Teachers must ditch ‘neuromyth’ of learning styles, say scientists | Education | The Guardian



I also preach learning styles so this is something to think about. Nice arguments here. Please feel free to tell me what you think in the comments section below. 


The Steps To Reading Series



STRS……teaching a child to read, one letter at a time.

As a teacher with a background in physiology, I flowed while some of my colleagues had difficulties in understanding children who had difficulty in learning and (unfortunately) were put in “normal” classrooms in an otherwise, hostile, Nigerian educational environment. Don’t get me wrong, I worked in a good environment but my colleagues in other schools didn’t. And despite my own good environment, we were still incapable of providing for children who were below a certain level of intellectual ability.

Nursery is a good place to start when going into the teaching profession, and soon enough, I fell in love with my job and the children (ages 2-5 on average). I am a very creative person in a lot of areas so I  easily adapted my lessons to themes (back then – as I am no more in the classroom). One area that struck a chord in me was Language, and especially getting children to read. Maybe it was because I was fresh from learning Montessori or because the transition you see a child go through from non-reader to fluent reader is just magical! And I had somehow stumbled on some neurophysiology articles that had to do with cognition – now that had my juices running!

Fast forward 5 years later, I had this urge to train teachers to teach reading properly. So I birthed the Steps To Reading Series (been on it over a year). Through endless research and self-study, I was able to come up with a material that was technical but not too technical for the average Nigerian teacher to comprehend (as long as the teacher is qualified enough to be able to read the material).

WHAT IS THE Steps To Reading Series?

It is a mini-course I developed from a compilation of different works (mostly international because we still depend more on diaspora curriculum in schools here) based on the curriculum we use here in Nigeria. It is divided into 4 phases: Preparatory, Pre-Phonics, Phonics, and Post-Phonics Phases.

Preparatory has 2 module: Neuro 101 & Teachology 101

Pre-Phonics has 4 modules: Alphabetic Principle, Literacy & its stages, Print Awareness & Concept of Word, and Phonological Awareness.

Phonics has 3 modules: Phonics, Phonics the Jolly Way & Phonics the Montessori Way.

Post Phonics has 4 modules: Fluency, Vocabulary, Comprehension 1 and Comprehension 2.

Each module is meant to explain the topics thoroughly so as to ease a lot of headaches for the typical Nigerian teacher.



Neuro 101 gives a simple insight into how the brain works in learning.  Hopefully that will make it easier for teachers to easily recognize that children with learning difficulties shouldn’t be labelled as dull.

Teachology 101: address our attitudes to teaching as a profession. Basically, if God willed that you are a teacher, accept it and make the best of it. Learn to love it, it’s a noble profession! We can always talk about the salary later……

As for the remaining set of modules, it is meant to highlight aspects of teaching reading that is highly overlooked in training schools. The first four modules are usually clumped under phonics….and there is this never-ending war between Jolly Phonics & Montessori Phonics. Then of course, fluency is skipped, Vocabulary is just a normal daily act of living and comprehension?!?!? O dear! Don’t get me started.

I hope to keep developing the series each year, adding and subtracting as appropriate. I hope that sometime in the future, even a secondary school certificate holder would be able to use it to learn to teach reading (with some internships). This is Africa after all, not everyone has the “luxury” of getting into a good university. 


Reading is a prelude to so many things, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and all other analytical sciences. If they don’t read it properly, they would never understand it enough to solve the problems.

If we can just teach our children to read properly and to actually love the act of reading, we would have a nation of happy, literate, and empowered youths to steer the nation into a naturally positive course.





This is a lovely article I read on Kathy Kiefer’s blog on dyslexia. Worth the read. For those that have been asking…….

How hard is it to learn with Dyslexia?Can it be overcome?With dyslexia can you be successful?What are they symptoms and causes (if any) of   dyslexia?


The Silver Lining….. 


