Homeschooling on Okinawa (Part 2 of 2)

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.


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31 Comments
  • March 27, 2013

    Hi all,

    My son and I will be PCSing to Kadena the end of June and I have been looking for a school for my son. He’ll be 4 in July; this may be a silly question but is homeschooling just for your own children? Meaning, do any homeschooling parents teach other people’s children? I’ve heard good things about homeschooling but can’t do it myself because I’m active duty. Any information is greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Katrina

    Katrina
    Reply
    • August 16, 2013

      Katrina,

      There are great private schools off base for affordable prices. Google search Okinawa Montessori or Santa Monica Montessori. We are beginning our first year of home school this year. There is a home schooling co-op on Island, but you are required to be an active member.

      Joey
      Reply
  • February 23, 2013

    Thank you! my parents are just going to pay for it! but okay, if you can email me whenever you get here, i’d like to meet you all!

    Phonyxbagg@yahoo.com

    Tevin
    Reply
    • February 24, 2013

      Hi Tevin,
      Lots of luck with you and your homeschool program. Either way you go with your education, do work! See you around the island soon.

      January
      Reply
  • February 21, 2013

    Hi I’m Tevin Findley I’m 17 and i just moved to okinawa, i was almost done graduating in the states but we had to move here, and i want to get homeschooled instead of going to an actual highschool, only problem is my parents are very what you would say (sketch) or unsure about the idea, and we’ve looked at schools online and we haven’t found one that actually does it for free,and money is kind of tight, any suggestions?!

    Tevin
    Reply
    • February 22, 2013

      Hi, Tevin,
      In my experience, I haven’t had the greatest luck with a homeschool program that costs less to nothing. The great online schools offered come with a monthly tuition. You can always go the route of cd rom based curriculum, but there may be an issue of getting accredited material. I got my 8th grade daughter into Switched on Schoolhouse, but was short lived. I liked it because you are able to print out a transcript at the end of the program, so it may make it easier to incorporate that with your other transcripts. Check Keystone online. I hear they have a great program, but again, there is a fee. Maybe there is some assistance financially but not sure. Good luck and if you end up at the high school there, please let me know as we are moving there this summer and my daughter will attend one of them.

      January
      Reply
  • November 1, 2012

    Thank you everyone for sharing. My husband and I have been here in Okinawa for one year and have a 11 year old we would like to start homeschooling. He is currently enrolled in the DODDS middle school but we want to incorporate our catholic faith into his curriculm. Before we moved here he went to a all catholic school and was able to recieve a knowledge of his religion and a wonderful education. If anyone has some advice on who to contact for homeschooling groups that are both secular and non-secular please contact me LauraMoroney08@gmail.com.

    Laura Moroney
    Reply
  • May 29, 2012

    Is SHOO (secular homeschoolers on Okinawa) still in existence? I can’t find any current information about them.

    Michele
    Reply
  • March 21, 2012

    We are a homeschoool family PCSing to Kadena AFB. I have tried contacting FISH co-op, but have not had any luck. Can anyone put me in touch with the group? I would like to find out what their co-op is like and if there is any chance of participating for the 2012-2013 school year. Thanks!

    Kathy
    Reply
    • April 16, 2012

      Kathy – you can email me aubreycorcoran at yahoo dot com. I can give you more info.

      Aubrey Corcoran
      Reply
  • May 6, 2010

    It’s obvious Elizabeth wasn’t attempting to “tick off” anyone in her post. She clearly asked for help from others in regards to homeschooling. She is speaking from her own personal experience so there is no reason for anyone who doesn’t personally know her to be offended. If someone mentioned that every brunette she ever met was stupid, and I had never met her, it’s clear she isn’t talking about me.

    I also agree with Callie. I’ve met women who either already homeschool or want to homeschool their kids who clearly don’t have a grasp of basic spelling and grammar. Who benefits in that situation?

    I believe Elizabeth is looking for someone to give her positive examples on how to make homeschooling the best option for all involved.

    Charity
    Reply
  • May 3, 2010

    Homeschooling material can be purchased for an entire year in beginners packets to help you start. I would recommend looking into that if you are not sure you are really interested in homeschooling. There really are tons of different materials out there to choose from, and everyone perfers their own curriculum, so you really need to do your own research. If you are feeling that homeschoolers lack logic and critical thinking then maybe you might be intersted in a classical education for your son. I know it is very difficult when making decisions concerning our children. Good luck in any future decisions:)

    Cam
    Reply
  • May 3, 2010

    I don’t think Elizabeth ever said homeschooled kids are bad. She is just not convinced that they grow up to be well-rounded people. It’s a legitimate concern, especially from someone who has seen so many kids in failing homeschool scenarios. And asking a child to sit in school all day only to come home and do school work is asking too much from a child who also needs downtime.

