Products We're Using

10/2015
We're using this program right now, level 1. My daughter loves it so far.

Can We Change Our Intention While Praying?





Click on the above image to view in Twitter. Then click again on the image to scroll through the images that explain the permissibility or impermissibility of three different scenarios:


  • Changing from a supererogatory prayer to obligatory prayer
  • Changing from an obligatory to a specific supererogatory prayer
  • Obligatory to a general supererogatory prayer

I made up a notebooking page for my kids to complete when we read through this, in shaa Allah

Is it permissible to change intention during prayer? Notebooking page



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Going Out Strong! - Tips & Strategies for Writing An Effective Concluding Paragraph

Conclusions can be one of the hardest parts of an essay or paper to write. And often, they may be the weakest because let's face it, after a student pours his heart and soul into the rest of the paper or essay (or trudges painfully through if your kids hate writing) they are just ready to be done with it. Here are some tips that I've found across the internet for what to do and what not to do in a concluding paragraph.

What to Do


How to Write a Conclusion (About.com) Nice article that shows students 10 ways to end an essay or paper: Among them:
  • Reiterate the main point
  • Issue a challenge
  • Mention or point to the future
  • Summarize
  • End with a quote
  • Wrap up a scenario you presented in your introduction
  • Present a solution
  • Make a new connection
  • Send your reader in a new direction

Conclusion (About.com) Another article that offers suggestions for conclusions, including:
  • Mention broader implications or the significance of your topic
  • Give one final example that pulls all parts of  your discussion together
  • Offer a prediction
  • Suggest how the reader can apply what you just discussed
  • End with a question

Concluding Paragraphs (Grammar.ccc) offers a few more strategies for a conclusion:
  • end with a warning
  • suggest results or consequences
  • evoke a vivid image
  • end with a provocative question

What Not to Do


From Grammar.ccc - Concluding Paragraphs
  • Don't simply restate your thesis
  • Don't end with a "sentimental flourish that shows you are trying to much 
  • Don't bring up new ideas
  • Don't apologize or undercut the argument you have just made
A general consensus is that you should not begin a conclusion paragraph with phrases like "in summary" or "in conclusion."

Structure/format of a conclusion paragraph


I teach my kids cookie cutter writing. I give them the similitude of baking cookies. You start off with a recipe. And you keep making that recipe over and over again until you know it inside and out and can make the cookies without the recipe. Then, when you are at that point, that's when you branch out and mix it up and make a whole new fantastic cookie recipe. But you've got to have that basic recipe down first.  That's the approach I take with writing.

So, I always try to give my kids a framework or outline to work with for introductions, paragraphs, and conclusions until they master them.
Here are a few resources that put forth some sort of structure for a conclusion paragraph:
Writing a Good Conclusion Paragraph (Time4Writing)
At the end of this article is a conclusion paragraph outline (it also gives some examples of ineffective conclusions)
How to Write an Effective Conclusion Paragraph?
Near the end of this article, it lays out sentence by sentence a format for a conclusion paragraph. It also includes a nice selection of transition words and phrases.
The Five Paragraph Essay
Towards the center of this article is a nice summary of what a conclusion should/can include:
  1. an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  3. a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
  4. a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)
 The Concluding Paragraph
In this short article, there is a quick section that sets up a structure for a concluding paragraph. In addition, it gives several examples of concluding paragraphs from actual essays of famous writers. 
Conclusions - UNC Writing Center - "This handout will explain the functions of conclusions, offer strategies for writing effective ones, help you evaluate conclusions you’ve drafted, and suggest approaches to avoid."
Writing the Essay Conclusion 

Use Models


How can we expect our students to write awesome conclusions if they have never really seen one?Provide your student with examples of good and bad conclusions so they can use the good as a model and use the bad as a lesson in what not to do. Some of the resources above give example concluding paragraphs.

