Monday, May 18, 2015

Educational Choices???

Clarity Amidst Confusion: Demystifying Educational Choices
Shaheen Rasheed
MCA Santa Clara, CA

I am a home educator. When I used to teach at Granada Islamic School, there weren’t many options. It was either Granada or public. Thinking forward now in 2015, there are so many options for parents and it is confusing. What is best for my child? So let’s go over some of these options and clarify them.

Let’s begin with some definitions. 

What is Education? 
  • Comes from the word Educare - to lead out or to draw out. Leading out from ignorance to knowledge. 
  • Education in Arabic is Tarbiyah and Ta’leem - to have knowledge and character. So true education must be for life and living. 
  • We cannot just teach academics only. Education must create lifelong learners. Schools today do not teach character education. Lines of morality are blurred now. 
  • We cannot teach them everything within 12 years, but we can teach them how to learn. That is the whole core of education- giving them the tools to make a life for themselves and to make a living, so that when they are out of your hands they are still learning.

Life and Living
  • We are educating a trust from God. They are an amaneh entrusted to us. We have to raise and enable them to be good Muslims even after we are gone. 
  • We are nurturing a holistic human being. 
  • Howard Gardener book 'The Theory of Multiple Intelligences'. We have 7 modalities that are how people learn. I distilled them down to 4. 
  • Four major types of intelligences: Human intelligence is not just intellectual - there is also spiritual intelligence, socio emotional intelligence, and physical intelligence. 
  • But you have to do it at the right time. Cognitive development theory - there’ s a right time to teach certain things, and that will lead to an optimal human being. 
  • When child is baby, you are just taking care of the physical aspect… First 7 years their needs are more physical - play and take care of their needs. Then next 7 you teach/train. Then next 7 befriend.
  • The problem with education today, when starting off early, you are trying to build on something that is not there. You cannot undo the damage from these years later on. 
  • Book: ‘Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers’ by Gordon Neufeld, talks about a bond of trust that is built between parent and child - those bonds are formed in the early years. Pick up baby when they cry. Child is learning that there is a caretaker for me. There is security. Later on you can teach them things intellectually but you cannot undo the lack of an emotional bond in the early years.
  • Now children are starting school at age 3. A 3 year old is designed to be playing, small motor skills - grow and play. You put them in a classroom setting where certain rules have to be followed. But in order to make them sit and learn and behave, you try to make education fun. So we equated education with fun. So as they grow they expect education to be fun. Then they get into middle school, high school, and its not fun, it’s hard work., and if it’s not fun we’re not interested. Teachers are having a hard time - kids want entertainment not education… 
  • We have taken that time of exploring themselves and play away from them.. so them the process of discovering themselves goes on through their whole life.

Barriers to Education
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: for self actualization to happen, we need the fulfillment of innate desires of Self Esteem, Belonging, Safety, Physiological. 
  • If you don’t have a sense of belonging in the community, you cannot learn well. 
  • If your self esteem is constantly being battered, how can you actualize your self worth and goals? 
  • So our goal is to meet these needs. 
  • Barriers to this: Materialism, technology, environment.
  • Leonard Sax: ‘Girls on the Edge’ & ‘Boys Adrift’ - talks about how technology is becoming a barrier to education. When I was in school we didn’t have cell phones and ipads. But a friend of mine is a teacher, in her 5th grade class, every single student has a cell phone. It’s hard to get through to a student when they are constantly looking at their phones. 
  • Social media has taken children and changed them to being people on display like models and superstars. In the 70’s and 80’s you wrote in a diary and it was locked. If someone got into it there would be a war, you would be very upset. Today, you are very upset if people don’t read your thoughts on Facebook. This is affecting their minds. 
  • There is an article, I posted it on my page Soulful Studies, about the new apps that teenagers are using today that parents don’t even know about it. We are outdated… The apps being downloaded and used are scary.
  • Materialism: there’s this constant need for things. The concept of peer pressure. But it has escalated highly. Especially in bay area - the desire to have everything that everyone has. School is now a place where you can check what everyone has. 
  • Environment: We thought it was hard in our day, imagine what our children are going through today. Muslim kids shy away from being recognized. Very few students are ready to openly admit they are Muslim. As a professor in Diablo college, sometimes I get a Muslim child. One girl told me, just to let you know, my parents are Muslim. Meaning- don’t have any expectations about me just because my name is Muslim. The environment is creating children who are really at odds with themselves. 
  • Studies show- even children who are in practicing children households, come out of high school uncomfortable admitting their religiosity. If our role as parents is to protect the deen of our children and we put them in a situation where they are psychologically not comfortable, their belonging is affected, their safety is lacking, and esteem is low, how can we expect them to be khalifas on the earth when their needs are in shackles?
  • You cannot take a rose buds, peel off its petals, and say bloom. We are trying to push our children into battlefields. Today’s schools have medical detectors. Teachers fear for their lives. Schools are becoming breeding grounds for violence. So if the environments are so toxic, how can you expect the self actualization of the child?

