A few years back, I had a discussion on my facebook page with sister Umm Juwayriyah about homeschooling. We were going back and forth a bit about the pros and cons of homeschooling. At the time I really didn’t receive the message she was trying to relay. I thought about our discussion over the years and as my situation began to change, I started to understand what she was trying to tell me before. Sister Umm Juwayriyah and I are facebook pals so I contacted her so that we could talk more in-depth on the subject of educating our Muslim children. It was a very good conversation and I am pleased to be able to share it with you all. You can read part 1 of our conversation here. The following is part 2 of our discussion.
Me: I wanted to get from you some of the reasons you feel that Islamic schools are a better option than homeschooling. I have spoken to some sisters who said that they are completely alone and isolated homeschooling their kids because there are no other Muslim homeschoolers in their area.
Umm Juwayriyah: It’s better for the children. As an educator I definitely feel that children do better when they are exposed early on to a variety of people, ideas and learning experiences. When you come together in a group or to do any type of collaborative work, whether you’re a child or an adult it enhances your learning. It gives you an opportunity to learn to deal with diversity and to learn how to cooperate with other people, especially the little ones, but also us as adults. It teaches you to adopt and to work on your patience. I mean, Islamically, when we look at the sunnah of the prophet, we know that they taught the children together. It wasn’t like they taught the children separately in their own individual home. No! They got all the children together and they taught them. It’s important that they’re learning from a variety of people, they’re learning different things and that they’re growing as a community. Islam is a communal religion. It’s not for the individual. It’s very hard to practice Islam by yourself. It doesn’t even feel right when your by yourself because we’re supposed to be an ummah that comes together. It’s a drawing of people together, to work together to reach a final outcome. You can’t get to Jenna by yourself.
If homeschooling is your only option then of course go ahead and do it. I mean I understand you’re not going to put your kids in the public school system, especially in some of these inner cities where they’re not even graduating 60% of their own children. So if that’s your only option then do it and that is from the dean as well. I believe it would be better to get the parents to teach the children together. That’s closer to the sunnah, without a doubt. And we know that collaborative work is better for children to learn. When they’re working with different groups of people, not just from their own family, then they’re being exposed to and learning from all types of people in the community. If you have a brother or sister who’s a plumber they can come in and talk to the children. Or if you have a brother or sister who’s a construction worker they can come in and share. You’ll have a variety of influences on the children, so that they’re getting a diverse learning experience. And being out in their community learning that they should be community workers. Communities are strengthened when people work together. When you have different people working together for a common goal.
Me: I’m wondering have you witnessed that in some of our communities, not all but some, that there is a lack of people working together, collectively? Has that been your experience?
Umm Juwayriyah: Yes, but long ago it was different growing up as a Muslim girl. Today it seems that people are very closed and not out and about mixing with the Muslims. It’s hard to find activities for the kids to do with other kids. There’s not a lot of activity among the adults let alone the children.
Me: And why do you think that is?
Umm Juwayriyah: The idea that you can just stay in your home and practice your dean and be OK, this is not from Islam. We have a hadith that says a person that goes out and bears the harm of the people is better than the one who stays in his home away from the people, so staying away from the Muslims, even if you have to deal with some trouble every once in a while, is not the better thing to do. And then the other thing is we are so hard on each other. We see one thing wrong from a Muslim brother or sister and we want to write them off. “Well I’m never going to go around so and so again”, or ,“I don’t want my kids around so and so again. They don’t dress right or they don’t talk right, they don’t look right. And we don’t want anything to do with them”. But we go to work with non-Muslims every day and we’re patient with them, because we want to get some money or something. But when it comes to the Muslims and getting the barakat from Allah we don’t have much patience for that.
Me: So I’m thinking the beginning of the solution is to come together with like minded folks and do more together.
Umm Juwayriyah: Well the internet is a great equalizer. I think it has to be utilized in the right way. I talk to sisters all the time about this. What can we do, how do we take those steps to get more like-minded sisters and brothers together to work on these issues.
Talk to the educators in your communities let them know, we need you to help our kids, we need to get this right. We need to do something for our ummah. We need to leave a legacy behind for our grand and great-grandchildren, so inshallah, they can stay on this dean.
You can get a group started online to start co-ops and go from there. There are Muslims in every state so there should be a co-op of homeschoolers in every state.
Me: Maybe we need a blueprint to show people how to get it started.
Umm Juwayriyah: Yes and a blueprint for charter schools. And then if Muslims in another state want to utilize it to start a school they can use it as well.
Me: Do you have to have a degree in teaching in order to start a charter school? I did a bit of research on this subject but I never found out whether you do or not.
Umm Juwayriyah: No you don’t! We have business that start schools. I don’t know if you know that, but business men have started schools, investors have started schools. You don’t need a degree to start a charter school. You need a business plan, you need a grant writer to write the grant for the school and an idea. Every state has a different time for you to submit all that, usually in the spring they start accepting proposals for charter schools. So you have to find out when your state accepts the proposals and you work on the timeline.
