Revealing the myths of homeschooling

Senior homeschoolers from New Generation Co-op smile as they prepare for graduation_by Brittney Higa

Senior homeschoolers from New Generation Co-op smile as they prepare for graduation.

There are many myths about the homeschooled in our society: They have no social life, they never do schoolwork, and they are crazed kooks. But what exactly do they do and why?

Homeschooling has grown rapidly in the U.S. and here in Hawai‘i.

Honolulu Magazine stated that the number of homeschooled children on the island in grades K – 12 jumped by 17 percent in 2009.

In 2011 there were 11 homeschoolers at WCC. Now, in 2015 we have 42 homeschoolers on campus.

Many families are abandoning public education and deciding to homeschool.

“People often consider homeschooling after disappointments with public school quality,” said Patricia M. Lines, a senior research analyst for the U.S. Department of Education. “Homeschooled children have above-average test scores. Public acceptance will be important to homeschooling’s continued growth.”

Some families are also homeschooling because the children tend to feel safer at home than in school with other children.

“I was bullied a lot by other students so I was really happy to be homeschooled,” said Julian O’Donnell, a student at WCC.

One of the draws of homeschooling seems to be the greater freedom to teach a curriculum you choose and gear subjects specifically to each child.

“My schedule was different each day,” said WCC student Nicole Hayler. “Most of the time my mom would take us to the beach or we would go biking or rollerblading. Then we came home and did schoolwork. Once a week we went to a co-op with other homeschoolers.”

Another WCC student, Jennifer Au said, “I would normally start around 9ish in the morning and work until 4. I had an online class at 6 in the morning.”

The state does require parents to keep a record of their planned curriculum.

Hawaii state laws regulating homeschooling say plans must include records of hours and materials used while homeschooling. (For more details, go to www.homeschoolinginhawaii.com).

As the name “homeschooler” implies, kids spend quite a bit of time at home. Yet, contrary to popular belief, there are many opportunities for homeschoolers to interact with children their own age.

“I competed in speech and debate with other homeschoolers. It really helped me to think on my feet,” said Au. “But I do wish I had found more clubs to be involved in. I know they are out there.”

Thanks to the many clubs and organizations that do exist on the island, each homeschool family can find different ways for their child to meet other kids and build their social skills.

“We had a group of about 12 other homeschoolers that we got together with.” said Hayler. “We did hiking, surfing, archery and other stuff during the school day, which was nice because everyone else was in school.”

Thanks to the flexible schedule of a homeschool family, they can plan a week filled with whatever interesting things come along.

“My sister and I volunteered at Hanauma Bay and we played AYSO for all my high school years,” said Hayler. “We would also take trips during the school year, which we couldn’t have done if we were in a regular school. We went to other islands, the Southwest, and then one year we had a three-month long trip cross-country to see historical sites. That was really cool.”

It’s easy to teach kids their multiplication table, but what about when they start hitting harder subjects that parents aren’t qualified to teach or maybe don’t want to?

Thanks to the growth of the Khan Academy, Duolingo and other educational sites, online resources have become readily available.

“My mom taught me until 9th grade. After that, I started a lot more online work,” said Au. “I took online classes from The Potter’s School. I enjoyed creative writing and was taught how to write really well. I also took some math but didn’t enjoy that too much.”

Homeschooling does create more work for the parents since normally they leave it up to the schools to decide on a curriculum.

The more kids you have, the harder it can be to keep things organized.

“Both of my parents taught me,” explained Hayler. “They had retired from teaching and decided to homeschool my sister and me for high school,” said Hayler. “My mom taught English, P.E., and art and my dad taught history, math and home maintenance and repairs.”

Normally a school would keep track of each child’s scores and work, but for homeschoolers they or their parents have to do that themselves.

There are numerous support groups for homeschooling in Hawai’i, including the Hawai‘i Homeschool Association and Christian Homeschoolers of Hawai‘i. These groups hold get-togethers, conferences and even graduations.

“I think it (homeschooling) was really good for me, since I was able to take my time with it, and I made awesome friends,” said O’Donnell.

It is relatively easy to homeschool here in Hawai‘i. The DOE requires parents to just send in a 4140 form stating their intent to homeschool.

Homeschoolers then have to check in with their local school every few years.

Hawai‘i state law stipulates, “Test scores shall be required for grades identified in the Statewide Testing Program, grades three, six, eight, and ten.”

As graduation approaches, some parents will send their child to a school for the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades so they can graduate with a high school diploma, while others decide to have their kids get a GED from a local Community School for Adults.

As always, the choice is theirs.

by Tiffany Hayler, Ka ‘Ohana Co Editor