Category Archives: Learning

5 Tips for Students Fasting

By Mona Ismaeil

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Ramadan is just around the corner and with still a month of school to go, Ramadan joins us at a crucial time of the school year. Our children are the future of our Deen and it is essential we keep them excited, motivated and passionate about the practices of our Faith. At the same time, it is incredibly important to encourage education as a way of pushing our Ummah forward to more greatness.

Early mornings, attending classes, worksheets and exams are still business as usual. Here are some tips to help our students master it all.

  1. Inform: Inform teachers, advisors and fellow students of Ramadan. When others know, they can offer our students support. Also, by letting others know, our students can feel empowered.
  2. Diet: It is essential that our students have the fuel to get through the long days. Although it is hard to wake your child up for Suhoor, please do so! As an incentive to them to get up, prepare meals they enjoy eating that will give them good energy for the day to come.
  3. Support/Encouragement: It is very difficult to be the only child in the class fasting or one of just a handful. Be sure to offer your little one the greatest amount of support and encouragement possible. Remind them continuously that what they are doing is a big thing and you are proud of them.  Try different reward systems and trackers to help them see how many days they have successfully fasted.
  4. Be flexible: For young children below the age of maturity (puberty), encourage them to abide by the practice but still give them space for mistakes, accidents and just being children. School is a hard job and children get hungry and thirsty.  Although they are fasting, leave a small snack in their backpacks in case of emergency. By emergency, I mean they ran so hard during gym class that they feel dizzy and sick.  Remember there will be days when fasting just isn’t a good idea.  For example: big exam days, big presentations or generally stressful days.
  5. Educate: Children are much more inclined to do things when they understand why they are doing it. Explain to your children why we fast during Ramadan. Share with them some health benefits too as a bonus!

These children are the future of our Ummah. Inshallah with your support and guidance your children will be righteous Muslims.

About the Author

Mona Ismaeil is  the Associate Editor Muslimmoms.ca. She is also an elementary  teacher turned blogger and writer. Mona is the proud owner of Modern Hejab and stay-at-home mom to a witty 3 year old girl and a sweet newborn boy. She loves to travel and see all the world has to offer with her family.

5 Fun and EDUCATIONAL Activities for Toddlers

By: Mona Ismaeil

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Children are sponges, sucking up all the world has to offer. They are always learning. Even when you least expect, they are learning. They are learning about relationships, about themselves, about you, and about the world around them.  Children learn in many different ways. Everyone has heard about the different learners and surely you know how you learn best but do you know how your child learns? Most children don’t fall into one single style of learning until they are school aged. Even then, they could have multiple learning styles. At least, it is harder to pinpoint it until then. One learning style that all children have in common is through experiences, and authentic play. Children learn so much through play. It may not look like it, but it’s true.

Here are some fun activities you can do with your child to help them learn different skills and concepts without them realizing they are learning! It’s like slipping veggies into their meals without them noticing! Ssshhhhhhhhhhh, it’ll be our little secret!

 Alphabet: Letter animals

This is a tried and tested activity. If it was up to my daughter she would do a letter every day! For this activity you turn the letters into animals, or objects that start with that letter. It’s a fun hands-on activity which gets their creative juices flowing. Depending on the age of your child, you will do the majority of the cutting and such but toddlers are great at choosing what color construction paper to use and they are great at gluing!

Letter animals

Another idea is to put a number of items in a bag. Some that start with a specific letter and some that don’t. Have your child put their hand in the bag and pull out a mystery item. They then tell you if it starts with the letter you are working on that day.  If it does, great! If not, discuss which letter it does start with.  For example. If you are working on the letter “S”. In the bag of mystery items you may put a sock, straw, star, spoon, teddy bear, blocks, paint brush, etc.

 

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Numbers: Musical Numbers

I try to keep my activities fairly simple so that we can focus on the concept. To practice numbers, I made these very simple number cards. They are so simple that you can use them for pretty much anything and everything! One way to use these cards will get your little one moving, dancing and learning. What a great combo!

