Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why home-schooling?

I'm sure both Boss and you benefit from what's essentially a one-to-one relationship but d'you think the benefits are significant enough to outweigh the losses? When I was at school, it was as much an exercise in social interaction than an education- do home schooled kids have the same opportunities? I was intrigued that Boss didn't recognise non-arabic names- is that symptomatic of his non-standard schooling? How long d'you plan to home-school him?

I've never really written down WHY I homeschool so this might be a bit piecemeal.

Firstly, there is an assumption that homeschooling is an exceptional thing, but bear in mind that state education (especially as compulsory) is really a phenomenon of the post-modern era. Before that anyone with an education was most likely to be homeschooled and that's how families for millenia have lived - children and parents and extended family all co-exist together. Children learning how to be adults by watching adults in the real world.

Secondly, I consider schooling to be inferior to home education. It breeds mediocrity and herd mentality. People who fall out of the centre ground at either end of the scale are marginalised and often traumatised by being "different". Those who do not "keep up" with the grazing masses are deemed "slow" and if this "slowness" is not dealt with effectively this transforms itself into "behavioural" problems such as aggression, inattention, disruption etc. In fact, very few people can NOT learn; we all learn at our own pace and have our own ways of absorbing knowledge which works for us. We all have areas we love and excel at and other subjects which we need greater guidance.

The system however cannot tolerate or adequately manage those whose learning rate differs from the centre-ground. And this is equally so for those deemed "gifted" - they get bored, stifled, labeled as "boffin" and made to feel that intellectual prowess is something to be embarrassed by. Boredom also has a negative effect on behaviour and labels are quick to follow by hassled teachers who are no more than state babysitters who have to do the impossible and teach thirty (or more) children to jump through the right hoops if they are to get a piece of paper at the end of it - just like lab rats pressing the right levers to get their food.

But more than that, the System itself is not designed to produce thinkers. It is not designed to produce people who are able to critique the ruling class ideology. It is not designed to produce or encourage people who are able to think outside the box. The System is purely designed for one purpose: and that is, to produce compliant fodder for the capitalist machine - the perfect citizen (not too political so as not to rock the boat), the perfect consumer, happy with hedonism, content with EastEnders, someone who is able to sit still at a desk for eight hours a day doing tasks which would make a monkey's brain bleed.

The System knocks all love of learning out of the human soul and does so with breathtaking skill by the age of seven. By this age most children will hate school, refuse to read a book out of choice, and think the education is something you do because you HAVE to. As a result you have a nation of literate baffoons who can tick the right boxes but have no common sense. You have a nation the size of the USA who has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, yet only 40% of the population read. That is, the majority of the population prefer to make themselves wilfully illiterate by refusing to utilise their brain.

As regards to State Education this would be Mission Accomplished. The majority of the nation is compliant.

Regarding the socialization point - every homeschool parent gets asked this, and I have come to answer this one with some weary sarcasm - I let him out of his cage at least once a day to see the sky and go to the toilet...

You know, when I was at school whenever we talked in class we would get told YOU DON'T COME HERE TO SOCIALISE! And mostly that's true. We went to get herded and suffer peer pressure, to learn how to do drugs properly behind the toilet block and how to vandalise property whilst our parents got a break from us for a few hours. Then when we went home we stayed in our rooms listening to music and watching TV because there were no social clubs for us to goto and the streets were too dangerous to play on. Then when we got older and allowed to go on the streets there was nothing to do but smoke fags and get drunk.

When I was at school it wasn't so much a lesson in social interaction, but more a lesson in survival. And I went to a relatively good school. The friends I have now are people I met after the education system did its dastardly work with me. For my sister her friends are people she knew on our estate and for my mum and dad it's the same - people their Mum and Dads knew were their real friends - not the people they were forced to sit with in school.

Here are some other good articles which will give you some idea about socialisation from a homeschoolers position:

The socialisation question

FAQ about homeschooling

Then I read some Gatto articles:

and Twenty-one Facts the Institution Would Rather Not Discuss


How public education cripples our kids, and why

and realised I wasn't alone in thinking that there is something very wrong with modern education - an education system that can give you facts for twelves straight years running but leave you with nothing but unanswered questions and feelings of fragmentation and confusion about the greatest questions the soul yearns to ask: why are we here, what is this all for, for reason am I on earth. Education, as the quotation goes, is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. If the metaphor continues one would say that modern education is not only the filling of the bucket, but actually fills the bucket then uses it to douse any flames.

