Like dozens of other Pakistani-American girls here, Hajra Bibi stopped attending the local public school when she reached puberty, and began studying at home.
Her family wanted her to clean and cook for her male relatives, and had also worried that other American children would mock both her Muslim religion and her traditional clothes.
“Some men don’t like it when you wear American clothes — they don’t think it is a good thing for girls,” said Miss Bibi, 17, now studying at the 12th-grade level in this agricultural center some 70 miles east of San Francisco. “You have to be respectable.”
Across the United States, Muslims who find that a public school education clashes with their religious or cultural traditions have turned to home schooling. That choice is intended partly as a way to build a solid Muslim identity away from the prejudices that their children, boys and girls alike, can face in schoolyards. But in some cases, as in Ms. Bibi’s, the intent is also to isolate their adolescent and teenage daughters from the corrupting influences that they see in much of American life.
About 40 percent of the Pakistani and other Southeast Asian girls of high school age who are enrolled in the district here are home-schooled, though broader statistics on the number of Muslim children being home-schooled, and how well they do academically, are elusive. Even estimates on the number of all American children being taught at home swing broadly, from one million to two million.
No matter what the faith, parents who make the choice are often inspired by a belief that public schools are havens for social ills like drugs and that they can do better with their children at home.