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.

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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:

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(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…)

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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?!”

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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.

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Learning to learn

Assalamo ‘alaykum.

It is a fact that, when children hit a certain age, they start being full of questions. Ma sha’Allah. This might range from a regular amount of curiosity about the world around them to levels that require their parents to take some sort of medication (only joking!).  In fact, I spent the first couple of years of Y’s life wishing for that phase to kick in, as he was my first child, he learned to speak very late and was not very communicative. Alhamdulillah, I was not disappointed. He is now 8 and has been a continuous source of questions for years. Allahumma baarik. I love that. But I hate that the pace of our daily life often means that not all questions can be given the attention they deserve. Even the ones that appear to be quite pointless are a sign of a healthy sense of wonder about Allah’s creation, as well as an valuable exercise to a young mind in terms of research and self-learning. I remembered coming across a post about a “wonder wall” from Nurturestore and decided we must have a wonder wall of our own, at least to literally pin down all those sparkles of interest until we have the time to sit and find an answer. Sometimes I write Y’s questions down myself and stick them there, because he has already run off to play… but I think I would also like to know why hot dogs are called that (which would also help to convince B that they are not made of dog’s meat!)

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This is what it looks like at the moment. Some questions have been already taken down, the post-it was glued and the answer written down on a simple answer sheet. All answer sheets are kept in a binder and ordered alphabetically according to the main word of the search. Y had a big smile on his face when I compared this to a “home made encyclopaedia”, and I might have been aiming slightly high… for sure it is the world’s slowest encyclopaedia to put together, but very good fun. And, for starters, the hot-dog issue is sorted, alhamdulillah.

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New growth

Assalamo ‘alaykum. YES! that time of the year is upon us… what time? clues in the picture below:

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It is almost Spring! Alhamdulillah!

A few days ago (when we had a break from the glorious British gloom) I collected a few essentials in this square plastic bowl – that around here is affectionately referred to as “the vomit box” (it does come in handy when the boys get a virus) – and headed with two very excited children to the garden. I got my seeds, lolly sticks and a pen to lable the pots, the lovely gardening gloves my husband got me last year and I never used because my khimar gets in my way and I didn’t want to get dirty (here, to all those who imagine me being a great garneder; or a gardener of any kind) and the all important baby monitor (H was napping).

We started easy by putting in the ground some lovely cyclamins my mother had given me. Then we planted some basil seeds, courgettes, chilles, aubergines and lots of tomatoes. We will need to soak the peas and fava beans to plant later and see what else we can add, in sha’Allah.

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(I feel I should clarify here that the manly hands above are not mine! AND the gloves show that I did get dirty this time, alhamdulillah)

This coming Spring as a time of new growth in many ways. After H was born in the Autumn, I sort of hybernated in that strange, busy, sleepless world of being a “3rd time new mom”. And my family with me. Each of us had to deal with the personal challanges that the great change brought into his or her life. Alhamdulillah, seeing the sun outside, the buds on the trees, the boys riding their bikes at reckless speed (…oh, wait, this is not season specific!) anyway, I feel like the whole family is rubbing their eyes, having a good stretch and starting to had towards normality again. Not to mention our expert in matters of growing:  my 4 – no, wait – nearly 5 months old, who is turning from a cuddly blob into a beautiful, playful and happy girl, Allahumma baarik.

Incidentally, we have been picking up a science book with Y and I liked the “mind map” he came up with for the first topic, so I decided we should elaborate on it and turn it into a poster. The topic was simple enought for B to participate too. Alhamdulillah.

New posters up! the first change of homeschooling decor since the baby: alhamdulillah, it feels good to be back.

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The basics of Hajj poster/map

Assalamu ‘alaykum.

Alhamdulillah, we are no longer in the complete darkness about the rites of Hajj! it’s not just multitudes of people dressed in white cloth and looking really busy…

I wasn’t feeling very creative up to a few days ago so I started a Hajj and Dhul Hijjah Pinterest board, where I collected some relevant talks as well as some activities I that I might find inspiring. I sketched down a list of the main rites that occur on the different days of Hajj (the format was inspired by this Hajj day by day activity) and a basic map of the main Hajj locations with numbered arrows to show the sequence of events. We reproduced this on a poster, adding the definitions of some Hajj related Arabic terms.

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It was a lot of fun to make it and we learned a lot. I am so happy to have come to grips with the basics of Hajj, alhamdulillah. We put the poster near the kitchen table, so these days we’ll be able to talk about it while sitting all together, insha’Allah. It seems to have worked well for Yusef too: he feels well versed about what goes on on Hajj (he was a bit concerned that they don’t have ihraam clothes at the moment*smile* all in due time insha’Allah).

Al-Khidr (‘alayhi as-salaam)

Assalamo aleykum. Little health and family issues in the last few weeks meant I had less time and energy to post, but I still have love for this little project. Alhamdulillah.

