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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reflections #2: We Have Many Muslim Homeschoolers, But too few Muslim schools!

When you think about the word community, what comes to mind? For me, I think about people (and families), homes,  places of worship businesses, schools, parks, a fire department, a police station, activity centers, etc. In  many faith communities these sorts of resources act as integral parts of their communities. Especially the schools!

Schools are places where people of all ages come together, work, learn together, create and instill culture, values and even faith (in the cases of religious schools such as Jewish and Muslim schools). However, in many Muslim communities through out America our communities are lacking the very necessities that our most vulnerable members of our communities need access to inorder to grow up confident in faith. American Muslim youth have very few choices when it comes to education and that's problematic. In order for our communities and Islam in America to grow healthy, flourish, and ultimately prosper, enshallah, we need to  make some changes.

We have many Muslim homeschoolers

Alhamduleelah, I love Muslim homeschoolers. I've homeschooled my children and I work with other Muslim homeschooling families through my online tutoring business, Kanz Enrichment Online.  I think many of the sisters and brothers who are homeschooling have the right spirit, energy, and creativity that every Muslim community needs. They are trailblazers in finding creative ways to bridge secular and Islamic learning into one, they work around the clock with their families, and they are usually fiercely optimistic about their instructional methods and outcomes.

Yet,  some Muslim homeschoolers can  be myopic thinkers in the way that they view homeschooling. Do we homeschool because it is the best option for Muslim children in American Muslim communities? Or do we homeschool because it is the only option available for many Muslim children in American Muslim communities? I hear a lot of the following statements from Muslim homeschoolers:

  •  I don't want my children in a public school or a Muslim school. Those other Muslim kids have issues (i.e. could be a number of issues: not the right kind of Muslim, issues with their parents, not the right race or ethnicity, financial/social, etc.)
  • Muslim schools are way over priced
  • My children are doing well and don't need to be in a school environment to learn
  • I've always wanted to homeschool my children
  • I have a lot of children. My children don't really need to have socialization with other children
  • My children are not going to college, they don't need a fancy education. The basics will do.
  • My children have fun and feel safe learning in their home.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. I think all of these types sentiments have some relevancy and I would never dismiss the concerns of any parent. I support every family's right to homeschool their children. But what about the other Muslim children in our communities whose families don't have the ability to homeschool their children for whatever reason?  Do we forget them or do we only care about the success of our insular family members? And what about our ideal community?  Which nation of people today are successful without strong schools? If we as Muslims want to better our American Muslim communities where our children can grow up in faith, loving, supporting, honoring their community members, homeschooling is not the best choice long term. Establishing Muslim schools (yes, plural) in the community so our children can come together to work, learn, support one another would be the  ideal that is closest to the Qur'an and Sunnah------

So the myopic thinking that I often find among homeschoolers is that if they just "fix" their own children, then they have done their part. Mashallah, if only it was that easy....but, we know it is not. Our Muslim children - are all of the Muslim child born. They all have rights upon us, starting with the ones closest to us. If the majority of the children in our communities fail - we will all eventually fail. Even the minority who may do well in the beginning, in essence still fail. Who will they marry, who will they continue on with to build the community up, who will they start businesses with, who will befriend them in adulthood, who will remind them, encourage them, and love them?

"The believers are nothing else but brothers," [Al Hujurat, 49:10]

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم also said about brotherhood: "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." [Bukhari & Muslim]

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "Each of you is the mirror of his brother, so if he sees a fault in him he should wipe it away from him." [Tirmidhi]

We have very few Muslim schools (that are meeting our needs)

I'm not going to sugar coat the issues here. Establishing a quality school is complex. And I know we all have valid objections when it comes to the current state of American Muslim schools. Some of the objections that I've heard are that:

  • Private Muslim schools can be very expensive 
  • Some times private Muslim schools are not accessible to the community in terms of their placement and distance. 
  •  Muslim schools seemed plagued with board issues  
  • There are always additional costs like uniforms, books, trips, busing, etc. 
  • A huge issue in many Muslim schools is the lack of understanding of and implementation of cultural relativism. The Muslim schools where largely immigrant Muslims families attend and/or run the administration have a lack of cultural appreciation and inclusiveness for others.  
  • And vice versa; some times immigrant Muslim families may take issue with how indigenous American Muslims downplay (their) culture, etc
  • Curriculum is often an issue, especially striking a balance between Islamic and secular subjects. 
  • Money (again)
  • Building size (or lack-thereof)
  • Segregating the students by gender might be an issue; some parents are for it while others are not 
  • If you have more, please leave a comment.

While all of our issues are things worthy of being concerned about and discussed, they are not issues that can't be solved! We are one ummah! If we can not work together to fix our smaller problems, how can we

train our children to grow up and do it? We have so many Muslim educators stuck in academia, public schools, and even private non Muslim schools because it's a steady pay check, it's structured, and it's dependable but they still can't take off for jumu'ah, Eid, or Umrah. Shouldn't we want to bring our sisters and brothers who are highly qualified teachers into our communities to work with our children? Don't we want our children to see women AND men teaching and advocating for education in our communities? (While many Muslim men support homeschooling, they are generally not the main educators for their children at home. Sisters are and that presents many other challenges/issues as well. May Allah reward our sisters who are the sole home educators in their home, plus cooks, cleaners, nurses, etc. ). 

So I am reflecting on possibilities here. What would it take for every Muslim teacher and homeschooling parent in every community to gather together and develop a working curriculum for k-12? A couple of months?  And what if we gathered all of the Muslim business men and women and had them write up a business plan/grant for a starter private school or perhaps even a charter? How long would that take? Another couple of months? Perhaps, enshallah. And could we crowd-fund, give sadaqah, sell dinners, incense, oils, jilbabs and hijabs to help fill in the other financial gaps for the schools--- ? Don't we already do those things all the time for personal gain? 

So why haven't we done for all of our children? (Asking myself first!) Do we not think Muslim schools are necessary? Or Ii it that we feel that homeschooling the best option and goal for American Muslim communities long term?

I'd love to hear your reflections on the issue! Leave a comment and let's discuss.

Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik, radiyallahu ‘anhu, who was the servant of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, reported that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:
“None of you truly believes (in Allah and in His religion) until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”
[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Abu Hurairah Radiyallahu ‘anhu narrated that The Prophet Sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam said: “Whoever seeks a way to acquire knowledge Allah will make easy his way to paradise.” (Muslim) Also Anas Radiyallahu ‘anhu related that the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam said: “Seeking of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.”
(Ibn Majah)
Jabir Ibn Abdullah Radiyallahu ‘anhu narrated that the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam said: “People are of different substances, the best of them in the Jahiliyah (A state of ignorance), are the best in Islam, if they gain ‘Ilm (knowledge).”

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