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Outside, In: From Public School to Home-school

Monday, 12 March 2007

As parents, we worry about many things for our children. Their health, social skills, and provision are of great concern to us.
However, the greatest concern which plays into many of our decisions regarding our children is their education. As our children grow, we fantasize about what profession they will work at when they are adults.We make great sacrifices and even relocate to different places around the world to facilitate what we believe is the best way for our children to learn. The concern in the Muslim ummah for education resulted in a world conference in 1977, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
"The aims and objectives of Islamic education have been defined in the Recommendation of the Committee of the First World Conference on Muslim Education (Makkah, 1977) as:
"Education should aim at the balanced growth of the total personality of man through training of the human spirit, intellect, rational self, feelings and senses. The training imparted to a Muslim must be such that faith is infused into the whole of his/her personality and creates in him/her an emotional attachment to Islam and enables him to follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and be governed by Islamic system of values willingly and joyfully so that he or she may proceed to the realization of his/her status as Khalifatullah to whom God has promised the authority of the universe." "(Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Education of Muslim Children: Challenges and Opportunities)
For most Muslim parents around the world, schooling starts with the memorisation of the Qur'an. Then we teach our children what we know until we think it is time they learn from someone else. However, there are a greater and greater number of Muslims worldwide that have taken charge of their children's education. After having had their children in the public schools system, they have become disillusioned and untrusting of the school system's ability to deliver the best education for their children. After having bad experiences of varying types and degrees they have pulled their children from public schools to take on the job themselves.
There are two main areas of trouble that have prompted Muslim parents to make the decision: suffering scholastically, and most prevalent, crisis in the child's Islamic identity, which often results in motional problems.
A Lesson Learned
Um Ahmed's* decision had been finalized by the fact that her son's schoolwork was suffering. Placing him in the first grade not because of his skills but his age, she recalls,"When my son started first grade his reading level and math skills were above first grade level. He became very unhappy in the class room. He felt his teacher did not like him. One day my son came to the clinic sobbing in tears.They had to call me to come and get him. He felt picked on by the teacher. I made several conferences with the teacher and the school administration. Everyone was all smiles. Nothing really changed." Um Ahmed had an instinct that something else was wrong. Allah allowed her to see after a short time that Ahmed was not receiving the proper education that would stimulate him to learn even though the school she had sent him to had been reputed as "the best school in the county."
She waited patiently for her son to adapt to the school environment, but since her other children were homeschooled, she may have been just waiting for a valid enough reason to pull him from school altogether. Um Ahmed received such a signal in the midyear progress report. The teacher reported that her son, although above grade level, had not made any progress at all. So, she thought to herself, 'My son is suffering emotionally and he is also not progressing'. Um Ahmed pulled her son out of school right away. Ahmed is now progressing happily at home.
Education or Indoctrination
If you are a parent or the relative of a Muslim child in the public schools system, you have no doubt observed for yourself the fitnah (trials) that can happen to them. Our way of life dictates that we try as much as we can to protect our children from corruption and danger when they are at a young age.
A friend told me that she overhead her public-schooled niece talking about a public school subculture surrounding colored plastic bracelets. Cheap and colorful, I remembered collecting, wearing and trading them as a schoolgirl. I learned from my friend's report that they meant more than this in the current schoolgirl's mind, and the minds of boys who would snatch them from the girl's arms. The color he snatched had a shocking code, and a peer-pressured act resulting from it. The second conversation reaffirmed my decision to home-school my children, and became the last straw for Um Abdullah* who had her children in a public school. A mother of four, she spoke to me about how her daughter was asked by the school principal that day to remove her plastic bracelets and put them in her bag.These bracelets were banned from school, from now on, said her principal. My friend was confused at why the principal should make such a strict and seemingly ridiculous rule about a girl's play jewelry.When I told her what my other friend explained to me about the bracelets,my friend with four kids took them all out of public school. She told me then and there that she had now heard enough; this subculture that the principal could do nothing about other than banning the bracelets demonstrated to her that she should home-school. She felt that her daughters were obviously not safe in that environment. Um Abdullah felt guilty to continue to allow her children to be in a) an un-Islamic environment and b) a place where lack of supervision and discipline can have dangerous results.
