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Dear Principal and teachers,

Every March 17th, my children and I dread school. I don’t know what the basis of the custom is but every year, I have my children complain that they were pinched and humiliated because they were not wearing green to school.  This sort of behavior would never be tolerated on a day to day basis but it seems like on this particular day- it is a free for all. I am addressing this issue ahead of time, in hopes that last year will not be repeated.

I  bring this up with you as last year was particularly hard. All three of them complained of people pinching them, at times very painfully. The simple answer would be to send my children to school wearing green but why should I have to? Is it a school sanctioned affair? I know the school will ask on certain days to send them in wearing a particular color because they are learning about that color but this particular custom is not educational in any way.

Why is this behavior tolerated in school? Please make it a point to ensure that my children are safe.  If a student is hurt, annoyed, or embarrassed because of their belief and choice in NOT participating in this “custom” it is the school’s duty to ensure that the child’s sense of safety and security is PROTECTED, by not permitting such behavior to continue both in the classroom and in the playground.  As in every multi-cultural environment, we must have education and awareness in the classroom, that not everyone follows the traditions/ customs being perpetuated and that teachers, yard duties and other students need to respect that.

Sincerely ,

This is the letter that I send to my children’s principal. I am sure Patrick was a gracious Christian soul, who would not want his memory to be associated with this obnoxious custom.

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This year Ramadan coincides with the first day of school for many families. Realizing that many of our Muslim brothers and sisters do choose the public school system for their kids’ education, this is a resource to help make the best out of Ramadan in public school. This blessed month is such a vital part of being Muslim that enjoying it and sharing it with others, instead of hiding it, goes a long way in maintaining Muslim children’s Islamic identity while attending public school. After the will of Allah, it begins with parental involvement in the lives of their children. You owe it to them.

Elementary School

Send in a letter or email to the school principal and the classroom teacher introducing your family and informing them about Ramadan. This sample letter to your child’s principal includes an offer to come into class and do a presentation on Ramadan.  You can correlate it to the phases of the moon in science especially for first and third graders as it is a part of the curriculum. One year, we did the phases of the moon craft and asked the kids to watch out for the waxing and waning of the moon throughout the month.

To preempt any misunderstanding, meet with the teacher and/or principal and show her your material. For example, the Adam’s World Ramadan DVD is a great resource, so I asked the classroom teacher to preview it beacuse she is more familiar with the school disctrict’s rules; she chose to show the second stanza onwards of thenasheed “We scanned the sky” by Dawud Wharnsby Ali – it was such a hit!! The kids kept asking her to replay it over and over again.

There are several great books on the subject that are perfect for sharing during story-time.

My First Ramadan by Karen Katz – this little book is perfect for preschoolers – 2nd graders and makes a great gift for the class library.  You can mix in a nasheed. It was amazing watching my daughter’s preschool class holding hands in a circle singing along to the chorus of ‘These are the days of Eid.”

Hamza’s First Fast by Asna Chaudhry – I read this book to my daughter’s third grade class, which led to a great discussion where kids of all different faiths talked about how their parents fast too. “Oooh, my mom fasts too, on Lent! Mine fasts to lose weight! We do it too on Yom Kippur” The kids gushed after I finished my presentation. My daughter loved being the center of attention and the discussion was alive for days.

The Three Muslim Festivals is a beautifully illustrated book that has stories of Muslim kids celebrating Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha in a western country. It is a must-have for every Muslim kids’ library, and to educate others, gift it to your school library.

Print out some Ramadan activities for your kid’s classmates to color or crafts that they can make.

Send in Eid gifts – its great dawah. It’s the beginning of the school year; it will break the ice and help your child feel special. Alhamdulillah, the children in our elementary school look forward to being in my kid’s classroom and remember that Zahrah doesn’t celebrate Christmas. They don’t have to be elaborate; pencils, dollar-store toys, chapsticks, ahandmade rendering of their names in Arabic, etc. Attach a tag that says Eid Saeed/Happy Eid.