Then there is the idea of whose values are we promoting by accepting the state education system? The basis of state education is purely secular. You cannot partake of a meal without imbibing whatever nutrients are present. Or lack thereof. When we send our children to secular schools they will imbibe secularism. They will be taught and accept the basis of humanist mind set because the domain of discourse will be secular. They will imbibe what the secularists believe about humans and our place in this universe, and for the most part the logical conclusion of this secularism is pure nihilism and for those who have not taken that to its extreme the tennets of nihilism are still deep rooted.

And you could say "well YOU went through the state system and YOU'RE ok" and I would just say before that statement is uttered that I am what I am *despite* the "education" I received - not because of it. I consider myself, through the grace of Allah, a survivor. And true, if I wanted my children to do as many drugs as I have, to be as depressed as I used to feel, to party as much as I did and to drink until their liver was in danger of collapsing then I'd say "yeah - go ahead - knock yourself out - go through the system and see how you end up - take that chance". But I want better for my children. I want them to get an excellent education with the only people on this planet who they know care whether they live or die and who don't get paid by the hour whether they do well or not. I would take a bullet for my kids and like Gatto says, only a desperado would entrust their most prized possession to a group of completely untested group of strangers and hope for the best. I care that they do well. I care that they get an excellent, tailor made education that makes them well-rounded, decent human beings fulfilling their potential and serving their fellow humans and their Lord. I want to light that fire.

Yeah Boss has some problems with non-Arabic names that he hasn't heard before. He knows my family's names of course. I am sure there are loads of non-Muslim kids who haven't a clue about Arabic names too, so that makes us even ;-)

I intend to homeschool him for as long as my sanity and health allows. Please make du'a this happens.

My last homeschool rant.


At 9:41 pm, Anonymous elderfairy said...

You did well there, totally brilliant about the Arabic names too. One of the reasons I want my kids out the system is because of the smoking and drinking and casual sex ...and why do I not want that type of life for my kids? between the lines. Oak is now writing the offical letter to the authorities about us home educating...your post has spurred us on...

At 10:25 pm, Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

Wow! You go girl....

At 11:27 pm, Blogger Angel said...

You put into words my exact thoughts!

At 1:09 am, Anonymous Waqar said...

Salaam 'alaykum,

subhanallah... it's taken me the last couple of hours to understand this... I definitely understand your point about education being taken to be equivalent to the accumulation of facts, but by the same token i dont think it's possible to teach someone to 'think'- it's something that's cultivated, primarily in the home, for all children, whether they're schooled at home or elsewhere. Many of the problems you cite, such as the literate illiterates et al, is a result of parents packing their child off to school in the morning and picking him up in the afternoon and thinking that their duty's done, and their beloved child is receiving an education. The role of the home is more than somewhere to eat and sleep, and that 'extra' has to come from parents. The problems become compounded when both parents work and the contact time becomes much less... I think the assumption that you make is that 'state-schooling' (for want of a better phrase) is a discrete package and there's no 'after-care'. I would suggest, w'allahu alim, that the vast majority of the ills you mention are grounded in that assumption. A big problem I have is that the curriculum in this country is too narrow- I understand why it's so narrow, but I think home schooling opens up many more possibilities and provides real value from that perspective. The other issue is in the way the arts and sciences are kept so far apart- scientists have little appreciation of the arts and vice-versa. I noticed during my time in the US that the lines are not so bold in their system, and is something we should maybe take up here.

I disagree that '... the system is designed for one purpose;... to produce compliant fodder...'. That the system produces fodder, and does it so well, doesn't mean the system was so designed. It's going to start to sound boring, but I have to come back to teh same point- schooling/ education has to be a *partnership* between mom, dad and teacher.

The point about values is very interesting- I have thought about this before. Again- you're basic assumption is the same- that children go to school learn, come home, and then nothing 'til they go to school again the following day. We're bringing our children up (or rather you're bringing up and I'm somewhat arrogantly trying to tell you how to do it...) in this society where secularism and nihilism etc are the norm- when will you expose them to that? I'm sure we both agree that they have to be exposed to it, and they have to understand our standpoint on so many of these issues as muslims that differ with the dominant culture. When they're old enough to understand? Through my limited exposure to young children (my nieces and nephews) I have been blown away by the incisiveness, relevance and depth of their questions- WAY before I ever thought they'd want to ask me about any of these things. Perhaps with your training in education, and the legendary 'mother's intuition' you will be much closer to the mark- but perhaps this is one of those cases where being with the herd will hasten the process? Perhaps.

