Last night I tuned into 99.5 FM where they held a show about Educating our Children in Islamic Values. You can listen to the show using the link the below.
On the show 3 leading Educators came to discuss three different methods of educating Muslim children: Public School, Islamic School, and Homeschooling. Some interesting issues were brought up, for example, the Public School speaker felt that more Muslims children should be in the public school systems in order to be a stronger part of the community and to be able to have a stronger sense of self-identity since day in and day out they are interacting with multi-cultural and multi-faith children. I too believe that that is an important factor, however it poses other serious issues. For instance, children in public schools are exposed to much more than their islamic private school peers. I went to public school my whole life, and was exposed to dating and alcohol in 5th grade. I remeber being so uncomfortable as child being in these situations where I would witness my friends drinking and not knowing what to do about it even though I knew it was wrong. By the 8th grade dating had taken a turn from the innocent boy girl crush to exposure to physical dating where it became about kissing and such things. Some of my friends had even become sexually active by the 8th grade and I even experienced a friend of mine who became pregnant and had to have an abortion without her parents or the boy ever finding out about it! Can you imagine this! It was traumatic being exposed to all this at such an early age, not to mention the struggle with being part of those who chose not to engage in this type of behavior. You would be labeled as prude and called names because you were not following in the footsteps of your peers.Once I got to highschool it was all about being popular, being involved in sports and of course dating the popular boys or girls and now the introduction to homosexuality, and recreational drugs such as marajuana, ecstacy, cocaine, mushrooms, acid, etc. You name it and kids were experimenting with it. Alcohol at the highschool level becomes a norm and in college becomes a social networking tool. I considered myself a loner in highschool and never really cared to be apart of these groups but the pressure was there nontheless and learning how to cope in certain situations without guidance was extremely difficult.
Most people think that by placing their children in an Islamic School system that they are protecting their kids from these types of experiences and issues, and to some extent the Islamic school does provide some protection from these issues and also provides daily guidance in islamic studies classes, Friday khutbas, studying Quran and of course the muslim teachers who are there to help kids with any issues they may be having. They are also surrounded by other muslim kids on a daily basis most of whom come from practicing families, all of these factors give these kids less exposure to these issues therefore they experience less peer pressure. On the other hand, as a former teacher of an Islamic School I was aware that many kids were going through some of the same issues experienced in the public schools such as dating in secret, homosexuality, bullying, low level sexual experimentation, and alcohol. So what exactly are the kids protected from you ask? Well, for one thing, they are not exposed to these things until the highschool level at least, and for the most part, it is a a very, very small number of kids who are engaging in these activites, and kids who were doing these things do them in secret as to protect their reputations and the reputations of their families so other students remain protected from the influence and pressure. Most of these kids are also very aware of the fact they are doing something wrong, but their curiosity gets the best of them, so they constantly struggle within themselves and ask Allah for forgiveness. My point here is that these issues regardless of what school you put your kids in are very real, and they will be exposed to them at some point, so it's important to maintain an open relationship with your kids and keep communicating with them. It is also important to keep a home that enforces strong Islamic values, because the school will not raise your children for you.
However, I do feel that being surrounded by people from all faiths, cultures, and races can help build a strong sense of identity within a child, because they can build pride in the fact that they are different and know that it is wrong to engage in such activities as the norm is here in American culture. But again the Islamic values at home need to be enforced, an the parents need to be role models.
Homeschooling can also be a great way to protect (not shelter) your kids, give them best education, one that is customized, and one that builds and strengthens the family bonds and instills islamic beliefs, and values because it is lived day in and out and there is relatively no outside forces working against you. But every system has its drawbacks, Im just not sure what they are for homeschooling yet since I havent yet started. It seems though from all my readings and discussions with muslim homeschoolers that it is the best of both worlds for the Muslim parent and Muslim children. God-willing Allah will guide me to make the right choices.