As-salamu `alaykum sister,
We thank you very much and we sent your question to two of our counselors,
1. Sister “Ruqaiyyah Maqsood” who worked as a teacher for about 30 years, and who agrees with your husband.
2. Sister “Melonie Saleh” who agrees with you and is homeschooling her five children.
We will give you and your husband the two answers to help you choose the best for you and your son.
Sister “Ruqaiyyah Maqsood answer:
Dear sister, as-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullahi.
How wonderful it is that you are so interested in helping your little son to make the absolute best of himself as he grows and develops. I am sorry, but I do not have any expertise in the homeschooling scene; I do know that sometimes it works well, and many times it does not. Basically, I think I tend to agree with your husband.
Many devoted parents think and believe that they can educate their children well, but their hopes and ambitions may not be very realistic. They may not have the knowledge or talents to do the job properly. People may not have as many skills as they think they have, and I feel it is a great pity for a child to be disadvantaged because of a parent’s inflated ideas and hopes.
This is not intended in any way to put you down. In some cases, the parent’s skills would far outstrip those of mediocre teachers: It is always a bit of the lottery of life. Every school will have some good staff and some weaker, it cannot be helped. But children who are homeschooled after the age of five are going to miss out on several things—social skills, interaction, all the things in which some kids need “the corners knocked off them.” I have known several homeschooled youngsters who ended up with all sorts of character and expectation problems, and the unfortunate mothers involved sometimes ended up with broken marriages, and nearly always with exhaustion and frustration.
Quite honestly, I would concentrate on doing as much as you can for your son while he is under school age, so that he gets the very best possible start. Then I would research which is the best school in your region and try to get him placed there. All the way through his schooling, give him as much support, encouragement, and coaching as you can.
Please try to remember that children may not have been granted by Allah the same IQs as their parents. Many brainy parents hope to do their best for their offspring, but forget that the allocation of brains is very much a lottery. Do you see what I mean? I do feel it is important for youngsters to be taught by a variety of different people and not a limited number. When a child gets stuck with one teacher year after year, it can be dreadful if that teacher is not very good. The changes one gets in schools give all sorts of extra opportunities and examples from which the student may learn.
Finally, a parent is not the same thing as a schoolteacher. Many teachers’ children really suffer from all sorts of problems as they grow up, such as neglect of their need to be loved and have somewhere to creep to and lick their wounds if need be. Let your home be your child’s castle, refuge, and place of love—not somewhere where he will need to be always studying and learning and being ticked off for falling short.
I Hope these thoughts help.
* But on the other side, our counselor sister “Melonie Saleh” agrees with your opinion saying:
Ma sha’ Allah, sister, you are a smart mother indeed, one who is looking forward in hopes of raising an upright, pious child. This indeed is the sign of good parenting. As for your question on homeschooling, if you would like to make a case to your husband, you must do your homework. Living in the United States gives you a great advantage in that there has been a flood of charter schools opened for this very purpose within the last few years.
What is a charter school you ask? A charter school is a school with a “charter” from the government to operate and provide curriculum, legal paperwork, and guidance to homeschooling families. That is right, a charter school will provide you with the texts, make sure that you are covered legally, meet with you according to your needs, and help you with lesson plans, test preparations, and problems that you may have.
The parents are usually the ones who provide the child with the education, and this is not an easy task, albeit a rewarding one. In the beginning, it is a bit scary, taking on all of the subjects, but my advice is to take it slowly, adding a subject a day for the first week, until you have them all covered. This situation should come naturally to you, as you are already your son’s teacher; the homeschooling will just be annexing another dimension to what you are already doing at home.
I don’t want to get into the technicalities of homeschooling, as the teacher of the charter school will provide you with all of the information that you need, should you choose that path. I would, however, like to address your husband’s concerns in hopes of helping you win him over.
First of all, the issue of homeschooled children being “dumb”: I would like to know where your husband got his statistics and what he means by dumb. Homeschooled children are, in general, articulate, independent, hard working individuals who have been granted entrance to ivy-league universities, participated in academic competitions, and obtained perfect scores on their SAT tests—if any of those things matter to you.
If your husband thinks, as some Muslim fathers do, that a homeschooled child will be dumb socially, he could be right, only if you choose to keep your son home all the time and do not allow him to interact with other children at all. If you are wondering how to allow your son to socialize, there are many ways. One way to allow your son to socialize with other Muslims is to take him to your local Islamic center or by arranging for such opportunities. I can’t stress enough the need for children to interact with other Muslim children.
This helps them to build confidence, self-esteem, and character—qualities of a stable person. Other opportunities for social interaction for your child are numerous, and I will only discuss them briefly, as you will find them if you associate with a charter school or a homeschooling organization in your local area:
1. There are numerous art, literature, science, and other various groups and classes usually held on a regular basis at the charter school itself or at designated areas. For example, our charter school holds classes for these and other subjects, allowing for the children to experience being in a classroom setting, learning valuable academic and social skills, while still reaping the benefits of being homeschooled.
2. As your child grows, you may wish to enroll him in community classes held at the local community college. My son, for instance, is enrolled in a robotics class where he is learning how to recognize the different parts of different electronic devices, and is building a robot. Other classes offered at local colleges include art, sewing, cooking, sports, computer graphing, and a myriad of other offerings, all geared to children from 6 to 16 years old. Teenage children, usually age 14 or so, may also be interested in enrolling in the local college to take credit courses in math, science, English, and art, as my teenage daughters have been doing. The latter option is beneficial in that the child will be learning, and receiving college credits at the same time!
3. You may enroll your son in sports activities such as soccer or basketball, where he will find ample opportunity to socialize and get much needed exercise at the same time.
Having covered social and academic questions, it is necessary to discuss the most important education that you can and must give your child—that is the knowledge of his Creator, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the other prophets, and of his deen (religion) in general. The teaching of Islam is compulsory upon every parent, and too many parents provide an academic education for their children without even considering the importance of teaching them the basics of their religion.
I don’t usually consider any children as dumb, but at the same time, I may consider those who neglect to teach their children their religion as dumb people who are raising a dumb generation. May Allah guide us all on the straight path and may He make our offspring of those who enjoin in what is right and forbid what is wrong.