Thinking about Schools

My daughter is almost four and at Kinder, she won’t start school next year though because she is still a little young. So I have some time to consider where I’d like to send my kids. No, I’m not going to homeschool! Although I do see many benefits to it, our family does not have an extensive enough social network to provide our kids with lots of friendly, kiddy interaction. I want my children to be socially competent and also to understand difference, I’d like them to mix with kids from lots of different backgrounds.

The most obvious choice is a nearby Muslim school. There are several in my area, but there is one that has a better academic record than the others and is basically more established. If we are to send them to a Muslim school, this is where they will go. My husband thinks it’s an automatic decision to send them there, but I’m not so sure. I haven’t visited the school yet, so perhaps I’ll have a better idea after being there. I’m just not very impressed by conventional school systems. All children (and particularly mine, of course!) are highly imaginative little beings, “normal” school tends to squash this  and produce streamlined little creatures. I’m much more attracted to “alternative” systems such as Steiner (Waldorf) and Montessori.

The benefits of sending them to a Muslim school are mostly to do with protecting them. I don’t want them to be picked on because of their religion, I want them to feel secure and “normal”, like everybody else. I’d love them to develop a love for our faith and not have this hampered by negative reinforcement from others. I want them to feel strong before they have to go out into the big, bad world and realize that there are people there who will discriminate against them purely because of our religion. Then there is the ease of sending them to a school where things like fasting in Ramadan (when they are older) will be understood and celebrated. I’m not going to say that they will be safe from witnessing drug and alcohol abuse, because those of us who don’t have our heads stuck in the sand realize that this occurs in ALL communities.

However, as much as I’d like to protect them while they are small, I also think that there are possibly benefits to sending them to a non-Muslim school. Aside from being able to choose a non-conventional schooling method, they would learn early on to accept difference and not to fall into the trap of bigotry. It is so important to me to convey an understanding of the world to my children that is not black and white. Possibly also they would learn to hold their ground as minorities. I don’t know. It’s difficult.

Our choice of non-Muslim schools is fairly limited. There are private schools that offer the Reggio Emillia method for primary students. This sounds great but they are way out of our price range, and having been to a posh, private school myself, I don’t think they are all they are cracked up to be. So I’m left with a few State schools that offer Waldorf streams. One in particular sounds fantastic, it even has an organic, kitchen garden run by the kids and visited by famous chefs. But I checked out the uni entry results for school leavers and they were fairly average, not as good as the Muslim school. It’s possible that parents use the school for primary and even early secondary and then send their kids elsewhere, as Waldorf isn’t offered for senior secondary students. Our kids would probably end up at the Muslim school for late high school, even if we took this course.

We don’t live near this school, we’d have to move and I really don’t want to. I’m tired of moving, I’ve done it enough in my life and I want to put down my roots, grow flowers and trees that I will see bloom and paint my laundry butternut pumpkin yellow! It’s not an easy decision. My kid’s personalities would be better suited to a Waldorf environment I think. My daughter is highly sensitive and will need lots of positive encouragement. My first son is really full on, and needs taming creatively, not heavy handed old school discipline. Perhaps they won’t get this in this particular Muslim school, but I know it’s a problem in others because teachers have been trained overseas where the attitudes towards teacher/student relationships are vastly different to here (we are better!).

ah decisions, decisions!


10 Responses to “Thinking about Schools”

  1. suse Says:

    It is a huge decision indeed. My children attended an inner city Steiner stream school until last year when we moved to the outer suburbs. The younger two are now at another Steiner stream state school and the eldest is at a private Steiner school for his secondary schooling. I’m a bit of a convert – I think all children should have the opportunity to have a Steiner/Waldorf education!

    I know the school to which you’re referring, with the kitchen garden etc, but don’t be put off by the uni results. The Steiner stream has not been around long so they haven’t had many (or even any? I’m not sure?) year 12s go through the system in the Steiner stream. The results you are looking at may just be the mainstream, which IS a disadvantaged type of school. The primary section of the Steiner stream is reputed to be fabulous, and the high school stream section improving with each year.

    Just to add some thoughts to your decision!

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  2. Asiya Says:

    Welcome Suse! you’ve been inspiring me actually, particularly your post about Waldorf education. Thanks for letting me know about the primary school being great. It does sound good, I’m planning on visiting soon. Thanks for visiting too.

  3. Brooke aka Ummbadier Says:

    I haven’t found Muslim schools to do much by way of protecting our kids. If anything they leave my small kids more confused as many of the kids there do things we don’t do because we are Muslim…really I can’t say much more than that because I just HATE the idea of exposing small children to all the horrible donya stuff when we should really be holding them close and protecting them so that they can form very strong indentities BEFORE they need be exposed…we homeschool and my children are so emotionally healthy AND doing well to understand their lil’ deens, alhumdiallah…and I think that has less to do with my proficiency and more to do with them NOT being peer-oriented.
    extensive enough social network…I have longed for this soooo long, but Allah has not given it to me and I recently realised that ultimately the family and social network CAN BE and usually is a huge hindrance. Everyone has different ideas and we have to bow to too much pressure…conform, conform!!!
    So, lately I see the blessing in it just being me and hubby. I have found some babysitters…but they keep going back to their home countires! Well, I guess that’s okay too…so whilts they are so young, this is working for us, alhumdiallah.
    Possibly also they would learn to hold their ground as minorities…inshallah! I just don’t think they need to do that at FIVE.
    I suggest (to everyone!) read lots of Charlotte Mason and the book Better Late than Early. And of course pray on it lots.
    Love and salams

