Many Muslim families consider homeschooling their children for a variety of reasons, such as concern over the moral environment in the public schools, wanting to teach religious studies not offered in the schools, or desire for more one-on-one attention than a classroom teacher can provide. On the other hand, many Muslims are not able to or do not wish to homeschool their children, because they believe the public or private education they have access to is superior to what they themselves could provide, they want their children to be well-socialized and prepared for interacting with the diverse types of people they may encounter in adult life, or they prefer the structure and organization of a comprehensive secular educational system while teaching religion at home and at the mosque, and so on. While opinions on homeschooling tend to be plentiful and strong, getting resources and information for Muslim families considering homeschooling can be challenging.
Sister Jamila Alqarnain has written the e-book Guide to Muslim Homeschooling to help address this need for resources. She begins by introducing her motivation for writing the guide as a result of her own experiences in homeschooling. She explains all the reasons she ended up choosing to homeschool her own children, as well as reasons given by other Muslim families. She shares advice for those considering homeschooling, such as, “Don’t worry about things working out perfectly, ’cause they won’t. But that’s ok too. Public school isn’t perfect either, and even Islamic schools have issues. There’s good to be found in a variety of situations, but there really isn’t anything like having your kids with you.”
Muslim families considering homeschooling must do their research, she suggests. She provides some background studies and data to help researchers get started. Laws related to homeschooling vary by location, and each family must ensure it complies with applicable laws. Homeschooling has become more popular, so many public and private schools now offer homeschool programs that students can attend for special subjects on a part time basis. Many states have always allowed students to enroll just for particular subjects and/or for participation in athletics programs. In some areas, homeschooling families have been collaborating to share areas of expertise and teaching duties, in essence creating small community schooling programs. A Muslim family interested in homeschooling might be able to join or create such a community, depending on population and interest where it resides.
Much of the book is comprised of excerpts from interviews Ms. Alqarnain conducted with Muslim homeschooling parents. They talk about benefits, sacrifices, and challenges, as well as share advice on the religious aspects of homeschooling, teaching multi-age groups, and transitioning to public school. This style of organization produces a work that is not so much a how-to guide as a sharing of thoughts from people with experience. They do not paint a picture of a fairy-tale perfect homeschooling life. They talk about difficulties managing learners of many ages at once while also keeping up with daily chores, meals, etc. Others struggle with finding and teaching strong and interesting material, particularly for older students. Some are more confident and accomplished in this complex management than others and share ideas that might be helpful. Much of the advice is very practical and specific, and a reader will need to select and fine-tune good suggestions to something that works for his/her own family. Examples of advice include staying up after Fajr and getting an early start on the day, creating social activities with other Muslim families, incorporating volunteering into the child’s education, avoiding over-scheduling, limiting and monitoring television, Internet and smartphone use, and utilizing online resources. Her overarching advice is to keep God at the center of things, have a clear intention and organization, and constantly make du’a.
Since much of the Guide to Successful Muslim Homeschooling is sharing of experience and opinion, it is probable that any reader will not agree with 100 percent of its content but will still be able to understand the intended message. For example, one might not hold concern expressed by some interviewees about young boys playing with girls’ toys, but can understand the general concern about providing strong Muslim male role models as part of the children’s educational experiences, or one might disagree with an opinion about whether or not children should be allowed to read novels that contain “un-Islamic” situations or behaviors, but can understand the general concern about children’s exposure to media. This resource will not provide a concrete list of do’s and don’ts for these and other issues; however, the reflections of the interviewed homeschoolers may provide insight that can be put to use.
Ms. Alqarnain also interviewed people who were formally homeschooled and also attended public schooling, asking them to share what they liked and disliked about their experiences. Responses ranged from loving the flexibility of homeschooling to hating the lack of structure. Some students seemed to thrive in one environment, while others felt they received an inferior education in that same environment. Students bemoaned the isolation they felt in homeschooling but also decried the social challenges of public school. If this e-book illustrates anything, it is that education is not one-size-fits-all. Every child is unique. If a Muslim family is considering homeschooling to provide for the unique educational needs of its children, this book could be a fine resource with which to start. For more information, please visit the Muslim Home School blog.