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Experience of an American Muslim Mom

10 Things I Don’t Miss about Traditional School

6.  Mandatory volunteerism. 

I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but in many schools these days, parents are, indeed,  required to complete a certain amount of “volunteer” hours at their child’s school.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe in the importance of getting involved in our children’s education.  I know many teachers are overworked and can benefit greatly from parent volunteers who help decorate the classroom, grade papers, read stories, chaperon field trips, or supervise activities.

I was one of those parents who ended up fulfilling three times the mandatory volunteer hours at my kids’ private school, but that was only because at that time, I did not have two toddlers at home.  For parents who work full-time, or for those who have babies to care for, completing those mandatory service hours can be extremely difficult.  Especially annoying to me were the fundraisers that required us to sell pizzas, cookie dough, coupon books, and the like.  Although I have worked in fundraising for educational institutions and realize how desperately many schools need extra funding, I still resented, as a parent, having to pester family and friends to buy the school’s latest fundraising gimmicks.

7.  Peer Pressure.

One of the most tedious and oft-repeated question a homeschooling parent hears is “But how do your children socialize?”  The misconception that homeschooling children are isolated, friendless, and socially inept will probably disappear only when people actually take the time to get to know them.

Homeschoolers actually spend much of their time outside the home:  volunteering, exploring, taking field trips, participating in classes and activities with other students, playing sports, and often interacting with people of all ages and walks of life.  True, they are usually NOT spending eight hours a day in a classroom with children of their same age. . . and frankly, that is a definite advantage, as far as many homeschooling parents are concerned.

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Peer pressure and conformity are much less evident among homeschoolers, who tend to be a diverse, broad-minded, and accepting bunch.  While I will not pretend that homeschoolers are perfect angels, never succumbing to peer pressure or falling for the typical fad and foibles of youth, I have seen much less evidence of these unappetizing behaviors in homeschooling circles.  Also, while in traditional school, parents cannot do much to separate  their child from unwanted influences, homeschoolers have much more freedom to choose environments and people who are beneficial to their child.

Yes, learning how to deal with peer pressure, bullies, and other difficulties IS an important part of life.  Fortunately (or not), normal life experiences provide homeschoolers with plenty of opportunities to deal with challenges, and homeschooling parents are much more aware of these when they do happen.

8.  Wardrobe drama.

For traditional-school students who are not required to wear a uniform, clothes shopping can take a huge bite out of the family’s budget . . .and parents’ patience.  Particularly for older kids who want to follow fads, wear the latest fashion, and buy upscale brands, school clothes can add up to a lot of expense and headache.Home school where do I start__1458219705_41.34.244.42

School uniforms can definitely cut down on the clothing drama.  But even uniforms have a disadvantage in that they are often expensive, and the dress code rules are persnickety.   Many children who are required to wear uniforms will try to express their individuality by subverting the uniform code somehow or another, leading to disciplinary consequences.

Since we started homeschooling, clothes shopping has become incredibly simple.  Our kids do not need to dress to impress anyone and can choose what they find appealing and comfortable.

9.  Conflicting Values. 

Even at public and secular schools, teachers bring their particular world view into the classroom.  Sometimes their commentaries on history, lifestyle, religion, current events, or politics will completely contradict your family’s values.  All of us — whether we are particularly religious or not — have strong views on some issues.  Sometimes, if a teacher makes an insensitive or hurtful comment, our children will come to us right away, and we can nip the problem in the bud.  Other times, a whole school year passes before parents realize that their child has been hearing a constant stream of messages that belittle them or oppose some fundamental family values.

Homeschooling allows parents to instill their family’s core values when children are young and impressionable.  Every subject can be infused with–and enhanced by– the family’s belief system.  Families who defy the mainstream in any way can thrive in a homeschooling environment, where there is no shame in going against the flow and being unique.

10.  Fear of in-school violence.

Anyone whose child has experienced bullying and physically harmful behavior at school knows that our educational institutions are not always the safe havens they should be.  While administrators do their best to stamp out bullying, fighting, and gang activity, they are not always able to prevent tragedies, and even one victim of school violence is one too many.

Also, although statistically rare, school shootings are a terrifying reality in the world today.   Whenever our nation hears another horrific news report about armed intruders in schools, we parents collectively wonder, “If it could happen at that school, could it happen at my child’s school?”

I am not trying to advocate a fearful mentality.  I believe that the vast majority of schools are basically safe places.  I am just saying that I appreciate the comfort of knowing my children are safe at home under my supervision.  I do NOT miss the nagging worry at the back of my mind when I turn on the news and hear about another school tragedy:   “Are my kids safe today?”

Of course, homeschooling is not perfect, either.  In my next article, I plan to paint a more complete picture of homeschooling by writing about some of the challenges homeschoolers commonly face.


Republished with kind permission from

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About Laura El Alam
For the past decade, Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to numerous Islamic publications. Her articles have been published in SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, About Islam, and Muslim Matters. Her Facebook Page,  The Common Sense Convert, offers advice, support, and education for Muslim women, particularly new converts.