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Homeschooling, Military Style

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By Jennifer McDonald

What is Lapbooking and Can You Do It

We are a military family. My husband, Steve, has served 24 years in the Air Force. As I write this, our family is in the midst of a move from Germany to Hawaii. We typically move every two to three years. He has also been deployed multiple times, and recently returned from a one year tour in Afghanistan. I've often said that the only constant in our lives is change!

While a description of our lives might sound exciting, we also face the challenge of creating a stable environment for our children while undergoing numerous moves and deployments. The continuity of our children's education can be part of that challenge, since we tend to change school districts frequently. Aside from all the reasons that I believe homeschooling is a great option for any family, please consider the following benefits if yours is a military family.

Education is a constant in our children's lives. We've had the opportunity to be stationed in Europe, the Pacific, and states all around the U.S. But regardless of how many school districts we've lived in, our kids' "school" hasn't changed. This continuity is obviously beneficial for them academically speaking. Our youngest daughter, twelve years old, has lived in a total of six different school districts since she became school-aged, so you can see why this is a concern for us!

No concerns about the time of year an assignment falls. My husband has had military job opportunities come up in the winter and spring, times of the year that might not be especially convenient to move with school-aged children. But our family is not bound to the traditional summer move schedule that many military families follow. We can ‘pick up and go' any time of year. And along with that…

No concerns about where a base/school district is located. In fact, we don't have to be concerned about where in the world a base is located, because with our "portable school", we can go anywhere! It has allowed Steve to take jobs in more remote locations where others choose not to bring their families due to school concerns.

We can take advantage of travel and cultural opportunities. Our time is more flexible for travel, and we've taken some amazing trips during the off-season. As a family, we've snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, visited the Great Redwoods, experienced Mt. Rushmore, skied in the Alps, visited the famous tulip gardens in Holland, and trekked around Rome and Paris. The best "field trips" ever! We've also explored the cultural opportunities right around us, whether it was in Texas or Germany. Homeschooling provides a flexible lifestyle for us and allows us to soak up the local culture every place we've lived.

We can be more flexible with our school schedule, working around the active duty person's time off. An example of this was during Steve's last deployment. He had a two-week "R&R" scheduled mid-way through his tour, in the middle of the school year. We were able to take that time off to be with him, which simply would not have been possible if the kids were in school. When he has had to work odd hours, we've kept our school schedule flexible so the kids could see him when he was off-duty. With our oldest son graduating this past year, I look back and see that this time together was one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling for our family.

Of course, I have highlighted what I feel are the benefits to homeschooling as a military family. There are some common-sense issues to keep in mind if you are constantly changing locations, too. Be aware of the state laws where you're stationed. We've lived in some homeschool friendly areas and others that were not so. I'd recommend joining a legal association to keep you abreast of current homeschooling laws.

I encourage you to join a local or state homeschool group. These groups are great resources since they are generally familiar with the state laws and homeschooling climate, and can provide you with information about field trips and resources. If you get to a new military assignment and there isn't an existing group, consider starting one! I've personally done this, and while it was a lot of work, it was worthwhile for my kids, and I was glad to leave behind an organized group for those coming after us.

Homeschooling for us, as a military family, has been a great adventure so far!

Jennifer McDonald is a military wife and mom of 4 who has homeschooled for 15 years. Her work has appeared in various magazines, newsletters and e-newsletters. Contact her at stevejen88@gmail.com

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