The Advantages of Homeschooling for Muslim Children
by Shezena T. Mohammed
When I was in seventh grade and my parents told me that they wanted to homeschool me I was thrilled...
Okay, actually I hated the idea and wanted no part in this experiment they schemed up for my sister and me. They said it would be great and that the public school was limiting me and I could go much farther with homeschooling, and so I went along ... and then four years later I am about to get an Associate's degree.
It's not like I was just the top of the top and it was going to happen anyway. I wasn't. I felt that I was a good student but my grades said otherwise. I always thought that in school they were wasting my time with information that I am probably not going to use again. And really, most of the things that they teach at school you don't use again and if it is not something that you are interested in, it is wasting your time because after the test, all that stuff might as well go back in the book. It's not going to stay with you the way the things you are interested in stay with you.
I was never interested in ancient tribes or old wars or history and I didn't like having to sit in a classroom with thirty five other noisy children listening to a teacher go on about how horrible Santa Ana was. It is true though, that you should know about literature, government politics and yes, even history and Santa Ana, but it needs to be all in due time. That is one of the things that homeschoolers like to focus on. Maturity. Not only being mature enough to sit in a classroom for eight hours a day, but also physical maturity, emotional maturity, maturity in every aspect. When I was in third grade I had to take a typing class that I hated. It was so hard for me and now thinking back, I was not ready to do something like that. I wasn't physically ready to hold my arms up for an hour and a half with my hands in what I thought to be in odd ways to use your hands and much less ready to experience the anguish and failure I had. And it didn't help that everyone else could do it beautifully but with my little hands I just couldn't.
A lot of people think that Delayed Academics is ridiculous. They say there is no point in delaying something like your education but when you think about it, can so many kids really have Attention Deficit Disorder or are they just not ready to be put in a constricting environment at age five? One of my brothers is five years old right now and I cannot imagine him being in school. The teacher would call us five minutes after we dropped him off because he'd be standing on top of her desk and looking through her stuff. But what someone might call attention deficit, we would call curiosity. At five years old, I'd except him to act as if he were five years old and I know if he were in public school they would be begging us to put him on some kind of drug. My sister is no better. She is three years old and I don't think she would let him go to school without her. They need each other right now. They are each other's best friend and to take one of them away from the other to be put somewhere that he isn't going to be happy anyway would not be good at all for either of them. Even though she is younger than him, she is more mature than him. We can start encouraging her to do the things she is interested in beginning right now. We don't have to wait until anyone says she is ready or a set time when she has to start her schooling. And as for my brother, if he isn't ready there is no reason to rush him. He will start when he is ready. Children get to be children only once. To make them do work as if they were adults seems unfair.
Everyone has a natural yearning to learn, children especially. If you've ever wanted to hide because a kid keeps on asking you questions about every single thing he sees, you know what I'm talking about. With homeschooling it is very easy to accommodate what the child wants to learn. Some homeschoolers do Unit Studies in which they just let their kids study whatever they want for however long they are interested and not focusing on anything else. This is such a cool way for homeschooled kids to learn. I wish I had always been homeschooled. I'm sure even some adults would like to have the time and means to be able to study whatever they want, whenever they want.
These are just a few of the different methods of homeschooling; or if no method seems to suit your children, you are completely free to do it however you want. Most people do a mix of all the different methods. My parents mostly did a method called Unschooling, which contrary to popular belief (and contrary to the opinion of my extended family) does not mean no schooling. Unschooling is when you don't have a set schedule of what you need to know. You are completely free to study whatever, whenever. This is different from Unit Studies where you only study a specific topic or subject. In Unschooling, you study different subjects whenever and however long you wish. Seldom do homeschoolers only use the Unschooling method. Most have some kind of structure, for example a child has to do math work everyday and read some kind of Islamic history (or science or whatever the parent decides the child should be learning at this time), but then everything else is up to the child. You can sit down with your child and talk about what your child is interested in and would like to learn about and then about how you and your child will do it.
With homeschooling it is so easy to teach your kids about Islam without their minds being clouded by un-Islamic concepts and constant reminders that they are different from everyone else. It can be very hard for kids to understand why they can't do the things that everyone else does. With homeschooling they don't have to deal with that until they are older and strong enough to face and overcome any challenges to their faith. Not only that, but you can raise them with a complete Islamic knowledge. They will have Islam in their hearts from the very start.
It is very hard to do this in public school. Once kids go to school, they start to move away from their families (ideologically) becaus they want to be more like their friends and teachers. A lot of the teachers I had were very bad. They were in no way suited to be role models or anything of the sort. I've had grade school teachers that were racists, that cursed in front of the students and many of my teachers wore clothes that should have been worn as underwear. I did not grow up in a bad neighborhood either. The town that I grew up in had less than 30,000 people and was rated the safest city in all of Texas more than once. It had only two middle (junior high) schools and the one that I went to was known to be the better of the two. If in such a quiet and small, safe city the schools were so bad, I can't even imagine how things are in a place where they have even fewer resources and teachers.
The bad examples set by the teachers were not the only problems. In just the two years that I went to middle school, there were at least five bomb threats at my school in which students brought home made bombs to school and planned to set them off; there were a few cases of students with "hit lists," or lists of students names that they intended to kill; and constantly, at least daily, fights at school, sometimes even when ambulances have had to come and rush them off to the hospital. And it was the better of the two schools!
There are many Muslims who get tired of all of this and choose to do something about it. They want to give their kids something better than what is offered by public schools. A true Islamic education is better than anything a public school can offer. You don't have to compromise the quality of your child's education because you homeschool. At home they can get a better education than in school, all without the bad influences to which they would be exposed to in public school.
Any parent can homeschool. You have already taught your kids the most important and fundamental things like how to behave, dress themselves, feed themselves, everything they know how to do. So why would it seem so important to have teachers teach your kids about something you could easily do by reading an article in a book and teaching your kids about it? Or even better, just tell your kids to read it, all without teachers who don't have enough time or patience for your kid, and without drugs or bullies or un-Islamic influences bothering your child.
Homeschooling may not be for everyone and certainly everyone may not have the means of one parent staying home or hiring a tutor who can be trusted their child. But for the ones that can and are willing, it is the best way to educate a child. Easily one could give his child a strong Islamic education without the interference of non-Islamic holidays and concepts. You could wait until your kids are ready to start their education and then when they are, let them do it however they want or you want.
I know for my family, homeschooling has brought us closer as a family. I could see when my sister and I were in public school we did not have the same closeness that we have now. I cannot imagine what we would be like if we hadn't and I wouldn't even want to. It has not only brought us closer as a family, but being homeschooled brought us closer to Allah swt. Constant challenging to our deen kept us from seeing what we were missing in our lives and how important it was. I would not ever want to go back to being in public school. Being homeschooled was much better for me and I think I have definitely reaped the benefits. Insha'Allah, I hope others will be able to see how good it is too.