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Why Homeschool? Some Lessons From The Muslim Homeschooling Conference 2012

Posted Dec 23 2011 12:34pm

Sometimes energy levels are low, kids are sick for weeks,and you are feeling like all your great ideas and awesome plans are too Utopianto ever become reality. It helps then to actively search for some kind ofinspiration somewhere.

A few weeks ago I attended the Toronto Muslim homeschoolersconference. The Muslim homeschooling community is young and small right now butone that is active and really ambitious. Many inspiring ideas were shared atthe conference.

I would recommend any education related talks by ahomeschooling father and teacher by the name of Michael Reist. He has a website here

Another topic which seemed to be one of great significanceto most families was "Why we homeschool". 

My reasons for homeschooling were morelack of choices for special needs education and my lack of financial resourcesto send K to a private direct instruction school. However it wasinteresting to see that many families, with no learning disabilities or otherapparent barriers (financial or otherwise) were still debating the subject. Inever considered homeschooling from a typical parent’s point of view. 

Everyone’sjourney is different. People find challenges in their particular situations,that seem easy breezy to us raising kids with special needs. It doesn’t meanhowever that their struggles are any less challenging to them, as ours are tous. It is all a matter of perspective.

In the homeschooler's meeting following the conference, thiswas the topic up for discussion. I was encouraged to hear about the challengesof other families (none of whom have special needs children, we are the onlyones in this community  homeschoolingthat I know of yet). At times it made me feel very fortunate that I have a realgrasp on what is really important, as a result of the challenges anddifficulties I face in teaching my son. A lot of people are not in touch withthat kind of reality and that kind of  “biggerpicture” attitude. I was grateful how having an older child with autism hasmade me so easy going, perceptive and sensitive to the needs of my secondchild.  There were also times when Irealised there are some challenges we will never face with K, that some ofthese parents are currently facing in raising and teaching their typicalchildren. 

Most of the time the environment, people’s experiences andtheir children are a constant reminder of our disability, the things we willnever get to do, and joys we will never experience with our son. So it was kindof refreshing to feel that in some aspects we are in fact ahead of the game. 

The sisters discussed many wonderful reasons why theyhomeschool and I am going to list a few here.

Preserving thechildren’s Fitrah and providing an Islamic education

This was of course the number one reason for everyone in thegroup. As Muslims we believe that all human beings, are created with an innatenature or Fitrah. It is an encoding within human nature that makes them capableof knowing God,  believing in a divinepower and accepting religion.
This is mentioned in the Quran in various places. It is afact supported by studies of human behaviour and psychology. It is not a new oralien concept. What you do with this innate nature is another story. Allah saysin the Quran:

[And mention when your Lord took from the children of Adam-from their loins- their descendants and made them testify of themselves,[saying unto them]: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes, we have testified. Thislest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, Indeed were of this unaware]Quran 7:172

So pretty much the fact that humans know there is a God isthat it is within our very own souls and denying it is denying human nature.That is what Muslims believe.

Many parents (not just Muslim) are concerned about  the lack of God in schools. It is also ourIslamic duty to nurture this Fitrah or nature, and to protect our familiesfrom the punishment of the Fire, which is also a command of God. So manybelieve that protecting their children’s nature to believe in God is theirdivine duty. 

Questioning the existence of God, Denying it, considering that itis OK not to believe in God, and other ideas are a threat to this and corruptthe true purpose of mankind's existence, which is to believe and thereforeworship and obey God. Secular public schools have no room for this kind ofattitude in their curriculum. Rather they foster an atmosphere of tolerance to any and all beliefs. Concern and respect for all humans is essential, but clear distinctions between right and wrong and the obligation to convey this message to others is also an Islamic duty.

The condition of Islamic schools
Many parents were not happy with the way Islamic schools arerun and the values they are teaching. There were sisters who mentionedthat  they had withdrawn their childrenfrom Islamic schools due to the teachers’ ignorance about Islamic ways ofteaching, disciplining and Islamic manner. 

A vital point that one mom made during this discussion wasthat when homeschooling, the parent educator needs to constantly evaluate hisor her own behaviour for negative habits that they may be passing on tochildren. You may be protecting your children from the negative in schools andIslamic schools, but to pay attention to protecting children also from wrong culturalpractises mistaken for true Islamic teaching and your own failings as a humanbeing. I thought this was an excellent point. Just because you are a parentdoes not mean you are perfect. If you have taken the responsibility to educatethis child, then ask if you have really received an education in Islamyourself? 

Bullying and anxiety
This was also a common thread. Many families had withdrawntheir children from schools and had not sent the  younger siblings to school at all, because ofthe bad experiences of their older children. The bullying and pressure to conformhad taken its toll on some children’s physical and mental health.

Effective use of time, preserving individuality and teaching social conduct rather than "socialisation" (aka being like everyone else)

This was also an excellent reason many stated forhomeschooling. As children we were once curious and individuals. Over the yearswe were schooled out of this important human trait. The one method foreveryone, one curriculum for everyone and one time for everyone to learn systemhas put many people off institutionalised schooling. 

The prison model of “time served” in each grade/credit wasalso mentioned. Homeschooled children are learning faster, making better use oftime and resources in the community, have better social opportunities and soon. Instead of being lumped together with everyone of the same age in a coupmentality similar to that of a prison, the homeschooled kids learn to socialise with peersand also with people of various ages. They are self motivated learners notdriven by envy, competition with others, but are taught to compete with theirpersonal bests. 

You can find various articles and books on this subject, Idon’t want to go in to this in too much detail or the post will never end.

Attachment parenting and the guide apprentice relationship

This was my favourite. Homeschooling for many is a revivalof the parent’s role as a the main guide in a child’s life. You are not a pickand drop service, the enemy, the dummywho doesn’t understand your kid and so on. It is a means of empowermentfor the parent and a way to re-establish this ancient, God given responsibilityto prepare a child for adulthood. 

Many moms also talked about how they lovedhaving their children at home. They stressed the importance of always being ina dialogue with their kids about what they wanted from their education andgiving them the choice of school. Homeschooling mothers of older children saidhow their kids do not want to go to schools and when they had been sent forpersonal reasons ( new baby, travelling etc) they had begged to come back. 
Older children who chose to attend high school for ease ofcollege entry, after being homeschooled all their lives, are grateful to theirparents for not sending them to school and recognise their education as a realprivilege when they were around their high school peers. 

So these were some reasons the mothers in the Muslimcommunity are homeschooling. There is a Christian homeschooling conferencecoming up that I intend to attend. The Christian homeschoolers are decades oldhere and I would love to benefit from their experience and knowledge.I will post about that conference later inshaAllah.

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