Thursday, March 15, 2012

DIY: Baby Doll

I have always wanted to these German dolls (also known as Waldorf dolls) for H, they are very expensive, they cost $130 to $250 a piece. I love this one from Etsy and this one from Nobby Organics.

A month or so ago I had a newsletter in my email about a Doll Making workshop in London Ontario offered by Waldorf in March, for only $95!! Its cheaper then the doll itself! I would love to attend this workshop and make my own dolls for my kids and relatives. Check it out here, if you are interested in taking the workshop and live in Ontario.

Since I had made the felt puppets for story time for the kids (will share inshaAllah), I thought, why not try making a doll. I looked up some tutorials and made my first handmade doll for my doll!! Of course I didn't have all the things needed and neither do I have craft store like Loomis or Micheals to ran to for crafty needs. This was a project that made me pull out my creative side and I was able to complete this doll making project, Alhumdulillah. We are officailly becoming producers from consumers.

Here is how I made in a few steps:

I used a old skin colored t-shirt of mine  from our donation box and  cut out the arms  separately,  torso and legs together and a big circle for the head. I stuffed an old sock of H, (small size) with the filling. and tied it close, and then I tied a strong thread in the middle of it form an head. You can see a curved in line by the eye area. I then cover it with the skin color fabric. If you can get the proper equipment, it come with a tube for the head, which works great and doesn't bunch up at the back. I stitched the arms and body on the machine,  and the kids helped me stuff the whole thing. They are in love with it.
Stitched it all toegther, arms, then the body. Its a very easy project if you have little bit of back ground in stitching you can do it.  It took me total one hour, and i did it over 2 days, and ofcourse the kids were a great help so I had to slow down for them, they stuffed the doll for me, mashaAllah.

Took this old dress of H form the donation box and cut out 2 dresses for H's dolls.

 It cost me $0! and my little doll is so happy with it mashaAllah. Homemade toys can be super frugal!

Knitting away...

I had posted before (Click here) about how we have been knitting and crocheting. So here are some or our projects we have been working on. I will also share some resources that are available to learn knitting and crocheting for beginners. Although I knew how to knit a little bit these tutorials were a great help for those who know how to work with yarn. We will also disscuss why and how we should introduce these skills to our little ones.

There are many reasons why we should introduce knitting to children. I feel its a skill that teaches a great deal of patience (I am talking from experience here!!). Children feel a great accomplished and confidence when they make something with their own hands (and so do adults). It also teaches problem solving, you make mistakes while knitting and you have to correct them with patience. Great for fine motor skills especially in boys. They make amazing gifts for children to give to family, friends and relatives. Its imporatnt to teach our children from the beginning to be producers then consumers as much as we can, also a it frugal.
However, before we start knitting with our children we might want to consider some steps to introducing knitting. I will inshaAllah share with you how I slowly introduced knitting and crocheting to my children step by step, we started in after we came back from our summer vacation, I had brought some tools and yarn back with me, Ihad purchase some stuff here too and it was easily available here too, Alhumdulillah.

1. Be a silent role model - Knit and crochet in front of them, and they will ask you what you are doing, take that opportunity to introduce the yarn, crochet hook or knitting needles. Children are more likely to do things they see parents doing. Whenever we go outside I keep the knitting (or any other) project with me in a drawstring bag, so when we are in the car I work on it while reciting/memorizing with the kids or just looking outside.

2. Getting comfortable - Let them get comfortable with the yarn and other tools by letting them touch them and experiment with them making sure you are with them to be safe.
3. Yarn craft - Doing yarn crafts, glue yarn on paper in different shapes,  paint with yarn, nailed wood panel yarn activity, inshaAllah I'll share this one later. Its a wonder math activity as well. You can also practice cutting yarn, we did a measuring cut yarn activity as well.
4. Introducing knitting - Now that the kids are comfortable with the concept of knitting and yarn, you can start knit with them. And the best way to start is finger knitting! No hooks or needles! From whatever research and asking around I have done, I found that the best age to start knitting with children is ages 6 to 7 but some children can start earlier, if the parents have focused on handwork at an early age. Wood weaving tools are also a great way to start knitting with young children
Here are some of the resources we used to start finger knitting. 
  • Knitting with kids
  • Famly Fun - DIY colorful Jump rope - we are working on this one right now together, we used some old tees and made yarn balls out of them we are still short on old tees. 
  • Video 1 - A boy teaching finger knittiing it was a good way to get him encouraged

  • Video 2 - Earthschooling finger knitting tutorial... love it how she does it with a story. Since AR is still young I keep him in my lap when we knit and we do it together, so far we have just made strings and he's still learning, it a great bonding time for us. We stop as soon as he says I am done, if we are singing then we get many stitches! MashaAllah its really fun!