Education Models

  1. Public Schools
  • Stakeholders: Teachers. But they are the lowest rung. They are just there. The real stakeholders are the policy makers in Sacramento and DC and the Super-intendants. Teachers just have to fulfill the decisions that they might not even agree with. The most frustrated teachers of all were the ones who have been there the longest. They feel the noose around their necks getting tighter. Why are these standards changing? It makes sense financially, when the standards change- then they need new books, new tests - so look at how much money publishers are making through this. And now the computer companies making tablets and chrome books. Educational apps. Corporations and Education. A lot of teachers do not want these devices because they cannot teach. 
  • Students: Active or Disengaged. Where you live decides what kind of education you get. And not everyone can afford or can even find a home in the better school districts.
  • Parents: Passive. You may think you are active because you are in PTO and bake sales. But you are not really making any changes. Homosexuality has been added in 3rd grade standards as a civil rights issue. If you are an aware parent, you will speak up, and they say ok your child can sit in the library. Sex education - they might let your child sit out for that class. But then you put the kids back in that environment with kids who have taken that class. There is an agenda that is trying to take the power away from you. 

Private Schools (Islamic, Catholic, or non religious)
  • Stakeholders: We think teachers are but they actually aren’t. The stakeholders are the investors. It is the board that decides.
  • Students: Usually more active and engaged.
  • Parents: Still passive. They are financial feeders but you don’t have an active role. You cannot challenge the curriculum. 

Charter Schools
  • A publicly funded school that can be on site or off site. And can have set curriculum or independent program.
  • Commonly used model for homeschooling
  • Common model for starting grassroots schools for the impoverished. Educators and parents get together and start a charter school, but they pick what they want to focus on. For example in Oakland, focused on athletics, to get youth into colleges on athletic scholarships. Hayward has a youth leadership program designed for latinos - if left in public school they will dropout, so parents got together and they focused on them. Fame recently lost their charter. Because they are not easy to form and hard to sustain over the long run.
  • Stakeholders - parents and teachers. But still can’t revoke the curriculum.
  • Students: active or disengaged.
  • Parents: active or disengaged.

Home school 
  • Stakeholders : Parents and students.
  • Students: Active.
  • Parents: Active.

What is Homeschoolling? 
  • It is the fastest growing model of education today. Statistics: 2.2 million homeschoolers in US.
  • Renewed after counter culture movement. This movement has always been around. The royalty and elite children didn’t go to school - they had teachers come in and teach their kids. 
  • In the 50’s, the public schools in the bible belt states were forced to stop teaching bible studies because it was unconstitutional. So christian families pulled their children out because they believe in a theo-centric model of education. 
  • In the 90’s Muslims started coming onto the bandwagon.
  • The founding fathers of this country were all homeschooled. Our authors and writers were homeschooled. Because that was the norm. We are looking today at what they created and wrote, well they had the time for it. 
  • It is a parent driven agenda. Parents take charge of their children’s education. 

Benefits to Homeschooling
  • Academic Relevancy. Child can move at their own pace. You can learn about things that are relevant to you. If the child is behind in any area or has a difficulty, they can grow up without any stigma.
  • Moral and Religious Grounding. Schools are not teaching this, it is your moral responsibility. How much energy would you have if you exhausted your mental faculties for 8 hours and then you come home and you have to do more. It has to be taught along side. Tarbiya is part of education. In school they are in an environment where they can’t even hear the word God. Then they come home and they have to say and do religious things. So the children develop dual personalities, one for school and one for home. The system breaks the relationship between parent and child. Some parents are even afraid for their lives, that’s how bad relationships between parents and children have become.
  • Stronger family bonds. John Taylor Gatto has a video on you tube - history of schooling. Prussian model at dawn of industrial revolution. Before they had one room schoolhouses and character education. Then authorities came and took it away from them. Even in US, children were forced to go to school. Schools are not designed to keep the family together. When your kids go to school they don’t see each other all day long. There are also barriers set between each grade level - kids don’t want to be seen talking to a child in a lower grade. 
  • Safe environment. You have what you want in your own home. No safer place than your own home. 
  • Time for other activities. You move through your curriculum much faster- average is 4 hours for middle school. If you can focus for 4 hours and get all your work done, why are you in school for 7 hours and still come home with homework. Sandra Day conner - chief justice of Supreme Court - was homeschooled. How do people follow their passions and pursue them if they don’t have time for it? Children are forced to do this meaningless work just to pass a test. 
  • Self Development/ growth. The best way to teach them is for you to be life long learners, they need to see you being one. The best way to teach something is to model it. It is an opportunity for us to grow as well. 

Pathways to Homeschooling
  • Legal in all 50 states.
  • KG is not mandatory. CA legal age to begin school- age of 7. PA - age of 8. There is a push to take children into schools earlier and earlier. As I’m driving I see all these early learning centers - Genius kids slogan: never 2 little 2 learn, because they take kids at age 2. 
  • Three ways to Homeschool:
  • 1) Independent (private filing), most recommended. File affidavit online with dept. of education saying that you are homeschooling. However, you do not receive any funding.
  • 2) Semi-independent (charter or co-operatives): you get funding, but there are rules on what you can purchase, you have a teacher over your shoulder, have to participate in mandatory exams, they are getting more rigid. In Co-ops, parents get together and teach each other’s children. 
  • 3) Dependent (Home Study Programs through districts), don’t recommend. History - came about for delinquent kids. You are not going to be getting the best of academics. It is a public school agenda, you are just bringing it from school into your home. There is also programs like CAVA, K12 - stick child in front of computer for 6 hours. But then how can you expect them to be social?

