Pros and Cons

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.

7 responses to “Pros and Cons

  1. Assalamualaykum,
    what you say about the building and facilities sounds very similar to problems with Islamic schools over here. I’m not surprised, unfortunately. Same goes for the boring approach to learning.
    I think the headteacher really wants you involved to inject new ideas and a fresh approach. I assume she knows your professional background. Once she has your girls on board she hopes you won’t want to sit back and let things stay as they are. I think she is using a gentle, indirect approach to recruit YOU to teach in her school.
    Have you decided against it now, based on what you’ve described?
    In any case I think it would be a massive commitment. Steering those older colleagues to change their ways…much more stressful than homeschooling.
    May Allah help them with their school.

    • Wa alaikum as salaam ummrashid,

      So, this is how most Islamic schools are then? That is sad. Why does it have to be this way?

      You are correct to assume that she wants me to teach there. We spoke about that last month actually. I told her that I have little children though. You know it would probably cost me money to go to work if we put all the children in private Islamic school as well as daycare for Isa.

      Even after I described the situation to Jamilah, she is still interested. I think she just wants to see if she can measure up. She also says she wants to learn a foreign language, Arabic. I don’t think the Arabic they are learning is conversational Arabic but just Qur’anic Arabic. I will try to take her there so see can see it for herself, insha Allah.

      Anyway, there is another interesting twist. For part of the scholarship application, they require the student to write a 350 word essay on “The importance of an Islamic education and its value in a multi-cultural society.” I was a bit shocked when I saw this requirement. I have never experienced financial aid being based on anything besides financial need.

  2. anonymousmuslimah

    Assalamo alaikum,

    I would echo every word that Umm Rashid has said. I would be wary that not only would they want you to teach, but also take on a lot of extra responsibilities. You would be a massive asset to the school mashaAllah, but make sure that you don’t get taken advantage of. It is one thing to to be a help, but being the (unpaid) dog’s body is another.

    I met a family recently which I shall blog about, which would strongly influence me to let her try this experience. I think some childrens’ need for social interaction far outweighs the actual academic and environment side of things.

    I don’t know why I am showing up as anonymousmuslimah, I’ve tried to change it but it won’t!

    • As salaam alaikum ummsalam,

      Both you and ummrashid are correct. It isn’t just about me teaching but me taking on an unpaid position with the school. I am not able to do with Yahya’s school and they never expected it because they knew our situation. I already volunteer in the community with Girl Scouts and that is all I am able to juggle along with homeschooling plus driving. Because you know taxing them to and fro is a job as well.

  3. Assalamualaykum,
    I think many Islamic schools are like this because they need to be as cheap as possible. The kind of parents who desire an Islamic education are often not well off, and have bigger families, so they can’t pay the kind of fees needed to secure good quality buildings or good, qualified staff. A couple of the local Islamic schools here hire mainly young, unqualified teachers. There are some better schools of course, but they do cost significantly more.
    The more you tell us about it the clearer the enormity of the commitment becomes! Have you met the other staff yet? How do they feel about it? Would they welcome new ideas, or might they be resistant? It seems like the head has not been able to inspire them to take on new ideas herself. I would want to meet them first, you really don’t need the headache of colleague politics!!
    Can you send Jamilah without involving yourself?

    • As salaam alaikum ummrashid,

      I was only briefly introduced publicly at their end of the year picnic. The principal introduced me and wanted me to speak! I just thanked them for the invitation and for feeding my children.

      Most of the teachers are older men with whom I am not at all forming a relationship.

      I doubt I would be able to just sit on the sidelines with Jamilah there. The principal expects me to be on board.

  4. Walaykumsalaam,
    Oh dear, older men! I was assuming women for some reason. That makes it difficult.

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