Make art not mess.

Unlike the hands on moms who can pull out the many utensils of art and let their children explore and find themselves, I’m one who pulls her hair out when art time rolls around. Don’t get me wrong, I provide plenty of art supplies and art exploration activities for my young ones, but, the activities are usually constrained to space, material or at the very least, clean up time. I applaud the bravery, patience and energy of moms who can let kids be with paint or markers or glue in a house that needs to be lived in by others later in the day. Quite possibly, their little ones are more creative, more expressive and enjoy learning more than mine. However, I have placed importance on retaining my sanity and hence my ho-hum activities. Recently though, I learned of an art form and activity which I wish I had known much earlier on. It’s called the Andy Goldsworthy activity and for anyone who needs a clean space or dreads the aftermath of an art activity, this is perfect!

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer and environmental activist who works in urban and natural environments creating and then photographing site specific sculpture and land art. Taking from his ideas of using objects found in nature, art projects take place outside the house (Yay!) It uses objects in their own space and leaves them there at the end of the project (double yay!) Through this, children can move, scavenge, pick up but not tear down, any natural object they find and create their own imaginary art. The use of natural objects and more so the idea of leaving nature undisturbed resonates with many environmental activists,while moms who don’t want to deal with clean up have a field day (excuse the pun) as well.

Beyond all this what it teaches our little guys and girls is that beauty can be found anywhere as God has made this world full of it. Additionally, it teaches us all that beauty does not just belong in our home, but in our world. We don’t have to make a project to bring and showcase it in our living rooms or on our refrigerator. We can leave it outside, keep it unnamed and share it for all to enjoy.

Also, apart from the concept of creativity adding in a language component makes this even more powerful. Having each child tell about their imaginative pieces or write a story about it while you photograph and “save” their work greatly enhances the art education opportunity. An even more ambitious activity would be to photo journal and publish a picture book with the childrens’ art projects! As for myself, I’m just glad I don’t have to plan, prepare, hold my breath and then clean up an indoor art project!


Birds nest with eggs- our Andy Goldsworthy example.

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Eid Mubarak!


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Hajj activities for kids

It’s that time of year again- when Millions of Muslims from around the globe travel for pilgrimage and participate in weeklong activities in various cities in Saudi Arabia. Here they carry out rites and rituals to connect them to the historical learning moments of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael and Prophet Mohammed peace be upon them all. Here too the supplicate and pray for forgiveness and mercy, for their hearts’ desires and for the wants of the many who ask for their special prayers at this time.
Those left behind at home celebrate the culmination of the Hajj with sacrifices and festivities of Eid al Adha while reminiscing the meanings of the holiday. For many parents and educators bringing this experience down to the level of a child may seem difficult. Thanks to Sr. Hafsa Taher of HafsaCreates, here is a link of various activities to try with your own children this Hajj season.
Thanks to Productive Muslim for the link.

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Building blocks

In looking at this picture from our recent trip to India, I reminisced witnessing the beauty and majesty of the Qutub Minar of Delhi. For those who aren’t familiar with the Qutub Minar, here is a quick Wikipedia verison of Indian History.

The Qutb Minar was commissioned by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi, and was completed by his successor – Iltumish. This 72 meters high red sandstone and marble tower has a base diameter of 14.3 meters and tapers to 2.7 meters at the top. As the name suggests, this UNESCO World Heritage Site tower was made to serve the purpose of a minaret from where the adhan (call to prayer) could be called in India’s first mosque. Most important to note here is that the Qutub Minar was constructed in parts, one cylindrical column at a time, with the final one completed 172 years after it’s inception.

The beauty and magnanimity of this tower is shadowed only by the farsightedness of the Muslim builders. At the time when Qutb-ud-din Aibak asked for a Minaret to be built, the builders and architects built with the future in mind. They made a base so strong and a foundation so deep that the following leaders could keep building on it even over a hundred years later. In this lies the lesson for us- to give our children a foundation so strong that they can build their own towers as high as they desire.

Education is not based on the memorization and regurgitation of facts and data. It’s about gathering the tools of learning to be able to educate oneself for as long as one desires. If the foundation of education is built upon these true tools of learning, the mechanics of learning will come with ease. Teaching our children to think for themselves, to think critically, to analyze, to synthesize, to understand, to read beyond the words, to get to the deeper meanings of the written or spoken word- these are just some of the skills that are imperative in a highly competitive and dynamic work world.

Therefore, we must prepare with the end in mind. It’s not about a plan and execution for right now, but for the future- not just for one generation but for every generation that follows. If we are to do it right, then we can leave a legacy, like our ancestors did. It’s not about raising just one generation or just our children, it’s about raising the bar so that very child can reach his potential.

May God grant us the wisdom to do what’s best for now and the future.


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Name and locate this week’s picture


Leave your reply in the comments section or post on our Facebook page.
Don’t delay- winners announced soon!

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Lessons from a madrasa

With the cooling of the air comes the realization that summer vacation is ending and school will be starting soon. This propels a lot of parents to get into high gear and go shopping for school. Back to school sales lure us into the abyss of school supply shopping. Even children fall prey to this commercialization where everyone is made to believe in order to be successful each year a whole new gamut of supplies and “necessities” need to be purchased. The supply lists sent home from school which include the ‘one box of facial tissue’ and ‘one box of band-aid’ to alleviate the pains of an already maxed out system are not uncommon, but I’m attending to the self written lists that go on and on into the world of addictive commercialism. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, the average family with children enrolled in kindergarten through high school will spend $669.28 on back-to-school purchases. 17 states now offer a “sales tax holiday” giving families a break when purchasing back to school supplies. Others offer an income tax exemption on the same items.
From clothes to shoes to lunch bags to pencil boxes, these harmless necessities may encourage excitedness in school the first few weeks, but the latest version of the tablets, the iPods, the smartphones, and the gazillion other technological luxuries that pervade our lives have gotten out of control.
This week’s image of the madrasa Bou Inania of Fez, Morocco was to remind ourselves of how little a student actually needs. The Madrasa has student dorms/rooms located around the inner courtyard. Each room is just that- a room, a space for solitude and focus. Unlike today’s classrooms or college dorms which are hyper-wired with technology, things and ‘to buy’ charts. The beauty and simplicity of the madrasa resonates with me to this day. It is the only madrasa in Fez which is open to non-Muslim visitors and perhaps that’s why we hear about it’s spectacular architecture so much. Focusing on the building and it’s outside beauty we see what we are missing in our schools and classrooms today. We, as teachers, over stimulate with bulletin boards and artwork outside and wires and smart pads inside. Recently, school districts in New Jersey, Los Angeles and others threw out their laptops and iPads to get students back to education and teachers back to teaching rather than fixing the multitude of issues rising from having to troubleshoot devices on a daily basis.
Let’s arm our students with what is most important and necessary at the start of a school year first- an enthusiastic attitude, gratitude and excitement- the rest can follow later, InshaAllah.

Have a great year!




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Name this school contest



Can you name and locate this school? Winners will be announced on Friday on our Facebook page.

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