Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A receptive audience takes in a classmate's presentation at the Home-school Performing Arts Program at Diamond Head Theatre. From left are Taylor Yamamoto, age 7, Daniel Cuthrell, 7, Christi-Ann Yamada, 9, Natalie Frissell, 7 and Charissa Yamada, 7.

Showtime for home-schoolers

Diamond Head Theatre's new
drama classes offer a talent outlet
for students who are taught at home

Natalie Frissell has always been a ham, and she knows it. "I'm the funny one in the family," she says.

Susan Pelowski started home-schooling her "overexcited" 7-year-old daughter this year, but when it came to Natalie's developing talent, that requires more than textbook learning, Pelowski worried.

"There are lots of resources for home-schoolers. I felt I could handle the core subjects but was worried about PE, music and stuff (in which) I'm not real experienced," she said.

To address such concerns, home-school parents normally set specific time slots for extracurricular activities. For those whose children are interested in the stage, Diamond Head Theatre launched a new home-school performing arts class this fall. Classes are geared toward 7- to 13-year-olds.

"We want to create a love for all aspects of musical theater," said class instructor Valerie Vedder. "The classes will also help build self-esteem and confidence and foster trusting relationships between students.

Instructor Valerie Vedder, above, acts out a commercial, in this case one for shampoo, by using sounds, not words, and body language, and asks her home-school drama students to guess the product.


"Several of our cast members are or have been home-schooled. From that experience, we have found that many home-school parents are seeking performing arts activities for their children," said Deena Dray, DHT managing director.

"Acting is the easiest way to get to the kids right now," said Vedder. "There are definite leaders in the class."

Faye Hamm's children, William, 12, and Charis, 10, both attended the first DHT classes. "We were looking for enrichment opportunities ... real-life experiences for them," said Hamm.

Leona Victoria sent her two children to the class to expose them to public speaking. "It's something everyone is afraid of. ... I don't want them to be nervous. I want them to be able to stand up and speak their mind."

Vedder agreed: "The students gain confidence in performing and public speaking. We have to do that in all walks of life."

Diamond Head Theatre Home-school Performing Arts Program drama students watch instructor Valerie Vedder closely as she teaches them a dance routine.

"Until you get through the door, you don't know what is inside," said Robert Cuthrall, who sends his 7-year-old son to the performing arts program. "We worry more as home-school parents. We need to cover all the bases."

The type of music played during class was a concern to parents who often choose home-schooling to shelter their children from the R- and X-rated content of youth-oriented music and media.

Kelly Moulson, education and administrative coordinator for DHT, ensures only age-appropriate music is considered in the duets, dances, plays and monologues that comprise the program.

On the final day of class, parents attend a final performance to see the transformation over the 10-week session. The students even perform a song in sign language.

"Each child has their moment in the sun," Moulson said.

New DHT home-school classes start on Jan. 13. The cost is $150 per student, with a discounted rate of $135 per student for additional family members. To enroll, call 733-0277, ext. 306, or visit

Trevor and Faye Hamm home school their children William, 12 and Charis, 10.

Parents value
flexibility and intimacy

Faye Hamm started to home-school her two children as soon as they were old enough for kindergarten. She considers her venture "parenting to the max." She doesn't mind that she never gets a break.

One of the greatest benefits of home-schooling is the ability for parents to provide one-on-one tutoring, she said. "It is designed for a specific child and that makes it extremely efficient.

"These are our children and we should determine how they are educated," she said, "We are targeting what they need and want to learn. Academically, it makes it fabulous."

Hamm believes that the atmosphere at home is often more conducive to education than school classrooms. "There are no safety issues or self-esteem issues. I came out of school fairly damaged," she said. Hamm's son William is now 12 and her daughter Charis is 10, and Hamm said she can see the difference resulting from their education compared to hers.

"Both of my children are extremely confident," Hamm said. "William is an avid reader and likes to create computer games or play a challenging game of chess. Charis likes to create things and enjoys her favorite free-time activities of tole painting, baking and all kinds of crafts on top of her academic schedule."

The typical kid goes to school, goes home, does homework and then gets up and does it all over again the next day, Hamm said. "They have no down time ... no time for productive play."

In her childrens' universe, school is over by noon. "Kids need a lot of play time," said Hamm. "They need to reach a state of boredom before they start producing something valuable." She notices that they are not as productive if she starts to program too many activities or allows them to watch too much TV.

Hamm has found that it is relatively easy to comply with the Department of Education requirements. Parents must first register by filling out a simple application form with the school that their child would have attended.

Parents must keep a record of curriculum. The reports must include hours of instruction, the beginning and ending dates of the program and subjects covered. Standardized testing is required in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10.

Hamm suggests that new home-school parents start with the basics -- math and language arts -- and build a program from there.

"It takes some time to get things flowing," she said. "At first, the kids aren't used to working independently."

Hamm's curriculum focuses more on building skills than knowledge. "I want my children to be confident and knowledgeable," she said, noting that if people can't communicate well, information doesn't matter much.

The home-school community offers support groups where families can get together, share ideas or help each other out.

"We have regular field trips to the Bishop Museum and Sea Life Park," Hamm said.

The children also attend a Hawaiian studies class and outside art, drama and physical education classes. Sometimes other parents who have expertise cover these of topics. One of the parents even runs a speech and debate club.

"It's a challenge to bring together a diverse group of people and meet the needs of everyone," Hamm said.

Critics of home-schooling often cite problems of lack of peer socialization and limited exposure to ideas that run counter to parents' belief systems.

"It's the opposite of what people think," Hamm said. "The kids have more opportunities. We have traveled and there is a lot more hands-on studying."

Before electing to home-school her children, she said, "I met a home-schooling family ... these children didn't have any problems visiting with adults," she said, whereas after going through the regular school system, "I was never comfy with anyone outside of my age group," she said.

Members of the home school organizations share books and resources. Logos Bookstore at Ward carries supplies for home-schoolers. "When we started, there was not that much information for beginners. Many people who are home-schooling have had a bad experience at school. They are now faced with educating their children and may not have the tools."

Hamm has created an informative Web site for those considering home-schooling as an option. "It's hard to read the laws, so we have put on home-school seminars for interested parents. My purpose in life is to help people who want to home educate their children."

The Hamm family can be reached by visiting


Resources for

The Department of Education will send a copy of Chapter 12 rules that home-school families need to follow, to interested parties. The DOE Home School Support Group Phone List can be found at

The Hawaii State Board of Education also maintains an online document library with the latest version of Chapter 12, "Compulsory Attendance Exceptions" for home-school children.

For more information on home-schooling, the following organizations can also help:

Hawaii Homeschool Association Inc.
P.O. Box 893513
Mililani, HI 96789

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii
John and Arleen Alejado
91-824 Oama St.
Ewa Beach, HI 96706
Call: 689-6398

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