Here’s a head’s up. When you move to…I don’t know, Anywhere, U.S.A. and you’re a parent, you have to research schools and decide what you are going to do. This is a hard thing. Everyone has an opinion. EVERYONE. I genuinely want to hear them all. I also look up test scores, evaluate curriculum and what level the curriculum is taught. Can you tell that’s a lesson learned? Yep. It is. So, when you move to Hawaii. It’s all that and a little more complicated.

The culture here is different than on the mainland. I say that like every other person here has said that. You just nod your head and say, “Yeah, I know. Aloha dude.” It’s that and more. The history of the school system here for years was that the public school was the babysitter for the people who must work and couldn’t afford private school for their children. At some point, that slowly began to change. Private schools among the locals still denote a social status. Plus, several years ago, furloughs due to budget cuts meant schools couldn’t stay open. I’m not sure what we would have done if we had been here then. The history of the school system has created a stigma. It’s a big fat scary one too. Today, the schools are working really hard to change the stigma. The school that my kids are going to happens to be making huge improvements every year in spite of a lack of funding and little government support. I still say it’s about the teachers too. So far, I’m impressed with the dedication my kids’ teachers have.

Now, we moved onto the base and there are a few families that have lived here since those old furloughs. They send their kids to private school. There are some families that home school. They would be doing home school here or on the mainland. There are a few that home school because they are afraid of the public schools. There are a few that send their kids to private school for the same reasons. My experience was, the more that I talked with those people who were doing something different than they would normally do out of fear…had never set foot in a public school. Like I said…my experience. So don’t yell at me. Every family has to find what is right for them. We chose to try the public school. Most of the private schools aren’t in session yet. We gave it a let’s see how it goes approach. I was pretty happy though when I met one mom who said she immediately put her kids in private school, after a horrible experience they decided to homeschool. Her kids are now in the same school system as mine. It was more than comforting to hear.

Can I tell you, I love it! Yes, it’s different. Yes, there are somethings that I’m not used to culturally that make me want to pull my hair out. Those things include the afternoon car chaos line. There is the unionized focus of some of the teachers. Instead of throwing money at extras, the school is using some excellent and expensive cutting edge curriculum. Grants allow for iPads in the sixth grade classrooms. My kids are learning alot of Hawaiian. The thing I like most is the diversity of the school. Can I be honest? At first is scared the crap out of me. I actually went to the kindergarten orientation and then showed up at my friend’s door to pick up Bria and Jack. As I was describing my experience, I broke down in tears. I had no idea if I was doing the right thing or what I was subjecting my kids to. It didn’t help that Arleigh was coming home feeling out of place and Hanan is clearly a haole in a sea of locals. So, we took a deep breath. We prayed and we agreed to wait it out until Friday.

This week I’ve seen some amazing things happen. My kids are in class with every type of student. I’m quite certain that there are some children who are probably homeless as well as kids on the other end of the social spectrum. Arleigh has become a rock star because she’s seen snow and made a snowball. We started to walk home from school every day. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a homeless man on my way to pick them up a couple of times. I even made friends with some grandmas that walk to get their kids every day. What I love most about this school is that my children are aware of the world outside our gated community. The gravy is that I love their teachers. They all seem fabulous and genuienly concerned with helping my children learn. There is academy training, Singapore Math and lots of other things that might impress my educator mother. I still can’t get over how quickly we seemed to find our place in the community. It truly is what works for every family. I have to say, for us, I am so happy that I didn’t isolate them from this experience. I can’t believe how close I came to doing just that.

So if you have orders to Hawaii, I won’t tell you it’s all wonderful. For us, it’s working and we love it. I’m happy to say that we are finding our aloha with the public schools.