that pregnancy is imposing on me. In other words, we couldn’t stay until the end but we are slowly catching up on the talks we missed (click the image to listen to the recordings:)

conference poster

The environment at the conference was lovely masha’Allah and it really felt like a blessed sitting, but one thing stuck with me. When I took a break for some fresh air (during one of the talks… erm… see what I said above about restrictions…) I noticed there were a lot of children of various age groups playing and generally hanging out outside. It felt strange to see the sisters trying their best to keep babies quiet and toddlers entertained during the lessons, while some older children and teenagers were outside, not benefitting. I am sad when during jumu’ah or ‘Eid prayers I see sisters coming in and immediately “settling” their children – from toddlers to teenagers (some of whom look not far if at all from the age of accountability) handing out iphones, tablets and other gadgetry. Children should be taught from their very first visit to a masjid or a lesson how they should behave in that environment. Of course, they might take a while to learn, but the effort from the parent needs to be there. Encouraging them to “kill time” does not teach them to sit quietly while the khateeb is talking, not to run around during salah and not to chat with their friends but to try to listen and benefit from what is being said. If we read the biographies of some of the major scholars, we will find that they were accustomed to sit in the gathering of knowledge of adults from an early age. And they sure weren’t handed an ipad to play some “educational” game on. Let’s try not to short change our children and to have the highest possible expectation that is appropriate to have for their age.

Of course I did not expect Bilal (who is 4) to listen to the talks at the conference, but I expected him to sit still, entertain himself quietly (with colouring, tracing, stickers, washi tapes and a little notebook, books, etc. which are not the same as giving him my phone to play on, because these are real, creative, tangible, beneficial activities), to whisper if he needs to tell me something and not to bother me (and others) with continuous requests for snacks/drinks/more entertainment/unreasonably frequent trips to the toilet (I’m sure anyone who has kids can tell when they don’t actually need it, right?), because Ummi needs to take notes.

My 7 year old sits with the men  (at shorter events, such as jumu’ah, the little one does too). I don’t only expect him to sit quietly and not to be a nuisance but I expect him also to listen and benefit as much as he can, to start learning how to be a member of that congregation. Now, I know he needs help with listening and following, so I gave him a “word search” to do, with a lot more spaces to tick every time he hears one of those words in the talks. Also a couple of lists to compile (the major signs of the Day of Judgement – which he missed – and some of the different names of the Day of Judgement, which he did very well masha’Allah).

wpid-20150530_132829-1.jpg

Alhamdulillah,  we are always very excited to take part in these events, both boys have been delivering lectures since *smile* they have been Abu Fulan and Abu Fulan, they talked about whose beard was longer (masha’Allah) and how their beards will look Insha’Allah.  Yusef reads out parts of the matn of “al-Waajibaat” (by shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul-Wahhaab) in Arabic and English, and he expects me to take notes (“Where is your notebook Ummi?… you can make a spider diagram if you want…”). Well, Ummi needs to take notes, doesn’t she?