Anyway- it's now 1AM and I have to be at work at eight... please try not to write particularly thought-provoking blogs late at night ;)

Wa billahi ta'ala tawfiq.

At 8:21 am, Blogger Hannah said...

re socialisation: Hamza Yusuf says on one of his H.E lectures that he answers "that's *why* I'm homeschooling, I don't WANT them socialised into that madness"

I keep in touch with *one* friend from school, and she lives 300 miles away and I met her for the first time out of school cos she moved into our village during the summer holidays. I think I'm fairly typical in this instance. So if it's such great fantastic social time why don't we make *real* friends that are for keeps? We don't, we wait until we're set free to meet the people we want to, not the 'same age' people we are thrown in with all day every day at school.

At 2:15 pm, Blogger *~H~* said...

assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

I think after you've passed through a phase of any sort, there is a tendency to look back on it with rose tinted glasses and for our brains to delete the more unpleasant memories.

As someone who has not yet escaped the system, I can tell you, school is useless. Rare are those days when I come back home thinking "I actually learned something today". I don't need a teacher to teach me biology or chemistry. I could do it all by myself if I wanted to *and* do a better job. And wallahi that is not boasting.

The teachers are all miserable useless people, who haven't grown up themselves and that *is* the aim. School is aimed at artificially extending childhood. (Now I'm just parroting J.T.Gatto)

I really suggest you read the John Taylor Gatto series of books, or listen to the Hamza Yusuf lecture tapes on modern education. "Dumbing us Down" is a good place to start.

At 2:43 pm, Anonymous Lucy said...

Wonderful post - sums up much of what I feel myself. I worked for two years in that system in which the main aim is to make people compliant. It works with some but there are an increasing number of children rebelling against it with violence - making the school playground a very dangerous place. It's quite scary to ponder what might become of our 'schooled' society if we keep going this way.

At 8:15 pm, Blogger Qalballah said...

Regarding being able to teach children to think - you can't - and you don't have to - children are like sponges they literally soak whatever they are presented with. Thinking is something no under the influence of any mortal, it is an emergent property of education and nurturing which can be stunted or encouraged. The amazing thing of schooling is that it manages to turn so many intelligent, natural thinkers into non-thinkers by the end of compulsory schooling! That is an amazing achievement given that the goals they supposedly set are diamtrically opposed to this!

You mention the home environment, I am sorry but anybody who farms their kids out of the house at 8am in the morning for eight hours a day then sees them when they are dog tired and not fit for anything except sleep - what is the home environment to these children excpet glorified hotels? It is not a co-incidence that in traditional societies where children spend their time with their family their primary focus of identity *is* the family, and in our society we have children whose primary focus of identification is the peer group. Not family. This is not only true for those children who make "gangs" their "family" but for even 'nice' middle class children who place more importance of friendships than they do filial obligations. There is a hadith that states that at the end of times a man will disown his father and keep his friends close (nearest meaning), and that's happening. How can anyone see so little of their children and even think in their wildest moments that they have any influence over them? Where is the influence? How? I mean, how is it even physically possible? OK maybe weekends and holidays but who doesn't have parents who work at least one day in the weekend and are too knackered to interact with their kids any other time?

And it has nothing to do with curricla. You can have the best curriculum in the world and these problems would still arise because these diseases are endemic to the schooling system (not just state system), schooling itself is the cause of the problem and part of the problem is that it goes against our fitra. We are not farm animals. We were not designed to be socialised in herds by robots. Our place is with our family, mimicking them, emulating them, learning how to be whole and human from them, mirroring how to be an adult, learning life from the ones who gave us it.

