Professional Development with Shaheen Rasheed

Soulful Studies:

My latest training session with a wonderfully engaged group of teachers on a topic close to my heart.

Originally posted on Peace Terrace News:

Shaheen Rasheed brings over twenty years of in-and-out of classroom teaching experience to this project. Shaheen’s expertise in K-8 education is best suited to guide educators to pick, plan and deploy excellence for their young students in an alternative educational model school. Shaheen has worked extensively with the Classical Approach to education as an Educational Consultant and holds a degree in Elementary Education along with certifications in Teaching English as a Second Language, Early Childhood Education and a current Masters in Education. She is pleased to be able to provide you with the highest quality resources for this project based on both her practical and theoretical experience.

What is a classical education model? How can it be applied? What are the benefits? These were some of the questions we explored with Shaheen Rasheed who is currently working with us as a consultant as we explore new directions in our Language…

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Bittersweet transitions

Sitting in a park with my friend, as our kids were jumping through the monkey bars and running through the grass, it occurred to me that we had reached a point in our life where we could just sit down and have a conversation with each other, turn around every so often and say “no – that’s dangerous”, or “don’t do that ’cause you’ll get hurt” to the kids and they would listen! Then the realization hit me that not only were we cautioning and “saving” our children from disastrous (in our minds) endings but we had taken away from them their imagination, creativity, spontaneity and the ability to discover fearlessly. It is a bittersweet transition because we (the adults) can actually sit at a park bench and have a conversation or relax and not have to run behind our toddlers constantly. Yet, we just took away the natural tendencies of our children to explore, discover and tread fearlessly- even in an environment as sterile as a park.

This brings me to a very important point of who is in charge, or rather, who should be in charge of a child’s discovery phase. Where is the balance? What should we do? Should we let our kids just go off and wander into “dangerous” territory? Or should we curb their appetite for adventure and curiosity? Is it best to cheat them and have them think that they’re being raised as carefree individuals while actually manipulating their choices by placing them in a sterilized and sanitized environment so that the results will, for sure, be safe?

With articles recently trending that put mothers under the legal microscope of “neglect” for letting kids play on their street, these become very difficult questions to answer. What parents of 20 years ago did with their children is unimaginable in today’s world. I’ve heard of a parent being threatened of “neglect” by a neighbor for letting her boys (ages 7 and 9) ride their scooters in their cul de sac while she cooked in the kitchen. I’ve also heard of parents being stopped by strangers in a parking lot to be told that they were “abusing” their children for forcing their wailing toddler to buckle up in a car seat.

Do we in turn transfer these fears perpetrated by society onto our children? Do we fear for ourselves or for them, really? One mother I know was panicking while taking her child to the ER for a severe cough, because she feared doctors would take her daughter away under the pretext of neglect or abuse as she had not taken the child to see a doctor in time. In a world where child abuse in at an all time high, I can on one hand see the reason for paranoia- both in parents and authorities, yet I don’t seem to understand the constant threat of CPS looming overhead and the abandoning of general common sense.

Parenting experts such as Barbara Coloroso and Dr. Leonard Sax constantly tell parents to assert their authority, but firmness with a toddler, albeit in speech, is now being labeled as abuse! It has always been through fear that we give up or loose our rights and I see the same trend happening with parenting and the fear of abuse. To me, this is frightening.

I’m not a parent who could ever dish out the iron fist nor am I one who, in Coloroso’s terms, would be called a “brick wall” parent. Yet I see the benefits of setting limits, doling out consequences and remedying errors from the time our kids are little. Today parents are afraid of emotionally scarring their kids and damaging their self esteem to such a degree that they are unknowingly raising Cain. A psychologist friend of mine tells me how studies show those raised with strict rules and responsibilities tend to be stronger, self confident and loving adults. Dr. Leonard Sax mentions in his talks the story of the young teen whose parents were watching her closely and setting limits for her that her friend’s response to this was, “I wish my parents cared about me this much!”

It seems like children crave the parenting boundaries that come with care, love and concern. Parents want to discipline, teach and raise a responsible adult and society surely needs well adjusted, responsible, caring adults. So, under what pretext are we giving up our parenting authority and for what reason are we afraid to teach our children and raise them well?

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Happy New Year!

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As the new Islamic year begins, let’s pray for peace and security, guidance and healing, bounty and blessings upon us all!

Celebrate the new year by commemorating the blessed historic events of this month.

Muharram Mubarak!

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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!

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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.

http://productivemuslim.com/hajj-for-kids/#utm_source=Facebook-Fan-Page&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=Social-Traffic

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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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