    I only know a handful of people who were homeschooled. Honestly, their social skills seem just fine to me. However, I definitely second guess the whole idea of homeschooling if the parents aren’t qualified to teach. If parents would like to homeschool, they should be required to be certified teachers or hire certified teachers. I’ve met some moms here who all have their kids meet in one home and a teacher comes in to teach them all. I think this situation would definitely work. My neighbor, on the other hand, homeschools and she has no more than a GED. Her grammar is terrible and she can’t even carry on an intelligent conversation. How is she qualified to teach children? If parents without medical degrees decided to “home doctor” their kids or parents without dental schooling were “home dentisting” their kids, they would be arrested.

    Callie
    Reply
  • May 3, 2010

    The thing with homeschooling is that the education is only as good as you make it. Monica was right to ask if you think you can do this. Every child and every parent are different. As is every curriculum. There are all sorts of option from making up your own to going with an accredited distance learning program. If you want to home school you need to sit down and figure out what kind of things you are looking for and research them.
    From what I have read from your posts you have major problems with homeschooling and are having doubt issues. Have you thought that perhaps leaving your son in the DODDS School might be best? You can always supplement his education on your own. There are plenty of extra activities and classes for children and adults on the island. You could also us home school curriculum to add to what he is already learning. You are only here for a handful of years and whatever choice you make isn’t going to ruin his life or education. As always normal is in the eye of the beholder. I have met many well adjusted successful adults who were home-schooled and some very awkward socially backwards adults who went to public school.
    I think you are the one who is blowing things out of proportion and definitely on the defensive. Monica was simply trying to point out that maybe you haven’t met what you deem to be a normal home school student but that they are out there. She then went on to give you a lot of very good advice including a homeschooling website. Home schooling parents are defense because they are constantly questioned and second guessed for their decision. How would you feel if everyday someone told you that you were screwing up your son’s life by sending him to public school and that your son wasn’t “normal”? To continue posting under this article about how home schooled students are bad is unfair to all of those who home school.

    Heather N.
    Reply
  • May 3, 2010

    My post may have ticked you off and I’m sorry for that. I was just being honest in my observation on kids I have met who have been homeschooled. At our last I base I worked for the local school district. It was my job to monitor homeschoolers in our district and make sure they were following the state law on homeschooling, plus administer the final test that determined whether or not the child could promote to the next grade level. Many of the children I monitored were deficient in at least one subject area and had to do a homeschool remedial summer program in order to be declared as able to promote. So yeah, you could say I’ve seen a few homeschooled children in my day. I’ve heard plenty of homeschool parents make generalizations about students who go to regular schools (they have bad manners, they use bad language, etc), so for you to call me out for stating my opinion on homeschooled kids is not exactly fair. In fact, I’ve talked to a few parents who do homeschooling here on Okinawa, and they label ALL the kids at our local DoDEA school as “bad” (that’s part of the reason why they homeschool–to shelter their kids from other children…).

    Why are homeschool parents so defensive of their choice to homeschool? Very few will calmly address criticisms with sound evidence and logic, rather, they jump into “fight” mode. I simply was looking for someone to say, “Hey! I homeschool my kids, and I feel my kids are very well-adjusted children who are receiving a well-rounded education. Here’s what I do…”

    Elizabeth
    Reply
  • May 3, 2010

    Elizabeth, let me say that your post seriously ticked me off. The Momma bear in me got a little defensive. After thinking about it, I realized you haven’t seen enough homeschoolers. I guess the reason it ticked me off is because I’ve found some that I would call relatively “normal” homeschooled children here in Okinawa. I’d forgotten the type of parents and children I’d encountered in NC. They either were very devout Christians (I mean VERY), challenged or just anti-social. Honestly, we found one family that we really connected with. So why toss aside quality friendship for quantity? We really miss them. So whether home schooled, public school or private you’re just gonna find different people than you are used to.

    As for that mother, despite the pain it causes her to see her daughter suffer she still exposes her to other children and activities. It’s hard to say if an institutional school will cure her insecurity. There might be other issues at play. It might be her nature.

    Does your son display anti-social or anxious behavior? Would YOU allow him to isolate himself? Or does he thrive in social environments? Do you trust yourself to get him out and about despite home schooling? I think unless your son has behaviorally issues, you can give him what he needs to be normal. Only you know what’s best for him and obviously the schools here aren’t making the cut. You can either let the school break him down or you can build him up at home.

