“The mother is the madrassa”

Have you heard of Dorothy Sayers?

She authored a concise but meaningful piece on the realities of modern education entitled “The Lost Tools of Learning“, which can be found here. Please consider giving it a read by way of background to this post.

If you can’t quite manage that right now, then watch this video:

A mu’min’s concern for his children preceeds their birth

– Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (The Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage)

Resources on alternative forms of childhood education are numerous, and (the often contentious) area makes for interesting reading. The contention, I believe, is mainly due to two factors:

  1. Education should (ideally) concern the moral, social, spiritual and intellectual development of a child. Many of us who know no alternatives to conventional state education are content that the above is provided through the state, and that home-schooling would stunt a child’s social skills. Besides, faith schools are incongruous with integration, right?
  2. The method of education chosen will impact not only upon the child, but, in the case of homeschooling, also upon the family as usually a parent will be required to adopt the role of “teacher”.

I didn’t mind my time at the local comprehensive. I don’t think its turned me into a hooligan either.

Unfortunately however, many of those who are pro-homeschooling often think that no good can come from conventional state education. I obviously disagree (as I’m sure many of you do too). Having such a two-dimensional view of education, or anything, is not helpful. Most of the time, it shows lack of intellect and analysis of the subject matter. That’s why I think it’s important to preface this post with the fact that there are often good and bad points about everything, including alternative forms of childhood education. The point of this post is simply to share some personal thoughts on the issue.  I am not, obviously, speaking on behalf of the wider community.

As I previously mentioned, the thought of alternative childhood education is perhaps something that many of us have never considered. I mean, we went to the local comprehensive, and know no different to the “School – College – University” process. For centuries however, children were often taught within the home.

The notion of state-administered education would have been considered a gross breach of the personal liberty to educate ones own child, say over 100 years ago.  A close relative to the homeschooling system, in our case as Muslims, would be the madrassa systems that were historically prevalent within Muslim countries (traditionally consisting of a very small group of students who would initially begin by rote-memorisation of the Qur’an).

We often assume that the intellect and erudition of the great historic Imams came about solely through divine gifts. Whilst undoubtedly our blessed Shuyukh had much barakah in their works, my contention is that such intellect and divine openings came through the prism of the madrassa systems, of which the scholars were once young pupils. We often listen to a master pianist and never consider how they have been practicing six hours a day for the past few years – our amazement is often focused entirely on the fruits of their endeavour.

Imam al-Ghazali is a proof of the fruits of our madrasa systems that produced formidable scholars of erudition. I’m sure anyone who has read his work (TJ Winter translation recommended) will appreciate where I’m coming from.

Homeschooling would perhaps be considered the modern day alternative to madrasa education, that for many of us, isn’t viable due to location and the important need for us to integrate ourselves within the British community without losing our identities.

The theme that has been running through this post so far is that of spiritual and moral education that homeschooling, or even Islamic schools, can provide over your local high school. Of course, whether this is of importance to you will wholly depend on how religion is centred in your everyday life. I’m sure many Muslims would be put off by the thought of homeschooling, and obviously this post isn’t aimed at those people.

There are a myriad of other questions that parents who wish to home-school their child would have in mind:

  1. What’s the availability of a good quality curriculum?
  2. But I don’t have any teaching skills to impart knowledge to my child?!
  3. What about my child’s social skills?

Such questions are very important and are all addressed in this Q and A talk given by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (whose five children were also homeschooled, along with Sidi Yahya Rhodus’ child(ren)).

The talk was given in association with the screening of an American grassroots film highlighting the deficiencies of American state education, entitled “Race to Nowhere”.

The talk appears to have been given in conjunction with Kinza Academy, a provider of Islamic home school materials founded by Nabila Hanson.

For those interested, John Taylor Gatto’s website can be found here, along with some other talks.



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