Suddenly, homeschooling! (or “the playdough effect”)

Assalamo ‘aleykum.

Following my recent post about wanting to do more meaningful and structured play with my 4 year old, we have started with the most obvious, versatile, easiest and universally enjoyable activity of all: playdough.

I have to admit, first of all I had to re-enter the frame of mind in which the state of the kitchen floor (and the sweeping skills of the child involved) are not all that important; you know, that sometimes forgotten place in your mind where taking out and playing playdough at any time of day is not only perfectly acceptable but desirable.

Secondly, I decided to make our own playdough. There is a wealth of playdough recipes and activity ideas online (here is my playdough board on Pinterest Insha’Allah). I used shop bought playdough all these years, but over the last year or so, I noticed it seems to make me sneeze and to dry my hands out? Not nice. In general I am very much against using food for playing. I believe it is a blessing from Allah and it should be eaten, but, after my first experiment with actual edible flour, I plan to use up the “free from” flour that sat opened and unused in my cupboard for a couple years and, in general, minimize the use of food for non eating purposes, while at the same time avoiding what seems like a mild allergic reaction, Insha’Allah.

I used the first recipe that came up when I searched  (although I do know and like this site) and I was convinced by the title Best ever no-cook playdough recipe. It was much easier and required a lot less kneading than I thought and the result was excellent. The dough is very soft and smooth, lovely to work with, masha’Allah. The only let down for ours was the food colouring we chose: the little yellow tube does not give a vibrant colour but a more pastel shade (also, only some colours from this brand are suitable for vegetarians – because I don’t know what actually makes them unsuitable and I have no idea whether that makes them haram for us, I avoid).


On the day we made it, both boys played with it straight away, and from that day on, Bilal has been going back to it quite often. He plays in short creative bursts, then puts away. The best thing is that -Alhamdulillah, all success is from Allah – after he is done with the playdough, he feels sort of “inspired”. He usually goes, “What other job (i.e. activity) can I do now Ummi?” and he is off to the bookshelf to fetch an Arabic wooden puzzle, a geoboard or some stencils. I am now thinking that my plan for a little Montessori shelf for him might still have a chance to come into fruition, Insha’Allah.

Alhamdulillah, it is so lovely to see him busy and suddenly interested in homeschooling, when he is not riding his bike or pretending to mow the lawn that is!

Hit. Miss. Try again.

Assalamo ‘aleykum.

Having a child of formal education age, I sometimes find that I focus so much on him and getting work done, that the younger one doesn’t get the same amount of attention in this sense. Several fellow homeschoolers reassured me that it is quite normal for subsequent children not to be as academically advanced as the first was as a pre-schooler, simply because a mother would not be physically able to give him/her all of her attention and focus completely on his/her learning needs and no one else’s. However, I do feel the need to involve Bilal more Insha’Allah and do some sort of structured playing with him, rather than letting him spend the time I homeschool Yusef playing on his own. Since the good weather started and they started spending most of their playing time outside, I found Bilal’s behaviour deteriorated. It is probably partly a phase (I remember his brother going through the same at roughly the same age), but I also suspect that it might be due to him spending too much time playing on his own and basically being “left to his own devices”. Although we talk when he is outside and he is loosely supervised to make sure he doesn’t do anything too daring/silly, I feel he doesn’t spend enough time doing something with me, especially given that I cannot participate to outside playing as I do indoors.

With this in mind, I ask Allah’s help and decided to try harder to get Bilal engaged in some age appropriate homeschooling. Alhamdulillah, he already does Qur’an every morning (i.e. I recite about 2 pages of juz ‘Amma and he recites along. He can’t read and he doesn’t yet understand the whole “repeat after me” method). A few days ago I introduced writing in flour (it might have a technical name but I don’t know it). Despite my huge excitement  (I had been keeping the little wooden tray and the expired gluten free flour for months with this purpose in mind and I was so chuffed to find that that my dough scraper fitted perfectly as a surface smoother) the success was only partial.


“Bilal, did you like writing in flour…”


“… or not so much?”

“hmmm…. not so much”

It still ended up like this though, so it must have been fun… at least a little!


I think we might very well come back to it another time. But for now, time to bring in some serious playdough Insha’Allah.

More time, more patience

Today I was late with everything. I did my Qur’an late, I started homeschooling late, lunch was late. You see where I am going. Basically, I was hijacked by my 3 year old (soon to be 4 Insha’Allah). He did that cute face as he begged: “Ummi, come to play pizza oven a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit…”

He had built a pizza oven in the playroom. he was wearing a white cotton drawstring bag as a (really floppy) chef’s hat, held up by his ears. He was rushing around very competently and comfortably in his play kitchen. He made me pizza and a few other yummy treats. We chatted. It was all very cute, I promise you.

This is the pizza oven. (Note his chef hat on the blue chair while the pizza is cooking under the brown one)


This is my order of pizza with mushrooms and a side (felt) salad.


While, at his age, Yusef enjoyed making and organizing playdough shapes and letters, doing worksheets and making me write the number 0-10 over and over and over again, Bilal needs to do “real things”. Now, real things have got a completely different pace compared to academic things. Real things require time and patience, especially from one’s adult helper. Real things are imaginative, fun, creative and they teach you how to be a human being (a process that can’t be rushed).

Then why sometimes it is so hard to just let go of “getting things done” and go along with that? Why do we struggle so much to relinquish control, once in a while? Why can’t we accept that we are going to be late with everything and that – insha’Allah – it will be worth it?

Why can’t we find more time and have more patience?

Toys VS playing

My children have a lot of toys. Probably more than I would like to (mostly from family who they seldom see). Alhamdulillah they are nice toys, I have a say on what they are given and I am grateful for them, but I question the actual “play value” of a lot of what is considered a desirable toy today. I grew up with the TV, but in the 80s there were only a handful of channels, only some of which had children’s programmes at certain times. Now screen based entertainment for children is limitless in the choice they have as well as being available literally 24/7. I might sound controversial here, but it is my blog and I’ll say it: I hate that children have Ipads for entertainment. Not just Ipads, all those beeping games that are supposedly educational. To think of those devices as educational for children (especially young ones) gives me the shivers.

Once my mother saw in a shop some remote controlled cars she wanted to buy for the boys and she phoned me to ask what I thought of it. She started with “I know you are against this kind of things…” which made me laugh. I am not against electricity nor do I refuse any toy that isn’t made of wood… But I do love when my kids make a mess in the garden, make dens, go hunting for sticks or digging for rocks… which then become birds eggs in a nest, trilobite fossils and all sorts of creatures. I love it because this is playing and I know that Insha’Allah this is doing them good.