    As far as curriculum goes, RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. Wow, it is overwhelming the amount of curriculum out there. It is really difficult to decide which is the best fit (learning style). Just google home schooling curriculum and start there. I think it’s safe to say any homeschooling parent has spent countless hours scouring the internet researching. Boy is the research agony too ;P Join some of the groups listed above, ask to see other parent’s curriculum, join forums and questions, watch out for curriculum fairs and get involved in events that will get the BOTH of you socializing. I’m sorry I can’t help you with a specific curriculum. My son isn’t the same grade level as yours. I know someone else can definitely answer that question. Here is a site that I frequent often to read reviews :
    http://homeschoolreviews.com/default.aspx
    Hopefully, this site will help to at least give you a list of everything out there. Good luck on finding what works for you both.

    Monica
    Reply
  • April 30, 2010

    Okay, perhaps someone here can help me. We’ve been here for about seven months now. The DoDDS schools are working well for 2 of my 3 children. I’m beginning to feel that my oldest may need to be in a more challenging academic atmosphere. I’ve visited some of the private schools on the island, and I was not too impressed. I’ve had a few people suggest that I home school him, and it’s beginning to look like it’s one of our limited options. Here’s the thing though: I can honestly say that I’ve never met a homeschooled child who is completely normal, including family members who were home schooled (and, yes, I know “normal” is a relative term…). For example, just last month my son had a girl on his basketball team who is homeschooled, and she was very scared of the whole team sport situation, and she kept looking at her mom for encouragement and approval despite being 10 years old. It was painful to watch. There were other kids who had never played basketball before, yet they did not disply the same insecurities. And the mother even said that her daughter goes to home schooling groups, etc. I’ve run into this same scenario time and again, where the home schooled children I meet are just, well, strange.

    Help! Is there any way to provide a child with the benefits of homeschooling and also raise a socially successful individual? Also, I’ve noticed homeschooled kids are great in subjects that require memorization but they tend to lack critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. Are there any curriculums that incorporate these into a home classroom? I need to do something about my son who has just, in a sense, repeated the last two grades and is being punished for being smart.

    Elizabeth
    Reply
  • April 11, 2010

    I just wanted to let you all know that the Catholic Home schoolers of Okinawa are having our very 1st curriculum sale. It will be on April 17th from 10-12:30 pm at the Kadena chapel 2 annex. We will be happy to anwer any questions for anyone looking into home schooling Catholic or not. Also we will have some free catalogs(first come first serve) samples of books to browse, and a used book sale as well. Most of our curriculum is Catholic but we also have Christian and secular materials. Please come and see us! Contact me for more info chryljm@aol.com

    Reply
  • November 3, 2009

    I have to second Gretchen’s mention of the SHOO group. It’s a very inclusive group and my kids and I have made some wonderful friends and finally started to come out of our deployment-induced “hibernation” thanks to the neat field trip ideas and get-togethers.

    Reply
  • November 3, 2009

    Don’t forget SHOO (Secular Homeschoolers on Okinawa.) We meet on Fridays for enrichment, parties and/or field trips. This month our group is having a field day. This group is made up of Christians, non-Christians and anyone in between. Our group has monthly meetings via the inet. Currently there aren’t any dues but we do have bylaws and we expect everyone to contribute to financing and planning events, parties and field trips. Currently we have about 10 active families in the group with children ranging in age from 14 down to newborn. Most of our activities are appropriate for small children but we are beginning to incorporate more activities for older kids.
    We have a write up on Okinawahai and we have a website. Please check us out!

    Gretchen
    Reply
  • November 2, 2009

    Dawn, the craft center on KAB has the big rolls of paper.

    Everyone else, where is the best place to sell used school books? I have several 2nd and 3rd grade books that need to go.

    Thanks, Sue

    Sue
    Reply
  • April 25, 2009

    Julie,
    Hi, I have 3 kids in school here on Kadena. I too had heard great things about the DODs school system and wasn’t to worried about moving here. Now, that we’re here and my kids have been in school all year long I HATE the schools but not too sure what to do and where to turn for help. I can say that there are a few good teachers and they will go the extra mile but for most they don’t really seem to care about your child. These of course are just my opinions. I have never homeschooled before but am planning to look into if further before next school year.
    Thanks,
    April

    April
    Reply
    • December 4, 2013

      I have found dodds to be extremely lacking. After working in over 30 classrooms over the last 7 years I have found the teachers to be lazy and only concerned with doing the bare minimum. New ideas are continually shot down by the strong union and it is impossible to get rid of bad teachers. I know of a case where a teacher was reported for child abuse and the person who reported it was no longer called to substitute teach. The teacher is still teaching music in Germany. My child comes home always upset at being yelled at or confused about the instruction. I think that most military families are lacking in higher education and this in turn is brought into the classroom by their children. I am happy to now be free to homeschool my boy.

