CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER NORDELL
After months of debating and researching you have made the decision to homeschool – now what? Finding the right resources and help when you are homeschooling is the key to success. I did some calling around this past week and talked with the DoDDS superintendent’s office about the “rules” for homeschooling on the island – turns out there are none.
Normally homeschoolers are required to follow their individual states policies and comply with their requests, but that does not apply here. According to The Home School Legal Defense Association or HSLDA (a great resource for all things homeschool by the way) the DODEA is “neutral” on homeschooling, meaning they will not restrict you from homeschooling. The DODEA will also provide you with help and support when you need it, such as partially enrolling your child in school, use of the library and loaning out of school items. The best way to find out what support the school can offer you while you are homeschooling is to make an appointment with the school counselor and they should be able to guide you in the right direction.
Now I am sure some of you are wondering where to turn for help outside of the DoDDS school system. After a little bit of research I found a few homeschool groups on the island and they range from support only, to religious to non-religious. I was able to chat with the leaders of these groups to find out more about them.
The first and probably the largest homeschooling group on the island is OCHEA and Stephanie was kind enough to give me more information about their group.
“What is OCHEA? The Okinawa Christian Home Educators Association is a Christian-based support group composed of families who are currently home schooling their children on Okinawa. Our encouragement, help, and services are offered to all; however, it is important to note that our Statement of Faith and organizational by-laws have been written and are governed according to the Scriptural basis found in the Bible.
Purpose of OCHEA: The purpose of OCHEA is to promote Christian character and values through home education, to provide support and encouragement for home schooling families, to share information about home education and to provide educational opportunities for home schooling families through group activities. These activities include (but are not limited to) field trips, park play dates, workshops/classes, monthly book club, annual family retreat, holiday parties, and community service.
Communication with members is done via an online Yahoo Group which members are invited to join once they submit application and dues. Activities are regularly being planned by members throughout the year. Membership runs August through July and the annual dues are $18. Partial year memberships are prorated at $2/month. Applications must be turned in with the dues. For more information about the group or to receive an application, contact the group president Stephanie. “
If you are Catholic you might be interested in CatholicHSOki a great local group of Catholic Homeschoolers. Cheryl was happy to share more information about their newly formed homeschool group with our readers.
“Well our group is the Catholic homeschoolers of Okinawa. It is a small group right now with just 5 families. There are 8 school age kids from 14 to 4. There are also a lot of little ones running around! We meet every First Friday at Kadena Chapel 2 for Mass and then we have a “bring your own lunches” in a meeting room afterward. We separate the kiddos into 2 groups, olders and youngers. We have each group do a craft and we discuss the Saint of the day or a special feast day that month. The moms all take turns planning the crafts out. After we are done with crafts and possibly a story for the youngers we let them all play so that us moms can have some fun too!
We will let anyone join no matter what faith you are, as long as you are respectful to our Faith. In fact we have a mom in our group that is not Catholic and that seems to be working out just fine! The moms also get together once a month to have a “moms’ night out”. We talk about schooling, kiddos, husbands and anything else that might come up!
We are also happy to talk to any mom who is interested in homeschooling and just doesn’t know where to begin or if she truly feels a calling to do it. There is a lot of experience in our group we have moms in their 1st year of homeschooling and mom’s in their 5th and 6th years. We all have interesting ideas to share to help out each other. There is also a Yahoo group that I just started CatholicHSOki please feel free to contact us through the group.”
For those you are looking for a group without religious affiliation there is the OkinawaHS group. Kelly was excited to share more information about Okinawa Homeschool Group with those who are new to homeschooling and current homeschoolers who are in need of support.
“We are there for information and support if people need it. We are meant to be an alternative to the more religiously oriented homeschool groups on the island. Many people aren’t comfortable with them and OkinawaHS was formed as an opportunity for something different. Our group is not a religious homeschool group. It’s also not a secular homeschool group either. It’s a homeschool group. That is its only purpose and requirement. It’s there for homeschoolers who have questions or problems or need support. We are a smaller group, spread out over the island, with kids aged from babies to seniors in high school. People post, introduce themselves and end up hooking up with others in similar areas with similar aged kids and such. It is a great networking group.”
Another great homeschooling support group is Teaching at Home, which is located on our sister site Hai Society. The main page for the group states “Please join us for support, discussion, and answers concerning teaching our little and no-so-little ones at home on Okinawa. All are welcome.” The group was started by a lovely woman Jackie who in her own words is “unschooling’ her three children.
Jackie explained to me:
“There are about as many ways to homeschool as there are families that do it. Our particular style is very relaxed and child-led. We call it unschooling – Google it if you’d like, it’s a fascinating concept.” She also shared with me the reason she started the group and who it is for. “Military wives know that a strong support network is crucial, whether settling in a new duty station, surviving a deployment or homeschooling. Back in the states, whereever homeschoolers find themselves, there are usually a few choices in support groups – eclectic to relaxed to religious. Here in Okinawa, however, there seemed to be only one choice in an established support group. Unfortunately it didn’t fit with my family’s particular style of homeschooling. Rather than go it alone, I started the group to find like-minded families and to provide a connect point for anyone who chooses to teach their kids at home to create their own networks. Newcomers to the island, as well as newcomers to homeschooling, can ask questions and find answers in the easy-to-use discussion format.”
The group is relatively small right now but all of the members are extremely helpful. It is a great place to ask your questions and get a better idea of how you would like to homeschool your children.
This is just a small handful of homeschooling groups to help get all of you curious parents started. I know there must be more groups than that on island so please if you were not mentioned in the article post a comment and let us all know about you.