If your school has a newsletter and the administration wishes the students on their religious holidays then do ask for Muslim holdays to be acknowledged as well.  This little note started the beautiful tradition of wishing Muslim students Happy Eid in our elementary school.

For Middle/Junior High and High School Kids-

Fasting is fardh for most Muslim youth this age. A letter should be sent to the principal, homeroom teacher and especially the P.E. teacher. In this letter, explain your child’s physical and spiritual needs. This sample letter for high school can be adjusted to fit your family.With so many Muslim kids participating in team sports, coachs have to be included in this conversation. They are often concerned out of care and liability issues but a friendly letter or talk can ease their worries.

If your son wants to  follow the example of Muslim atheletes i.e. Hakeem Olajuwon and Husain Abdullah and man up to attending P.E.class, then let them. It is hard being the only guy in class sitting on the sidelines. (My maternal instinct says no way in this 102 degree weather, but  I give this advice based on talks with Muslim teens).

Make sure you make them get up for suhoor – if they are in the pratice of getting up for fajr this should be easy if not, use these tips for waking them up. Have them eat a healthy breakfast, say yes to the smoothies, multi-grain pancakes, oatmeal, and eggs their way. This is not the time to insist on a traditional meal from the home country. Keep them hydrated through the night with a water bottle designated just for your teen at their bedside.

Don’t go back to sleep after fajr – this is a great oppurtunity for family time. Read Quran together. It is one thing to tell your kids “Go read Quran” and quite another to read Quran to each other. They can also study at this time and do homework as well. This frees up the afternoons for dhikr, helping around the house, reading Quran and napping so your teenager is fresh for taraweeh.

Empower your children with information. When they are younger role-play with them so if friends ask them why they are fasting or if they are made fun of, they have some standard answers to give. For high school kids, have honest discussions about Ramadan, its virtues and its spiritual aspects; listen to or watch a lecture together.  They want their whys answered – so talk to them about the psychological aspects, about reflecting on their lives, about cleansing their spirit, about using this time to set up good habits for the rest of the  year.

Ask you teen to go to the library during lunch time or help out a teacher in class. Staying away from the cafeteria helps makes fasting easier.

Urge them to have a good attitude – “If you complain and say I am hungry – that’s just not good dawah and frankly people don’t care or will urge you to eat.” Listening and sharing other Muslim youths’ stories on how they handle Ramadan in school can spark great dialogue between teens, their parents and siblings.

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I had an odd lump in my throat when I dropped of LF2 and LF3 off at school; she sat wistfully on the sofa. ” Do you want to come with me to drop them off'” ” No, Mama.” It felt so weird like was I punishing her. ” I don’t want people to ask me why I am not coming to school.”

Her name was on the school list, I guess her withdrawal letter hadn’t been processed yet. No new backpack or lunchbox for her. LF2 got this whole set and I finally gave in got LF3 the Star Wars one he wanted. It was his first day of kindergarten (Am on an anti-brands promotion binge, would not get him Toy story 3 paraphernalia or Iron man 2 sneakers- meanest mommy in the world.) No back to school night, no first day of school pictures with shiny new shoes and a new outfit.

“Come on we will be late,” LF2 called. This will be interesting, may be she can learn some responsibility now. She is the second child but will be the eldest in the family at school.  Her older sister won’t be there to take care of her, to make sure that they weren’t running late.

I finally enrolled her in the K12 online school program. It didn’t help that her ‘school’ will start two weeks after her siblings- It’s done, I will  be her teacher … but they call me her “learning coach” and the lady who will guide us, the teacher??? I just received an email showing me then we can log in.

She is fasting almost everyday and she is only 9. I like having her around- I didn’t realize how much I missed her. And I am much calmer with her too. Maybe that’s just because I am fasting. Ya Allah, make this easy on me and even easier on her. Ameen.

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As the end of the year approaches our kids often have class parties, where they exchange gifts with their friends. Sometimes I send in toys or books. This craft was an Eid/holidays gift for my daughter’s preschool class. I painted one on canvas for each child in her class, inscribing their names in English and Arabic. MashaAllah the kids were fascinated, seeing their name in another language and hopefully will carry happy memories of a Muslim girl and her mommy for many years to come. Many of the parents appreciated the time and said they would display these in their kids rooms. All praise belongs to Allah.