  1. Number your cards. Go up as high as your child knows and perhaps a couple numbers higher. This will challenge them a little.
  2. Choose a fabulous song they would love to move to. I like “Happy” by Pharell Williams (The minions version)
  3. Scatter the cards on the ground in random order.
  4. There are a couple ways to play:
    1. Play the music and have them dance and jump from number to number. When you stop the music they go to the nearest number, and identify that number. You can then have them count to that number.
    2. Play “I Spy”. You tell them the number, then they have to find it. After that have them do an action for that number. Example, “I spy number 5”. Then do 5 jumping jacks.  Or 7 wiggles. Or give me 1 hug, etc.
    3. Clean up by counting and putting the numbers in order or count backwards and clean them up.

 The Environment: Scavenger Hunts

I tried this for the first time in Mid-March and my daughter just loved it! I searched on Pintrest for “Winter Scavenger Hunts”. I found a simple one for her age. There are many options to choose from and you can do one for every season. I read over it with her so she would have an idea of what she was looking for, gave her a clip board and off we went. She was excited right from the start. She would stop me to point out things on her list. It was a great opportunity for us to talk about the changing seasons, animals, trees, and for us to get out to enjoy the sun together.

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hand print animalsAnimals: Hand Print Critters

We like to get a bit messy in our house and painting is an essential activity for us. I came across this fun painting activity while searching for an activity to learn about animals. I love it because it gives you the chance to get messy but also to discuss what the animals look like. You can discuss the difference between hair and fur. Talk about paws, claws and feet. You can discuss where the animals live, what they eat and so much more. The possibilities are endless!

 

Life: Pretend

“Monkey see, monkey do”. This couldn’t be truer for children. Make-believe and playing pretend are a fantastic way for children to learn about life and day to day activities. If you really watch your child play make believe, you’d be surprised at how they mimic you. They may pretend to be a mom the dolls are their babies. They may pretend to be the teacher and line their teddy bears up like their students. They may even give a poor little teddy bear a time out.  Sit down for a cup of invisible tea and cookies and talk to your child about nutrition. Be a patient in your child’s medical clinic and talk to them about the body and how it functions. Allow your inner child to be set free for a bit!

What activities do you love to do with your toddler? What works best for them? Share your tips and tricks. 

 About the Author

Mona Ismaeil: Mona Ismaeil is  the Associate Editor Muslimmoms.ca. She is also an elementary  teacher turned blogger and writer. Mona is the proud owner of Modern Hejab and stay-at-home mom to a sweet little girl. She loves to travel and see all the world has to offer with her family.

 

Gardening On A Budget

By Sana Athar

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Spring has nearly sprung and with it brings the question: to plant or not to plant. Oftentimes people think of gardening as an expensive hobby but I have found it to be a relaxing activity that makes me feel good. It’s exciting to watch your plants grow and when it starts to fruit, it’s almost the same joy as holding a newborn in your arms.

We follow up on our gardening series with tips and tricks for gardening on a budget to help save money while keeping plants in perfect condition.

Recycle

There are many ways to use recycled containers in garden; as watering can, for growing seed or as planter. Here are some things you can use in gardening.

Milk jugs: as a planter or watering can

Plastic food container with lid: as green house or for seed starting

Paper or plastic cups: really good to start seed in. Just make sure to make some holes through a pin or pencil for drainage.

Egg Cartons: A personal favourite. I tear up both sides then line one side with plastic wrap and put the other one on it and fill it with my compost and seed starter. It can be planted directly in garden because of being compost friendly.

Egg shells: I haven’t used this as of yet but people use egg shell as seed starter pot.

Shredded paper, toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes: all can be crushed up and its pulp can be used as seedling starter.

Yogurt cups: as seed pot

Seed trays: sold at dollar stores

Plastic watering bottle: cut in half and use as pot

Aluminum containers: use as planters

Aluminum tray: I use it as seed pot tray. Cases of soda and canned products can also be used as tray to hold all seed pots

Mulch

Instead of overspending on mulch, we can use recycled paper, cardboard boards, and newspaper as mulch. Grass clipping are excellent mulch as well. You can also save on mulch and potting soil by getting discount bags that have tears in them. Don’t miss any sale.

