Posted by Abu Abdurahman | No Comments yet
Umm Abu Bakr asked
asalamu alaikum warahmatullah.
Mashaallah I have benefitted a lot from your website and it has inspired me to start homeschooling my son. However, im not sure where to start or if I should even start as he has just turned two. We are living in the middle east at the moment. We usually speak to him in english and he picks up arabic words when he plays with other kids. Im worried that he has turned two and still doesn’t speak much in either language. He can’t form sentences but only communicates in words…ie eat..sleep etc. what advice would you give in order to get his language skills to progress and would I be able to start teaching him anything at this stage or is it too early?
Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu,
Alhamdulillah that Allah has blessed us with the ability to educate our children, find resources, and share them with others. May Allah reward you for having the concern and taking the time to inquire about how to give your children a strong education, as this is a big responsibility that we will all be asked about.
You’re question seems to be in three parts, When to Start? Where to Start? How to develop your child’s linguistic abilities?
I’ll try to address them to the best of my ability. Again I don’t have all the answers, just perspectives derived from my own research and experience. Please don’t limit yourself to us as there are many other blogs and sites from Muslim mothers in particular, who are homeschooling their children that may shed a different light on the issue which may help you benefit. Insha’Allah some of them will comment on this post with their own advice to add to wherever we fell short.
When to start?
The best thing about homeschooling is that it allows you to cater the educational experience to the needs of your child. When to start, is when your child is ready. When is your child ready? Well there is no specific rule as for when your child is ready but I would suggest that you perform a few light tests that are stress free.
With my youngest son I wanted to teach him the Arabic alphabet. I would give him a test to see if he could differentiate between two letters. I would never push it, just a 5 minute exercise; if he couldn’t get them correct I would leave him for a week or so and come back to it.
There are two things you want to look at when you are testing their ability to start studying with you.
- Attention span: you want to look at how much time you can get your child to sit and focus with you. Otherwise you’ll just be putting expectations that they can’t meet, frustrating yourself and possibly discouraging the child, making them not interested even once they become ready. You could do this through reading to the child and just keeping a watch on how much time goes by before the child gets up and runs off and plays without you forcing them to stay put. You don’t want to look at the great days where you have their full attention and not the bad days where they won’t give you a minute, but the average.
- Differentiation. What you want to test here is can your child differentiate between things. Can they make out the difference between a dog and a horse, or do they just repeat whatever you say. Again before starting the alphabet I would always present my child with 3 letters that in appearance and sound were different. I would try different ways to see if he was grasping the concept that they are 3 different cards, with 3 different names. I would point them out, and ask him their names. I would show him all three and then ask him to take one from me. Sometimes I would give him the cards and ask him to give me a certain one.
I would never spend more than a few minutes doing this. I would never push him, or try to make him pay attention if he didn’t want to. Once I found he could differentiate between the three without coaching and while holding a relatively good attention span and concentration, I knew he was ready to start. It has nothing to do with age, it was about ability, and no one is better to judge that than you.
Keep in mind that children are all different. It is easy to see some of these amazing YouTube videos of children reading the constitution or pointing to name all 50 states and their capitals, and then get over ambitious about getting your child’s abilities up to par with everyone else. Move at your child’s pace, and if you feel they are not ready, then be patient, but in the meantime there are many things that you can do to give your child an advantage for when they do start as well as help them start.
- Giving your child abundant access to books.
- Reading to your child daily
- You should be studying yourself
- For your own personal benefit
- Your child will see you, and then they will follow
- Leave the Quran playing in your house at all possible times
- Encourage him to draw and color with you and by himself.
Where to Start?
You can check out our previous Q & A, but to summarize I would suggest you stick to as few subjects as possible. For us, the most important subjects are Reading, Writing, Math, and Quran.
Reading: Start with the Alphabet, then teach the phonics, once you’ve finished move onto “Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. You can also read this post for more information.
Writing: To develop your child’s motor skills, to allow him to write, let them draw and color as much as possible. Once they have good control over the pencils or crayons, you want to start writing letters and then words. You can check out my wife’s post on learning to write .
Math: Count everything. Every step on the staircase, kisses before bed, bites of a meal. Use flash cards to teach the numbers and an abacus to teach counting. Once those foundations are set, you may want to use something like Singapore Math we have an article here.
Quran: Read the Quran to your child and put them to sleep listening to the Quran. Once your child is speaking encourage him to recite the Quran.
How to develop your child’s linguistic abilities?
First before getting into any steps you can take, remember your child is still young, it’s not strange for them not to be poet laureates at this age. Sometimes people claim that a child who is exposed to more than one language at a time is delayed in speech, however we did not find this to be the case with either one of our children. Each child is uniquely different and even within one family children reach milestones at different times. In general it’s way too early to be worried. Rest assured Insha’Allah soon enough he will be talking more than you can handle.
If you want to raise a bilingual child while living in a foreign country you want to make sure that you have a solid system in terms of your language use. That is, if inside your house, you are speaking English sometimes, and Arabic other times with no set system, than this may pose some confusion for your child. On the other hand if you for example speak English and Your Husband speaks only Arabic to your children then in the end you will find your child speaking both languages. I would definitely not rely on just letting your child pick up Arabic from the kids on the street, especially as you want the Arabic for the Quran. The everyday street language won’t benefit them in this aspect.
Here are two ideas to help maybe kick start your child’s language abilities.
- Start reading to your child. Picture books will help where you can point out and read sentences slowly. Try to read to him several times a day. Make it fun and exciting, use funny voices and animate your storytelling.
- Make time in your day to play with your child and talk to him often. Try to help them pronounce words correctly and form sentences when you can without pushing them.
We hope you found this response to be beneficial and may Allah reward you for posing the question for others to benefit from also.