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Converting Mixed Numbers and Improper Fractions

My daughter is currently working on converting mixed numbers and improper fractions and I've sat down with her a few times this week and showed her the steps.  After a few times of writing the process out, I thought I would make her up a little poster that she could refer to in the future, in shaa Allah:


Converting Mixed Numbers and Improper Fractions


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What is an Insect? Notebooking Pages

My 1st grader and I studied insects earlier this year. Here is a printable I made for her for classifying insects.

What is an Insect? Notebooking Page
Here she tells how many insects an ant has and in the circles near the legs, each leg is numbered. To the right, she writes how many body parts there are (3) and then she traces the names of each part.


Types of Insects

On the second page of the printout out, she can see if she can name the different types of insects and tell why each one is an insect (because they have six legs and 3 body parts; some pictures don't show the legs though.... ) These can also be cut out and pasted onto a page titled types of insects.



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Fatawas Regarding the Month of Rajab


The four sacred months are: Muharram, Rajab, Dhul Qadah, and Dhul Hijjah




The Month of Rajab - Fatawas


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Going with the Flow....of Homeschool Papers

A few tips to help the flow of homeschool work papers.......


So you open up a child's school folder and see a piece of work. Has it been graded? Has your student corrected problems marked wrong?  These questions come up a lot so I devised a few simple systems to help quickly answer these questions:

Work Folders

We currently use two pocket folders to hold work that is submitted for grading and work that has been returned for corrections. The right pocket is for work that each child has completed and the left side is for work that I have graded but needs to be corrected.

Homeschool Work Turn In Folders
 This works pretty well most of the time, but sometimes there is some confusion (a page may be misplaced in the wrong side), so there are other systems in place.....

Graded Work That Needs Corrections

1) Obviously if a student sees an "x" or some marks on their paper, they can tell if corrections are needed. But sometimes, my kids don't seem to think to look over all pages of an assignment that I put back in (or maybe it's just laziness???)  and they come to question me as to what needs correcting.
So, when I correct a piece of work, I:

Put the total amount of points for an assignment under a fraction bar and leave the top blank.

This way, they know, I didn't assign a total grade and this work has been graded.

2) Ok, so I see a piece of work in the submitted section and I see my unfinished grade marking (total points on bottom, no number on top mark). Has my student corrected this? It should be in the corrections side if not, but well, sometimes it's  not.  So.....we use the top right corner as a little message area. An initial (and whether it's checked or not) tells whose court the ball is in:

So, if corrections are needed by my student, I put his/her initial in the top right corner. When my student sees the paper and his/her initial, it's show time for them.  When he or she completes corrections, he or she can write my initial (U in this case for "Ummy). So when I see the paper again with an unmarked "U" and a check by my student's initials, I know he or she has made corrections and it's my turn.

Graded, No (more) Corrected Needed

Now, we have to turn in all our work to a supervising teacher (after it's been graded by me). So, I have a small binder for each student with subject divisions. In the early days with this program, I use to use simple manila folders and paper clips to keep all the work together. These binders have been revolutionary; they are much more easy to transport and keep papers together.  If you are homeschooling on your own and want to keep the work for record-keeping purposes, at this point you could just file in a filing cabinet, or use the binders to hold the current year's work and then just store the work in a filing cabinet or box after the year is over. When I was homeschooling independently, I never really kept work that much (we moved around a lot), You could also take pictures of "standout "work or just digital copies of work that you may need for a portfolio or eportfolio or just in case you lose the work.


A few more homeschool paperwork organization tips:

Use Spiral Notebooks to keep track of work

When I first started homeschooling, we would just do some math problems on a page and then I'd throw the page out. As we got deeper into our homeschooling, I realized that this method wasn't going to cut it. So, we branched out and bought some spiral notebooks. They are awesome for helping kids keep track of their work. They can keep homework assignments intact in the book until they are ready to turn it in, heck, you can even have them turn in the notebook for correcting.