Harvest seeds

Although seed are sold at dollar stores as well, you can try harvesting your own to save some more money.

For fleshy vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and melons, pick them when they are fully ripe. Scoop out the seeds, along with the gel surrounding them. Put the seeds and gel in a glass jar with some water. Stir or swirl the mixture twice a day. The mixture will ferment and the seeds should sink to the bottom within five days. Pour off the liquid, rinse the seeds and spread them out to dry on paper towels.

Saving pepper seeds is even easier. Allow some fruits to stay on the plants until they become fully ripe and start to wrinkle. Remove the seeds from the peppers and spread them out to dry.

Beans and peas need to be left on the vine until the pods are dry and crackly.

Corn should also be left to dry on the stalk until the kernels dent.

Potatoes (with eyes) can be half dipped in water held by tooth picks just above water. It grows its roots in a month.

Onion and garlic can be grown from their bulb. Some are grown in water until they grow new greens and some are harvested for their seed and re-grown again.

Not every avocado pit will produce roots, so your best bet is to try two or three pits at once. Leaves will appear in few weeks.

For cabbage, place leftover base and leaves in a bowl and add a small amount of water in the bottom. When roots and new leaves begin to appear, transplant the cabbage into a garden.

The next option is to trade plants and seeds or share with neighbours.

Buy Perennials

Buying perennials will save money in long run. Because it will grow by itself year after year.  Although they cost more in beginning but with proper care it will be ease of mind to see them grow every year. Examples of some of such plants are tulips, lilies, roses, daisy, hydrangea, cornflower and lavender among others.

DIY

Weed and Bug Killer

DIY weed or bug killer use safe ingredients and there are many ideas you can find online. Some people use sugar mixed with cinnamon and chili powder which feeds your soil and kills weeds.  This mix also keeps bugs at bay. People also use eggshells around the base of the plants and edge of the garden to keep snails and slugs away.

Vinegar can also kill weeds be careful though, it kills grass too.

Boiling water and bleach can also be used as an effective weed killer.

Fertilizer 

DY fertilizers are easy to make at home.

Banana peel is excellent fertilizers just chop into small pieces and voila! Put in your pot. It provides Potassium.

Coffee and tea grounds: Acid-loving plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses and azaleas love them due to its high nitrogen content.

Dead leaves, glass clippings and weed are high in nitrogen and an excellent fertilizer.

Epsom salt are rich in magnesium .

Egg shells are great for providing calcium to plants. Wash them first, and then crush. Work the shell pieces into the soil near tomatoes and peppers.

Remember, gardening is a labour of love, it takes time and patience but the results are truly worth the wait.

About the author:

Sana Athar is a stay at home mom to her three little angels. She lives in Milton, Ontario where she works on her passions: gardening and cooking for family and friends. An MBBS from Karachi, Pakistan, Sana is currently working on obtaining her license to be able to practice medicine in Canada.

Wipe-off Islamic Calendar Craft

By Sukaina Imran

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Cold snowy days when you are cooped indoors is when the ‘I’m BORED!’ monster comes out full force. To keep your little ones occupied at home and get a dose of Islamic knowledge on the side, this easy DIY Islamic calendar craft is a treat. You get to spend some quality bonding time with your children and it’s not just a calendar that you make, you are also making a memory of a cosy evening spent together.

The supplies are easily found, you can buy a dry-erase calendar from any dollar or craft store, use that as your template and get crafting.

These pictures are self-explanatory in themselves.

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About the Author: 

Sukaina Imran is a Montessori trained teacher from Pakistan. She moved to the US after getting married and worked in an Islamic school in Texas for three years. She also has a child psychology diploma. After the birth of her first child, Sukaina quit formal work and decided to put her Montessori teachings to bring her children closer to Islam

Saving for the Education of Your Child Made Easy

By Erum Zehra

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As mothers, the education of our children is one of our primary concerns. We aspire to give them the best education possible. Fortunately, living in a country like Canada has made this task easy where free education is provided in public schools until high school. After graduating from high school, our children want to join colleges or universities for higher education. This can prove to be very expensive for low income families. Most families with school going children start saving for their college education quite early, to ensure they have enough money to equip their children with higher education.

