Muslims turning to home schooling in increasing numbers - washingtonpost.com

Muslims turning to home schooling in increasing numbers - washingtonpost.com

Muslims turning to home schooling in increasing numbers

More Muslims turning to home schools
Although three-quarters of the country's estimated 2 million home-schoolers identify themselves as Christian, a growing number of Muslims also are choosing to home-school their children.

On a chilly afternoon in western Loudoun County, a group of children used tweezers to extract rodent bones from a regurgitated owl pellet. A boy built a Lego launcher. A girl practiced her penmanship. On the wall, placards read, "I fast in Ramadan," "I pay zakat" and "I will go on hajj."

Welcome to Priscilla Martinez's home -- and her children's school, where Martinez is teacher, principal and guidance counselor, and where the credo "Allah created everything" is taught alongside math, grammar and science.

Martinez and her six children, ages 2 to 12, are part of a growing number of Muslims who home-school. In the Washington area, Martinez says, she has seen the number of home-schoolers explode in the past five years.

Although three-quarters of the nation's estimated 2 million home-schoolers identify themselves as Christian, the number of Muslims is expanding "relatively quickly," compared with other groups, said Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute.

They do so, he said, for the same reasons as non-Muslims: "Stronger academics, more family time, they want to guide social interaction, provide a safe place to learn and . . . teach them [their] values, beliefs and worldview."

Parents say it is an attractive alternative to public schools, with whose traditions and values they are not always comfortable, and Islamic schools, which might be too far away, cost too much or lack academic rigor.

If Muslims have come to embrace home schooling later than others, it might be in part because so many Muslims in the United States are immigrants who might not be aware of the option. In fact, for many immigrants, the idea of home schooling runs counter to their reasons for coming to America, which frequently include better educational opportunities. And public school has long been seen as a key portal to assimilation.

When Sanober Yacoob arrived from Pakistan 13 years ago and began to home-school her three children, she was the only immigrant she knew of who was doing so. Others from Muslim countries "thought I was weird," she said. "One of them said to me, 'I hope you're not going to destroy yourself, and they will grow up ignorant.' "

Now, more are following in her footsteps, and many use the highly regarded Calvert curriculum for home-schoolers.

Maqsood and Zakia Khan of Sterling, who emigrated from Pakistan two decades ago, say home schooling has allowed them to enhance and internationalize their children's curriculum. Now, in addition to the standard subjects, their children, ages 15, 14 and 9, study the Koran for a half an hour a day, one-on-one, with a woman who teaches them online from Pakistan.

"If they were going to school, we could never do that," Maqsood Khan said. "You spend any number of hours at school, you're tired, your brain is full and you don't want to spend hours with Islamic studies. But now it's part of their curriculum; we made it part of their time."

The food incident
The Khans decided to home-school four years ago after a kindergarten teacher, unaware of the religious issues, told their son that he could not refuse school food in favor of the Islamic-sanctioned food he had brought from home. The food incident was small, but it highlighted the issues many Muslims say their children face every day as minorities who don't celebrate Christmas, Halloween or birthday parties, who don't eat pork and who fast during Ramadan

The family did not consider Islamic schools, Zakia Khan said, because "they learn more at home than they learn at school."

By contrast, Abdul Rashid Abdullah of Herndon said he would have considered an Islamic school for his 11-year-old son, who was struggling in public school, if it weren't for the cost.

"My children are extremely aware that they are Muslim, and they are extremely aware that other people aren't," said Abdullah, whose wife, a Malaysian immigrant, started to home-school their son last fall. Two of the couple's younger children, ages 10 and 6, remain in public school; their fourth child is 3. "There is a mainstream culture, and my kids aren't a part of that mainstream culture . . . and to hear, 'We don't do this, we don't do that,' how are they feeling when they're sitting in that chair? Home schooling really takes the pressure off."

Martinez, a convert to Islam who is of Mexican descent and grew up in Texas, said that despite stereotypes of home-schoolers seeking to shut out the world, the point is not to restrict children from mainstream culture so much as to make sure they don't get lost in the shuffle.

"We don't isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and sit here at home just not being attuned to our community and our identity as Americans," she said. "But we're also not sending them to school where generally speaking they would have to leave most of their identity at the door."

There are also religious reasons. "We definitely do learn from a different worldview," she said. "Everything has God as its center. We don't just study the bee, but we study what the Koran says about the bee and the many blessings and the honey. . . . We get religious studies out of it, we get biology out of it and chemistry."

Former naysayers

The idea of teaching kids at home has found more acceptance in the Muslim community since Yacoob started doing it. Now, she said, former naysayers congratulate her on her children, who are pursuing college degrees. Her son Saad, now 21 and an English major at George Mason University, managed to memorize the Koran while being home-schooled. "The same person [who once criticized her] stopped me, and he told me, 'We are so proud of Saad!' "

As with home-schoolers of any affiliation, questions arise about socialization. Abdul-Malik Ahmad, a 34-year-old Web developer, was home-schooled in Beltsville in the 1980s and '90s. While he said overall it was a positive experience (he now home-schools his daughter), it had drawbacks.