So here is the most recent feature of our wall (and bedtime stories repertoire): our poster about al-Khidr, Alhamdulillah.

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As well as Stories of the Prophets we also used Ibn Katheer’s tafseer of surah al-Kahf. Here are some bullet points.

  • His name comes from the colour green (أَخْضَر), because he used to sit on a mat (or a patch of dried vegetation) that turned green.
  • The Qur’an tells us about him in surah al-Kahf, when Musa (‘alayhi as-salaam) sets out on a journey with his servant (Yushaa bin Noon) to find him.
  • Musa is looking for al-Khidr to learn from him.
  • When they find him, Musa asks if he could follow him to learn his wisdom, but al-Khidr tells him, “You will not be able to be patient with me.”
  • Musa promises he will do his best and sets off with him.
  • They go on board of a ship and the people of that ship, recognizing al-Khidr, let them on free of charge. However, during the journey, al-Khidr begins making a hole in the ship. Musa was shocked by this behaviour and asks him why would he do such thing to people that had been nice to them.
  • Al-Khidr reminds Musa, “Didn’t I tell you that you were not going to be able to be patient with me [and wait to ask questions until I myself explain things to you]?” Musa apologises and they continue the journey.
  • They come across a boy playing with other children, and al-Khidr kills him. Again, Musa is upset by this behaviour and expresses his concern to al-Khidr.
  • Again, al-Khidr reminds Musa, “Didn’t I tell you that you were not going to be able to be patient with me [and wait to ask questions until I myself explain things to you]?” Musa apologises and says to al-Khidr, “If I do this again, then you can send me away.”
  • They arrive in a village, but its inhabitant are not hospitable to them and they don’t want to treat them as guests. Yet, al-Khidr finds a wall that is about to collapse and fixes it, so that it stands straight again. Musa comments: “If you wanted, you could have asked to paid for this job.” He probably thought al-Khidr was being so nice to the same people who refused them hospitality.
  • Al-Khidr then said: “This is when me and you go our separate ways.”
  • But before Musa has to leave him, al-Khidr explains to him the reason why he did those things that Musa had found so strange.
  • He had damaged the ship because it belonged to poor people and he knew a bad king was stealing all boats from people. Al-Khidr hoped to make it look broken so the king would leave it.
  • As for the boy, al-Khidr knew for sure that he was going to grow up to become a disbeliever, and his parents – because of their love for him – would follow him in disbelief. Allah wanted to save them from it  and give them a better child.
  • When al-Khidr decided to mend the wall in the village where the people didn’t want to welcome them as guests,  he did so because he knew that a good man had hidden a treasure for his children under it before he died; his children were still young and Allah wanted to wait until the two orphans  had become adults for the treasure to be revealed.
  • Al-Khidr explained that it was not his idea to do all those things but it was something he was commanded by Allah.
  • One of the main things we learn from this story is that when Allah makes something happen, there is always a very good reason behind it and it is always for the best, even if it seems something bad at first.

Prophet Ishaq (‘alayhi as-salaam)

Here is Yusef’s poster about Ishaq (‘alayhi as-salaam). It is mostly about his miraculous conception and the good news of him to his parents from the chapter about Ibrahim, because I found much of the information in the chapter on Ishaq was in fact about Ya’qoob (peace be upon both) and largely quoted from the Bible. Because Yusef is probably too young to understand if and how we can use these sources, we read those parts but I preferred to leave them out from the poster.

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Dhul-Kifl (‘alayhi as-salaam)

Yusef read about Dhul-Kifl and about the scholarly debate on whether he was a prophet or just a pious man (taken from Ibn Katheer’s Stories of the Prophets).

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  • His name means “One who took the responsibility and fulfilled it”.
  • The preponderant opinion of the scholars is that he was a prophet. This is proven by the fact that Allah mentions him with the prophets (surah al-Anbiyaa’ 21:55-56 and Saad 38: 45-48)
  • The evidence that he was a pious man (and not a prophet) is a report from Mujaahid. He told the story of how, when he became old, Elisha gathered all the people to look for someone who could judge between them after him. The man he was looking for had to fulfil 3 conditions: he had to fast all day, pray all night and never get angry. he asked twice and twice Dhul-Kifl replied he fulfilled those conditions, so he was appointed. At the time of his afternoon nap, he was visited by Shaytaan in the form of an old man. He kept Dhul-Kifl busy with a made up story of how his people had wronged him and asking for his help, so Dhul-Kifl couldn’t get any sleep. The same happened the second day. By the 3rd day, Dhul-Kifl was exhausted. He put a guard at his door, instructing him not to let anyone in because he really needed some sleep. When the old man arrived, the guard told him Dhul-Kifl could not be disturbed. But he managed to sneak I through a wall. He knocked from the inside and woke Dhul-Kifl up. He saw that the old man had enter without opening the door, so he asked him “Are you the enemy of Allah?” he replied: “Yes, and I did all this just to try to make you angry!” (But he didn’t manage.)