RESP and CLB

Government of Canada provides assistance in saving for higher education of your children through RESP (Registered Education Savings Plans) and CLB (Canada Learning Bond). An RESP is an educations savings account registered with the Government of Canada. You need to open an account with a bank or credit union, or through a certified financial planner or a group plan dealer. These institutions, planners and dealers are known as “RESP providers.” For more information on RESP please visit: http://www.smartsaver.org/pdf/RESP_English.pdf

The Canada Learning Bond consists of an initial amount of $500 offered by the Government of Canada to help you start saving for your child’s education after high school. Your child could get $100 every year until he or she turns 15 years old to a maximum of $2,000. Your child is eligible for the Canada Learning Bond if:

• he or she was born after December 31, 2003; and

• you receive the National Child Benefit Supplement under the Canada Child Tax Benefit (also known as the family allowance).

For More information on CLB please visit: http://www.smartsaver.org/pdf/CLB_lgl_English.pdf

 SmartSAVER

SmartSAVER at http://smartsaver.org is a non profit community project which makes it easier for you to learn about RESPs and to get the Canada Learning Bond. They have teamed up with RESP providers across Canada that will help you get an RESP started for FREE: no enrolment fee, no annual fee and no contribution required.

How to Apply?

You can use their online application, Start My RESP, and apply for the Canada Learning Bond. Apply before Decemeber 31st for a chance to win $1000! A new winner is being selected every week, so the earlrlier you apply, the better your chances are of winning.

 

 

Minecraft –More Than Just A Game!

By Anisa Tayab

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A typical day in my household always includes a story about a Creeper, an Ender-Dragon or Herobine.  And like most moms, I have no idea what my kids are talking about.  Chances are if you have a child who plays video games, they are playing Minecraft!

Minecraft has sold over 20 million copies for PC’s and millions more on iPads and Android Tablets. Microsoft purchased Minecraft from Mojang for $2.5 billion dollars last year and the creator of Minecraft Markus Persson out-bid Jay Z and Beyonce on a $70 million mansion in Beverly Hills.  Minecraft is everywhere.  If you have not heard of it, you really are living under a rock!

I’m not sure how the craze began in my house but I remember downloading the game for my son and then him begging us to buy the full edition.  Still not understanding the game I turned to Facebook and asked my friends for their advice.  A few friends told me to steer clear of the dark side, while others told me why it was so great.

Creative Mode

The game has two modes; Creative and Survival.  In both modes, players (a character named Steve in the game) use their creativity to build.  Players usually begin by creating a home and then expand their world by creating other buildings in a community.  In this game of virtual blocks, players use their creativity to build a world the way they want.  They first must chop down trees for wood, mine for coal, iron and other elements that are used throughout the game to make different types of blocks. You will also see animals roaming around freely, you can make them your pets, let them live or use them to make food.

My son has built amusement parks with roller coasters, bowling alleys with multiple lanes, a school and anything he wants.  Creative mode allows players to determine how to place blocks strategically resulting in a finished project.  Sounds like a lot of future engineers to me!

Survival Mode

In Survival mode, the purpose of the game is to survive.  It has all the features of creative but is more challenging and frightening.  Players use their creations to hide and escape from all the enemies in Minecraft.  They also mine to look for items that will protect them like swords and armour.  Survival mode is where you will find Creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons.

A creeper is that ackward looking, pixilated, green figure you see roaming around on your child’s screen. If you get too close to it, it will blow up and harm you.  Skeletons also blow up while spiders and zombies hit the player.  The player must destroy these creatures to live.  If the player is destroyed, he/she quickly respawns (comes back to life).

What To Be Wary Of

If you are going to let your kids enter the world of Minecraft there are a few things you need to be weary of.  The most important one is that it is addicting.  My kids will play for hours if I don’t monitor their time.  It’s a fast moving game where a day lasts only 20 minutes.  Your child will always want more time to finish building something or looking for something.