  4. Brooke aka Ummbadier Says:

    Haha, I love how I say…I can’t say much more…and then did!!! I’ve stopped proofreading so much because otherwise I’ll never commentand I really am starved for some dialog! Thanks Jammy 😉

  5. Leah Says:

    It’s such a big decision, isn’t it. No advice here, and we’re not Muslim, but it’s still something that occupies my mind a LOT. I love the idea of Waldorf schools, but my traditional educational background has left me slightly worried about them. I’m enjoying your blog 🙂

  6. Asiya Says:

    Salams dear Brooke,
    I’m glad homeschooling is working for you. If I thought it was really the best thing for our kids and there weren’t other good options, I would do it too, I still might. I am thinking though that I really will need some time for myself to do things too, five hours in the day would be enough to transform my life! I’m not trying to push my kids out the door or not take responsibility for their learning. It’s more that I know myself and I think I would have more energy to put into mothering if I had time to do a few other things as well. I’d love to start my own business from home. Ideally making quilts, bags, cushions. It’s far fetched at the moment to think about it since I have yet to learn to use a sewing machine, but still I can dream! Making things makes me feel alive and energetic, it makes me feel like me. It was such a huge part of my life for so many years and I feel like I’ve lost a bit of me since becoming a Mum and I want to get it back! InshaAllah.

    I’m also an obsessive house tidier and the fact that my house is always chaos when I’ve got small kids running around makes me cranky. I know kids=mess, so I just have to deal with it, but a small window in the day that was entirely my own, would make me feel more on top of things and therefore I’d feel like I had more to give to my kids when they got home.

    I know what you mean about social networks being a hindrance.I guess there’s a difference between networks that are of your choosing and networks that impose themselves!

    Welcome Leah!
    I have a feeling of unease too, I think, worrying that the kids won’t be fully equipped to deal with rigorous academic discipline later in life. But I think my concerns are unfounded. I don’t think Waldorf is anti-academia per se, just that it shouldn’t be the approach taken for small children. But I have to read lots more about it.

  7. Brooke aka Ummbadier Says:

    five hours in the day would be enough to transform my life…Shut Up! (that’s a friendly thing amongst some Americans…especially the West coasters)…Don’t get me fantasizing!!! No really though…I am going back to school and because I do homeschool my kids, I don’t have any guilt about it. I tried working from home forever and it’s just too conflict of interest for me…of course, my kids were here with me. I want to teach near-grown-ups and drink coffee in the lounge with my colleagues! hahahaahaha…I’m such a dreamer!
    I’ve given up on the tidy house bit, though mine are a hair bigger and can help, alhumdiallah!….yet to learn to use a sewing machine,..I have been given two from generous friends, but just gave them away. Too techy. I like to hand sew and collect way too much fabric for someone who doesn’t sew regularly.
    I see yer concern with the uni thing. Ultimately, I would hope for my kids to go to uni or to have obtained the skills needed to support their family and themselves in the donya…but that really is secondary to their having a really firm grip on their identity…I mean as much as I can provide/help with. I love that the waldorf schools push so much self-sufficiency on the students and are a very holistic approach. We (I!) unschool with a waldorf bend, which many unschoolers would argue that I am not unschooling then, but I loathe extremisms….anyhoo, so while I SAY that I am so focused in the moment, I know that the waldorf schools boast very high uni attenders. And now many unis are even recruiting homeschoolers, so I feel good…today…ALHUMDIALLAH!
    but a small window in the day that was entirely my own, …absolutely. I just don’t want my little kids to be institutionalized while I find that hole.

  8. Asiya Says:

    I love the holistic approach too. The unschooling link you gave was really interesting and I’ll have to have another read. You know, if I thought that sending them to school here, was a terrible choice, I’d definitely homeschool, but I just don’t think it’s that bad. It will never be 100% what I want and it may not work out at all. I totally agree with the identity thing. AAh I don’t know. I want to be an inspiring mother inshaAllah and I know that to be so I need to feel a bit fulfilled in myself as well and I just don’t get ALL of that from mothering and I really don’t believe that I need too.

    Actually I just had an epiphany! perhaps it’s sacrilegious to say that?!! Anyway, I was thinking babysitters cost so much money…but then, so does the Muslim school. So maybe I could home school and still afford a babysitter maybe one day a week. But then I’d love to do things like (oh horror of horrors….music lessons) And before people get too worked up, they could always learn the Duff! Sport will be very important because they are really physically gifted, mashaAllah. Don’t take after me at all in that way, thankfully!

    I think I just need to do lots and lots of reading and istikhara.

  9. Suroor Says:

    I really don’t know, Asiya. It is indeed a tough choice. I went to a non-Muslim school and attended evening classes in Islam. It worked well. Then for a year we moved to the UAE and I went to a Muslim school which I hated because the children were very mean to me. However, whatever knowledge I have about religion is because of the evening classes and the Muslim school after home, of course.

    My children go to a non-Muslim, British, private school BUT because they are in a Muslim country they are offered compulsory Islamic Studies as part of the curriculum. It is an awesome school and the kids are very lucky to find a place in a school where children wait years to get in. I wonder what we would have done if we were in the UK. My BIL’s kids go to a local Muslim school in England. I assume it is a good choice.

  10. Asiya Says:

    I’ve looked at International schools overseas and some do look very good. There are similiar type private schools here but out of our price range with me not working, and even if I was I’d have to be a neurosurgeon before we could afford it 🙂

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