School is back in session for those who use DoDDS or other schools on island. This time of year homeschoolers can stick out like sore thumbs and usually elicit a question or two from acquaintances and strangers alike. Most people have probably heard of homeschooling, and most people probably even know a homeschooling family. However, these questions (and I have heard my share of them) can range from 'is that legal?' to 'what about socialization?' and can conjure strong reactions from the depths of a homeschool mom's heart.
For starters, here's the low-down on homeschooling on the island, specifically the legalities. I looked around on the net for a clear and simple answer, alas I came up empty handed. I am no lawyer, so I need to leave it at a simple 'yes, homeschooling is legal here.' The basic idea is that states regulate these matters and we are not technically residents of any state. There are some sources that claim a servicemember's command has some oversight, but this has been disputed in numerous places.
"One message does not appear to penetrate official thinking in these cases. Child abusers are criminals. CRIMINALS DO NOT COMPLY WITH LAWS that expose their crimes. Revising homeschooling laws to catch child abuse will result in child abusing criminals hiding elsewhere. Refocusing homeschooling laws on child abuse prevention will result in one thing only: a bureaucratic nightmare and the invasion of the privacy of the 99.9+% of homeschooling citizens who are not criminals." Ann Lahrson-Fisher, Home Education Magazine; quoted on The Military Homeschooler
Although it may sound like it, it is not as if there are a bunch of families out here doing whatever they want with regards to their children's education without accountability or oversight. I have heard this question many times - 'do you have to be accredited/test/get approval to do that?' The implication that a family might hold their children to lower standards than the government schools appalls most homeschoolers. For most homeschooling families the decision to teach our children at home is to ensure a higher standard. Who has their children's best interest at heart, if not the parents? Of course, there is no shortage news stories of horrendous child abuse cases in families that claimed to be homeschooling. And in CONUS, state and local governments make no secret of the fact that their oversight of homeschool families enables them to identify child abuse and neglect cases, and provide services to at-risk families. The reality is these families slipped through the cracks of the social services system (the system already in place to handle abuse and neglect cases.) Lawmakers use these tragedies to push for more government oversight into homeschooling families. Consider this quote:
Here on Okinawa, homeschoolers are a subset of the military community. Servicemembers, and their spouses and children, comprise a group of people already subscribing to a high standard of conduct. Of course, military families have been found to be involved in abuse and neglect. This is not the norm, however, and there are programs in place to intervene in these cases.