1. Online - Great knitting tutorial for beginners and those who know how to knit a little, uploaded by Cital 86, They have 12 tutotialsand they are very easy to follow

For crocheting these videos are very helpful

2. In person - Find a teacher who can teach you, knitting is very common here in Saudi, I was able to find someone who could teach me but it was not working out so I started using the tutorial I gave above. If you are living in North American you can find cafes and centers where they teach knitting, crocheting and felting and if you have kids they will teach them needle felting as well. Some even offer private class, all that will cost of course and its not always easy to go. Learning in person is a great way, if you can find someone who can teach you for free, that's great!  Knit-o-matic is a great place to start looking into for classes and more info.

3. Buying - In Saudi almost all stationary stores carry knitting tools and yarns. I buy ours from these two online stores, I bought some in summer last year, it has great variety and great prices. 

Here are some things we have made:

My first knit project, A purse for H. MashaAllah TabarakAllaha she loves it and takes it everywhere with her.
Ball for AR
This was a fun and easy knit project. I knit with a garter stitch 6 squares in 3 colors. and with a needle and yarn I hand stitched the pieces together same colors opposite to each other. What you see is the ball inside out, I left the yarn pieces un-cut, they added to the fill.
Turned it inside out and filled it with wool roving until it felt firm, and then stitched it close. The good thing about knitting squares and rectangles is that you can acctually put them together and make so many things about of them, rugs, floor chairs, baby blankets and throws.

A colorful handmade ball!

Baby Bennie for H's doll.

One of the string AR made, this was a gift for H from him.
I felt like making baby booties, so I started..

One completed and still working on the other one, thinking of giving it to preggo friend!

I am making more toys, a rug and a blanket inshaAllah its a slow and long process. I want to inshaAllah make this pouf for our living room (check them out) one day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Teaching the Life of the Prophet SAW to children

Recently I started a series on Seerah by Yasir Qadhi 'A Mercy to Mankind' I am really enjoying and benefiting from it. One of the things I love about the seerah is that when we study the life of the Prophet SAWand ALL the hardships and difficulties he SAW went through, our problems and issues become so small and worthless. And if there is a hardship or fitnah we have in our life, studying the seerah give us the power and strength to move on and move away, by seeing his SAW's tests and tribulations. Its a wonderful series! MashaAllah.

When I started listening to it, I felt a strong urge/motivation to really focus on the Seerah with the kids on a regular bases. Make it an important part of our lives.

Here are some things we have been doing as an effort to help our kids develop a strong and unique bond with the Prophet SAW at a small age.

1. Almost everyday, after Asr, I put Yasir Qadhi's seerah lecture on so the kids can listen to it. Sometimes AR comes and sits to watch the video and of course H joins, they actually sit and listen mashaAllah. (I don't mind him watching a sheikh on the screen for a few minutes to gain knowledge).  The benefit out ways the damage in this matter in my eyes.

A Mercy to Mankind - Muhmmad SAW

2. We posted the Learning Roots 'Seerah -  Makkan period' chart up to keep track of how far and how much we have learned and how much more to go

I am not sticking the stickers on though, this way I can use it again too.
3.  Lastly but most importantly we started reading "The Noble Life of the Prophet SAW' with the kids at bedtime. I know some of you might be thinking isn't that too much for the little ones?? No, not at all. They really enjoy it mashaAllah! How can they not, its indeed the life of our Prophet SAW.  It did take some effort from our side, to have them start it.

Since AR was very small we would tell him the stories of the Prophets and Sahabas without books. When we moved here and I made our bedtime ritual, this time I added bedtime story books, which were never there before that. However a few months ago I stopped reading books to the kids at bedtime again and went back to our old storytelling method. It took me a two weeks or so to wine them off books and listen to all the wonderful REAL stories mama has to tell them. To be honest some days I would have to look at a story before I would relate it to them.

