An Overview of Weekend Schooling
Nearly every Masjid in North America operates a weekend school. Usually it is held on Sunday and so it may be called a "Sunday School". Why is the Christian "day of worship" often chosen to teach Islam to Muslim children?
Quite simply because Muslims in the West are living in Christian-cultural areas where the overwhelming majority of people expect things to be done in a certain way. They take Sunday off, so we must also. This is often the only day in a week when Muslims are freed from work to gather and teach.
The object of any Weekend School program is simple: to teach children to believe in Allah and to practice Islam. Another important objective in the minds of many is also to prevent our young people from melting away into non-Muslim society where they will be just another minority without an identity. Horrified by the fate of previous generations of Muslims who lost Islam completely, today's Muslims, converts and immigrants want to do something to stem that awful tide.
Are Weekend Schools the ideal solution, or at least a good one? My experience would lead me to doubt such a conclusion. As many Muslims point out, a few hours on Sunday morning will never be able to compete with their "real world" of kufr (public school, malls, street corners, TV, music videos, fashion, the beach, etc...). I strongly believe that the only way to have Islam even survive two generations in your family tree is to keep your children in full-time Islamic schools until they go to college.
But for many Muslims, there are no Muslim schools nearby, or they can't afford it, or they are just unwilling to face the reality that non-Muslim society will steal Islam completely from their family tree. Whatever the reason, the practical fact remains that 95% of the children from practicing Muslim families will spend at least some time in a community operated Weekend School.
I have taught in Weekend Schools and know that it is entirely possible to produce Muslims-for-life. I have also witnessed Sunday schools in which the students "ruled the school" and were so unIslamic that none of the teachers and parents were able to exercise any appreciable control or influence. Most Weekend School programs fall somewhere in between.
Because of the reality on the ground, Muslims must seek to improve the performance of their Weekend Schools so we can increase the size of the safety net encircling our vulnerable community.