This kid was half Indian Half African American

You will need ready made canvas available at Micheals or Aaron Brothers

I used acrylics and distressed glitter glue

First paint the background and let it dry before doing the calligraphy. Be as creative as you want. For some I shaded the background.


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Today I went to visit the home study coordinator at LF#1’s school.  Earlier in the month I spoke to the CAVA people at the Book Festival. I have to make a decision and I needed a nudge in the right direction. You know Allah send signs and we choose to acknowledge them or ignore them.  Instead of  a nudge I got a big push. I heard this on the news. These kids were in middle school in suburbia. Even if the stats are exaggerated I can not take the chance that my child will accidently walk into middle school CHILDREN engaged in sexual activities, I have thought of homeschooling off and on for a very long time. I read Sheikh Hamza Yousuf & John Gatto. His Underground History of American Education is a fascinating read, its available online for a free read. Watched these wonderful Muslim families for inspiration.

Homeschooling frightens people; they start thinking extremist, on the fringes of society, hippies, loony. I am just plain scared that I won’t be the best teacher for my children.
Will I be organized enough? My husband is concerned that our kids won’t be able to compete with kids attending schools. Both of us attended top notched colleges, so he expects that from our children.

InshaAllah, I plan to take a  baby step, I’m going to start my eldest next year- I can’t swim until I step into the water. I spend 2-3 hours with her going over homework, tests, stuff she didn’t ‘get’ in a class filled with 32 kids. So I should make the commitment and get her out of the system. I will still have 2 in school. I will have to make a LOT of changes but if I don’t- If I don’t change direction, I may end up where I am heading (Lao Tsu).

At least a million American home school their kids. It’s not common knowledge that ‘accomplished’ people like Sally Ride & Sandra Day O’ Connor were home schooled. Not that these are my role models but it may sway some: Will Smith and John Travolta home school their kids.  Francis S. Collins, the head of the public part of Human Genome project, was homeschooled and never followed any type of formal curriculum.

Allah’s Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said,

All of you are shepherds and each one is responsible for his flock. A leader of a people is a shepherd and responsible for them. A man is a shepherd over his family and is responsible for them. A woman is a shepherd over her husband’s house and his children and she is responsible for them. And a servant is a guardian over his master’s property and is responsible for it. So all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges.” (Bukhari)

I know people in my family, my social circle will talk- the nay sayers, the ‘whys?’, the ‘watch her fails’- People will make it all about my hijabiousity, my holier than thou-ness.  They don’t understand that there are so many factors. My husband went to public school all his life but even he acknowledges that this was before the cellphones/texting days, things have drastically changed.

We chose to live in this school district because our neighborhood school was a Blue Ribbon school.  The student to teacher ratio was 20:1. But things are changing so fast. With budget cuts so many good programs have been dropped. This year we had to pay for field trips. There will be 32-36 children in LF#1’s class next year. Sometimes when I ask her why didn’t you understand what the teacher said? She says ‘ it was too noisy’!  She learns more in an individual setting whereas LF#2 thrives in a group setting.

May be it is all mostly about deen. Her salah/hijab is about to become fardh on her. If she is home, salah training will be easier than having her do all that in school when she is not in the habit yet. She is not a super hero- sometimes I think it is too much to expect from her, the only hijabi in the school. She and her sister have been wearing it to school every Friday since they were in KG, but it gets harder each year instead of easier. The older the kids get the less accepting they are. Some still are, others are so mean- especially because of  the political climate today.

My children’s public school experience has been fulfilling so far.  There are many kids who attend public school and turn out OK. Some are even more pious than their parents, I have seen examples in my own in-laws.