Think of all the hours, weeks, months and years of pounding the tracks,  through thick and thin,  in rain and in sunshine, of living a regimented life, of sustaining injuries that won’t heal fast enough, of depriving oneself of ordinary comforts, of combining school with sports. It is a tough call and only  few ever stay the course and succeed in the end.

Foreword by Chief Olusegun Odegbami 

And that’s how I became hooked on a great book, a good book, a motivational read. It takes a good author to write a book, making sure he obeys all the rules that come with creative writing and journaling. But it takes a genius to put together a literary masterpiece despite not having the necessary literary training to show for it.

From the foreward, you know you have a book to look forward to finishing without taking a break to go do something else.

I had been looking for a book to do a reading session with and I mentioned it to a dear friend. She made some recommendations and sent me two books to choose from.

Yes, one might argue that the cover isn’t captivating but that can easily be rectified in subsequent editions, it was the content I needed. Something to keep both book lovers and poor readers motivated. And yes, I was thrilled it was by a Nigerian.. .. Actually The two books sent were by indigenous writers.

The Silver Lining  is an autobiography,and definitely not a boring one. I will try my best to give a short but concise summary.

It is a book about drive, determination, courage, ambition, and the will to keep striving to succeed.

From age three, Enefiok tells us about his  thirst for success, to be the winner in whatever he competed in. Second best wasn’t good enough,… . No, he had to be the best.

We read about his childhood, his parents, his education, his love for his mother, the tragedy of her death, and other personal details… All this, without him having to tell us more than we needed to know.

Chapter four. … Oh! What CAN’T I say about chapter 4?!?! The whole of chapter four is dedicated to Goals! Goals! Goals! How to achieve your goals! How to maintain your goals! Everything you need to know. It doesn’t even tie it to the sport he was talking about. 

I think the second best part,  apart from chapter four,  is the final chapter where we get to go into his head at that critical point, on the last lap of his anchor leg position in the relay team. We discover what actually happened to earn him the Gold medal he didn’t even think he could get.

And that’s where I will stop, if you want to know more, get yourself a copy….lol.

It is definitely a good read that cuts across a wide age range. Very good for the youths and people that are having it tough, especially in this recession. It send a message of hope to anyone who reads it. That’s why we will be taking it to secondary schools for our Schools Get Reading Initiative. Stay tuned for that info.

Today, Enee is a fulfilled family man. Humble, soft spoken and very down to earth. He is retired from active athletics but hasn’t relegated himself to the background. He is trying g to make it easier for newer athletes to enjoy better options than what he had as a young athlete.

Then we have the fact that he is probably the only athlete in the world, most definitely in Nigeria, to hold the record of being a 3-in-1 success as an athlete, a graduate and an author. He read anatomy and still teaches anatomy an physiology at his Fitness centre in Surulere, Lagos.

And yes, we had a successful reading session dominated by teens. … And Yes I actually held an Olympic GOLD medal in my hands!

I would love to hear your comments below, or send me a message for enquiries. Thanks

Why do some people have reading challenges?



I’m doing a self study on children with slow learning abilities, actually, delayed reading ability. The more I read, the more captivating it is. One good thing, though, is that I now know that

if a child can’t read at age 7, it doesn’t mean the child is lazy, dumb or has no hope of ever making it in life.

It just means that both parents and school will need to intensify all efforts in intervention to  assist  the child or teen to read. Now if there is a biological issue involved, that’s another story, otherwise everything is OK. Even children with down syndrome read well if not better than their peers.
A point I must bring to your attention is that

there is a difference between reading and comprehending.

The child with down syndrome, for example, might be very good at reading but will not be able to comprehend what he or she is reading. So if we decide to intervene, we need to focus on both and take it from a simple to complex level.
A study done in the United States, years back, showed that there is a part of the brain that makes no contribution to intellect and is not measured in intelligence test. This area, allows children to distinguish between the tiniest sounds in words. If this area is not properly developed, then the child is likely to have difficulty in reading. Research is still going on in this area.

