Muslim Alternative To Classroom Education
The headline told much of the story
"Test Scores Dismay School Committee." I read on, knowing
that hours before I had committed myself to ending my children's
public school education. "Math computation, such as addition
and subtraction, was the weakest area for the sixth graders. They
scored in the 32 percentile, meaning that 68% of the students who
took the test nationally did better than Attleboro (Massachusetts)
students." The 50th percentile is average.
There were the predictable spins
the school board issued trying to downplay the results of the test.
My favorite s were "Attleboro students tend to do well in higher
learning skills that involve complex thinking, but not as well
in lower skills, or basics such as spelling, computation
and vocabulary." And, "testing for spelling and vocabulary
does not measure whether a student writes well." One is tempted
to ask who could possibly read what a child writes if the child
can neither spell nor has a base in phonics? And even if one could,
is it worth the effort?
My children did not take any pride
in the work that they produced, even when we displayed it. The normal
"I don't want to go to school," escalated into an "I
don't want to have anything to do with learning." Ideas contrary
to our religious values were also weaving their way into the fabric
of our children's thought processes, unchallenged and unquestioned.
We were able to catch a few and discuss them, but we began to have
other questions. How many other such ideas were there? Were there
any we had not caught?
The children were being passed from
one grade to the next without knowing basic concepts. When I asked
the school to hold one of them back, I was told it would damage
her self-esteem. I wondered then how her self-esteem was being damaged
by not being able to do the work that her cousins could do, or even
the inability to write a clearly understandable letter. I already
knew my soon-to-be second grader's self esteem was shaken when he
could not read a page from a pre-primer for his grandmother. A pre-primer
I had read from in Kindergarten. It was this inability of a child
more than ready intellectually and in desire that started me thinking
about alternative methods of schooling.
Our family has had problems with
Whole Language based approaches before, and I had asked the school
administration when we moved to Attleboro if the system was Whole
Language. We were told "No," only to find out "yes"
later. But what is Whole Language? Whole Language is part of a concept
called Child Centered Education. It functions under the idea that
a person does not learn in bits and chunks, but as a whole integration.
While this system may work beautifully in a classroom size of 5
children to 1 teacher, the reality of the American Public School
System is that classroom size is often greater than 20 students
to 1 teacher. In a large classroom it lacks the support and repetition
of basics concepts. If a child is away from the classroom or home
sick that day he/she will miss some basic rule.
Many parents report that school
administrators have told them that they consider the fast child
abuse. As parents know, when a teacher or school administrator levels
a charge of child abuse, action is often taken very quickly.
Since there is no repetition the
concept may never come up again. A child is further handicapped
if he is an unmotivated learner or has been turned in to an unmotivated
learner. The system incorporates the idea that a "child will
not learn a subject/topic until he/she is ready and wants to learn
it." To an unmotivated learner it may be a struggle just to
get the book open. When the child is ready to learn a concept, it
may not be accessible. In many cases this system also does not support
any discipline on the part of the student, taking instead the approach
"if they don't learn it now, they will learn it later."
This lack of teaching personal discipline can translate itself into
other areas of life as well.
Another disturbing trend in American
schools is called Outcome Based Education (OBE). In this system
students are taught in-groups and are "graded" on their
performance as a group. If most of the group does not study, or
do any work on the project while a few do all the work, all will
be given the good grade based on the work of a few. Poorer students
may do nothing more than add their names to the assignments, and
since the poorer student lives off the work of the good student
there is no compulsion for the poorer student to study. The good
student, who did all the work and must share the fruits of his/her
labour with those who did nothing, becomes disheartened and loses
What can concerned parents do?
Most parents know of only three options available to them regarding
the education of their children. They can leave them in public school
and tutor them after school. They might choose a private school,
but this course may prove to be costly. The third option, available
to some Muslim parents, is to return to the country of origin. However,
this option may be economically impossible. But there is a fourth
option that many do not know is available -- Home Schooling, legal
in all fifty states and in Canada. Parents can remove their children
at anytime from public and private schools and begin home schooling.
Two states, Alabama and Tennessee, have some restrictions. It is
a good idea to always check the schools your children attend thoroughly,
including the textbooks, and not to believe the administrators.
Also be wary of the propaganda school administrators and teachers
give to "manage" parents. If there is a cause for concern
a parent has the right to straight answers.
