Monday, March 31, 2008

Homeschooling Muslims

The NY Times has an interesting article on the trend among American Muslims to homeschool their children. As a libertarian, I support homeschooling.  We should have the ability to raise our children as we see fit. Of course, when homeschooled children run afoul of University standards, I often find the ensuing arguments over standards entertaining. If your child can't pass the entrance examination he or she only has their parents to blame.

Across the United States, Muslims who find that a public school education clashes with their religious or cultural traditions have turned to home schooling. That choice is intended partly as a way to build a solid Muslim identity away from the prejudices that their children, boys and girls alike, can face in schoolyards. But in some cases, as in Ms. Bibi’s, the intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.

Seeing homeschooling spread to other religions changes the paradigm a little. From my perspective, I don't really care. But I wonder what the fundies think.  Do Muslims have the same rights as Christians when it comes to homeschooling? Do Christians treat the needs of the Muslim community the same as they treat the needs of their own? It is an interesting question. I looked around for the Christian response and found an uplifting response on Brad Boydston's blog. At least he is asking the right question.

Actually, it's really the same old challenge -- how do we as American evangelicals deal with pluralism? We're so used to thinking that we should be the controlling majority that we assume all social structures should reinforce our perceived status. For example, many vocal evangelicals want prayer in the schools. But we start backpedaling as soon as we realize that in 21st century America there will be Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Wiccans, and Secularists in the position of leading the prayers. Yet we can't let go of the idea that this is a pivotal issue for the nation. So we struggle with dissonance

Homeschooling is a great concept when done well. We need to protect our rights as American to educate our children as we see fit. It does not matter if we are Atheists (0r secularist), Christians, or Muslims.


Tony Kw said...

I get worried by the idea that home schooling is a libertarian concept.

Home schooling is resorted to by parents intent on limiting the childs freedom - it is the liberty of the parent that is at the front here, not the child's.

Libertarianism, at it's deepest, surely means that a child should be given an education that maximises it's liberty - not one that allows the parents to limit the childs experience and freedom.

Mojoey said...

Tony - I know of plenty of well adjusted and successful homeschooled children. One cannot take only the failures and condemn the whole process.

and... I could not disagree more with your assessment of libertarianism. You imply state mandated education for all. The exact opposite of a libertarian position.

Anonymous said...


You said, "Home schooling is resorted to by parents intent on limiting the childs freedom - it is the liberty of the parent that is at the front here, not the child's."

I find this completely untrue. I, and most homeschooling parents I know, homeschool in large part because school is so terribly limiting to children. Kids in public school are limited in who they interact with (pretty much only other children, and mostly only those in the same grade); in what they do with their time (exactly what the teacher says); in what outside activities they do (only what they have time for after school and homework); in how they feel about themselves; in when they can travel with their families; and so much more (even in when they can go to the restroom or get a drink of water!). What's libertarian about that?

My kids, on the other hand, have far more choices than the average public school student. Because they learn one-on-one, they don't have to waste time waiting in lines, waiting to use the restroom, waiting for the other kids to finish an assignment. If they're interested in an activity, they don't have to stop doing it when a bell rings or a teacher tells them to. They can eat when they are hungry, rest when they are tired, go to the bathroom when they need to, take a break if they need one, and get a hug from Mom if they want one. They have far more free time than kids who go to school every day, so they read, paint, build, color, daydream, explore, play with friends, sew, do crafts, experiment, cook, and much more - and they do those things when they want to and because they choose to. They can take their time when we visit a museum or the zoo, moving at their own pace so they can really take it in and make it their own.

At the same time, they are getting a far better education than they would in school, and will be far more ready for college and for the world beyond when they get there. How can I be so sure? I was homeschooled myself for six years, including all of high school. When I went to college, I watched most of my fellow students struggle to make the adjustment to the workload, the expectations, and the independence, while I moved easily into the college world. My kids are following a similar path.

I agree - "a child should be given an education that maximises it's (sic) liberty" - and that's exactly why I homeschool.

tony kw said...

TTo mojoey.

So many people want to redefine "Libertarianism" so that it includes only their right to be free.

Of course there are many excellent parents who place their children's rights above their own when they homeschool....
... but you can take the failures and blame the system!

Our laws allow parents to limit the freedoms and liberties of a child - and I don't mean the liberty to be antisocial, to harm themselves and others etc.

The system has loopholes and this harms kids!

And to include anonymous...

Yes of course it works for you and your children. You care about their education but the majority of home-schooled children don't have the benefit of you as a parent.

The liberties you talk about, however, don't seem to be "liberties."

"Kids in public school are limited in who they interact with.." Nonsense! They mix with the whole population of children, black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, gay, straight, Latino, European. Not just the family and Mum and Dad's friends. Homeschooling is designed to limit the liberty of a child to mix with others. That’s the whole point of it..

"Traveling with their families" is about the family's liberty.

"What they do with their time." All part of social education and self discipline.

...and so on and so on.

I expect I sound angry, and I am. I’m fed with children being restricted by their parents in order to make them conform.

Home-schooled kids are notorious for an inability to concentrate, low thresholds of attention and poor standards of comprehension. They never hear other opinions - just those of the parents. Ask me, I was a schools advisor for many years and a psychotherapist.

Ask college professors who have to give extra attention to home-schooled children whose education has left them totally unable to cope with college life.

Homeschooling usually used by authoritarian, often religiously inspired, adults to control children's experiences and limit them to their own view of the world. It seems, often, to indoctrination rather than education.

Libertarianism condemns such manipulation of people.

Best wishes!


Mojoey said...

