There is a growing movement in the United States called Home Schooling. It is an answer to the growing dissatisfaction and disaffection with the American public school system. It is not hard to understand why.
Recently ABC's newsmagazine 20/20 and the Muslim magazine, "The Message," (November 1995) exposed many of the problems.
The public school is now used as laboratory for social and educational experimentation. These theories by in large have shown to be dismal failures in educating children. Even so these models are not removed, changed or replaced. One of these new theories is called "Outcome Based Education". In this system students are taught and graded as a group. If only one child of the group works hard and completes the assignment, while the rest do nothing but sign their name, all will profit from the work of the one. The student who did all the work on project becomes disheartened and in future will do less work. Those who depended on the hard work an effort of the responsible student have no sense of accomplishment or their own worth. The system rewards sloth.
Another educational theory is called Whole Language. In this learning technique instead of teaching reading , spelling and the rules of writing, children are read to. Eventually, it is hoped that they will learn to read and write well through osmosis. Parental concerns are considered unimportant, as the professionals "know better".
Old techniques that have actually taught children reading, writing and arithmetic, are not revived. A school administrator in California told the interviewer from 20/20 that the old techniques that focus on rote memorization and drill, stifle creativity and should not be returned to. To counter this idea others have suggested the creativity is actually enhance and increased when matters of rules and form are already learned.
Students are not bogged down with questions of spelling, looking up every word to come up with a readable sentence. The purpose of writing is to transmit thoughts and ideas to another person. That process is thwarted when much of the sentence is not spelled correctly with no phonetical base. Children with this knowledge start a step or two ahead.
Muslims might ask themselves how the Prophet(saw) taught. They might also remember how ayats are learned. They are learned by the very techniques, rote memorization and drill, that the teaching "professionals" malign.
Children also learn many ideas in the classroom that are destructive to Islamic values and parental authority. One health education text book informs;
"Testing your ability to function sexually and to give pleasure to another person may be less threatening in early teens with people of your own sex."
Also, "You may come to the conclusion that growing up means rejecting the values of your parents."
Students were told not to take the text home, but to keep it in their lockers. One might think that parents can remove their children from these offending classes and remove these offending texts, but it has become increasingly difficult. School officials feel that these topics are too important for students to be excused from (The Message, November 1995).
There are many other reasons that Muslims, like other families choose to home school. Six common reasons:
1. Public and/or private school are not as thorough as a parent wishes. The schools may have turned children away from being interested, self-motivated learners into the exact opposite. Taking the joy of learning away from them.
2. No Muslim full time school close to home or too expensive.
3. Removing children from an environment unfriendly to religion, especially Islam. In these environments' teachers and administrators actually work against the parents authority, shifting it to themselves. Other children can pick up on the hostilities and mirror them back to Muslim children. Girls seem to receive the most abuse, especially if they wear hijab. Children experiencing this dual message often become confused and rebellious.
4. The wish to remove children from an environment of drugs, violence, alcohol, sexual experimentation, gangs and peer pressure. To give them back an education in a healthy, safe, secure, Allah centered environment. Thus adding the benefit of directing them to healthy associations.
5. A desire to set a school schedule more friendly to the demands of an Islamic life. When home schooling a parent need not worry about conflict arising from a desire to have the children attend Jummah prayer, or going to Hajj, 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 Eids.
6. Continuity in education. When a family moves often disruption between differing systems and teachers can cause serious problems with resulting gaps in education. With homeschooling continuity is always maintained.
Sadly, many Muslim parents don't know about the home schooling alternative exists and others have many questions regarding home schooling.
In fact, home schooling is legal in all 50 states! A child may begin home schooling at any time during the school year, however Alabama and Tennessee have certain rules regarding mid-year changes. It is important to remember that education is compulsory for the ages of 6-16 yrs in the United States. Simply removing your child from the public and some private school systems without demonstrating the alternative educational form you've chosen, will expose you and your family to legal trouble.
Parents don't need to know everything either. In many cases parents learn right along with their children. Sometimes even choosing topics they themselves wish to explore, but did not when they were in school.
Parents who home school can find great latitude in the curriculum used for their endeavors. There are many choices of curriculum and Muslims are working hard to provide more choices. A parent can also choose to use curriculum from another country. However, problems with imported curriculum can come from school administrators who are not familiar with the texts. This can be avoided by mixing in various American texts, for subjects like English, phonics, reading and spelling.