I don't believe in making up stories too much, there's nothing wrong with it, but why fantasies when we can tell true stories. Like, for example if you were to relate the story of Salam Al Farisi (R.A) to a child, how can it be possible that a child will not listen to his story?? Theres no way a made up tale can be as beautiful and as meaning full as the story of Salman Al Farisi or the story of Prophet Sulaiman (A.S). AR still get lost at the thought of flying in the air. In order for us to tell the stories from our Islamic history we need to learn them ourselves and learn them from the right sources and learn them over and over again. So we don't have to relay on non-muslim folk stories and fairy tales, which to be honest in my eyes are all imitations of stories from Islam, some what.

When we share a story of the past we shouldn't hesitate to tell our kids about good and bad, death, murder and physical abuse the muslims went through. I have seen many parents who feel like they are scaring the child or the child will be traumatized. I feel this is a wrong way of thinking, because if this was the case then why would Allah SWT mention death, Jannah and Jahnam to us over and over again?? And the consequence of our bad and good actions?? Its important that we teach children to be detached from this duniya and have a desire to die and go to Jannah, not be scared to death!

Its not easy! The worldly life gives children (and ourselves) an immediate gratification. And Aakhirah is something that we have to remind them about about. Why remind and not tell?? Because its our fitra (nature)! and that is what Allah swt dose again and again in the Quran. And for children, to develop a love and longing for the Aakhirah we need to give them a mental image, and image that is fixed in there minds of Aakhriah(Hereafter) is, Jannah(Paradise) and Jahnam(Hell fire) are. Its not easy, we have to constantly remind them and ourselves and most importantly fight the devil's whispers.

This storytelling phase really helped them move to the book. Since there are no pictures in the book they have to make an image in there minds just by listening which is a great way to promote imaginative thinking. 
When we read it we have simplify here and there a bit to make it comprehend-able to them. We skip some parts here and their that will be beyond there ability to understand. We don't want to make it a philosophical discussion. We still read books and we read lots, but just not at bedtime. 

The last thing I want the kids to sleep with is a story or image that will actually benefit him in this duniya and Aakhira, and that is definitely not in 'Curious George' or Dr. Seuss'  etc. I am not at all saying that these books are bad or shouldn't be read or somthing! I just don't want my child to fall asleep thing about 'Cat in the Hat' or 'how George is a goood little monkey'!

Since MashaAllah Baba is a better story teller then Mama, Baba reads the book to them most of the time. Its a great Baba and kiddios time, Alhumdulillah.

Allah knows best!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How it all started & Where we are today?

The purpose of this post is to share our homeschooling journey. Also to give a support to the all families and mommies who have decided to embark on this unique journey but don't know where to start... its okay to be confused! Some of you have asked me how and where to start just as I have asked others the same question and still do when I feel inspired by a mother and her child.

A summary of our journey through this unique experience...

When our son AR was born we were really happy with this blessing and trust Allah swt had given us. As parents we wanted to be the best we could be and wanted to give him all we could from love and our time.   I as a mother started to prepare myself before AR was born, reading books, articles online watching videos, attending classes and lectures on stages of pregnancy and labour, child rearing, coping strategies of different life situations and so on. However, the most important thing was dua... making dua through good times and bad, through various ups and downs of life. I saw my duas being answered on many occasions through out my life (even before I got married and had this blissful family of ours). We had a strong trust in Allah swt that He will show us the right way and He has time and time again and we just have to find the means. Its one of those 'Eman boosting experiences', and we all go through them in our lives many times.

Making the decision to homeschool was one of those things that Allah swt opened up to us. To homeschool AR in his early years was a decision we had made before he was born, but to be honest we really didn't look into it untill Allah swt planned a trip  for us to Edmonton, Canada, where most of the population is of homeschoolers. At that time AR was around 6 months old. We met sister Elma Harder the writer of the book called Concentric Circle, she took us to her sakin circle, mashaAllah it was a wonderful experience, she has raised her children on a farm-side home, very connected to the nature and a simple life. We also got to visit a family who had been homeschooling for many years, we asked many questions we had in our minds. She gave me a book to get me started called 'Ultimate guide to homeschooling'. MashaAllah that sister was/is an inspiration for me, I would love to meet her and her family again and tell her how far we have come in this journey inshaAllah.