But I just can’t homeschool… how to supplement?
  • If you put your child in school, you have to think about how to address the other aspects of the child’s intelligence.
  • Spiritual: Private study of Islam or local masjid sunday school. And that also depends on what kids are in the class and how good the teachers are and the curriculum. That is not enough for our deen to be complete.
  • Intellectual: if you put your child in islamic school and it doesn’t have good academics then you have to supplement the missing components. You are still responsible to get it done. 
  • Physical: can supplement with sports, scouting. First 7 years: sunnah sports, best time to teach swimming, archery, horseback riding. 
  • Socio emotional - doesn’t matter what system your child is in, you have to be in constant communication with your kids. You have to be involved in their life. 1) Constant communication and monitoring. We have to be in charge. students contemplating suicide - students are crumbling under the pressure.. what is going on? 2) Mentors. Mentors are really important. Imam Ghazali - the worst thing for children are other children. We need adults around them to model behavior. Who are the mentors that my children can speak with and connect with? And you should be connected with the children of your friends. We cannot live in isolation. We have to help each other. It takes a village to raise a children. Find those like-minded people to be mentors to your children. Find mentors rather than peers. 3) Community Involvement Activities - we have to create a sense of belonging for our children, and we can only do this through community. Many children get a great education, but now they are doubtful of their deen. 

Go through all your options carefully. Look at what you can give. Homeschooling is hard. It is the hard path. But the path to jannah is not easy. Hard work pays off - maybe not here, maybe in the next world. Are we looking at temporary ease or the sakinah of having children who will pray for you? 

Q& A - 

Does homeschooling take 4 hours a day? For elementary it takes less, for high school more. 

Curriculum - need to know your child’s learning style and temperament so that you know what curriculum is right for your child. Have to understand your child, then yourself. Then you look at the curriculum and you can figure out which one makes sense for you. Depends on your priorities and goals. 

Discipline - you are always teaching as a parent. Constantly training them to use bathroom etc. You have to use discipline measures, based on the child’s age. So you have to constantly be reading and learning. Parents are not reading anything. We need to. Parenting needs to be learned. Book by Barbara Coloroso ‘Kids are worth it’. 

Tutors - disadvantage: the teacher is not the parent. You know your child and you have a connection with him. But tutoring is better than being in a room of 20 kids. If you have a mom who is overwhelmed, then finding someone to come in even for a few hours is a much better option.

Independent homeschooling- are there standards for it? There is Well trained mind, Kinza academy. Thomas jefferson. There’s a lot of curriculum. But the problem is knowing what to teach in what time. I suggest for parents of young kids - don’t focus so much on what they should be learning, focus on what you should be learning - learn how to teach, how to discipline. If they are playing, eating then that’s enough for them, they could be doing Quran on the side. Then when that time comes to teach them, you will be ready. 

How much does the Independent model cost? I know someone who has homeschooled for $50 a month. She takes them to the library and teaches them there using library resources. There’s so much out there that is available. It depends on how much you want to do. If you want swimming etc, then you’ve created a huge budget for yourself. When you start a business, you have a mission and vision statement, what is your goal, what are you going to accomplish this year, and from there you make up the budget. When you are home schooling, the home doesn’t go away. You have to change your mindset and say i’m actually a teacher. I say i’m an educator. Give yourself that credibility and then you start thinking differently.

Homeschooling multiple children? You can do a group study where everyone is doing english at the same time but at different levels. If you have an independent child (self-directed), you can just give them their work and they do it. I had to start with a test for him to figure it out himself, then teach him only what he didn’t know. But my other child wanted me to sit with him, so I sat with him.  

Co-ops: like minded parents, on time, committed, all on same page as to what we want to accomplish. Each parent chooses a unit and prepares the lessons. human body or plants or butterfly. But kids have to get along. 

Homeschooling high school? That is the most fun. Because you are no longer the teacher. I outsourced math and science since the 5th grade. I found a high school math teacher friend that teaches them math. In this age you become more of a facilitator and chaperone. I also found a science teacher that got laid off, now teaches lab science for homeschoolers. It’s more fun, easier, more doable. You can end earlier by taking the high school exit exam in 10th grade. Once you have your portfolio, you can start applying to college at 16. You go through a homeschool pool of applicants. 

Shaheen Rasheed is an Education Consultant and elementary school teacher turned home educator. With nearly 20 years of experience in the field of education, a degree in Elementary Education, certifications in teaching English as a Second Language, Early Childhood Education, Curriculum Development & Design, and a Masters in Education, Shaheen Rasheed brings her knowledge and practical expertise of home educating four children, to help families navigate the paths of educating their own children. 
Shaheen Rasheed runs a blog on Homeschooling and has been published in various online and in print magazines. She consults for families and alternative model schools and teaches part time at a local Community College.


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