      Jeff
      Reply
  • March 3, 2009

    anna, I know your reasons for not continuing DOD school are probably personal or you may not want to share… but I am having issues with this option as well. My children presently go to a private Christian school and I have previously homeschooled all 3 of them for 2 years; however, I hope to work while we are there and I am really curious about the DOD schools because I hear how wonderful they are from people in the states… however, with our history, I really wonder how we would like them and what their negatives are. If you wouldn’t mind sharing?
    thank you,
    Julie

    Julie Moore
    Reply
  • February 12, 2009

    FISH has a new e-mail address! It’s FISHOkinawa@gmail.com. If you are interested in joining next year, that is the best way to contact the group.

    Anna
    Reply
  • January 12, 2009

    Dawn, I use brown package paper to cover my boys “art table” at home. It’s not see through — but you can get it at the BX — much like a roll of wrapping paper.

    Joelle
    Reply
  • January 11, 2009

    Dawn-
    I don’t know if you’ve explored this option, but I saw rolls of paper on Oriental Trading Company (orientaltrading.com) They ship to APO/FPO based on cart total I believe. The rolls are expensive, though. I remember buying paper off the roll by the yard at teacher supply stores in the states, maybe someone could buy it for you and ship it in a poster tube in smaller quantities if you don’t want to shell out for an entire roll? I haven’t seen anything locally.

    Penelope
    Reply
  • January 11, 2009

    I am not homeschooling, but my kids go to a yochien and I am supplementing so that they are up to speed when they enter school. I have been having a hard time finding some supplies — specifically big roll paper for projects like tracing bodies and big murals… any ideas?

    Dawn B
    Reply
  • January 4, 2009

    Thank you Anna for information about FISH!

    Heather N.
    Reply
  • January 4, 2009

    Thanks for posting all this information, Heather! There is one group not listed, and that’s FISH Co-op. We meet weekly for a day of classes on Kadena. Since this requires a lot of planning and organization, the co-op has to be established prior to or early in the school year, but those who are interested can put their names on a list for the following year. This, like OCHEA, is a group for Christian families, as a Biblical perspective is central in our teaching.
    I am a part of the Okinawahs Yahoo group and a board member for OCHEA, and I can’t begin to express how wonderful it has been to begin homeschooling on Okinawa!
    We had our oldest in public schools for a few years in the states, and we came here determined to take a close look at the DoDDS schools, and if we weren’t on board with them, something had to budge. After reading textbooks and meeting with the administrator, teachers, and counselors, we opted out after about a month. For years, I was one of those people who swore they could “never” homeschool. But God brought so many people into my life who homeschool – even before moving here – that when it was time for us to get serious about our educational goals for our children, I was more prepared than I thought. Foster Library has lots of great resources – one of my favorites is a book where each chapter is about a different family and how they homeschool (or unschool). So, I started reading and am still reading about this, and then we joined OCHEA. One week into our adventure, I went to an OCHEA Mom’s Night Out at Chili’s and met some incredible and encouraging women, which also continues as we network with other families.
    All this is to say, homeschooling is do-able for all of us normal people who are fairly certain we can’t before we try it. The scariest part is probably that it requires us to change our lives. Guess what? Our life has changed, and none of us wants to go back.
    There are wonderful curriculums and resources available and most are very user-friendly. Some of the most popular on island are Sonlight, My Father’s World, A Beka, Beautiful Feet, Apologia, Konos, and many more. Check them out online! And the libraries have current homeschooling magazines in addition to all of their other resources.
    So, if this has been on your mind, please be encouraged to take a closer look at homeschooling. Okinawa is a great place to start!

    Anna
    Reply
    • June 7, 2012

      We are forming a group specifically for middle and high school homeschoolers on the island. Our group will meet on Fridays beginning Fall 2012 and will be a parent-directed co-op and field trip group. We are an inclusive group but we do have a statement of faith that members agree to respect. The co-op classes have already been chosen and teachers are preparing for the school year. If you are interested in this, please email aubreycorcoran at yahoo dot com and I will send you an application. Please look for us on facebook and ask to join the group (see the link here http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/316922941695877/ ). You may join the FB group even if you do not participate in the co-op.

      Reply