How can we help this area to develop?
We start very early at home. Children who enter school with a large vocabulary base have a very high probability of excelling in both reading and comprehension. Between birth and the age of 12mths, babies are able to replicate any sound they hear. After 12mths, they loose this ability and will only replicate, perfectly, sounds they have already heard. An example of this is the ‘r’ issue in Japanese language, there is no ‘r’ in the language so a typical Japanese adult won’t hear it in a word. So ‘rice’ becomes ‘lice’.
When mothers use baby talk with their babies, it helps unconsciously to accentuate sounds and rhythm in d native language. Please note, television can never be a substitute for this.

Dyslexia is a common term used to describe difficulty in reading. There are arguments about it being a myth or not.  Some argue that there is really no such thing as Dyslexia, and that you can’t tell between a dyslexic or normal child – see what I mean – it’s placing the child in a ‘special’ group,  and that is quite unnecessary. Others say, No, they need to be in a special group.
I kinda agree with the first group, if there were circumstances that affected a child in the foundational stages of growth, then it is only right to plan out some form of remedial and intervention strategy to assist that child to close the gap between him and his peers.  He is only a poor reader, not a special child. Labelling him might lead to unnecessary stigmatization amongst his peers. It has worked, still works, and will keep working as long as there is a determined and dedicated team, and of course no underlying medical issue.

Next article, we will talk more about dyslexia, God willing. See you!

Helping to Unleash.




That’s what I see whenever I look at my 12yr old daughter.

Now, it’s not that she is not a moody and grumpy child (just like her mum), nor am I saying she can’t be lazy or even naughty; what I am saying is that she is a child like every other child out there, fighting the hormones, learning subjects she is probably not going to use in her future career (maybe except the basic – Maths, English & Science), making and loosing friends, learning how to behave in public, etc. I could go on and on and bore you to death.

And like every other child, she has something else deep within her soul begging to come out, burst, explode – it’s what I call a POTENTIAL.

First, let’s understand what the term means, I have chosen three definitions from the world wide web:

1. Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future. (when used as an adjective)

This is when we say – “Aliyah is a potential chef” (i.e. we mean Aliyah loves cooking and cooks extraordinarily well for her age.)

2. Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness. (as a noun)

This is when we say – “Aliyah is a young interior designer with great potential.” (i.e. we mean Aliyah has actually done something related to interior design, either as a course studied or a hobby, and she produced wonderful works of design.)

3. The quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field or of charge in an electric field. (when used as a noun in physics)

In this case, I will draw similitudes –

a) Quantity determining the energy of mass in a gravitational field =

Quantity (excellence of finished product)

determining the energy of mass/charge (talent)

in a gravitational field/an electric field (field of work/study/hobby).

All three definition have two things in common – having an ability and driving that ability!

The beautiful thing about potentials is that every child was born with it, you don’t learn it but you learn to develop it. No matter the physical or learning challenge an individual has, it doesn’t stop a potential from developing if the right environment is created for development.

Switching back to me:

Back in the days, the rule of thumb was that you had to be either of four main careers when you grew up: Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer or Architect (A typical Nigerian home), or else why are your parents wasting money to send you to school?

Now it’s different because the products of that generation (maybe due to global economics or just plain frustration) have decided to think differently.

My daughter has a very creative streak, I know because she got it from me. She loves to sit in her spare time and make things, from necklaces, to bracelets, to purses, to cases, baskets, e.t.c. from different materials. She converted an old biscuit tin into a craft case. She takes her time to combine shapes and colours such that you are amazed at the results. The other day, she asked me for an orange and I told her to go take one. I noticed it took her quite a while to finish that particular orange but I didn’t press her as to why. Later, I was looking through my phone and I saw a picture of my daughter’s orange (below) – she called it her flower.

