Isolated? I Don't Think So.

NoVaUnschooler Parkday 2009

NoVaUnschooler Parkday 2009

The Washington Post recently ran an article on the increasing popularity of homeschooling by Muslims. It profiled Priscilla, a good friend of mine and her beautiful family. Unfortunately, the way it was written/edited, it also played into the stereotype of the “isolated religious homeschooler” trying to keep their kids away from negative influences. Which, if you know Priscilla (and many of the other homeschool families profiled) you would know is the farthest thing from the truth. Not only is she active in the homeschooling community, but also in the interfaith community.

One of the tricky things about dealing with interviews is that you never know what angle the reporter is going to focus on. And even if you discuss and reiterate certain points with them (such as the fact that homeschoolers are NOT isolated and that there are a tons of homeschool and community activities available) it may not always come through in the article.

All in all, the article came across as a fairly typical homeschooling article. You would not guess this however based on many of the comments it has generated. You combine ignorance about homeschooling (they are all isolated and completely shut off from the real world, sheltered, socially inept) and combine it with ignorance about Muslims (they are all jihadists who want to kill Americans in their sleep) and you get the extremism and hatred that showed up in the comments section. Sigh.

I am amazed (although I probably should not be) at how many people jumped to conclusions and were spouting off completely uninformed opinions without knowing anything at all about these families other than their religion and the fact that they homeschool. There have been a few cooler heads here and there (and more in the later comments), but it is still deeply maddening. For what it is worth, I added my own two cents:

What I find very interesting (and sad) in these comments is that what is being debated is stereotypes and what is being forgotten is that these families are real people, just like you and me, trying to raise their families the best they see how.

I homeschool for secular reasons (I like being able to give my children a customized individual education and I have nothing against public schools) and have the privilege of knowing and having met several of these families and their children. What people are insinuating about them is so ridiculous it would be funny if it were not so scary.

However, people see “homeschooler” and immediately think “isolated” and “sheltered”. Then they see “Muslim” and immediately think “terrorist”. How ignorant.

Muslim homeschoolers are active both in the local homeschooling community (my kids take classes as well as other activities with Muslim kids) as well as their local communities. My kids are not “isolated” and are on local sports teams and participate in many community activities.

Please, before jumping to conclusions based on ignorant stereotypes, remember that these are real families just like yours.

We have a very active Muslim homeschool community in Northern Virginia. I recently did a beginning homeschool talk for families considering homeschooling at the ADAMS Center (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) and had a great time answering everyone’s questions.

My hat is off to Priscilla and the rest of the families who are willing to put themselves out there to help spread the word about homeschooling, not always easy when you are a minority within a minority. And here is to hoping that we can slowly, bit by bit, overcome this myth of the isololated homeschooler.