Regarding the US, the last time I looked for literacy and numeracy they were almost bottom of the world league tables and we were just one place ahead of them. The top of the world league tables was Sweden and they don't educate their children until they turn seven. Something which a lot of countries in Europe do - Switzerland, Germany, Hungary etc. - to send children to school before seven is seen as a madness. In fact this is also part of our religion - there is ahadith which states that you play with a child until seven, educate him after that until fourteen, thereafter becoming their friend (rather than someone who instructs and orders). In the UK we are greedy for material success and it is this which sees our babies farmed out from 2 onwards to nurseries and pre-schools and creches which aims at getting our children reading and doing maths earlier and earlier with the mistaken assumption that if a little bit of education makes us rich then a LOT of education will make us richer. The effect that early learning has on the biorhythms of the child cannot be disputed - one of the reasons why girls are reaching puberty at ever younger ages is directly because formal education has started earlier. It has a knock on effect in the brain with our chemistry and once the horse has bolted you can never get it back. Children are not designed for school, they are meant to learn through play. The idea that UK has some how enhanced its future workforce by this madness will show in due course. Unfortunately it is individuals who will suffer in this race for supremecy in the information-rich age.

To correct you, the compulsory schooling system is a *direct* result of big business forcing the government to produce better workers for their businesses and had big business no need for literate workers then you can rest assured we would not have compulsory education in this nation. It is not a coincidence that compulsory education coincided with industrialisation and urbanisation. It is not a coincidence that coporate and boardroom leaders have the governments ear when it comes to planning the education of the next ten years. We are running out of plumbers - and hey ho - all of a suddent the government is drafting plans for more vocational examinations; we don't have enough french speakers - all of a sudden the government is drafting plans to increase modern languages in schools; our kids get to university without maths skills and the government are pushing for increased maths. This is not rocket science. Business and education go hand in hand. Compulsory schooling *was* designed to meet the needs of business make no mistake about it.

And why should there be any partnership at all between the parents and a group of strangers who really don't care whether your child lives or dies?? What really has it got to do with anyone else how I raise and educate my child?

Unless of course you are proposing that teachers are some how better at educating children than we are of teaching our own - again on every test homeschooled children achieve higher than schooled children and as an ex-teacher I can honestly say that the people I met in the staff room are there simply because they are too stupid to do anything else. There are some brilliant teachers of course, who are teaching out of vocation but they quickly fill school management posts and leave teaching to others.

And yes secularism is the dominant culture. But that is not what Allah demands of us. Alcohol is also quite rampant here too and I won't be encouraging my children to drink any time soon either.

I have found through my studies in sociology that children fair a lot better with solid parenting and protection from influences too early on than children who are thrust out onto the world unsuspecting that anything can harm them. Children just do not have the capacity to discern good from bad. They just soak everything up. Until the teenage years children have no capacity for evaluation; the imbibe whatever they grow up in, and just as you would protect a seedling from the elements if you were an expert gardener wishing to produce a strong and healthy bloom so too you should protect children from harsh realities. They are precious gifts who know no badness and they will blot everything up. I dislike many aspects of secularism and have no intention of subjecting my children to that any more than I would subject them to dirty food, poor hygiene and lack of shelter. When they are old enough to discern and critique then they are free to be planted in the world.

Yes children have questions - NONE STOP - it is really hard to stop children learning, but there is a difference of the questions at different ages - firstly the questions revolve around "what" - ie. what is that - they want to learn names. Then "how" - how do things work, what happened next etc. Then "why" - oh yes they never stop asking that. But it isn't until much much later that they can evaluate all this stock of information, and it is almost like they have spent fourteen years planting seeds and gathering crops, finding out all they can about the world around them in every possible way, then they set about making sense of it all - critiquing it and probing, abstract thinking and spouting ideology.

In the formative years it is up to the parent to provide good nourishment - both inner and outer, and there really is no value or benefit at all in showing children ugliness, evil and harshness. They need nurturing.

Wow - it sound like I know what I'm talking about!!

I don't.

Hamza Yusuf article

Good night ;-)

At 4:34 am, Blogger Muslim mom said...

Salamu Alaikum all
Wow , it really does sound like you all know what you are talking about. My son is four and should be starting KG next year, but when I checked out the class's newsletter was horrified at the mediocrity of what they were doing.
Am seriously considering homeschooling, but have Q the answer to which I haven't seen any mention of so far: How do I know if I have what it takes? I have been totally dedicated to raising my son (age 4) and subsequent daughters (2 years and 7 weeks) consciously. Lots of talk about Islamic values, natural childbirth, natural eating, and a blog "Raising the Omar Generation".
BUT and this is a big but,
I still value the 2 days I get off when son and daughter go to daycare. If I homeschool, will I never get some sanity-preserving time alone??? How do you deal with that? How do you motivate them when they drive you nuts? Do you really convince them every time that they need to learn? Or do they sometimes have to be forced or bribed to?