As a teacher, I had to go into reflection mode and I know that the best thing to do will be to help her bring out her creativity and take it to another level. Yes, she must finish her secondary and tertiary education in a certain field but if she decides she wants to let her creativity determine her career, I would probably encourage her to sign up for a Design, Business Administrative, Management, or even Marketing. She is currently a science student but that doesn’t mean she can’t use that in whatever designs she wants to create in the future.

Here is another work from her younger days:

As a child (and till now), I loved to draw and drew better pictures than my mates. I also loved to make things from paper but I just never had the right environment or encouragement to develop it so I sort of just pushed it aside and use it once in a while when I am doing the mother-children craft activity with my children.

If parents can just take 5-10mins a day to actually observe their child, take cues from their teachers and try to pinpoint what actually takes up the concentration of their child in a constructive manner, they will indeed be doing a great service to that child. Try to discover the talent in your child and channel your energy into helping him or her to use that talent positively and constructively. It doesn’t have to be a physical activity, it could be that your child is a potential orator or writer. And at the end of it all, your child will truly love you for being a true parent.

Here are some quotes I love that you can show your child:

potential 4




Having said that, though I am planning on taking my 12yr old to a 4 day craft course this holiday, I still haven’t gotten round to pinpointing the talents in her three younger siblings -10, 7, and 4yrs old. I hope I can find their own hidden talent as easily as it was for their elder sister.

Pubertal Vs Sex Education…..Whose Role is it?


girly stuff

Girly Talk-time……As a mother of 3 out of four being girls, I always knew the time would come when my babies’ hormones would go into over-drive at that all powerful and sensitive stage of life called PUBERTY. Being a female myself, I had gone through it – (well…I’d give myself an ‘A’ with some bumps here and there) – and I knew the many pressures, pleasures and pains one could go through. So I sort of dreaded when my first girl would reach it.

In my time (the early 90’s), the world was still sane and good to a very large extent. We didn’t have everything blatantly thrown at us, though some of my mates did do a lot of stuff and actually went overboard. We had culture, morals and values imbibed in us by our dear parents, no matter how busy they were. And majority of us didn’t develop as fast as the kids of now, breast buds usually didn’t appear until we were about 12 – I said majority! These are truly fast food children!

I remember secondary school days, we were taught to remember our African origins – i.e. the house we were coming from and not to spoil the family name. Boarding house was safe and trusted to a large extent. Now everybody I ask says they can’t even think about sending their children to boarding school. Teenage girls getting pregnant before marriage was a taboo, and even when it did happen, it was guarded with a lot of secrecy so others won’t hear about it.

So I guess you have an idea about how paranoid I am considering what the world has turned into – yet I believe – strongly believe that all hope is not lost.

So there I was wondering if it’s time to call my then 10 now 11yr old lady, and thinking of how I would start the topic with her. You see….my dilemma is not that I can’t or I don’t believe she should start having pubertal education (I hate to use the common term – sex education), it’s much deeper than that.

You see….my children don’t have free access to a lot of things. Let me explain.

I removed my children from mainstream education to private/homeschool sort of education quite early (when my 1st child was about 8yrs). I wanted them to strive not only to be doctors, architects, engineers, etc; I also wanted them to be ethically, morally, psychologically sound doctors, architects, engineers, etc. I wanted them to think about decisions from both a secular and spiritual angle before acting. I was also worried about some of the things my daughter had been exposed to via ‘friends’ whose parents were just too busy to be there for them. Doing this gave me a leverage – I could control the type of people, she and her siblings were exposed too, took TV out of the equation except what was DVD approved by me, only bought them appropriate novels and games that had been tested by me, mobile phones were certainly not in the picture….if I had to leave them for long, I had an old fashioned mobile phone without internet access and just a few numbers stored on it, to leave in case of emergency. Internet use for school projects was under my supervision – that way, i could assist from the word go.. I had already quit my job so I was, most of the time, with them. We always did everything together – fun, trips, school, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am not being over-protective,  they still leave the house to go to their structured school, and they still have the right degree of freedom – think of it from either the Montessori or religious view – FREEDOM WITHIN LIMITS!