Many parents choose to teach their
children at home:
1. Public and/or private education not
as thorough as a parent wishes. No Muslim day schools close to home.
2. The wish to remove children from
an environment of drugs, alcohol, sexual experimentation, gangs
and peer pressure, and to put them back in a healthy, safe, and
secure environment. Thus, adding the benefit of directing them to
3. Removing children from an environment
unfriendly to difference. In these environments teachers and administrators
actually work against the parents' authority, shifting it instead
to themselves. Other children can and do pick up the hostilities
and mirror the hostilities back to Muslim children.
Some schools are so unfriendly to
difference that hostilities to the way one dresses, different ethnic
background, coming from another country, and skin color are still
very high in some states. Girls receive the most abuse, especially
if they wear Hijab. Children experiencing this dual message often
become confused and rebellious.
4. A desire to set a school schedule
more friendly to the demands of Islamic life. When home schooling
a parent need not worry about conflict arising from a desire to
have children attend Jummah prayer, or going to Hajj, or even traveling
during the cool months to other parts of the world. A home schooling
family sets its own schedule. Classes can be held on Saturday and
Sunday, over Christian holidays, while being light during Ramadan
and stop for a day or two (or more) during Eid.
Attendance at Jummah 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 prayer
as a truancy issue. Participating in Ramadan can be fraught with
problem 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 Ramadan. This charge of the fast being
child abuse is not confined to a geographic location, it has been
reported by many parents throughout the country. As the number of
Muslim home schoolers grow, problems with school administrators
can be expected to grow as well. Why?
The perception of child abuse, as
already discussed, is one of the reasons. Add to that the idea that
we as Muslims produce sons to be terrorists and daughters to be
punching bags (add the perception that Islam makes mandatory the
act of clitoridectomy) and school teachers and officials often see
themselves as the salvation or protectors of our children. If we
remove our children from their control they can no longer "protect"
our children from "us."
The idea of assimilation is a factor
too. If we home school we are not assimilating into this society.
Schools see themselves as the only avenue of socialization of children.
Masjids would do well to create social programs for girls and boys
who are home schooled. In some states a parent taking a child out
of the public school is directly taking money away from the school
(states give money to schools based on a per child enrolled basis).
When a parents remove his children from school, he can also be saying
that they are doing a poor job. Many Christian parents who home
school have problems with school administrators. A school administrator
who objected to home schooling told a Christian parent who did home
school, "If you educate your children at home you will give
them your values." If school administrators object to Christian
parents giving their children Christian values, one can imagine
how much they object to Muslim parents giving their children Islamic
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 Home School Legal Defence Association
(HSLDA). This organization also provides full legal representation
in regards to the homeschooling of its members, at the low cost
of $100.00 annually. If the family requesting home schooling belongs
to a member discount support group that cost can be even lower.
So it is important to ask.
Though a Christian organization,
HSLDA represents home schoolers of every religion. They believe
that a threat to one home schooler is a threat to all home schoolers.
School administrators have been known to bully home schoolers
into giving up their rights. Some home schooling support groups
recommend that you do not talk to any state, city or town official
about home schooling before getting in contact and/or becoming a
member of HSLDA.
Most parents can home school, for
parents know their children better than anyone. Parents do not have
to know everything. In some cases the parents learn right along
with their children. Some states have a minimum requirement for
the amount of hours spent per day on home schools. The average seems
to be four hours. States also have a minimum number of days a child
must be schooled. Parents can also choose books and textbooks that
fit their own ideas about education or there are prepackaged curriculums
with textbooks and workbooks already chosen and reviewed.
While there are many Christian home
schooling support groups, there are only a few for Muslims. The
oldest Muslim home schooling organization is IHSANA. The youngest,
MHSNR, is in the process of setting up support groups accessible
via computer networks. IQRA is also working on an integrated Muslim
curriculum for grades K through 12. The Muslim Home School Network
and Resource (MHSNR) has written to a few Muslim days schools exploring
the possibility of developing correspondence courses. The MHSNR
is also about to set up a text book review panel for home schooling
textbooks. The approved texts will become part of a curriculum set
for all grades, to create as many resources for Muslim home schooling
families as possible.
Written by C. R. Sulaiman