At 9:33 am, Anonymous Waqar said...

jazaa'killah ta'ala khayran for taking time to answer so throughly. You've certainly, w'alhamdulillah, opened my eyes to some links I hadn't made in my mind. Insha-allah ta'ala I will be able to do some more in-depth research into this issue. You're the first person I have (virtually) met who actually home-schools their children so it was invaluable getting your insight.

I will have many du'as for the home educated and the educators too insha-allah in future.

Wa-salaamu 'alaykum,

At 3:39 pm, Blogger Qalballah said...

How do I know if I have what it takes?

You love your kids - that's ALL it takes. Anybody can learn to read. Anybody can teach. Let me let you in on a little secret from insider knowledge: teachers are really dumb and if they can do it ANYONE can.

I still value the 2 days I get off when son and daughter go to daycare. If I homeschool, will I never get some sanity-preserving time alone??? How do you deal with that? How do you motivate them when they drive you nuts? Do you really convince them every time that they need to learn? Or do they sometimes have to be forced or bribed to?

You're eldest is four. You really should not be teaching him yet anyway - let him play - that's his job. It serves its purpose and you should not underestimate the invaluable nature of play. Teaching too early has detrimental effects on the child's brain. In every society which excels in all speheres of numeracy and literacy they do not begin teaching until the age of seven.

Please read THIS to see what I mean.

Regarding learning - it is really hard to STOP them - they are natural knowledge seekers and soak anything and everything up with breath-taking ease. You will really have to trust that when it comes to teaching. I used to fret over this endlessly but they really do come into their own at the time they are meant to. They blossom at the time they are meant to. With my son I see that all I have to do for him to learn anything is simply provide creative outlets, books, reading time, stories etc. As he gets older insha'allah there are more structured things to follow, and if you have internet access then you have all the resources you need.

Having access to other homeschoolers for advice is good, and there are plenty of Yahoo groups etc to keep you in touch with the best resources. I like MuddlePuddle it is an excellent resource.

Regarding the intensity of it all - yes it is intense - and sometimes stressful. I yell. We fall out. I have little time to myself. But you know, these precious years don't last forever. Soon this intensity will end and they'll fly the nest and we'll be all alone wondering how we can stand living in a house so quiet. I try to appreciate this madness by remembering that - they are little for such a short time and are such gifts - everything worth working for is hard work sometimes.
And as they get older they will play more with each other and get into their own projects and want to do their own thing too.

How do I motivate them? Hm - I just figure out what it is they need and try and give them room to do it. Right now Boss is pretty into physical activity so I try to give him as much run around time as his body (obviously) needs. Then when I can see its veering off into inane activity we do something creative. The idea is that children aren't MADE to do anything - they imitate us - and the idea is that you get them involved in the rhythm of the day. When you cook they help, when you wash they help, when you put clothes in the machine they help. You go for walks and see nature. You knit and draw and they'll want to too - they want to imitate us - include them in your everyday life and that IS education.

I do not "convince" Boss he has to learn. I have never asked him to learn anything any more than I have begged him to learn to walk and talk. Everything he is he soaked up and did it anyway - he can talk the hind legs off a donkey with his knowledge of vehicles and dinosaurs - I never taught him that. He just asked questions and I answered. He knows all his letters - again through asking. He can count until you make him stop. Again, just imitation and nursery rhymes etc.

If they have to be forced or bribed then you are definitely on the wrong track. Children love to learn - it is as natural as breathing to them. Once they start to resist you have ask yourself why - it won't be their fault - but the way you are teaching that is at fault. Bribery is a bad thing to start - they should be learning out of the inherent love of aquiring knowledge, not through the school system manner of dangling a carrot over the heads. All that teaches them is that once they have what they want they don't have to read anymore. Bad.

Another thing we have to consider is the subconscioue message we are telling our children when we are putting them in childcare - why doesn't mum want them around all day and how does that make them feel? I remember being put in nursery and hating it - just waiting til my Mum picked me up again and wondering why she had pushed me away. She of course thought I loved it and it was doing me good. It didn't. It made me chronically shy and desperate at the thought of leaving her. It made me wonder why she never wanted me around.

PLus, I don't know about your madhab but in mine it clearly states that you cannot let a non-Muslim raise your children and that's what is happening when you leave them under the care of the State.


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