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Homeschooling is Tailor Made for Military Families

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Raising children in a military family has always been a challenge. The long and inconsistent hours of the military, the training exercises that can last from days to weeks at a time, and being forced to move to a new duty station every couple of years puts tremendous stress on the service member, the spouse, and their children. With the nation in at least two wars (or six, depending on how you count undeclared wars), and with no end in sight, many of the men and women of the military can anticipate finding themselves spending nearly as much time in Afghanistan and Iraq (or other war zones) during their careers as they will at home. Service members are forced to continually put the interests of the military before the well-being of their families. While homeschooling is the superior option for most civilian families in terms of academic achievement, socialization and moral development, it is tailor made for military families.

The military attempts to accommodate the needs of families as they move from one duty station to another, but the needs of the military always come first. If a unit is deploying to Iraq in May, a soldier may be sent to that unit in January, forcing the family to either uproot their children from the school they are currently attending so they can move as a unit, or have the service member move to the new duty station alone while the family stays behind to finish out the academic year. Both cases are detrimental to the child. In the former, because traditional schools do not have a universal curriculum, the student may find themselves placed into classes that are well behind or ahead of where they were in their previous schools. A resilient child may be able to overcome this transition period in which they may find themselves extremely bored or labeled as stupid, but parents should be extremely apprehensive about rolling the dice with their children’s psyche too many times. Additionally, throwing a child into a new school system with its own unique culture, cliques and bullies, in the middle of the school year could turn into a disaster for the child. In the latter case, the children may not have to deal with being uprooted from their current school to be thrown into another, but they then find themselves without their parent who has moved onto the new duty station. The separation of parents from their children harms the emotional development of the child while also putting tremendous pressure on the family unit, and distress in the heart of the service member.

Worse than a disruption in academics or the children being apart from a parent for a few months is the stress of deployment. In the Army soldiers may find themselves deployed for 12 months at a time, with perhaps a two-week R&R somewhere in the middle. While the other services have shorter tours, they are still heart-wrenching experiences for most military families. For the service members, their children’s daily triumphs that they miss can never be recovered. They not only miss first steps, first words and athletic achievements, but they miss huge chunks of their children’s youths. For the children left behind the emotionally toll can be even worse. They miss out on the opportunity to share their life with their parent, to lean on their parent for guidance and support, to feel the security of the parent in their life, and worst of all, they must deal with the reality that their parent may never come home again.

Homeschooling can solve or mitigate many of the challenges that military families face. Homeschooling allows children to have an undisrupted educational experience no matter how many times or when a service member is forced to move. Because they aren’t tied to teachers or academic calendars, learning is able to continue uninhibited whether it is in San Diego, Fort Bragg, or Okinawa. This prevents the parent from having to decide whether to take their children out of their current school to move with them, or moving to a new post without their children in tow. Academically, it also protects against wasting children’s time because it prevents them from being forced to relearn something they’ve already mastered, or it may prevent them from being labeled slow for not being able to catch up to a class which is further along than their old class. Unfortunately, homeschooling can’t help with the separation that comes from field exercises and deployments. And homeschooling can’t free a child from worrying about the safety of their parent. But with the service member in the field or on deployment so often, it only makes sense that when the service member is at home that they spend as much time with their children as possible. Homeschooling families do not send their children off to school every day, allowing more time for parent and child to spend together. While missing class can be detrimental to a child in a traditional school, a homeschool child will not suffer academically by prioritizing their parent who may be home from Afghanistan for only two weeks.

* Military families may be eligible for DODEA funds to help them offset their homeschooling costs. http://www.dodea.edu/parents/dodea.cfm?cId=nondod&sId=hb

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