Um Hadiya* told me a story about her daughter at the age of five. She had been the only Muslim in her whole classroom, and the children were given a Christmas-themed page to color. Little Hadiya stood up, and in her highpitched voice, announced, "I'm a Muslim. I am not going to do this. Give me something else to do." Apparently, her teacher ran to give her another type of coloring page and the issue was settled.
However, years later, Um Hadiya still has to remind her daughter's teachers to avoid assigning projects or inclass work which has an obvious Christian theme. She is among those unsettled about the constant attacks on her daughter's religious identity.
For Um Ahmed, her son's teacher's inability to respond to her input was the straw that broke the camel's back. She became involved when the class was assigned world holidays projects. The teacher assigned the first of Muharram for the Islamic holiday (apparently in an imitation of the New Year's holiday). Um Ahmed explained to the teacher that the first of the lunar year is not an Islamic religious holiday, and suggested Ramadhan and Eidul Fitr. Even though Eidul Fitr was at the same time as Christmas that year, the teacher firmly refused. Um Ahmed remembers, "As I looked around the classroom I saw a Christmas Tree and Christmas decorations. I thought, "Is this worth it?" Evidently, Um Ahmed answered herself in the negative.
Um Marwa's* daughters were in grades four and seven when she realized that their Islamic identity was at stake.What her daughters brought home of sex education, music, and drama assignments disturbed her. Um Marwa felt that the curriculum at the school was geared towards stripping her daughters of their Muslim identity. She has now been home-schooling them for five years. The influences at public schools can take a nasty and more personal attack, aimed at the Muslim parents.
Cynthia Sulaiman, the founder of
MHSNR (Muslim Home-school Network and Resource) writes about the issues Muslim parents face in religious practices clashing with public school:
"Attendance at Salatul-Jumuah has become doubly important for Muslim children in this country to reinforce Islam and the Muslim identity.This can often be a source of trouble between parents and school administrators who see attendance at Friday salah as a truancy issue. Participating in Ramadhan can be fraught with problems too. Many parents report that school administrators have told them they consider the fast as child abuse.As parents know, when a teacher or administrator levels a charge of child abuse, action is often taken very quickly. Muslim parents, knowing this, hold their breath during Ramadhan."
So it is clear the answer to the question, "Why?" After the decision has been made, what are the steps that homeschoolers then make to transform home into school?
Do you homework
Advising the pre-home-schooling Muslim parent, Um Marwa says that doing your homework is key to succeeding, both educationally and emotionally in making this monumental move. Researching the governmental and school board protocol is important.
Certain areas around the world and around your country will have laws set in place, papers to fill out. There is generally more paperwork and hassle when your children have been in public school, then home-schooled, than if you start off home-schooling before your children go to school. Um Marwa also advises that you should not make a hasty exit from your children's school without having something in place at home to teach your children. Turning the home environment into a school environment comes with a lot of research, collecting materials, and making connections in your community and city. Internet is handy, but you will need to reach beyond the World Wide Web to arrange interesting and curriculumbased field trips, tutoring in the areas that you find you will need help, and activities for socialization.
For pre-home-schooling Muslim parents in the United States, Cynthia Sulaiman advises, "If a parent does choose home-schooling, it is important for him/her to find out about the laws of the state where he/she resides. This can be done without contacting the state itself, but by contacting Homeschool Legal Defence Association (HSLDA).The tradition of homeschooling has long been practised throughout different countries in the world. Individual states, provinces, and cities are sure to have support groups set up for home-schoolers, serving all faiths.
There are many supplies found in alternative locations for resourceful homeschoolers, which will cost them less money than the popular but often expensive educational supply stores. While it will not be necessary to build a whole classroom identical to the one their children are about to leave, Muslim home-schooling parents are going to have to prepare in order to facilitate the learning experience at home. It is about doing their homework and exploring their options, of budget, time, and facilities.
Home Sweat Home
"According to Dr. Muhammad Wasiullah Khan, there are basically four institutions through which education takes place.These are the family, the mosque, schools and the media. For Muslims in the West or in any region where they may be in minority, the only institutions that can be controlled are the family and the mosque, the other two being subject to local secular forces. It is through the family and the mosque that education which places Islam as a frame of reference can be imparted. The family and the mosque should indulge in an ...

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