Homeschooling Pre Schoolers – Beginners Guide


Bismillah

This was a reply to a sister who asked about  guide to books for homeschooling her 4 year old daughter. I hope many will find this useful InshaAllah

First of all I want you to read this post about schooling very young children which I wrote. I highly recommend that you read all the articles that I have mentioned in this post. Homeschooling the not so still
First test your daughter to see if her proprioceptive sytem is developed or not based on articles in the link above..if it is, her brain is developed for complex activities like reading,writing,spelling n maths, then you start these, using the montessori method. If its not, then let her play n do lots of outdoor activities and read aloud to her.
I would suggest that you buy lots of reading material and read aloud to her:
Islamic Material:
  • The Emaan Reading series of Bilal Philips. Buy ALL the levels. Pre K to Level 6. Would you believe that my 3.9 year old daughter enjoys the read aloud of Level 5 books and insists on me reading Level 6! They are available from AFAQ.  I got the whole series for around 7000  Rs. http://www.afaq.edu.pk/home.php
  • Buy Islamic story books from Goodword and Darussalam.
  • Visit Dawah books in Khadda Market,Karachi  and buy other Islamic story books by international publishers.
  • I found Allah the creator and Hilmy the Hippo series beautifully narrated with an interesting story line that keeps the childrens interest. Some books by them are available at dawah Books.
  • You can also follow this Islamic Curriculum designed by a Muslim homeschooling mom.
  • You can buy really great products from Smart Ark and Learning Roots and Mini Mumin However, they are not available anywhere in Pakistan unfortunatley ( some titles may be available at Dawah books). So you will have to order online.
  • English:
  • You can use Jolly Phonics to teach Phonics grammar etc. You can buy their products from the ELC/Mothercare shop at ZamZama.
  • Buy Moveable Alphabets, Magnetic Alphabets, White board, black board & magnetic board
  •  Buy lots of used story books from Sunday Bazaar and read aloud.
  • Use Montessori methods for teaching writing, such as sand papers, writing on suji/rice etc. If she is not interested in reading or writing, please do not force her,test her brain development as mentioned earlier.
  • There are lots of online reading programs like Reading Eggs. I tried the trial version but realized my daughter was then always wanting to hog the laptop! So I would not recommend online programs because they can be addictive and not very healthy for kids to be in front of the computer screen for so long. But its upto you.
Arabic:
  • Get Arabic books from Goodword and Darussalam from the Darussalam and Al Balagh book shop in Karachi.
  • Download Arabic Nasheeds for kids so they get used to hearing Arabic and learn the accent/pronunciation. Look for Salma nasheeds,nasheeds by mishary rashid etc.
  • Visit http://kids.islamweb.net/ and make her watch the stories of Prophets and other things on this Arabic only website.
  • visit http://amuslimchildisborn.blogspot.com/ for Arabic arts and crafts and a lot more homeschooling ideas.

Homeschooling the ‘not so still’


Bismillah

Kids watching a lady bird they found in the balcony

Young kids 2 -6 year olds are very restless, have very low attention spans and get very very easily distracted. I am talking about majority of the kids this age, there are,however always a few exceptions. So  HOW to homeschool such kids.

This was one the major issue which I faced and was the only factor stopping me from taking the homeschooling plunge.

At home, my daughter  hardly stays still, is very easily distracted, talks ALOT,would speak to complete strangers who came into the house.. electrician.. plumber, would confidently speak and ask questions from complete strangers in shops, clinics and every where she went…she would throws things, tears up books at times,  she couldn’t stand any poster/ paper etc put up on walls, fridge magnets never stayed on the fridge, toys and books never on the shelf..in one word.. everything would be on the floor.( Alhamdulilah some of it has changed now)

But when she went to school for four months… Viola!she turned into a  totally miss goody two shoes, listening,obeying and following instructions, she was reserved, calm and quiet and hardly spoke..she was considered under confident.

So why this completely opposite personality in school and at home? I was perplexed. John Holts book How Children Fail and How Children learn made me realize the fear factor of schools, which I realized, must be greatly amplified for kids soo young. As Saffiyah…a 12 year old homeschooler who recently began her homeschool points out

“I found myself more afraid of teachers than my mother, because my mother’s just so familiar while they’re almost like strangers telling you what to do.”

So when a 12 year old could be more afraid of her teacher ..how much fear would be in the hearts of a young little 2.5 year old! Just imagine..sending them to school would be cruel!

