Category Archives: Early Skills

Name, Place, Animal, Thing

Yes, that old, forgotten game is the latest craze in our house. I wonder why and when this wonderful learning game was taken over by the flashy, electronic gadgets and games – even I had forgotten and abandoned it. But then our almost 5 year old discovered it and for days at length, she would play nothing else but “Name, Place, Animal, Thing”. She played it orally and in writing; at home and in the car; early morning and late night; at breakfast table and at dinner; with mom, dad, sisters and I suspect on her own too. She added the category “Food” to the game and it did become more exciting; for food you could mention any food (drink, raw or cooked) and you could use any language (Urdu, English or Arabic). At first she needed some help and teamed up with one of us, but even when she played singly, the opponents would help her out ‘secretly’ because we knew the immense value of the game and the sheer pleasure it was for her. Hanaa had to be the winner most of the time, as is the rule in our household for the youngest one – it’s a part of our confidence building program! She didn’t mind losing once she knew that she was playing fairly.

What great surprises came along – I can’t list them all here:

Phonics of course, vocabulary building for sure but more amazingly geography, map study, independent thinking, time management, mathΒ and spelling …. all with leisurely learning. She already had an interest in maps and flags due to her Magnetic Flags book, but now she started doing a Flags Sticker book which she LOVED. Grouped by continents, it has images for each country’s flag, with matching stickers in the middle and an index of all countries at the end. Hanaa did this book for hours and used the new country names for her game. Wanting to be unique, she started mentioning countries like Andorra, Djibouti (for a place with D, not J!), Gabon, Kiribati, Luxemburg, Palau, Togo and Kyrgystan!! Honestly we all were learning a lot with her πŸ˜€ She realised the difference between countries and cities and the Atlas was her next stop in the ‘place’ hunt!

For animals, we used a site to come up with difficult letters (like U, V, X) and she quickly memorised those she needed. She frequently mentioned animals that she knew from her study of different books or that which her sisters mentioned / used.

For names she always preferred names of the Prophets, then names of the Sahabah and then Muslim names. She took great pride in naming the Prophets, whose stories are her favourite. She also usually preferred a Muslim country.

She learned counting in tens and fives quickly for scoring up her attempts.

In the beginning her spellings were funny but as a rule, no unsolicited correction was offered. Within a couple pf weeks she improved immensely on spelling herself, and Β started writing some completely correct spellings.Β 

To top it all, she started writing not one but many items with an alphabet in order to win the game by being unique.

To be honest, it started getting on my nerves and thankfully for the time being she seems to be shifting towards her other craze – biking!

How to play the game: (in case someone doesn’t know!) One player says “start” and the other starts reading the alphabet silently. When commanded to “stop”, he has to tell the letter he has reached. All players have to write a name, a place, an animal and a thing beginning with the chosen letter. The one who finishes the task first can start counting to 10, after which everyone has to stop writing. The players match their stuff, those with unique answers get 10 points fro each entry, any answer that is not unique among the players gets 5 points, and of course 0 if you don’t have any answer. Each attempt’s score is summed up and grand total is done in the end to find out the winner.

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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Early Skills, Homeschooling


Need vs Want

We try (only TRY) to run our lives around needs instead of wants. This is a trait my mother tried to instill in us and some of my friends complain that I have plagued their lives with the same transmission of thought – they can’t have a ‘good’ time at the malls because of the brain-washing they underwent while shopping with me πŸ˜‰ The funny thing is that once your brain is programmed to shop only for needs, you can’t get away without a guilty feeling if you try to overlook the phenomenon. It’s a life sentence.

I have been trying to explain the same concept to my youngest daughter, almost 5 year old. The bone of contention is again ‘Doodoo’ because she wants it too many times in a day. The other day, we were having our evening Quran session – me and the eldest were discussing Quran and the youngest was busy with her creative pursuit – making a book – around us.

She goes: “Can anyone give me an eraser?”

I call out to her middle sister: “Hanaa wants an eraser, please hand one over to her.”

She corrects me instantly: “Needs not wants!”


The First ‘No’

I grew up in an environment where manners were given a big emphasis. I saw my Nani (grandmother) inculcating basic manners in children even before they could speak. The first thing that she taught any child was “Don’t look at ‘parai cheez'” (Eyes off others’ stuff). She would ask the child “parai cheez?” and teach the child to move her head in a NO. Now when I look at it deeply, it is such a valuable lesson for life. This single thing can teach you contentment, controlling your greed, controlling your ‘desires’, not being jealous of others, being thankful for what you have – big lessons learnt from the first, simple NO. It is as if she taught us to say NO to the world and its temptations as soon as we opened eyes! And why she began with food? … because IT IS the FIRST temptation for a child!
May Allah have mercy on her and grant her Jannatul Firdaus. May Allah increase her Hasanat for every word of Quran that I read, as she was the one who taught me to read Quran. May Allah give her the share from all of the good that I am able to do and increase her levels in Jannah, as promised for the dua by the children made for their parents, Ameen.

SubhanAllah, simple ways of the old times and what great benefits they had! It’s probably only now that I am analysing the ‘hidden agenda’ of that first teaching, but I did teach my kids the same things from the start. It really puts me off if a kid behaves in a greedy way towards anything (food or toys etc), because it shows that he/she has not been taught the basic manner of controlling his/her self. Or may be the mom is not making an effort to provide her children with what they like, so that they can behave in a contented way when they see something of their liking.