We've gone back and forth over the years as to whether or not we like one spiral notebook for all work or one for each subject.  I tend to prefer the one spiral for all subjects because then there is just the one spiral notebook to keep up with.  I currently homeschool six kids so you can imagine what it would be like to have six kids turning in 4 notebooks a piece...................

Spiral notebooks or composition books are also great to use as assignment tracker books.  You can use a table format to denote the date, subject, and assignment and student can check off assignments as they complete them and you can make a column for you to mark off that an assignment has been graded. I used to do this more when we homeschooled on our own as my kids currently have assignment sheets/pacing guides provided to them by our public homeschooling program.

Where Should My Students Submit Their Work/Folder

We've used different systems over the years for my kids to turn in their work to me and for me to return it. I mentioned earlier we use a two pocket folder for turning in and returning work. But those folders have got to go somewhere.... In the past, I've taped manila folders onto the wall for each student. At one time, kids just put their folders on the printer near my computer.  Currently, we are using a repurposed cardboard box system that I love:

Homeschool Cardboard Box Shelves


I've always wanted some shelves from Staples or whatnot but they are pretty pricey to me so when we had a surplus of cereal boxes, perfect! As you can see, I have a lot of boxes. There is one for each kid, plus an extra paper catchall shelf.  After some time, the structure started to weaken, so I have since laid them on their side:



I love our boxes and I think I love them even more because I made them.  Of course, I could have covered the outsides with contact paper to make them a little more pleasing to the eye, but hey, sometimes "ain't nobody got time for that....."




What kinds of organization methods do you employ for your homeschool to keep track of the flow of paper?  




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Homemade Playdough Fun!

We made homemade playdough last weekend and as you can imagine, it was a hit, alhamdulillah.


I've made playdough throughout the years, but I think I was always stingy on the food coloring because I always got bland pastel colors: pinks, blues, light greens.

Well, this time we got vibrant, fun colors (although the picture doesn't do them justice as they were all more vibrant in real life than they appear here.)


I followed the recipe/instructions in this video, which was really well put together and easy to follow:


I was especially glad to see this one as many playdough recipes call for cream of tartar, which I don't ever have on hand or buy. And, it also was a no cook recipe, yippee!!

Here are a few of our masterpieces:





By the second day it looked like this (or was this the first day??):




Then by the end of the week it had morphed into a green-gray mass, but they still got lots of play from it.

Someone forgot to put it back in its airtight zipper bag last night, so we said goodbye to it this morning and resolved to make some more soon, in shaa Allah.

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How We Use Google Spreadsheets for Our Homeschool Planner

Need an alternative method for you and the kids to keep track of their daily work? Consider Google Spreadsheets.

What We've Tried

Over the years, we have tried many ways to keep track of assignments. In the early days (and on and off since then), we have used the old fashion paper and pencil trackers/lesson plan sheets. I've made a daily planner on a whiteboard.  I've tried Trello boards, I've tried a commercial online planner. As most homeschoolers, probably, I've tried many things.

Our latest method is using Google Spreadsheets. We've been using it this past school year, and I have to say, although it's far from perfect, it's working great for us now and seems to currently be the most efficient way for the kids to keep track of their work and to keep me informed of their progress at any time.

Using Google Spreadsheets as a Homeschool Planner


Access Your Planner From Anywhere

One beauty of Google Spreadsheets is that it is online, so I can access it from my desktop, my phone, or a laptop.  When I was nursing the baby, I could quickly check on my phone to see if the kids had completed their work for the day as assigned on the spreadsheet planner. It is also great to have it online so that I can make changes more easily than on paper.

A Look At One of Our Planners

To give you an idea of how you can use the spreadsheet for daily homeschool tracking, I will go through one of our planners and show you the different things that I have included, in shaa Allah. Using Google Spreadsheets works best if each child has access to their own phone or computer (or don't have to share with several kids, it's not idea for many kids sharing on one computer).