When we started learning about Homeschooling, honestly I was so confused. In the beginning we spend most of the time studying/ researching and learning about what Homeschooling really is. Is to school at home! (as most people think, and so did I in the beginning). However, as we read and researched more and listened to lectures done by some renowned Muslim scholars on this subject, many questions we had were answered. We started to come to a deep realization of the fact that to homeschool is to really transform your life-style to a more natural and pure way. Its a transformative learning style. It is to look at things around us from a whole new angle rather then change things around us. Its a holistic living, its to live by the Quran and Sunnah

In the beginning we made some mistakes as is the case when we start anything new, some things had misled me to believe that our three year old should know all his letters/haroof and numbers/addad and should even recognize them all, he should try to write. We had a rigid over scheduled day! Alhumdulillah this phase didn't last for long! During a period of a week Allah swt opened a totally new chapter for us, I came across this saying of Ali (radi Allahu a'anh) "Play with them for the first seven years of their life, teach them for seven years of their lives, be friends with them for seven years and them let them go." (Paraphrased) SubhanaAllah this statement really opened my eyes. I started looking around for play oriented learning and fun things to do with our AR and before I knew we had a unique bonding.

Allah swt kept opening one door after another for us. We picked up this book we had sitting in our shelf and never got our attention until Allah swt wanted us to see it. At this point we were at a turning point in our life as a family. I remember my husband and I sat down till 2AM looking through this book and the how it focuses on all aspects of our lives as whole. The book was the Concentric Circles.

Alhumdulillah to the internet! I found some very beneficial books, links, blogs, and videos online. Most of our daily activities and learning were mainly based on free play, painting, coloring, drawing, working with clay, sand, playdough, imitations, kids helping me around the house, sing alongs and  memorization of duas and Surahs. I also found these two channels on youtube and most of our activities were based on them. The first one is from ExpertVillage, called 'Preschool Montessori Activities', its inspired by the Maria Montessori's learning approach. The second channel is called TheDreamAngle. TheDreamAngle takes the Waldorf approach to learning, through her channel I came across her site, where I came to learn about 'The Earthschooling Curriculum', although we didn't get their curriculum, I did some of their 'Health and Homeschooling' webinars.

 Another great resource we are all familar with was Talibiddeen jr. MashaAllah TabarakAllaha! She has a resourceful website. There are many other wonderful blogging mommies out there all over the globe that offer a great variety of tips and things to do in life, homeschooling, motherhood, and so on.

Although I was not planing on using a  curriculum  for the kids yet since they are still young, still checked some out to get an idea what's out there. I stumbled over this curriculum called Oak Meadow, through a blog I had signed up for an online workshop. When I visited there site, I ended up reading there articles and free journals and ended up not looking into there curriculum at all. I got so into the reading, that for the next few days I kept reading their stuff. The material was very beneficial and eye opening for me, it was like another new turn in life. I highly recoomend reading the material. Than I got busy with kids and home and forgot all about the site and curriculum for a while.

And than SubhanaAllah! I met this lovely sister who let me borrow her 2nd grade Oak Meadow curriculum to look through and told me to keep the book 'The Heart of Learning' written by Lawrence William (founder of Oak Meadow and a trained Waldorf teacher). Its truly an amazing book! It focuses on us as parents to transform ourselves and as a result we will see our children transform. In other words doing Tazkiyyah -tun-Nafs and (purification of the heart/soul). While reading this book I kept thinking to myself these are the teachings of our deen. He explains how we have nurture the 'being' of our child, which of course is the fitra. I would recommend this book to ALL parents, regardless of whether you are homeschooling or not. You can purchase is single from there website, here

Although we decided to send AR to Tahfeez for a few hours (in 2011), we still continued doing a lot of activities together at home while constantly making dua to Allah swt to guide us to the best for him and us. And He did. We decided not to send him back for the second term due to some circumstances which I believe were planned by Allah swt as an answer to our duas. We are so happy to have him home, the one that is most happy is H, mashaAllah tabarakaAllaha, they are bonding so well, of course they have their differences but thats normal. AR slows down to teach her duas word by word or explain things to her, in her language. Last semester when he was at school they would just fight all the time!!

Now, Alhumdulillah we are having such a great time together. I can also say, we are for now, officially unschooling with some boundaries. I still try to keep a rhythm in the day, for me it works best to kinda know how and where to start and end, but I don't have a fixed timetable. I have goals that I want to meet by the end of the day, week, month and year for myself and the kids. No rigid schedules! As I learn more and more I keep feeling a very strong urge to ask Allah swt to give us the ability and strength to instill in our children the proper Islamic morals and teachings; instill the love of this deen and His love in their hearts, love to follow and implement the Quran and Sunnah. Ameen!