Libertarianism is a broad collection of political philosophies possessing the common themes of limited government and strong individual liberty. Libertarianism's ideals, although often varied in detail, typically center on policies in favor of extensive personal liberties (e.g., freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to bear arms, freedom of and from religion, freedom of press, freedom of ownership), rejecting compulsory socialism and communism in favor of allowing private property (whether being held on an individual basis or in collective by a group of individuals), promoting personal responsibility and private charity in opposition to welfare statism.

The public school system, although necessary in its current context, is not supported by the libertarian movement. Individual liberty, as it determining how your children are educated, is a fundamental principle of the movement, to assert otherwise is a lie.

Tony KW said...

To answer mojoey

No, no no!

Libertarianism isn’t what you, or anyone else chooses to define it as. There is no defining agenda for libertarians other than liberty.

I’m a libertarian in the same way that Thomas Jefferson was. It’s the liberty of the individual that is important and to treat a child in the same way that a slave is treated is not and never has been a libertarian idea.

What is paramount is an educational system is based on the principal that the child needs to grow into a free adult. Not one indoctrinated by it’s upbringing.

Many people think badly, they get confused by the principle statement and fly off in all directions.
Yes, a parent has every right to steer the education of their child, but not at the expense of limiting the child's intellectual freedom.


Tony KW said...

To answer mojoey


Don't call me a lair, it's not polite!

Anonymous said...


Did it ever occur to you that as a psychotherapist, you might have seen only the worst examples possible of homeschooling? You've made the statement:

"Yes of course it works for you and your children. You care about their education but the majority of home-schooled children don't have the benefit of you as a parent."

This implies that I am an exception among homeschooling parents. To the contrary, I've been involved in the homeschooling movement for many years - I was homeschooled myself for 6 years as a missionary kid, I helped a church start a homeschooling umbrella school, I have homeschooled my own kids for 8 years, I have taught and worked in a homeschooling enrichment program, I participate in several online forums, and I write a homeschooling blog. I know literally hundreds of homeschooling families, and by FAR the majority are much like I am. They love their children, and they homeschool because they believe homeschooling provides their children with a far better education than the public school system. Not only that, most of the homeschooling parents I know believe, as I do, that homeschooling provides our children with much greater liberty, both today and later as adults, than the public school system will ever be able to do.

I strongly disagree that kids in school are not limited in who they interact with. You said yourself that children in school "mix with the whole population of children" - yes, ONLY children (oh, yes, and a few carefully selected teachers). And the "whole population" they mix with is basically limited to the children in their neighborhood who attend public school. Homeschooled kids, on the other hand, have the opportunity to interact not only with people of all races, religions, and social classes, but also with people of all AGES - something sadly missing in schoolkids these days. Most of the homeschoolers I know have good friends of all ages. They are often excellent with toddlers and preschoolers; they can hold an intelligent conversation with an adult; they are even kind, thoughtful, and polite to seniors. Where on earth did you get the idea that the whole point of homeschooling is to "limit the liberty of a child to mix with others"? I don't know ANY homeschooler who would agree with that statement (maybe there are a few - but I've never come across one). In fact, most homeschoolers are very concerned that their children have the opportunity to mix with others of all ages, races, religions, and social classes.

You said, "'Traveling with their families' is about the family's liberty." You may say that if you like - but the truth is that the school prevents CHILDREN from having the opportunity to travel. The parents can still travel - they just have to get someone to take care of the children and get them to school every day. And I work in the schools in the afternoon - I've seen parents do this. Homeschooled kids have the liberty to travel with their families rather than being confined in a school classroom while their parents travel.

"Home-schooled kids are notorious for an inability to concentrate, low thresholds of attention and poor standards of comprehension. They never hear other opinions - just those of the parents." Where on earth do you GET this stuff? I taught hundreds of homeschoooled kids in several homeschool enrichment programs (as well as teaching keyboards in the public schools in the afternoon), and I can tell you the homeschooled kids are generally far more able to concentrate, to pay attention, and to comprehend than the public school kids. And as for college professors, the vast majority are more than supportive of homeschooling. In fact, colleges have made special accommodations to allow homeschoolers, even though they don't have transcripts from accredited high schools, because they usually end up bringing credit to the school.

I'm sorry, but you haven't made your point. You've made a lot of statements about homeschooling that are completely unsupported by the facts about who homeschools and why. And where is your EVIDENCE that your statements are true? What I perceive is that you are giving your own opinion and trying to pass if off by, "Ask me; I'm a psychotherapist."

As for the system having loopholes that harm kids, I agree - but homeschooling isn't the loophole that causes the greatest harm. What kind of loopholes harm kids? The ones that allow kids to be alone in a classroom with a teacher who victimizes them (as has recently happened for the THIRD TIME in the local high schools in our district); the ones that allow teachers to simply "show up" and end up with a teaching credential, even if they are a terrible teacher; the ones that allow teachers to assign as much homework as they like, so that kids not only have to spend all day in school but all evening and part of the weekend doing school assignments; the ones that give families only one choice of public school to send their kids, regardless of how bad that choice may be; the ones that allow schools to do private physical exams of children without their parents' consent; the ones that allow schools to teach whatever values they like regardless of the convictions of the parents; the ones that force children into classrooms where they are bullied and refuse to move them; the ones that label kids "special ed" and stick them in classes where they have no opportunity to progress; and many more such examples. Yes, "the system has loopholes and this harms kids!"

But in the long run, homeschooling is far more conducive to libertarian ideals than forcing children to spend almost their entire childhood sitting in a classroom rather than interacting with the real world. And most homeschooling parents do so because it's better for their KIDS than public school.

Anonymous said...


Here's an example of the kind of liberty homeschooled kids have. I don't know this family; I've never heard of them until I came across this blog entry. But this is very common, in my experience, when it comes to how homeschooling families function today.

How many schoolkids have this kind of liberty? Frankly, how many school teachers have the liberty to discard their lesson plans because a better learning opportunity came up?