If you let your kids play together in one world, they will fight.  It doesn’t matter how well they get along in real life, in Minecraft there will be problems.  They will bicker about what direction to go in, who found the diamond sword first and who has more experience blocks.  The constant bickering has made me go crazy that I have shut the game off a few times.  I have since learned to take a deep breath and let them figure out their own problems like they do on the playground.

Some parents don’t want their children exposed to the violence in the game.  Parents should be able to judge if their child can handle the game or not.

Why I let my kids play

My boys are 8 and 5. I let them play Minecraft because it’s teaching them certain aspects of the real world.  It’s teaching them you need materials to build and is encouraging them to go find those materials.  It is expanding their creativity while they attempt at and then later succeed at building a more difficult creation.  It’s teaching them how to plan, organize, execute, succeed and sometimes fail all in one game.

I don’t think my kids would have any interest in building if it wasn’t for Minecraft.  They have many Lego sets that are sitting in their closet but they prefer Minecraft because there are no instructions.   They write their own instructions.

I read an article that suggested Minecraft is preparing today’s kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet.  With technology changing so quickly, there is no way for us know what skills will be sought after and maybe the millions of people playing Minecraft are on to something the rest of us don’t understand (yet).

About the author:

Anisa Tayab blogs at That Crazy Mom.

Apps For Super Moms

By Elaf Selim

Apps for supermoms

Not too long ago, I was introduced to the magical world of mobile apps. I resisted the urge to move into this new era for quite some time, since I am already on the computer most hours of the day. I work in the IT field and I thought that I really didn’t need any more technology in my life. And then my husband decided to gift me a smart phone and I was hooked. I found so many awesome apps that can help me and other busy moms in their everlasting quest to become Super Moms. So, if you are struggling to find enough hours in the day, or to organize your busy life, here are a few apps that I’ve found to be very useful. They are all free and available on both iOS and android platforms.

Mint: Personal Finance & Money

This is one of the most popular personal finance apps. It is useful for busy moms since they can manage credit cards, bank accounts, personal income, monthly budgets all in one convenient tab.

Google Calender

This is a life saver, it helps you organize your schedule, send out event reminders, invitations and keep track of all your appointments.

Dropbox

This is a great app to help you store important files that you want to access on the go. I always use it to save Quran files, e-books and audios so I can learn on the go.

Athan – Islamic Finder

Necessary if you are on the go a lot and need to know prayer times. I need this app since I can’t usually keep up with the changes in prayer times.

Quran

This app is beautiful and can help you make good use of any waiting time you may have. It allows me to read Quran in transit, which is amazing.

Podcast Addict

I love this app for learning on the go or while I do housework. We are in the age of podcasts and you can learn just about anything from the amazing wealth of knowledge available.

Food Network In The Kitchen

This recipe app is very entertaining and useful. You have thousands of recipes at your fingertips and you can see videos as well.

Calorie Counter

This is a great app if you are on a diet. You can use it to calculate the calories you consume every day and make quick decisions. It can also help you plan better meals for you and your family.

Cozi Family Organizer

This app helps you organize your family calendar, manage to-do lists (can’t have enough of those), shopping lists and reminders for the important tasks in your life.

WebMD

This is a popular medical app which allows you to check symptoms, get first aid information, and information about various medical concerns. It is always helpful if you have younger children who often get sick.

ShopSavvy UPC Barcode Scanner

This is a bargain hunting app. You can use it to scan the barcode of items using the phone camera to find the best prices on the internet and at nearby stores.

iMom – Pregnancy & Fertility

This app allows you to check the progress of your pregnancy. You can also manage your menstrual cycle/fertility calendar.

Are there any go-to apps that help your streamline your daily routines? We’d love to know how you use technology to make your lives easier.

 

About the Author:

Elaf Selim is a Software Engineer, a Jewelry designer, a blogger and a Mom. She is the owner of SkiesAndSparkles.com, a handmade artisan jewelry shop. She loves photography, writing, historical architectures and nature in all forms.