And you don’t have to be a professional grant writer. You can go online and find the steps to writing a grant. But if you have a grant writer in your community why not utilize them, ‘cause they’re going to know the ends and outs of what’s happening in your state. And then you get a couple of people together. You can go to the Muslim businesses and ask them will they come on as board members, because you need board members and that’s pretty much it. If the charter school is accepted, then the state is going to give you a certain amount of money for you to hire teachers. So the teachers come later. But it’s good if you have a team of educators to help you come up with the plan for the school. They’re going to want to know what learning theory the school is based on.
Me: Like Waldorf style or something like that?
Umm Juwayriyah: Yes, like that. The social justice schools are big. There are a lot of art schools popping up too. Basically what the central idea of the school is going to be based on. We have a Jewish school that just opened up where they’re teaching the children the Torah. Memorizing the Torah is a central part of their school. There can definitely be room for an Islamic school.
Me: Well I think this interview is a good start, Alhumdulilah. Maybe, Inshallah, this will be the start of some great schools. People can see that it’s not too difficult to start an Islamic charter school. I think we homeschoolers can each look at our homeschool situations and determine if homeschooling is the best option for our children and grandchildren. Everyone is not going to be able to homeschool and we need more options. I would love a different option for my son who is in highschool now. Sending the children to school can be scary you know, the culture there is just so different.
Umm Juwayriyah: My son is only 2 so I have a long way to get there, but it’s scary thinking about the boys cause there’s not a lot of stuff out there for Muslim boys.
Me: No there isn’t. You don’t want to keep them from this stuff, but it’s like putting a kid in a candy store and telling them don’t touch any of it but everyone else in the store is eating it. It’s difficult for them. If he was there with one hundred other people, who weren’t touching it either, it would be easier for him not to either. They have more strength not to go there. You place them in the middle of all this, I mean the football culture, the dances and all that and your constantly telling them this is not good, but it looks like everybody’s having a ball, see what I’m saying? It’s very difficult. I was raised Muslim and really went wayward for a while. It was very hard. I think it just depends on the child and you never know what kind of child you have until they’ve been there and something happens or doesn’t happen. It’s really a big gamble, but I don’t have many options. I just try to do the best I can. I try to take him to prayers at night and to the Masjid on the weekends and hope that that’ll stick. But I would much rather him in a school where he could pray salat with everyone and everyone in the school is fasting during Ramadan. Where they take an hour out to learn Quran, and they have textbooks that mention Allah. Libraries that are full of Islamic books. This is what’s been missing for me.
But, Alhamdulilah, I’m very glad that you spoke up on my page. I appreciate this discussion and maybe this will lead to more folks thinking and having discussions so that we can do something different. Inshallah, at least our children’s children, if not our own, will have more alternatives, inshallah.
Umm Juwayriyah: Inshallah
Me: Ok well, is there anything else you would like to add?
Umm Juwayriyah: No that’s pretty much it. That’s my spill. We’re going to keep pushing and let people know that Muslim schools are needed and we need to work together as a community to educate them.
Me: I love your book “The Size of a Mustard Seed” by the way.
Me: My sister and I sell books and your books are apart of our inventory. One time when we were out vending one day and it was slow so I picked up your book and couldn’t put it back down. It was so good!
Umm Juwayriyah: Alhamdulillah. That’s so good to hear. I’m just getting started on book two. I finally got a chance to sit down and not do so much that I normally do, so I’m hoping to have book two of “Size of a Mustard Seed” out next year, inshallah. That’s my goal. But I have a children’s book coming out at the end of the year called The Princess and The Good Dead and it’s an Islamic fairytale.
Me: Well Alhamdulillah sis, I’ll be looking forward to all of that. Thank you again for this interview. It’s been very enjoyable and informative. Inshallah I hope we can get together and talk again in the future.
Umm: Walaikum assalam.
If you would like to learn more about what all goes into starting a charter school, you may want to purchase one of the books below:
Maryam “Umm Juwayriyah” Sullivan is an American Muslim poet, novelist, playwright, journalist and performance artist. She has been an English teacher for the last 5 years and has also done some educational counseling in Kuwait. Sullivan’s novel The Size of a Mustard Seed is the first published Islamic Urban fiction title. You can follow Sister Umm Juwayriyah on facebook and you can purchase her books on Amazon.
I would very much like to hear from you on this issue. What would you like to add to the conversation? Comment below and don’t forget to share! 🙂
Hand Drawing Business Strategy Plan Concept Idea On World Map courtesy of MKRATHOG at freedigitalphotos.net
Hands Community Represents Organized Group And Altogether courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Book and word Growing Tree photo courtesy of Basketman at freedigitalphotos.net
Graduation concept photo courtesy of Hywards at freedigitalphotos.net
The Quran photo courtesy of Getideaka at freedigitalphotos.net
© Jamila Alqarnain and Muslim Homeschool Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamila Alqarnain and Muslim Homeschool Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content