It was never my intention to be a homeschool mom. Have you watched the reality TV shows about homeschool families who eat raw meat and are socially inept? Yeah, me too. That was never going to be me. No way, no how, would I ever homeschool. As the old saying goes, “Never say never.”
When my oldest son began Kindergarten, we were stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. At this point in his life, he was already enrolled in the Exception Family Member Program (EFMP) for (drumroll please) ADHD. However, the EFMP enrollment had nothing to do with our reason to homeschool. Well, sort of, but not really.
The El Paso Board of Education stated the school system would not mainstream my son because of his ADHD diagnosis. As I’m sitting in this meeting, I’m thinking to myself, “What child doesn’t have a little ADHD?” I even asked if my son could be mainstreamed with an aid that I had already hired. Their answer was “No.” Can I at least get a “We’ll think about it?”
Instead, the board of education told me the only my son could attend public school was by enrolling in a learning disability class. Look, I have nothing against learning disability programs. I also know my son. I wanted him to progress and not digress. I left the meeting feeling pretty upset. I had no idea what to do. I wrote my husband, who was deployed, again, a letter filled with questions and frustrations. Shortly after receiving the letter, he called me. He said, “Stop getting frustrated. They drew the line in the sand and it’s time to move on. The answer is simple. Homeschool.” Couldn’t he at least share in my pity-party? Couldn’t he be like one of my friends and cry with me? I have needs, too. But he was right. I had to do what was in the best interest of our son.
We had toyed around with the idea previously, and even researched curriculums. It was me, though. I just wasn’t ready to take upon that responsibility. The Lord has a sense of humor. He doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. Slowly He was equipping me to homeschool my child and teach him the ways in which he should go so that he’ll never part from it. That was how we began our homeschool journey!
Homeschooling in the military is on the rise. More families are embracing homeschooling instead of public schooling. The reasons are plenty. Some parents homeschool because of religious beliefs. Others because it provides a safer environment. Others because they don’t agree with a curriculum. The reasons are endless, which I’ll cover later, but one fact remains – homeschooling is continually rising each year throughout the military community.
According to a 2010 report in the Air Force Times, there is data to indicate that more military families are finding homeschooling to be a better educational choice for their children than traditional school settings:
A 2001 Army survey found that 2.7 percent of those with school-age kids were home schooling, about twice the national average at the time. And in the decade since that study, the percentage of home-schoolers nationwide has risen dramatically, climbing from 850,000 in 1999 to 1.5 million in 2007, from 1.7 percent to 3 percent of all school-age children, according to the Education Department.
As the Times reported, Charlie Toth, a top Department of Defense Education Activity administrator, was superintendent of nine U.S. schools in South Korea in 2006, when about 200 military families were home schooling, nearly six percent of those with school-age kids stationed there. Read more HERE.
If you are currently on a military installation, I can almost guarantee you will find homeschoolers. Many installations are broadening their educational and outreach programs by offering activities for homeschool kids! Some of these programs include library presentations and read-ins, homeschool co-ops, support groups, Facebook pages, sports activities, events, and the list goes on. It is estimated that 5-10% of all military kids are homeschooled and that number is expected to continue to rise!
There is one thing about military life that will never change — things will always change! Family schedules are difficult to plan. Work schedules are constantly changing. Military training is changing somehow. Either the training is extended or the dates are changing, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Late work nights. Temporary Duty (TDY). Charge of Quarters (CQ) or Staff Duty. Deployments, deployments and more deployments! Oh, and never forget the late night telephone calls requiring our husbands or wives to drive on post at O’Dark Thirty. However, having a constant and consistent education plan helps ease the burden of all this “Semper Gumby” conflicts that the military is forever throwing at us. (Disclaimer – Semper Gumby means “Always Flexible.”) Homeschooling offers a logical choice for many military families by providing stability in their ever-changing world.
“It is DoDEA policy neither to encourage nor discourage DoD sponsors from home schooling their minor dependents. DoDEA recognizes that home schooling is a sponsor’s right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor’s dependents.”
What are some reasons that a military family might consider homeschooling?
- Religious beliefs.
- Lack of religion in the public schools.