My Headings

Of course, the headings will vary based upon the courses and projects that each student has. The ones that stay the same tend to be:
  • Notes
  • Days Left
  • Date
  • Day of the Week
-Notes Column
In the notes column, (as seen below) I mark off any school holidays and breaks, as well as any tests the kids have to take, for example. In the picture below, you can see that my high schoolers had to take the CAHSEE exit exam, and then it shows our spring break in purple.


-Days Left Column
In the second column below,  I have the days left of the school year. I  usually only put this in towards the end of the school year.  You could also use this to denote number of days left in a particular grading period (quarter, semester). To put this in, I started at the day before the last day, and numbered up from the bottom, 1, 2, 3 going vertically up, then I highlighted these three boxes and dragged up so that it filled all the way up. (This pic was taken before formatting..I later centered the column...)


-Date Column
The third column is the date.  On this particular schedule I didn't put in the weekends so it took a little finagling to fill down on this.  (I had to use formulas to add 1 to the previous day and when I got down to Monday of the next week, I added 3). Once I established a pattern, I was able to fill down. But, if you are not familiar with spreadsheets, you can simply keep the weekends in and once you put in the first date, you can highlight that cell, and drag it down as far as you need to to automatically put the dates in.  It's also great to keep the weekends though, in case work was not completed during the week, then you can add it in.  I forgot why I decided to omit them........


Tip: Help Kids Quickly Locate Today's Work
Here are a few tricks to help the kids quickly find today's work.  As you can see above, today is the 14 of April and it is purple.  And tomorrow the current date will be purple.  To do this, you can use Conditional Formatting ((see right side of the picture below for the popup where you set the conditional formatting)

Go to the Format menu >> Conditional Formatting >> Add New Rule  >>Apply to your range ( highlight your column/cells or type in the range) >> Format cells if (choose Date is, then Today--see second picture below))  >> Formatting Style (choose the text and/or background colors that will display when it is today) >> Done.




Another way to make it easier to identify today's date is to hide rows above it (I don't do this often, just when they get further down the spreadsheet.) To do this, highlight the rows you want to hide, right click and choose "hide rows...."  You can also delete these rows, but I like to keep them in case we realize later that we needed them.

Tip: Freezing the Headings
 As you get down further in your spreadsheet, it is a great idea to freeze the top headings. To do this, highlight your heading row, choose View >> Freeze >> select from the options given

-Day of the Week Column
The fourth column, as you can see above (or below), is the day of the week.

Tracking Progress in Each Class

The next columns, for each class are where we track daily progress. Each class has it own set of columns.  I color coded each class so each of the subcolumns for a particular subject is more easily identified...

So, looking at history, for example, the first column tells my kids the assignment. The homeschool program we use has a syllabus, but the lessons are not numbered, so I numbered the lessons with a unit number, then a hyphen, then a lesson number.  The kids have to turn in work by units, so this helps us keep track of the units. If you are homeschooling independently, it's a great idea to prepare a master list of your lessons (with page numbers, exercise #s, etc)  for the year or quarter (and give your child a copy to keep in a binder/notebook) and then use some type of numbering system so that you just need to use that number on your spreadsheet instead of writing page numbers or directions out.

In history's second column, this is where we track.  I took advantage of a feature called validation so that I could use a drop down menu for us to mark progress, as you can see in the history column above.

When the work is finished by my student, he/she clicks the cell next to that assignment they have finished and they select "finished." ( When I look at the spreadsheet and see "finished, " then I know that I have work to grade. When I have graded it, I click on the dropdown and select "graded" if there are no corrections to be made. If there are, then I choose "Need2Correct." If I can't find the assignment in their online storage folder or in their physical folder, I choose "missing." These are my own descriptors, you can make ones that fit your needs. You can also see, that besides customizing what is said, I have also formatted to make each choice be a different color when selected to call attention to it.  Need to correct is red, graded is green, etc. I explain all this next.....