 

 

Tips For The Online Momprenuer

By Mona Ismaeil

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I started my online business with my husband in 2010. I can’t believe it’s been that long!  Elhamdulillah it has been a success and although it took a long time to get off the ground, it was worth the effort. When I chose to stay home with Manessa in 2013, knowing I had Modern Hejab to occupy my time as well as provide financial support for my family made that decision easier.

It was not easy at first and I would be lying if I said that an online business is easy – it is not! Although you aren’t opening up a store with long working hours, it is equally difficult but in a totally different way.  Online selling gives flexibility and you can reach customers from all over the world, but there is far more competition for you which means you really have to know what you’re doing.  Here are some tips to help make your endeavour a bit easier.

Know Your Product

When you decide what you want to sell, it must be something you really understand. You must be a product expert in order to be able to successfully sell it to others. Potential customers feel more comfortable buying when they feel like the seller knows everything about that item. For example, I sell hijabs. That means I must know everything and anything about hijab. That means fabrics, what’s good for each face shape, styling, washing, drying, EVERYTHING!

Know Your Selling Platform

There are so many places you can sell your product, you need to choose which one is best for your type of business, your commitment and your budget.

Amazon: www.amazon.com

Great platform which can help you to move a great deal of product. Requires a big commitment as they have strict rules for images, postings, communication with customers. Also it is a great deal of effort to set up. You have to know how to play by the rules! Also, they have Amazon fees which takes a chunk out of your profit.

Etsy: www.etsy.com

Fantastic site especially for handmade items . There is a certain culture that goes along with Etsy which lends well to more expensive handmade items. The only thing to consider is you have to pay $0.20 per listing per month. You’ll be investing into keeping the listing up whether or not you’re selling.

Ebay: www.ebay.com / www.ebay.ca

This site is easy to set up and can be great for selling but there is very high competition as you can have sellers from all over the world. Your prices needed to be very low in order to compete.

Your own website

It is always great to have your own site as long as you know how to drive traffic to it. Your website will not just show up on google on its own. You will need to put some effort into marketing and SEO. Also, the design and set up will take time.

Facebook

This is probably your easiest option for setting up a selling space. It has the least amount of effort when it comes to set up. Be sure to make a PAGE, not a GROUP. You will have to set up some sort of payment system which you can do through PayPal.  You will have to do some work in getting followers and engaging them to keep them not only interested but so that you continue to show up on their feed.

Know Your Competition

If you sell jewellery, you must be knowledgeable of all the other jewellery sellers as well in your style, price range and location (city and country). In the online world, you are not only competing with the store across the street, you are competing with every online store across the WWW. This means you need to step up your game when it comes to products, promotions and marketing.

Know your Customer

This takes time but you must understand your customer base. The way you market to moms is different than you would teenage girls. If your product is good for different ages, genders, etc. you must really work hard to cater to all of those and market to their liking.

Remember You Are Still a Mom

I’m not a stranger to getting frustrated with Manessa because I’m trying to work and she’s nagging at me. We must remember that you and your business but work around your child’s needs not the other way around. We are first and foremost moms and developing a balanced schedule and life is tricky but you can do it! Your passion for your business and your family will be your greatest asset.

 

About the Author:

Mona Ismaeil is  the Associate Editor Muslimmoms.ca. She is also an elementary  teacher turned blogger and writer. Mona is the proud owner of Modern Hejab and stay-at-home mom to a sweet little girl. She loves to travel and see all the world has to offer with her family.

Are you an entrepreneur, or thinking of going that route? How do you manage your time to make sure that your business is as successful as your family life?

Back To School – A Survivor’s Guide

By Muneezah Jawad

Back To School - A Survivor’s Guide

With school starting in less than a week, we really hope most of us are done with their back to school shopping already. For those who still have to tackle this task, we put together a quick guide to make it a (relatively) stress-free process.

Shop for supplies

From Kindergarten to Grade 8, every class requires different supplies and the best way to know what you need is to look at the school website which usually publishes a supply list by grade. Sometimes more specific things are needed intermittently during the school year and the teacher usually sends out a note letting you know what that is.

The list does get longer as the grades get higher. Kindergarten requires very little, just some tissue boxes, glue and perhaps crayons. Grade 8′s usually require calculators, folders, dictionaries and more.

