First, let me send out warm Ramadan greetings to all. May Allah make this Ramadan successful for all of us. Ameen.
Yesterday, I stopped by the Islamic middle/high school which we have been looking into for Hannah and Jamilah. I was just planning on picking up the application and other paperwork, but then the principal offered me a tour of the school. My first impression of the school was that it was very dark due to lack of windows in the the classrooms. The whole campus consists of one building with only a couple of windows, a concrete play area, and a parking lot. So, sadly, I was not impressed with the facility. They do own the building so I don’t see any chance of them moving their school anytime soon. I couldn’t see myself sitting in those closed classrooms with only artifical lighting all day and truthfully couldn’t imagine my girls doing that either.
I had just picked up Yahya from his program which was in the same area, so he came with me to tour the school. The principal started asking him about his school experience. I also started sharing ideas which I reall liked about his school. I guess I was looking for something similar to his school where they would be given breaks and time outside, often engage in community service, and just have fun learning together. Also I was hoping for a more hands-on curriculum and not just one focused on standards of learning, bookwork, and standardized testing. Blah, blah, blah. Apparently they do receive some federal assistance as they have a Title 1 reading and math program for those needing extra help, so I guess they have to adhere to those curriculum standards. It just seems really boring. Finally, Yahya’s school seems to do just fine without constant standardized testing or standards of learning. The boys go on to prestigious (public and private) high schools including governor’s schools and other leadership programs.
I didn’t plan on staying there so long as I had the younger girls home alone with Jamilah. Hannah is attending a community service program this week in which she travels to the various homeless shelters/organizations in the area, learns about those organizations, and does a small volunteer project for each of them. So, she isn’t able to babysit for me. Anyway, Jamilah kept calling me during my tour asking me if she could bake with the little ones. I used this interruption to explain to the principal how we homeschooled and to ask her if she thought that her school was right for my girls. I explained to her my educational philosophy as being more holistic. Basically, we don’t just sit around all day doing bookwork but they live their life and are active in the community. Her response was that she encouraged the teachers (who are mostly older, retired folks) to use more experiential learning in the classrooms, but it seems that most of the teachers are left brained learners or maybe they just don’t know any different. She seemed very anxious to get us (and me) on board. I do have lots of ideas and experience with alternative education and I truly want to help the school as they are my brothers and sisters in Islam. I just don’t know if they are ready or willing to think outside the box and move away from the “standards of learning.”
The one postive aspect of the school was the Islamic Studies, Arabic, and Qur’an program. They take that aspect of their curriculum very seriously, maashaa Allah. I pray that my children have the opportunity to learn their deen more fully.
Bottom line is that after having homeschooled for many years, I find it very difficult to give up that type of freedom where you can just go outside anytime you want to, create your own curriculum, and just use the world and all of its people as your classroom. To have the girls confined to a box with no windows for 6+ hours every day, it really seems like a type of torture to me and especially for Hannah who is dyslexic and a right brain learner. May Allah make a way for my children and yours. Ameen.