I’ve heard this so many times. That public school in North America is like poison to a Muslim child’s mind, and by sending my kids to my neighborhood school I am being an irresponsible Muslim parent. Over the years I’ve come up with a great argument on why I send my kids to public school, but every now and then I land up in conversation with a passionate home schooler, or an eager Islamic school parent and it brings me right back to wondering, why are we all so hard on ourselves and each other.
We’re all on the same team, Muslim parents, trying to get it right! It’s not easy for any of us. The constant uphill battle to give our children an education in this country has been exhausting for all of us. From pink day to swear words, talks of the way they dress, to dating, smoking and drinking – all of it has left us backed up against the wall of modern western culture. Raising our children in North America is HARD – regardless of what type of education they are getting. And if you’re letting your child out of the house, you’re going to have to answer these questions at some point.
But does public school speed up that process?
It’s hard to say where things fall on the individual time line for each child, but why should we be afraid of the conversations our children want to have? I speak for myself when I say this, having kids in public school has taught me to be a more active and involved parent. I feel the need to know what’s going on in the world, to have conversations with my kids, and really listen to them. There have been times when I’ve been asked questions that knocked the wind out of me, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches. There’s no conversation that can’t be had, no matter how silly or scary it may be for me.
Islam is about educating ourselves. So don’t be afraid of the information that’s out there. Be afraid of shutting yourself from learning it. Don’t let your children grow up thinking that their parents don’t know anything about being a kid in Canada. Know the trends, the songs, the artists, the athletes. Be able to show them that you live in this part of the world just as much as they do. Integrate into society so that you have a platform to include faith in their upbringing without making them feel isolated and insecure. It’s confusing to grow up in the crossfire of cultures and religion, think of it through their perspective. Your children are living during a challenging time; it’s really up to you to ensure that you educate them at home, just as much as they learn at school.
Don’t let the conversation between parents be about choosing what’s better – public school, Islamic school or homeschooling. Let the conversation be about our role as a facilitator in our child’s learning. We shouldn’t question another parent when they decide on how they teach their child. You may not agree with the way they are educating their kids, but I’m sure there’s no parent out there who deliberately decides to really screw it up.
In the chaos of trying to make the best choices, we often end up confusing ourselves. The only message here is: don’t doubt your decision. Just make sure that you are parenting your child, not just leaving things on auto pilot and letting the educators do the upbringing. Raising our children is OUR responsibility, Allah will question us about it, and we will have to answer not only what we taught them, but how we taught it to them. Part of the challenge of living in North America is to help our children understand that there is a beautiful balance that can be created. It may seem like public school is forcing Islam away from our children, but I think it’s a matter of perspective. Maybe public school is helping open up dialogue within families, and encouraging more integration between deen and duniya. After all, our children have to learn to survive the challenges of this world, in order to attain a better akhirah.
Fight for the cause of raising good kids. Your involvement in their lives is more important than any learning they will ever do.