What I am loving/cherishing the most about where we are now is, being able to connect and bond with my children, understanding them and their cycles of development. Alhumdulillah we as a family have really come together, we started growing stronger bonds with each other. This doesn't mean that we don't have conflicts or disagreements, or the kids don't have differences with each other... it happens, but its less and most importantly the way we look at things has transformed /is transforming (with the permission of Allah swt) as it is a life long thing. We will continue to grow inshaAllah.

Despite all the opposition I have had with the decsion to Homeschool, I still wish to continue it inshaAllah. Just because AR by nature is more of quite and observant child, people have blamed it on Homeschooling. If it was that was the case then H should be like that too! They are totally opposite to each other, she can start talk to a stranger and AR will take time to get comfortable to meet his own friend after not seeing him for a while.

I pray to Allah swt the ALL Powerful and The ALL Wise to keep guiding us to the Haqq; keep increasing our bond, love and understanding with each other. I Pray that He gives us the ability to raise children who He is pleased with, who can lead the Ummah to the right path and sadaqah Jariyaah for us.

This was a glimpse of our looong journey. This is not at all to say that you should homeschool or unschool. We should all do what works best for us and our families. And neither do we know how long Allah has written this for us, its a choice we have made and hope to continue it as long as Allah swt permits us to. 

A really close friend and a fellow blogging homechooler said something very nice that is soo true and I would like to end with that inshaAllah. She said "Its an entire life style with lots of struggles... bad days... exhaustion and frustration...but it also has countless priceless moments which make every struggle worth it!" See her blog here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Raising Children with Deen and Dunya


Its an amazing article with some great points, its long but really worth the time. Some things will just be a reminder for some of us but sometimes reminders are what we need! Wisdom is in benefiting from others experience and knowledge. So, NEVER feel shy or hesitate to learn from someone, regardless of their age, believes religous or non, relation to you, or gender, this is indeed the teaching of our Deen.

Click here and read Raising Children with Deen and Dunya 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The levels of Jannah

Today morning the kids and I were playing with their blocks while talk about Jannah and fantasizing about ALL the things we can have in Jannah. We also talked about how to get to Jannah and the different levels of Jannah. We never mentioned the different levels of Jannah before, so when I started talking about the levels and how if a family member will be in the higher level of Jannah, the lower level family will be raised to the higher level to be joined with them. AR was listening to me very careful and he was so amazed. We talked in great detail about it for about 20 to 30 minutes and then I went to do some work.

5 minutes later AR called me to show me this and he said

AR: Mama look what I made.
Me: mashaAllah really nice, what is it?
AR: These are the levels of Jannah Mama. The mother was on the lower level (the blue tower) and the little girl was on the higher level and Allah raised the mother to the girls level. They were both sad a bit before and now they got soooo happy to be together mashaAllah.  

I was speechless. My eyes filled with tears at the way he explained the process to me, lifting the mother with joy and raising her at the girl's level. MashaAllah TabarakaAllahu, he not just understood the concept but he gave it such and amazing visual from his imagination. I didn't do anything like this with him, it was all verbal with hand movements. It an amazing feeling to see your child grow in understanding step by step.

This really made me think something at very deeper level, by fitarah (nature) children want to learn about Allah and the Messenger (saw), Aakhirah, Jannah and Jahanm, good and evil, and they find a satisfaction in learning these concepts, a contentment, just as we do.

As parents when we are passionate about something, unknowingly we transfer it our children and they absorb our passion in themselves. So if we choose this duniya (life of this world) to be the most important thing to us, they will too and if we choose the Aakhirah (the hereafter), they will too. This absolutely doesn't mean we should become monks and go live in the forest! And have nothing to do with this duniya and the things in it! No, this is not what it means. We need to find a balance. We need this duniya to attain the Aakhirah and Allah swt's pleasure, but we should find a moderate path between the two and our inclination should be towards the Aakhirah more than the duniya.

O Allah fill our heart and minds with Your love and the love of the Prophet saw. And increase us in the desire to meet You. Teach us those ways by which we can instill this in our hearts and the hearts of our children and our spouses. O Allah protect us from the blazing fire and unit us in Jannah and raise our ranks in Jannah so we can unity in with our families and friends. Ameen Ya Rabb!