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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Learning Any Time, Anywhere - by Hijab Sparkle.

These articles are part of a collection
 about Muslim Home-schooling!  
For more, please go to my 

Assalamu Alaikum,

You don't have to be in a classroom to learn, and you don't have to have a set time to learn, either.  Classes are great if you want to learn something specific, but looking for learning opportunities everywhere and being open and flexible, helps you and your children catch knowledge from your immediate environment.  This way,  you don't even realise that you are 'in class'!  When you first begin homeschooling, you often wonder how your children will learn everything they 'need to know', and there is a lot of pressure to copy a mainstream, mini version school in your living room, with you as the 'teacher'.  However, if you take the opportunity to use everyday opportunities to learn, the world becomes a wide and fascinating place.  Don't worry if the children don't spend a lot of time at the lovely table you set for them with all the activity books and perfectly organised stationary, it doesn't matter.  Just be on the look out for interesting things in your everyday life, instead of on an activity worksheet (although those are handy sometimes too).

My daughter loves snails and we have
had some interesting conversations
about how Allah SWT designed them.
She has moved on to cicadas now, after
finding their discarded cases all over the trees
in the backyard.
My day might be going along the same as any other, I can be feeling stressed or bored with everyday things like housework, and it all seems a little out of control. Then all of a sudden someone will ask a question, show me a photo in a book, or find an interesting insect in the back yard, and Alhamdulilah, we are full throttle into a conversation about many different subjects...talking, scanning books from our home collection, reserving relevant books from the local library, writing down questions for any 'experts' we might know, searching for information on the internet, etc.  It can be a bit confronting when you are bombarded with questions about everything at strange moments, and of course nobody is an expert about every subject, but you can learn to direct questions in different ways.  For example, you can say 'That's a great question, write that down in your 'Ideas Book' and we will find out about it (or you can write it down yourself in a special book for younger children...ask them to dictate the question while you write it for them).  Your children might often assume that you know everything, but bit by bit they will find out that learning is their responsibility in the end, and all you need to do is introduce the tools to do it and teach them how to use those tools.

Class Room

Another advantage to the spontaneous everyday 'lesson' is that children are learning when their motivation and enthusiasm are at its highest.  It is they who have shown the interest first, it hasn't been artificially forced on them.  When they are really interested in something, their faces are bright, their eyes wide open, and their eyebrows nearly touch the ceiling.  You can almost imagine their bran cells glowing and growing with excitement.  On the other hand, my children can smell a 'lesson' a mile away, especially if I begin with the words 'I want you to learn this'...big mistake!  Straight away their body language changes, they hunch over, their eyes look sleepy, and they will politely listen but I can tell their enthusiasm has been switched off.  Then it feels like you are trying to get blood out of a stone, and it is no fun for anybody.  learning should always be fun, if you can possibly help it.


The reason for this blog post is the way today unfolded.  Something which I thought would be very annoying and disruptive actually turned out to be an advantageous learning opportunity.  On the street outside our house, there have been some roadworks happening for the past few days.  The sort where they scrape all the surface off the road and then dig down about 40cm, then refill it all and roll it all out with huge machines.  The humungous rollers and graders had begun to shake our house, and I was worried that bits of ceiling would start to fall on our heads.  Every time the roller went past, my heart would jump up into my mouth and I was on the verge of shouting 'Earthquake', really I'm not exaggerating, it was pretty loud.  It felt like there was some sort of earthquake fault line which ran through our house and connected across the street, and every time the roller went over it, our house shook as well!!

So you may be wondering where the learning part came in.  Well, as could be expected, the kids thought this was all very interesting, and I couldn't tear them away from the window.  They were fascinated by all the goings on, it was much better than the telly!  My 7 year old daughter suddenly asked 'Mama, I need some white paper' (she meant printer paper...the sort of paper they think is the best to draw has to be perfectly white or it is not good enough).  When I asked her what for, she replied that it was to 'trace the big truck outside'.  A while ago I had shown her how to trace pictures, by putting her paper on the window and copying something.  She thought (logically enough I guess) that she could do the same thing and trace the big truck if she put her nice white paper on the window...fair enough!  I explained why this might not work, and my husband said 'Go and sit on the step outside and draw it!  You can see it better that way!'.  She thought that was a great idea and grabbed her sketch book and jumped out the door.  Of course the other children (boys aged almost 6 and 3) followed, took out their little kiddy chairs and something to lean on, and within seconds we had an impromptu sketching session out on the front door step.  It really was very interesting to watch all the work going on, the dump truck which moved along the road as the trailer tilted up and let the gravel slide out in all the right places, the grader scraping the gravel and levelling it out, then the roller which
My 7 yr old daughter sketched this drawing of the
quarry we can see from our house. Alhamdulilah,
the quarry is actually not as close as this one looks, though!
sped along, spraying the water first, its many wheels compacting the gravel, getting it ready for the tar-seal (that will be another interesting lesson, I'm sure!)

As the work progressed, and the children drew the trucks, they chatted about what they saw and asked me questions about various things.  We talked about where the gravel might have come from and how was made, we looked over to the quarry which we can see from our house, and saw the diggers filling trucks with dirt, and the place where they crush all the rock into gravel for the roads and other uses.  This was better than Bob the Builder, any day!

Aztec Calendar Stone Detail
The Aztec Calendar. A stone carving we saw
at the exhibition, and which the children recognised
 in all the books we read about the subject.
The really nice thing about this sort of real-life, everyday learning, is that when my children are looking at library books and find one about trucks, for example, they can connect that with what they saw today on our street.  Because it all makes more sense to them they will be more interested in the book and, insha Allah, take the time to read the information about the illustrations.  I noticed that this happened when we went to a museum exhibition (the Aztecs...I will post about that another day, it was very interesting).  I obtained a load of books about the Aztecs before we went, hoping the children would devour them, but they didn't seem that interested.  We talked a little about it, and they would sit next to me and ask questions when I began to read one of the books, but they didn't seem that keen.  Then when we went to the exhibition, they were so surprised that the photos in the books they had seen were of real life statues and objects that were right in front of their eyes, they were so excited!  When we got home after the exhibition I couldn't pull them away from the books after that.  They wanted to stay up late reading, and take the books to bed with them. My 6 year old son has been getting up early before anyone else, so he can sit quietly in peace and read his favourite book about the Aztecs from cover to cover. He is reading every word, too, not just flicking through to the photos. I know I will have a fight on my hands when I have to take those books back to the library, but reading is the sort of thing I want them to care about, so I'm happy, Alhamdulilah!

So tomorrow when the road workers arrive and the trucks begin shaking the house, I can forget about the ceiling falling on my head, and be thankful that I have a ready made 'lesson' right outside my front door!

Happy Homeschooling!

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