Then my thoughts go to ‘sex education’ as taught by both private and public institutions. I am of the view that what is being taught is a CORRECTIVE angle of sex education, as opposed to a PREVENTIVE angle. Put aside the ‘be safe, use a condom*:-O surprise advice, it’s not African neither is it religious-wise and so not an option!

Yes, the poor girls that have been exposed to the brutal life of sexual abuse is sad, and they need all the physical, emotional and psychological support they can get. The main method set up for them is good and usually helps them get over the incident. It’s aimed at counselling and assisting those that have been exposed to different degrees of abuse or injustice.

But it doesn’t  mean that the ‘small’ percentage of girls that have had no exposure whatsoever to indecent materials, haven’t looked at what they are not supposed to, or been in contact with people who might otherwise cause them harm should be allowed to use materials that might, otherwise, cause an interest in sexual activities. The little part of the ‘sex education’ package that aims to teach kids about what to look out for is too vivid for the mental ages of the children, and can actually make them want to explore instead of curbing it. My sister-inlaw in the US told me it’s actually an optional thing for parents in her children’s school, and though she didn’t opt for it, parent who did regretted their decisions.

There are girls with parents who have time for them and who try their best not to be careless with issues regarding their children. I always wondered why my dad never allowed me to stay over at an uncle’s house for the holidays – afterall he is family! These girls also have the right to learn about what is going on with their bodies as they transform into young women. They have the right to learn about menstruation with its highs and lows. They have the right to learn how to take care of the bodies and keep it beautiful for their future husbands. They need to know that menstruation and pregnancy is not a curse but a blessing. These must be taught over a period of time, not at once; only when the time is right. Girls are better than pearls and diamonds, so they must see themselves as being so.

The first person with the right to this Pubertal Education is the mother, if she is not available, the nearest female kin to the child is next.

If there are no females  available (just saying), the best option would be a morally upright and preferably religious oriented female in form of the girl child’s female teacher in normal school or religious school – trusted and approved by the family of the girl child. She would know the mental age of the child and work with that to the best of her ability. Why I hamper on religiosity is because I believe they would not be as blatant and vivid as the government institution that have been given a curriculum by a set of ‘expert’ Drs and Profs who spend more time in their offices than not.

There must also be a level of privacy. The genders should be separated when discussing sensitive issues, we don’t want to have the boys smirking or making faces as you talk about the female reproductive system and how menstruation occurs, while the girls are trying to keep a straight face. If you are catering for girls whose mothers don’t have time, I suggest taking a maximum of 5 girls at a time so that they can be straight forward with you, and ask you questions from their hearts. Be careful though, it’s not all the questions they ask that should be given answers when the timing is not right.

I also think the boys should not be left out, the father or closest male kin takes the job of talking about what is happening with their own bodies too, yes – they don’t menstruate but they also have hormones dramatically doing highs and lows, and if they aren’t guided and aided, they might just rebel.

So here is what I did: 

I volunteered to take my daughter and her classmates (as part of their home economics class – the textbook was not to my liking) in pubertal education. I prepared a powerpoint presentation, thanks to a sister (Hena Zuberi) who also wrote about the issue on her blog, and also published here. I did further elimination, addition and substitution to both her article and her handouts, and we spent about 3 weeks, 1hr a week to talk about puberty – mainly from the religious view point. It’s an experience I would keep volunteering for as long as there are girls out there to give that caring shoulder and listening ear.

If you are a muslimah looking for tips on this topic, just post your email in the comments box below, I’ll send you an email link for my online ‘How to teach your adolescent daughter Pubertal education – the Islamic way‘ class free (class will, in sha, Allaah, come up in March) and you get a handout to give her. You would need a WizIQ account, get one here.

Umm Maryam is a mother of four, a teacher, and homeschooler who resides in Nigeria.