- Environment. Many children with sensory problems do much better in a home environment.
- Family Unity.
- Dissatisfied with the Public Education System where they currently abide.
- Individualize the education. Not every child learns the same way or at the same pace.
- Special Needs. Public schools require an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Personally, I think this is ironic since the ratio of teachers to students in most public schools prevents a student having an individual education plan to fit the individual needs. I have seen many teachers go the extra mile to provide an education individualized to the specific child, but those examples are few and far between. A special needs child will usually be thrown into a special needs classroom, which, again, may not necessarily be a bad thing, but you, as the parent, know your child’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. Special needs children have a propensity to get bullied more often than “normal” children. Special needs children are just that – special needs. Who better qualified to provide for the needs than the parent? In my experiences, special needs children often get thrown to the wayside in public schools and they tend to digress. Again, those are my experiences and you may have opposite experiences.
- Military Holidays. This was a huge one for us! We have always homeschooled year round because we take off for all the military holidays! If my kids were in public school, we wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of these opportunities.
- Community Involvement. One of the most beautiful things about the military is the community. Providing an education around TDY’s, PCS, Hail and Farewells, Homecomings, Deployments, and the endless list of separations, meant that my kids were provided an opportunity to be more involved in the community than if they were public schooled. A perfect example of this came the first year we were homeschooling. My husband returned from his second deployment to Iraq and my oldest and I were able to make up all the barracks rooms for single Soldiers, put together gift baskets to leave in their rooms, and my kids made cards for all the returning Soldiers!
- Smooth transitions. Another huge factor that led to our decision were the many transitions we had to encounter. As PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders are issued, I have witnessed many of my public school friends tirelessly researching the school districts at their next duty assignment. Frantically deciding where to live that would offer the best possible education to their child(ren). We averaged less than three years per duty assignment. Yes, you read that correctly – less than 3 years! However, I can proudly say that PCSing has never had a huge affect on us in terms of schooling our children. As homeschoolers, we pack what books and assignments we’ll need for the trip and ship the rest. Many years ago, the military would PCS Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, during the summer months so as not to conflict with their child’s school year. Unfortunately, those times are no more. It was a major pain and sympathetic to watch my friends move in the middle of the school year. When my husband received PCS orders, I would plan the route, research the entire trip, and plan homeschool field trips all across the way! To date, all three of my kids have been to 38 states and have traveled from Texas to Maryland to Washington to Tennessee in less than six years. Not only have they read about American history, they have seen the monuments, battle grounds, historic landmarks and the many wonders of the world.
Another reason I have watched many military families pull their kids out of public school and decide to homeschool has been the alignment of Common Core (CC). Although many states have overturned CC, it is still being taught until new curriculum is presented.
As a military family desiring to homeschool, or just curious about homeschooling, where can you find information and a starting point? Here are some resources:
- Equal Access to DOD schools. Homeschoolers on base can use the resources of DOD schools.
- Homeschool World Forum. Visit the Homeschooling Overseas/Military Homeschoolers thread at www.home-school.com/forums/.
- Home School Legal Defense Association offers a discount on membership for military families. Call them to find out how to apply: (540) 338-5600.
- Military Community Youth Ministries. A connection point for young people whose parents are in the military, at www.mcym.org.
- Subscribe to RaisingSoldiers4Christ. Laura Prater, who is the owner of RaisingSoldiers4Christ along with her husband Clay, has known military life a long time. Clay recently retired after serving over 20 years. They continue to homeschool their three boys and share a tremendous amount of homeschool information!
Laura Prater is an Army Wife whose husband just retired from the Army after over 20 years. Laura and her husband Clay are learning to adjust to life after the military and moving every year or two in the suburbs of “Music City” AKA Nashville, TN! Laura homeschool their three boys, while Clay is working at his first civilian job in over 20 years and attending seminary. They are active in their church, Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN. Laura also will be starting a Heart to Home Ministry for military and first responder wives in their community this fall! You will find them writing about Army Life, The Military, Ministry, Modesty, Homeschool, Raising Blessings, Life in general, and much more over at www.RaisingSoldiers4Christ.com.