Muslim parents who wish to home school sometimes decide not to because of the issue of the language barrier. When English is not spoken in the home, or spoken very little, parents appropriately question whether their children will receive enough "language exposure". They wonder if their children will be able to function well in American society if education is primarily in another language.
Learning English is important for Muslim children to function in the United States, and several alternatives are available. "English as a Second Language" programs are being developed by the Muslim community. It is also possible to hire an English tutor. Other possibilities include English classes at the masjid for many home schooling families.
Fear of school, local and state officials is another reason some families who wish to home school but do not. Many feel handicapped in effectively dealing with this possible threat when the language barrier is very much present. This is a very valid reason when one considers that native born citizens are harassed and bullied for home schooling.
School, local and state officials are often very much against home schooling.. When a parents chooses to home school and removes a child from the classroom many districts loose money. The federal government gives schools money based on head count, by removing their children, a parent lowers the amount of money a school system will receive. Choosing to home school also means rejecting the idea of centralized state schools and authority. Many teachers and administrators believe that they are the only persons qualified to teach children Home schoolers challenge this notion and actively fight any proposal that they be required to take certification programs or tests.
Finally choosing to home schooling might simply be saying to the teacher, principal, administrator that the schools aren't good enough or that they are doing a lousy job at educating.
School, local and state officials often count on families not knowing their rights, when they bully and intimidate. It is for this reason and the bigotry that Muslims in the United States face that Muslim Home School Network and Resource encourages Muslim home schoolers to secure legal representation before beginning to home school.
There are two national organizations that represent home schoolers.
Home School Legal Defense Association
P.O. Box 159
Paeonian Springs, Virginia 22129
(540) 338-5600 (9-5 EST, M-F)
John W. Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
800-225-1791 (9-5 EST, M-F)804-978-3888
Both these organizations are Christian lead legal firms, but they represent all home schoolers. They strongly believe that the threat to one family's right to home school is a threat to all. Please contact one of these organizations BEFORE contacting your state and local officials about your wish to home school. Also ask for a copy of the laws of your state regarding home schooling and study them carefully. Please do this so that you have the most reliable information possible.
There are also lawyers on the local level who represent homeschoolers.
Another issue the homeschoolers grapple with is that of "socialization". Society tends to believe as a whole that the only socialization a child receives is at school. One must ask, "To what are children being socialized to in the public school system? Drug use, gangs, disrespect, crime?"
In his study titled, Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students, L. Edward Shyers, Ph.D. of the University of Florida, (1992) came to the conclusion that "appropriate social skills can develop apart from the formal contact with children other than siblings. This supports the belief held by homeschool proponents."
There is research that shows that home schooled children are in fact exposed to the same number of social contacts as publicly schooled children. Home schoolers believe however that it is not the number of contacts that is important but the quality of those contacts that matter.
"Parents should be considered the best social mentors for their children. Children who are involved with the family in their daily lives on a loving basis continually until the child is eight to ten years will feel a stronger tie into the family. This feeling of belonging gives them a sense of self-worth, which is an important factor in positive sociability. These children are friendlier as well as less dependent on peer values as they reach adolescence. . .In general they are happier, better adjusted, more thoughtful, competent, and sociable children."( Moore, R., (1986). Research on Sociability. The Parent Educator and Family Report),
A study by B. Henderson, (1989). Home School: Taking The First Step. Kooskia, Id: Mountain Meadow) showed that children's self esteem in an environment of public schools lose their sense of self-worth dramatically as they progress through the grades. One the other hand in another study home schooled children were found to have high self esteem.
After reading all the research home schooler Jay Sutton concluded that, "We tend to become like those whom we associate with." The Prophet Mohammad (saw) said this same thing over 1400 years ago. Home schooling parents can direct their children to healthy associations more easily than parents whose children are in the public school.
Many home schoolers enroll their children in the YMCA to satisfy Physical Education requirements and serve the dual purpose of social time. Other social avenues Muslim parents have adopted are clubs such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4H, childrens craft and sewing classes offered by local stores, and separate social organizations for boys and girls with in the masjid, to name a few.
Lastly, parents considering home schooling also wonder about their children being accepted to university/college. More and more universities and colleges are accepting and even searching out homeschoolers. Home schoolers are typically very self-motivated, have extremely good study habits, and do better in the autonomous system. Colleges and universities all expect preparation equivalent to what students receive in public or private school.
Two books on the subject of home schoolers and college admissions are; College Admissions -- A Guide For Homeschoolers, by Judy Gelner is about her son's admission to Rice University, Homeschooling for Excellence, tells about the Colfax family who sent three of their sons to Harvard.