Rescue teams search through areas on Maui hit by deadly wildfires in August 2023. 

As soon as the flames were quenched, Rachael Kane could see that her family had fared better than many on Maui.

The August fires, stoked by hurricane-force winds, claimed 101 lives and destroyed or damaged 2,000 buildings on the Hawaiian island, mostly in the historic town of Lahaina.

The home that Rachael grew up in, and which she and her husband Jacob had expanded to accommodate their five children, escaped the blaze. But the Kanes did lose their means to earn a living: the vehicles and equipment Jacob needed for both his arborist services and landscaping companies were torched into worthless hulks.

“We had to immediately shut down both businesses and put our lives on hold,” Rachael explained. For about two weeks after the fires, she added, “we were really just in survival mode.”

Taking Stock

Like their neighbors, the Kanes struggled in the absence of basic infrastructure. The multiple blazes displaced some 6,000 residents and disrupted transportation and utilities, including power, internet, and cell phone service.

Thanks to insurance payments and the generosity of friends, Rachael’s husband was soon able to collect some gear and begin contracting for work. But even this slight recovery left the family facing a dilemma. They had counted on preparing for an exciting new year of homeschooling, yet realized they now needed to commit their limited resources toward fulfilling other obligations.

So, to keep providing the personalized education their children were accustomed to, they reached out to the broader homeschool community and applied for an HSLDA Disaster Relief grant.

As Rachel explained in her application:

“While my home is still standing, all our funds are being put into rebuilding our businesses so we can continue to provide long-term income and benefits to our family, employees, and the employee’s families. The fire has threatened to collapse our economy as almost all jobs here on the west side of Maui are tourism-based, and visitors are not currently coming.”

Starting Point

Thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to quickly issue funds to the Kanes.

“I was able to buy all the curriculum I needed for the year,” said Rachael.

But the homeschooler-to-homeschooler help did so much more than put books in the hands of the five Kane children. It helped their community unite.

Once she obtained the educational materials she needed, Rachael felt the confidence to follow through with earlier plans to launch a homeschool co-op. Early last fall she invited other parents to her house to brainstorm ways to make a cooperative educational venture work.

Of course, there were resources they could no longer count on. Shops in Lahaina that provided school supplies have yet to reopen. And all that remained of the town library after the fires were a few seared walls.

Nevertheless, the Kanes and seven other families forged ahead to form a co-op that meets three days each week in several different facilities. They’ve focused on group activities and field trips with the aim of building relationships and treasuring the heritage of their tropical home.

They quickly restarted youth soccer and planned trips to the beach, as well as forays to examine farm animals and wildlife. In the West Maui Forest Reserve students foraged for seeds and young plants, which they then donated to efforts aimed at restoring Lahaina’s once-lovely foliage.

“The kids love it,” Rachael said. “Everyone is so happy to help one another.”

Gathering Strength

Rachael emphasized that this renewal started with a gift from other homeschool families routed through HSLDA Compassion.

“It made us feel cared for,” she said, which in turn helped strengthen their resolve as they contemplate the long recovery that lies ahead.

At the turn of year, authorities predicted that the work to rebuild burned structures in Lahaina would not begin until mid-2025. The effort is expected to cost $5 billion.

Of course, this doesn’t account for the emotional toll.

As Rachael explained: “Just trying to deal with the grief from the fire and talking about it to our kids, at the end of the day we feel so spent.”

“But this is our home,” she affirmed. “We plan on staying.”

She added that her family and fellow homeschoolers request prayers as they continue the difficult struggle to recover.