It’s always a good idea to have an English and French dictionary at home as well as some encyclopedias and if you are like me and like the kids to do a little bit extra at home, you can get a grade specific activity/curriculum book. They have great deals at Costco.

Bag some bags

It’s a good idea to recycle whatever can be used from last year especially backpacks and lunch bags unless the condition is really run down. I usually get new backpacks every 2 years so that the children’s desire to have the latest design is fulfilled and it does not break the bank.

Lunchboxes are trickier and if they are the soft ones they can smell a bit funky after a while and so I replace them every year.  Get something that suits your child’s style of eating. Small children need something with many compartments so that they can have tiny portions of their favourite things. A bento style box or little Tupperware containers work great. I don’t spend too much on these things as they do frequently get lost. Make sure all containers are BPA free.

Lunch Ideas

As there are usually 2 nutrition breaks you need to make sure you separate the food. I usually pack a main meal such as a sandwich or nuggets, some fruit, a granola bar, cheese and crackers and sometimes a treat altogether and the kids pick what to eat when. Please remember that most schools have a peanut free policy. I also have a thermos style box into which I sometimes pack a hot meal. A water bottle that is easy to open and closes firmly is very important otherwise often you will find a flood in your lunchbox.

What’ll they wear?

Unless your children go to a school where uniforms are required you are going to need plenty of clothes. The first step is to go through closets and see what can be reused or passed on to siblings and then make your wardrobe checklist.  September is not a terribly hot month and by October it’s getting chilly in the mornings so it’s a good idea to buy some track pants and fleece for the in-between weather. Layering clothing is the best option as kids can add or remove layers as they need.

If you find a great sale stock up on shoes as kids need a pair of indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. I know that my kids go through several pairs through-out the school year. Velcro shoes are great for the little ones.

I don’t do much back to school shopping. I pretty much avail the sales throughout out the whole year especially at Christmas time.  They are always losing something on the other. Make sure you have plenty of winter gear especially gloves, hats, socks, thermals as kids frequently lose them and then they are sold out of the stores by February but it stays cold sometimes well into April. Going to the States to shop used to be a great idea but with the current downward trend of the Canadian dollar against the US it’s not worth it anymore.

Ease into routine

Slowly returning to a regular routine will also make life easier. We have been sleeping past midnight and waking up late, eating at odd times and generally just chilling. Try pulling back bedtime by an hour every few days until school starts. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers 1-3 years need 12-14 hours of sleep, children 3-5 years of age should average about 11-13 hours, School-aged children need 10-11 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours.

Time their time

Studies also show that students lose 2-3 months’ worth of learning over the summer. That means that even though your child went to school from September to June it would be like they went to school September to March.  So it’s time to curb their device usage. Start limiting their screen time. There are many great apps such as ‘Screen Time’ which can actually lock a child out after a certain set period of time of usage. I use this with my daughter and it works really well. It’s set for an hour a day then it locks her out for everything except phone calls.

Make sure they study 20 minutes daily. More if they are older. This will get them ready to concentrate on their work and in ‘school mode’. A good idea would be to have them write about their summer holidays. It will get them thinking and spelling. Go over their multiplication tables by holding skittle contests. A skittle for whoever gets the answer right.  This would be a great time to go over those activity books that we discussed above. You could do the ones from last year. I never let my kids write in the books but they worked on paper as I have 2 kids close in age and wanted them to be able to reuse the book. You can also find worksheets online. It doesn’t have to be much and the holiday is not over but a little will go a long way. This is actually something they should do all year round.

Put meal times and the socialising on a time table too.  Start talking to them about expectations about the coming year. If it’s an EQAO year, or new high school it’s good to talk those things out. I am constantly telling my daughter to brace herself from an onslaught of work and other temptations as she enters high school. Talk to them about school and morning routines. Laying clothes out the night before, how they will be getting to and from school and who with. If you car pool or use the bus make sure you have the scheduling all planned out well ahead of time. If you have been helping little ones in the toilet over the summer now would be the time to have them start going independently again.