When I was unable to make my daughter sit still, grab her attention and make her do her school workbook , coloring inside the shape, remembering numbers etc I was upset and asked other mothers and did a lot of research on the net and this is what I have realized.

Young kids don’t need a rigid routine nor a fixed set curriculum, they need not be  taught how to add, read or write  and this article hits the nail on the head! More over, our deen ..which provides us instruction in every area of life,guides us regarding teaching the Salah to children, that it should be started at the age of 7 . There is also a saying attributed to Ali (r) [I couldn’t find a reference] that :

Play with your child the first 7 years, Discipline Your Child the next 7 years and then Befriend your child the following 7 years.

So according to our deen, the first seven years are for play and fun without a rigid routine/curriculum or forced teaching of complex things. However, most schools these days take in children at the age of 2.5 and subject them to forced routine of waking up early,travelling to school, being punctual, even when they are unwell (flu, fever, cold) which is likeley to be most of the time! then by the age of four they are expected to read, do math or other complex stuff.

Interestingly in this article titled ‘Much to Early’, the author argues that very young children need  not be tutored to understand  complex things, because children are only able to do ‘concrete operations’ such as multiplication, addition subtraction at the age of six or seven and reading is a much more complex process than arithmetic, so forcing them to recall alphabets which are merely abstract symbols is like placing a tough burden on them. Surprisingly in these articles a behavioural and developmental Pediatrician explains that the brain only gets ready for reading between the age of 4-7 years! she explains the physiological reasons why we should not be teaching pre-school children to write, read, and spell at such an early age as it will create learning problems in the future.

Teaching Our Children to Read, Write and Spell – Part I :The Proprioceptive System,

Teaching Our Children to Read,Write and Spell – Part II

Lilipoh: Teaching Our Children

Teaching Academics in Pre School and Kindergarten

All of the above articles  really are a MUST read as it gives us the underlying reason for not ‘schooling’ children at such a young age.

So parents of such young children should ‘chill’ and relax and not worry if their child is not reading or counting or adding or even if they dont know their alphabets. Just have fun with them, play games and do things they like doing. If they don’t color inside the shape…give them blank sheets to color where ever they wish, they want to color the sky red.. let them..they dont want to read…leave them alone..they dont want to count..leave them alone, let them be kids. Every child develops at a different pace, they each learn to flip over, crawl and walk at their own pace, the parent needs to find out when their child is ready for structured learning of complex things, try it out and if you find our child anxious, more restless and not enjoying the activity.. leave it and do what they enjoy doing. There is joy in learning, not jitters. I am going to quote three very important paras from this paediatrician.

Children can’t learn and neurological pathways can’t form as easily when children’s nervous systems are experiencing stress. Forcing children to write, read, and spell, and giving them “standardized” tests before they are developmentally ready, will stress their nervous systems. Furthermore, children will dislike reading and will not want to go to school. If we insist on pushing writing, reading and spelling before the children’s minds are ready, we will continue to create an epidemic of behavior and learning difficulties, especially in our boys.

Activities like imaginary play, climbing, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, walking the balance beam, playing circle games, singing, playing catch, doing meaningful chores, painting, coloring, playing hand-clapping games, doing string games, and finger knitting will strengthen their minds for learning. Children need these healthy, harmonious, rhythmic, and noncompetitive movements to develop their brains. For it is the movements of their body that create the pathways in their mind for reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, and creative thinking. (Susan Johnson,M.D, Teaching Our Children)

Children who are ready to read and write should be able to pay attention and sit still in a chair for 20 minutes (without needing to wiggle or sit on their feet or wrap their feet around the legs of the chair). They should easily be able to balance on 1 foot with their arms stretched out in front of them (palms facing up) with both eyes open and then closed for 10 seconds and not lose their balance. They should be able to easily walk heel to toe on a balance beam. They should be able to reproduce patterns of abstract lines and curves (eg. numbers and letters) on a piece of paper with a pencil when someone draws these numbers and letters on their backs with a finger.

If children can’t do these tasks easily then they haven’t integrated their vestibular and proprioceptive (sensory-motor) systems, and they will have difficulty sitting still, listening, focusing their eyes, focusing their attention, and remembering their numbers and letters in the classroom.(Susan Johnson,M.D, Teaching Academics in Kindergarten)

So test your children based on the above given physical actions. If they are able to do these activities, it means their brain is developed enough to start reading, writing, spelling and math, then you can start these complext activities with them, if not… let them play!

Further Reading:

BBC – Is five too soon to start school?

Re-discovered research says early school starting age ‘harms children’

Delay School entry until six, researchers urge

Home is where the school is