"There were very few Muslims, and we were very scattered, and the community wasn't as developed as it is now," he said. "So we didn't have a chance to socialize as much as we could have now. It took a while for me to adjust once I got to college."

To ease that transition, some home-schoolers say they plan to send their children to public high school once their characters are more fully formed. "It's not that you don't want them to know the world," said Norlidah Zainal Abidin, Abdullah's wife, "but you want to instill certain values in them first."

Maqsood Khan said his children connect with the outside world through Islamic scouting troops and visits to the mall. "They're typical teens; they listen to the music full blast, but they listen to Islamic music."

His daughter Meena, 15, who attended Sterling Middle School until she completed sixth grade four years ago, was at home recently in a Redskins sweatshirt and black headscarf. She said there were things she missed about public school, including the Harry Potter club.

"I liked going. I got good grades," she said. "But we didn't get enough Islamic studies."

Many home-schoolers seek out social interaction in outside classes or group field trips. On a recent afternoon at the Cascades Library in Sterling, mothers in headscarves dropped off their children at a resource room where Jean McTigue was teaching art to Muslim home-schooled children. As the boys and girls looked at reproductions of Dalis and Goyas, McTigue, whose own children were in the class, said there had not been similar opportunities for her oldest, 15. "When Yusef was 6 years old he would have loved to do something like this, but there was really nothing."

Downstairs, among the waiting mothers, Ayesha Khan said that five years ago her friends and family back in Pakistan had criticized her decision to home-school her children, now 10 and 8. But when they see the children, they are impressed.

"Over there, it's like, 'Wow, your kids are going to American schools,' " she said. "I say, 'Yeah, we are giving our kids an American education.' "


Taking the Homeschool Leap - IslamOnline.net - Family

Taking the Homeschool Leap - IslamOnline.net - Family

Taking the Homeschool Leap

Through Baby Steps

By Maria Zain

Freelance editor, writer - Malaysia

My head was throbbing whilst looking forward to another sleepless night when my toddler was recovering from a cold that she had passed on to her baby brother. Yet, I needed to submit an article to a magazine, and I was relentlessly trying to come up with an idea. One of my editors was on-line and her "status" read, "Homeschooling."

An idea sprang out of my weary mind, so I left a message through the Yahoo Messenger asking if she would like to be interviewed for a homeschooling article. I watched in awe as she began typing out her homeschooling story, and though I was falling sick, I extended my bedtime to two in the morning.

Three interviews, seven e-mails, and one article submission later, I took my daughter out of her cold-infested preschool, and we began homeschooling.

Nearly two years, an additional baby was crawling around the house and over 50 websites and blogs later; we have no regrets and our journey presses on.

What changed? I had been a stalwart preschool junkie, believing that institutionalized schooling was the only way for my children to succeed in life.

However, after speaking to three Muslim mothers, with 10 children between them and being passionately homeschooled under their belt, I always remind myself that it was through their interviews that I found the homeschooler in me. Here are some of their responses, which keep me going:

You wouldn't give your car to a perfect stranger for eight hours a day, five days a week, 40 weeks a year, even if you knew what was happening to your car during that time. What more with your own children, gifts that you are unable to put a price on?

This was the first blow to my conscience. I could not necessarily know what my children were up to; no matter, how I wished to monitor them, and Yes, they are more important than my car.

The Hazards of Schooling

Having them around me now means I know what they know. I do not have to worry that they were being left behind in class. I know if they can add from two to five using their fingers. I know if they are able to recite alif-baa'-taa' (Arabic alphabet) in a correct sequence. I know of the words they can read and the ones they love to spell. I know that they know the seven colors of the rainbow.

I live in a society, where not getting an A in a subject is considered a failure. Speak to any mother, and their ultimate worry is that their child did not receive an A for one or more subjects in school. Technically speaking, they are worried because they do not know what their child does not know.

Through homeschooling, not only do I fill in that void of my children's education and development, I am also able to appreciate them for their positive developments, strengths, and interests rather than to dwell over what they are lacking in. I also do not have to worry about the A's, as I am not bound by standards set by a one-size-fits-all educational system, which measures students' progress through a year-end exam and compares the results with a graph. My children's developments are completely unique, fully appreciated from a holistic angle, and most of it cannot be simply quantified by a grade.

Not sending my children to school has also helped curb unwanted influences. Children learn a lot more than just from books, even in school, and not all of the extracurricular may be positive. Foul language, for example, would be curbed at best at home — and this was another reason why I took my three-year-old out of preschool, after she called her brother an illegitimate child in the coarsest sense.