Don’t stress yourself. The first day of school is always a fun and exciting one. If you didn’t get everything done or didn’t have a change to buy something it’s alright. There is nothing that the kids can’t do without initially. Slowly you can fill in the gaps of what you need to do.

About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the social media manager at MuslimMoms.ca and a veteran back to school survivor for the past many years.

Tell us how you have gotten your family ready for September. Do you have any tips for us? Do let us know how your first day went. Most importantly don’t forget to breathe a sigh or relief and lay back with a cup of coffee and enjoy your first day of school morning.

Penmanship – Getting Writing Right

By Aaisha Zafar Islam

penmanship- getting writing right

One of my earliest childhood memories is struggling to get the lower case ‘f’ just right as I attempted cursive in school. Another memory seared on my brain is Ma’s wrath when presented with a sheet of writing that was messy and horror of horrors, rife with spelling mistakes. I did get to reap the benefits of these lessons learned early in life. First is my OCD when it comes to spellings – I risk an aneurysm every time I see mangled spellings, and it is a handicap that becomes a skill in my work as an editor. Secondly, and more pertinent here is that focussing on how neat, rounded and evenly spaced out my alphabets were has also accorded me a balance in my personality, or so I like to think. How you write, the slant of words, the spacing and the size of letters themselves reveals many things about one’s psyche.

Later, as I sat on the admissions and interview committee of the University I taught at, we read through each candidate’s handwritten letter assessing not just the words expressing their intent of pursuing a program, but also how they wrote everything down, their penmanship.

And still later, as I taught some of these students, I insisted on frequent speed writing sessions in class on random topics. Again, this enabled me to know my students better, the extent of their vocabulary and how they expressed their ideas on paper, things I’d need to work on with them, and most importantly, what their handwriting revealed about them as persons, beginner’s foray into graphology if you will. Many label it as pseudo-science; however I have had remarkable success at reading a person’s person by looking at their handwritten note.

After all these experiences, it was only natural that I insist that my own progeny master the basics of good penmanship, best me at calligraphy, wow his teachers with the perfection of his letters and win a Nobel Prize for something or the other while he was at it. All before he turns 10!

March of times

My son turned seven early this year, he is a child of the digital age when typing reigns supreme and writing is fading away. If I were to be honest, I’d say his writing is borderline atrocious. It’s not that he cannot write neat, it’s that he will not. Writing something down, as I insist, means that he spends more time bent over his notebooks, which again are in a sorry state because he’s not too fond of them, instead of having his messy mop of hair bent over a book he wants to read.

Adding to my desperation to teach son how to master cursive, or at least a decent print, are these articles that all insist that writing by hand does wonders for your brain.

Learning cursive provides crucial benefit to children at an age when they need it most: a sense of involvement and ownership, hand-eye coordination, patience, and self-control. 

What cursive does for your brain:

In learning to write by hand, even if it is just printing, the brain must:

Locate each stroke relative to other strokes.

Learn and remember appropriate size, slant of global form, and feature detail characteristic of each letter.

Develop categorization skills.

Cursive writing, compared to printing, should be even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.

~ Psychology Today

Relic of the past?

I also understand that there are many detractors of this handwriting, arguing it is a dying tradition and well past its date, that the time spent over learning cursive can be used instead on other subjects like learning another language, or sciences that will be of more help academically. And while I can’t disagree with this, I also know that societal traditions are cyclic, what is a lost art now will be a treasured skill tomorrow. A decade or two later, when writing by hand sees a revival, I want my children to be able to teach their own offspring.

More than anything, if there is the slightest bit chance that it will make them better people, I want to go that route. I am a mom and I want nothing but the best of very best for my brats, so I am going to buy as many interlined notebooks as I can, and nag them into writing a neat print and a passably decent cursive. The Nobel Prize can wait till they’ve mastered the loop of a lower case ‘r’.

About the author:

Aaisha Zafar Islam is the executive editor of MuslimMoms.ca and harbours delusions of grandeur if she goes long periods of time without a cup of tea. She also has a very neat handwriting, both cursive and print.