ShakespeareBut soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the Kahumana Residential Community, where Juliet is -- for once! -- being played by a young girl who's nearly Juliet's age (13, according to Shakespeare). And that's not the only novel satisfaction thou canst have this week. Even as a pair of star-crossed lovers takes their lives, and death bury their parents' strife, the battle goes on -- if not between the Capulets and the Montagues, then between the home-schoolers and the public-private crowd.
The Hawaii Homeschool Association
puts on its fifth annual Shakespeare
festival with kids in a wide
age range playing parts
By Scott Vogel
"It's a misconception that home-schooled children are not socialized," said Iolani Ikehara, responding to a question about the possible isolating effects of home schooling. Ikehara is both the president of the Hawaii Homeschool Association and one of the presenters of the group's fifth annual Shakespeare festival, which begins tomorrow evening in Waianae.
"Home-school children are actually more socially adept; that may be because they don't succumb to peer pressure and they're not teased in school," Ikehara said. "They're quite comfortable talking to adults and other children. And I think that generally speaking, you're going to find that home-schooling kids are taking it upon themselves to do things that other kids wouldn't do. They're very curious. When we have field trips, these poor museums see us coming, and they think, 'Uh oh, let's add another 15 minutes (to the tour) because they're going to ask a lot of questions.'"
Between 50 and 70 of these hyper-inquisitive youngsters are participating in this year's festival, which includes not only a condensed (50-minute) version of "Romeo and Juliet," but also a lavish feast of period-pertinent foods (tortes and soup) and a longish skit about some of the Bard's most famous lines written by three moms in the association.
According to estimates, between 7,000 and 10,000 Hawaii children are presently home-schooled. Parents choose this option for a variety of reasons. "In my case, I was going to be home with my kids anyway," Ikehara said, "and I thought I'd just like a little more time with my kids." Some are unhappy with the public and private school curricula ("We all remember those old school textbooks, and some of them weren't very good"); some want a more progressive education ("We tend to work a little bit outside the line"). Some have had bad experience with public schools, some want to integrate religious and secular concerns, and some want their children to socialize within a broader age range than organized school typically allows.
"I remember when I first visited the Homeschool Association," Ikehara said. "I was thunderstruck by how willing these kids were to get to know new kids and involve children of all ages. Sometimes I think of 'Little House on the Prairie,' and that's really how it works." Ikehara has been home-schooling for seven years; her youngest child is 6 and her oldest nearly 13.
That oldest child, by the way, is Kaz Ikehara, who plays Romeo in Shakespeare's tragedy (coincidence?) and seems to be taking all this romantic love poetry stuff in stride. "I guess at this age he hasn't reached the stage where it's either uncool or intimidating," said Mom, who began this project with the idea of introducing kids to Shakespeare's magic "before they got old enough to 'know' you're not supposed to like Shakespeare."
Kaz and his 11-year-old Juliet, Kimberly Worwood, are surrounded by a supporting cast that includes children as young as 3. "The 3-year-olds participate in dances of the time period and sword-fighting -- let's not forget the very important sword-fighting at this age." And despite the lack of a common school environment, the kids are not strangers to each other. Many have developed friendships while attending play groups the association regularly schedules.
Still, Ikehara would be the first to admit that home schooling has its drawbacks. For one thing, it's a job that by definition you can't fail to take home with you. "It's an incredible amount of work, and you think about it all the time. You're always a mom and a teacher, and you don't know where one stops and the other begins."
And then there's the overwhelming responsibility involved. How can you be sure that your children are learning everything they need to know?
"I'd be naive not to have some fear, because much of their education rests in the palm of my hands, and the power, and lack of power, in my brain. But I think the benefits far outweigh the reservations I have."
And Ikehara is buoyed, no doubt, by statistics showing that home-schooled children perform better on standardized testing and are as well socialized as their more conventionally schooled counterparts. And that's despite the fact that the home-school experience, except on a few mornings, couldn't be any farther from that delineated by the Bard in "As You Like It":
The whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school.
What: Hawaii Homeschool Association Shakespeare Festival
Watch the Bard
When: A preview performance will be held tomorrow evening; regular performances are Friday and Saturday evening. A "Green Show" starts at 6 p.m., followed by "Romeo and Juliet" at 7 p.m.
Where: Kahumana Residential Center, 85-887 Lualualei Homestead Rd.
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