How to Format These Progress Cells (What's in them and how they look)

First, what goes in your cells:

First you highlight the column cells where you want the formatting to occur. Then, choose Data (on the menu) >>Validation (a box pops up) >> Criteria >>Now select List of items and type in your list (as shown below with the commas)) >>Save

These steps  you just did give you the drop down portion.

Now format what the cells look like when you choose the different items in the list
Go to  Format (in the top menu) >> Conditional Formatting>> then under Format Cells if... (choose "text contains" or "text is exactly" (see picture below)) I usually just choose "text contains" I think.


Once you choose "text contains" or "text is exactly"  another box pops up:


In the circled area, this is where you choose one value from your validation list that you set up earlier (finished, graded, etc).  Below this, you see "formatting style" and this is where you choose your background color and/or text color. When you've formatted it up, hit "Done" and repeat this formatting process for each of your validation values (finished, graded, etc), selecting different colors each time. I generally only change the background color, not the text color, unless for example, with red, it's hard to see the black, so I might choose a white text)--I didn't here, but sometimes I do).

Now, once you have this validation and formatting established for one column, you can simply copy and paste these cells that you've formatted to another subject's progress column and the formatting should be copied. (You should see the dropdown arrows if it copied correctly).

Copying Your Spreadsheet to All Kids
As I said earlier, Google Spreadsheets works best if each child who is using it has access to their own phone or computer easily or at least doesn't have to share with everyone. It is not as great to use (but still doable) if you have to share one computer, for example. I've found that it is best to make up a master spreadsheet with all your formatting as a template and then copy that template to a spreadsheet/book for each child.

As you  can kind of see below (smile), right click on the arrow to the right of the spreadsheet name and a box pops up. Choose "Copy to" and a box pops up which will let you choose a folder (if you have folders) and then a specific child's spreadsheet book  (each of my kids has their own spreadsheet book for lesson planning.

My spreadsheets titles are a little messy in this particular book at the bottom as you can see, but if you notice the "copy of Grade 10...." this is what it will look like when you've copied a spreadsheet and then you just need to rename it. Once you've copied a spreadsheet, you can update it to match the particular classes that each student is taking. I would set up four classes in the master template and then you can just change the subject titles as you need and copy and paste subjects and their subcolumns if you need more subjects.

Some Limitations

So, that's basically how I set up planners for each of my kids.  We've been using this for this past year and it's really working great. As I said, Google Spreadsheets is not perfect and I've found a few caveats. For example, if you are used to using Excel, as far as I know with Google Spreadsheets,  you can't delete individual cells, only whole rows.  That can be a pain, and I often times have to move a whole column up some rows by cutting the contents and pasting them up, whereas with Excel, I could just delete a cell and the contents below would be moved up. But, it still is easier  for me to edit a Google spreadsheet than say, editing on paper because I have to erase and rewrite.

If you are not especially computer savvy, using spreadsheets may seem like more work than you are to get into.  I've tried a trial version of Homeschool Planet and although I absolutely loved it,  I found that the kids weren't really using it (maybe I didn't give it enough time, but since I only had a trial version, I wanted to see if something else would work before I committed to purchasing it and Google Spreadsheets seemed to fit the bill at the time). I did like that with Homeschool Planet, it was easy to reschedule assignments that weren't complete. With Google Spreadsheets, you have to manually shift things as I mentioned before (selecting cells and moving them down which can be cumbersome if you've planned for a whole year, for example). But, we just didn't get up and running quckly with Homeschool Planet, so I am glad we just used the free trial as I was very close to purchasing it.  If the thought of setting up your own spreadsheet seems ugly and painstaking to you, and yet paper is still inefficient, then I would definitely recommend Homeschool Planet for scheduling, because it was pretty neat and I have read about several people who have had great success with it.





Do you use Google Spreadsheets as a homeschool planner? If so, can you offer more tips? 

If not, what method of planning do you use, paper? digital? white board? Something else? Please share in the comments to help others.