But what if my child is not that strong and then I regret it. Allah knows my niyyah is to give my child her haq- her right to be protected from harm & the best education out there.  I do not want be in the position where I see so many parents that I counsel, what if we had done this or that?  The rest is up to Allah- may He guide them and make them the best of the Ummah. Ameen

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We don’t celebrate a lot of the Hallmark ‘holidays’ but this year I had a whole mother’s week rather than just one day. There was a very cute invitation in my son’s pre-school mailbox, inviting all mommies for circle time with our 4 year olds. LF#3 and I had a lovely conversation on how EVERY day is mother’s day in Islam, that’s the way we roll! I so accepted his invitation to his special day.

He was at the door waiting to greet me with a kiss in his lilac colored dress shirt that he ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY did not want to wear but wore for Mama. Ya Rabbi (My Lord)! keep him on the straight and narrow. Ameen.

We sat in a circle and heard poems. Then played with them at their favorite spot in the classroom LF#3’s was….. LEGOs. Among the adorable handmade gifts he had made was this hanging flower pot. There was a card and a flower for my hair which he tucked into my hijab.

The table set in lavender was where we were served iced tea and cookies.

Then the kids iced the cookies for their mommies.

Notice how all the icing is on HIS cookie

But the icing on the cake was when they told the class their favorite food that their mom makes:

These were his exact words: Mac and cheese that comes from the store and it is in a box ready to eat so she doesn’t have to cook it. Wishful thinking sweetie!! I detest mac&cheese from the  store, don’t allow it in the house. So much for having an all natural foodie mom!!

My daughters who are 9 and 7  made me breakfast in bed, ALL by themselves. I was so surprised and so proud!! Omelette and Paratha (a flaky flat bread), one whole glass of milk and one of OJ (16oz).  The 2 year old ran in to ‘spoil’ their surprise and it took all my motherly control not to rush downstairs, when he said ‘they are cooking eggs, Mama’. Visions of splattered oil and burnt fingers ran through my mind but alls well that ends well. It was perfect, yummy. God Bless them!

My sister just left for back home, so she delivered my mother’s gifts for her- she loved the card that my sister in Seattle and I chose for her. It was her favorite present. It was one of those recordable types and we spend hours laughing hysterically trying to get it just right.  Our speeches of love had to be edited to fit into 30 seconds. I found this FUNNY poem which I had to post. Love you Ammi.

After weekend school at the masjid, I got to take a long nap while Hubbie picked up dinner from our favorite Kebab place, Red Chili. Wish everyday could be Mother’s day.

Update just linked this up to 5 minutes for Mom.

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LF#1 has STAR testing this week- she has also had diarrhea and vomited a lot. After sitting in urgent care, then the lab for blood tests, then urgent care again, she is holding her tummy lying on that paper sheet, waiting for the doctor to see her. “How many pregnancy magazines can I read? I am not even expecting!” I ask her.  “Maaamaaaa… stop making me laugh, it hurts.”

Then they hand us a hat-like thingy and tell us to get a sample for a stool test- “eew” says” LF#1, “gross” think I. “If I do this sweetie- you be good to me when I’m old,” Saying a prayer for my own mom, I put on those latex-free gloves and then NOTHING! the same kid who was running to the bathroom every half hour. Nothing for a whole day!

Next we are sent to …. the ultrasound diagnostic center! “Doctor? the lab slip says abdomen scan but you booked her for both a pelvis and abd,” the receptionist calls the GP.  “Really?” I hear the GP’s voice over the phone in the dead quiet reception. “Ok, do both.” Ha, great sales tactic, I would hire her.

Lets just say I thought her first ultrasound would be 15 years from now and after it we would go shopping at Babies R Us.  Man, that tech was thorough. She checked every organ my child possessed and many I didn’t even know existed.

2 hours later we are back at the GP office. He says no mono, Praise the Lord! no bacterial infection Alhamdulillah! Ultrasound is ‘unremarkable’. Unremarkable? there is nothing unremarkable about my baby…oh wait  Thank God!

“Then what is it, doctor?” I ask. “Well, it may be STAR testing anxiety!” replies the doctor, sagely.

Are you for real? I have heard of test anxiety– there is even books on how to overcome them but severe vomiting! How much pressure does a 9-year-old have on her?

Have you ever had a child get ‘sick of school’?

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