It was true; I would not hand my car over to another person five days a week. Thus, leaving my absorbent sponges with teachers who I do not know personally, and who were not going to get to know my children personally — no further than the grade they were going to achieve at the end of the year — is no longer an option. I realize that educating my children is the most precious gift I have received besides my children themselves.

Who says homeschoolers do not socialize? Who says you have to socialize with people of the same age group? Forcing a child into a peer group just signals one message: conform or be rejected.

Everyone knows about peer pressure. Peer pressure kills the individual spirit. The need to be cool, to have the latest gadgets, to hang out at the latest haunts, to have watched the latest movie, to know all the latest mean expressions to describe parents and siblings, etc. The culture of school itself causes children to become uniformed, nurtures the need to become accepted, and creates labels for children even before they are allowed to venture out into the real world.

The Real Child

In homeschooling, children live in the real world. They socialize beyond their peer group, without having to sit in rows and rows of tables and chairs for a fixed amount of time and have a recess for a certain number of minutes.

They are not bound by a structure that may not suit them; they are able to express their thoughts and opinions about dinosaurs, China, Prophet Job, or The Cat in the Hat, without being judged by an answer scheme that does not accept answers beyond what is given.

Peer pressure compounds uniformity and reinforces the need to be spoon-fed academically, not only killing the joy of learning but removing the celebration of differences and diversity.

I know if I resort to institutionalized schooling, my daughter's loudly opinionated, boisterously friendly, temperament of a drama queen personality would be squashed and my son, as a mysteriously intrinsic, self-directed, and thoughtful person with a high locus of control would be lost in the sea of empty vessels floating around the classroom.

Not only would a teacher who has to handle 20 to 40 different students be unable to cater for discrepancies in learning style, they would be unable to gauge the differences in their students' personalities. Children who are often neglected or feel underappreciated due to the lack of attention that needs to be tailored-individually tend to act out, causing disruptions. And in a schooling system, disruption is a sign of a bad student — one that should be subjected to further discipline, and one who is unable to conform to the environment, whether academically or socially.

Allah gave me my children, and at the end of the day, I will return them to Him. In what condition do I want to return them to Him? How far different will they be as compared with the day they were born?

I am often reminded of the days my children were born, without a blemish of wrong. Each day that passes by leaves them susceptible to picking up dirt and grime, and whether I homeschool them or not, the responsibility lies heavily on me as their mother.

The Natural Teacher

So, when we sit down to read a book, look at a map, or draw an animal, I include everything Islamically-possible in our conversation. I answer every question they have, even if it means running to the computer for a quick Google. We sit down and discuss qualms they have about different topics. I do not have to charge to complete a curriculum, or be held back by slower learners or rush them because they cannot keep up. I do not have to tell them "that doesn't matter, it is not important for the exam," but I acknowledge their curiosity fullheartedly. Rather than telling them to be quiet and have them looking for information in the wrong places, we look them up together, and when the time is right, they will be able to decide where they should look for answers themselves.

The disadvantage of living in a Muslim community is that parents tend to let their guard down. They are falsely led to believe that because everyone is Muslim — even in school — there are no "foreign" influences, but this is sorely untrue. Even in the most rural and "protected" areas in the country, we hear of teenage pregnancy and gang hooliganism.

I feel it is not worth the risk taking, if one day my child comes home with fluorescent hair and tongue studs, there is no amount of insurance premium that can cover a "spoilt" good. In fact, there is no replacement for it. Mothers whose children have absorbed values that do not live with their own families end up trying to correct their behavior, and parenting becomes burdensome and stressful, especially if the children have already reached adolescence. With homeschooling, instead of churning out my energy trying to correct what has already gone wrong, we are taking learning and development one day at a time, with care and sensitivity to inculcate values that we believe in as a family — but that is the journey that presses on.

Homeschooling Network

After sending the article off for publication, I was left alone to take an untampered route in my area. It has been wonderful but challenging. The most difficult part for me is looking for support locally; very few families in the vicinity homeschool and even fewer understand what it entails. After asking around, I received answers ranging from, "I homeschool when they come back from school,"” to "I am homeschooling them now until they are of school-going age," to "We should set up a school for homeschoolers." Finding a network has been literally virtual for me (i.e., I network with homeschoolers through the internet), and at times it was because of the lack of support that I did not feel comfortable to pursue this goal. Yet, the same sisters, who I interviewed, cheer me on, reminding me of why I am educating my children at home, and I believe these baby steps I am taking are opening doors for homeschooling to grow by leaps and bounds.