**This post contains affiliate links for Homeschool Buyers' Co-op which produces Homeschool Planet. If are unfamiliar with affiliate links, it means that if you click on the link and purchase a subscription for Homeschool Planet, I received compensation. This does not affect your purchase price.**


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Use Graphing Questions as Writing Prompts? Yep!

In the younger grades, kids are often given little questions to survey their class, tally their results and graph.  One day it hit me that these were great questions to have a beginning writer sit down and answer.


Using Graphing Questions as Writing Prompts

Typical elementary graphing questions include questions like:
  • What color is your hair?
  • What color are your eyes?
  • What is your favorite season?
Assigning questions like these can make for great for handwriting practice or to help with beginning grammar/sentence concepts.  You can write out the question on paper or a white board and have students respond to the question (teaching them how to rephrase it in the form of a statement). Make sure to also stress that complete sentences are written.

For younger kids, you could give one sentence daily, or you could give them several.  You might have them actually survey family members each day, graph the result and then write sentences like, "My mother has brown eyes" or "Three people in my family have brown eyes."

At any rate, if you just need something quick to get a younger one writing, these can be very helpful, in shaa Allah.

I found an extensive list of graphing questions at CanTeach:


Use Graphing Questions as Writing Prompts




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Daily Writing Prompts for Every Day of the Year!

I stumbled across a daily writing prompt resource at Teacher's Corner yesterday. There are writing prompts for each day of the year (based upon the date). So, you can have your student navigate to the current month and then scroll down to today's date to find a writing prompt. Sometimes there are two writing prompts to choose from.  I like these writing prompts as they give facts pertaining to that specific day (something that happened or was done on that date in history).  Now of course some of the days will be Islamically inappropriate (holidays, for example), so you could substitute with your own, or taken that topic and look at it's inappropriateness from an Islamic standpoint.

Daily Writing Prompts


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End "What Shall I Write About?" - Use a Writing Prompt Generator

If we want kids to do well in writing, they have to, well.... write!  And lots. Giving daily writing practice is one way to help achieve that, in shaa Allah.  Some kids like to write and need little or no help thinking about something to write. But, maybe more often than not, some kids need a little help. You can provide writing prompts (make up your own or find oodles of them on the internet). But sometimes your writing prompts will get met with an eye roll or sigh (heck sometimes they make me sigh too just thinking about them).  So, you might try a writing prompt generator such as one I found online.

With this generator, kids can click to generate their own prompts in three ways (as seen in the picture below):

  • Get a generated phrase of an adjective, noun, and verb
  • Get the names of three random objects to craft a story about
  • Get a plot generated with a protagonist, antagonist, setting, goal, important event and/or object. Students can use all the things generated under here or just use one or more.


Writing Prompt Generator
My daughter chose the three object one one time and crafted a cute little story. 

So, if you need some help getting a student started writing, this writing prompt generator is a little trick that might help.


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Basics of Ahadith Worksheet/Guided Notes

– ok, a worksheet technically, but I want the kids to keep them in their binders so they can review it from time to time. The questions are about the main points in  my introductory hadith lessons, and the answers are in a data bank but mixed up.  (I wanted to give them concise answers to study).
What is a Hadith? Guided Notes



It also includes a handwriting practice sheet where students can practice writing key terms pertaining to ahadith, in shaa Allah.

Hadith Terms Handwriting Practice

One of my nine years olds and the upper kids completed it as it is pretty easy, so can be used for younger ages if the physical writing skills are good, in shaa Allah.



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What is a hadith? Introductory Lessons

Set of six lessons I created to teach basic information about ahadith for elementary students.

Introductory Lessons on Ahadith

Introductory Lessons on Ahadith


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Understanding Ahadith

Understanding AhadithTHM SadaqaGroup.org has some excellent PDFs to help students understand ahadith:




They also have some other resources pertaining to ahadith, such as the hadith of Jibreel here: http://www.thmsadaqagroup.org/40ahadeeth.htm


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