So, following in my grandma’s footsteps, the FIRST thing I would list in good manners (strange as it may sound) is teaching the child how to behave towards food, specially if they are at someone’s else place. Some people may think it is Riya, but it is not. Children have to be taught how to behave well in other people’s house or in other’s presence because they are affecting other people who may not be ready to tolerate rudeness, greed etc. And it is incumbent upon us as Muslims to ensure that other people are not hurt because of our behavior, both emotionally and physically. In your own family / house things may be more open and there are stronger ties due to which family members will have more tolerance for each other. They may respond more openly, while others may have to reserve their responses due to many factors. Secondly, when in a group, the children must also learn how to share with others and sacrifice for others, so they must be taught to control their desires even more when people are around. So we must teach our children not to mess up anything in people’s houses, not to be loud or rude and not to attack on food.

I know there is this ‘modern’ concept of parenting which advises you to ‘let children do’ whatever they want to and just be good role-models, but it really offends me. I think just being a role-model is not enough. You should correct the child in different ways, mostly politely yes, but strictly also at times so that they understand the importance of manners. Timely response to children’s mistakes is extremely important in correcting their behavior. I’m not saying that I expect 3-4 year-olds showing exemplary manners, it is their training period – but if a 7+ child has no idea about the basic manners then surely the mother has made a big mistake in Tarbiyah.

Things may not turn out perfect but I try to ensure that my kids:

  • Don’t speak loudly or rudely.
  • Don’t mess up with anything / dirty or break anything / leave things un-arranged etc
  • Control the amount of food they eat and HOW they eat it.
  • Don’t interrupt an elder while speaking.
  • Give preference to elder people and other kids in seating / eating etc
  • Don’t look at anyone’s things without permission.
  • Don’t wander about in anyone’s house, only go to rooms where the host takes them.


Hideouts – don’t miss them

As most homeschoolers don’t depend upon TV and the likes for entertaining their kids, the homeschool households are full of innovative ways of recreation! Our home is not any exception. The girls have invented so many games of their own over the years, that I won’t be able to list them all even if I try (poor memory and bad documentation go hand in hand with homeschooling!).

One such category of recreation and play for us is hideouts. They have been built in all shapes and sizes: with chairs, with sofas, with big sheets, under the staircase, in the portable tent, under the dining table, right in the middle of guest room, in all bedrooms, in the jeep, and even out in the garden!

I’ve found hideouts to be of great learning value. The girls learn organisation, resource planning and management, while using their creativity as freely as they wish. It’s like they give a form to their ideas, using the available materials. Mama and Baba have always been invited and we’ve tried our best to get involved with the games, mostly learning a lot in the process ourselves!

So don’t miss out on hideouts if you can spare your children some free time, and if you don’t mind some creative mess or things missing from their places.

Here are some snapshots, though most hideouts were not documented.

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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Early Skills


Science in the kitchen…

Little Sister has been instructed into weight concepts with all kinds of crazy experiments going all over the place. Kitchen scale is rarely found in the kitchen anymore, but here is one time when they’ve been using it to experiment with weight and ‘balance’ techniques. I found it to be quite artistic too!

A depiction of art, balance, geometry and science!

A depiction of art, balance, geometry and science!

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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Early Skills, Homeschooling


DooDoo and chapter books

“DooDoooo…!” This is a common call resonating in our household and the source is our ‘baby’ who is 4 and a half – drinking milk still from bottle AND reading chapter books! Alhamdulillah, Long live homeschooling πŸ™‚

Milk or ‘DooDoo’ as she calls it, is one of Hanaa’s passions in life πŸ™‚ It serves mostly as a soother and the bottle is more of relaxing therapy then nourishment for her. For sometime now, we have been passively trying to make her less dependent on this ritual… but here she goes after placing the order one day….

“You know I read in one of my Rasulullah sallalahu alayhi wassalam’s book that Rasulullah sallalahu alayhi wassalam LOVED milk”. Full Stop. On the issue of bottle she announced : “I’ll leave it when I’m FIVE” … so no more arguing if you know Hanaa!

The bottle has not deterred her reading frenzy in any way though. She is reading books totally on her own… and the latest under her review is a chapter book called ‘Sheltie rides to win”. I had some doubts so I asked her to read aloud a page; she stopped only on one word – ‘sarcastically’, the rest was a breeze for her πŸ™‚

Some of Hanaa’s favorite reads these days are:

My Quran Friends

Stairs Series books

Amira’s totally chocolate world

The perfect gift

Eid Songs

Allah gave me two hands… series

Young Muslim Rhymes

Magic School Bus Beginner books

Her sisters emails

My mobile text messages….


Hanaa’s vegetable garden

Thanks to the big sisters, Hanaa covered some science through a lovely book and farmed a vegetable garden of her own (well only on a bulletin board, though), after putting together rhythmic minibooks for each vegatable / fruit that she learned about. Reading aloud those minibooks was really fun!

The Book
(Many thanks to our Lightbulb pals!)


The Garden

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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Early Skills, Homeschooling