Read more: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1265741037326&pagename=Zone-English-Family%2FFYELayout#ixzz0f8jop99s


Homeschooling in America Today - IslamOnline.net - Family

Homeschooling in America Today - IslamOnline.net - Family

Homeschooling in America Today

A Growing Trend

By Maryam Bachmeier

Psychologist, Counselor, Writer – U.S

More and more Muslim families are considering the option of homeschooling for their children. One of the main reasons mentioned is that homeschooling empowers families to model family and religious values. It is often less expensive and can make it easier for a mother to stay at home with her children. In this small article, there are attempts to offer a look into one mother's experiences as a homeschooler, and her daughter provides us with insight and her own personal experience as a homeschool student. We see why they found homeschooling to be the best choice for them and their family. To complement this peak into a family's personal experience, we also take a look at a powerful and well-known advocate for the homeschooling movement and her thoughts about why it is so popular.


The first woman interviewed chose to remain anonymous, so we will call her Nadia. She explained that her initial reason for homeschooling was financial. She was in a situation where she had very limited financial resources, and one day, her car broke down. She felt she had no other option than to homeschool her daughter as getting her to and from school was going to be very difficult.

At first, Nadia thought it was going to be very hard. However, to her surprise and happiness, she found out that it was not that hard after all. In fact, she found that her children actually got along much better with each other, and there was not that much bickering. Her children were happier because they did not have to deal with the stressor of a "school hierarchy," in which often, the children pick on those who are in earlier grades, or who are more vulnerable.

Over time, Nadia found that it was easier to introduce her children into a variety of social situations. They were learning better social skills than they would at a public school, and Nadia felt homeschooling strengthened family connections and a sense of unity. When asked about the challenges of homeschooling, Nadia felt that the biggest challenge is finding resources. However, living in California, Nadia found the resources to be very easily obtained. Nadia felt that the way to success is to learn about your community and utilize your communities' resources.

In some states or counties, you might have to worry about the children's protective services if they are not a community that supports homeschooling. States that do not have many homeschoolers may suspect your child of being a truant and the parents of being neglectful. This attitude is fading, as more and more homeschool advocates work with their local communities to bring resources to the homeschool projects. Nadia's daughter, who also wanted to remain anonymous, will be called Yasmin.

Yasmin, who is 14 years old, reported that she liked her homeschool experience. She was allowed to create her own curriculum and was allowed to progress as far as she wants to in any given subject. In other words, she is not limited to her grade. Her brother graduated early and went on to college, and she wants to do the same.

Yasmin also gets more attention from her parents than she would if she were in a public school, because they are teaching her. She reported feeling more confident in social situations as well, and attributed this to being with her parents and experiencing a variety of social situations with them. She does not feel awkward when talking to adults since she is around them more, and she still gets to socialize with other Muslim children as her parents make the effort to connect with other homeschoolers who have the same goals. Yasmin especially likes not having to worry about peer pressure. She likes being a "good Muslim," and she is allowed to feel comfortable about being herself.


In an interview with Kinza Academy founder and homeschool advocate Nabila Hanson, we found that homeschooling is becoming more and more popular among both Muslims and non-Muslims in the US. Sister Nabila was recently interviewed by Baltimore Muslim Examiner J. Samia Mair on June 15, 2009. In this Interview, Nabila commented that the popularity of homeschooling can be attributed to:

"A few people being brave enough to reclaim the right to educate their children, and in so doing produced educated, self-governed, and moral people that made other parents stop and ask, "What's going on here?"

She continued to say that another reason is the desire to protect the family's religious beliefs and to keep their children from becoming secularized by the public school. Also some families are:

"Concerned about the total failure of government schooling to produce educated citizens; and safety is also a huge concern now with children becoming the frequent victims of violent crimes and sexual abuse in public and private schools".

Nabila summarized the popularity among Muslims as follows:

"Amongst Muslims, I think the first concern is the child's deen and the second concern is the quality of education"

"From a religious perspective, I don't have to worry about my children's self-esteem being damaged or their deen being hurt because they are teased about their religion in school. I don't have to worry they are being taught things that contradict our religious belief, and I don't have to worry that I will lose them to peer pressure. Christian home-school studies have shown three out of four children who graduate from public school will no longer share the same faith or belief as their family. This is alarming.

"From a mother's perspective, every day I am amazed by my children. They are creative; they march to their own beat; they are eager to learn and interested in so many things, and they are self-motivated. I am often times astounded by the things they have taught themselves and teach each other in their free time.

"I would add that children need down-time, too. Because children educated at home are taught individually, they learn more quickly, and the school day is much shorter, permitting them time to explore their own interests and take part in family life. There is also no homework"!

With this said, and the many other homeschool stories that can be found among families both Muslim and non-Muslim, the benefits seem to clearly outweigh the risks. As homeschooling networks are being built and are becoming stronger, so are homeschooling resources becoming more available. Additionally, Sister Nadia mentioned that it is a good idea to find out the homeschool laws in your state; some states are friendlier toward homeschooling than others.

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