The Hidden Blessings of Military Homeschooling
- Monday, August 22, 2011
Skiing in the Alps, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, strolling through the streets of Rome and Paris, riding the waves in Hawaii—these are travels I only dreamed about in my younger years. Yet as an adult, I’ve been blessed with these very opportunities. Our children have traveled to Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic, and other locations in Europe for missions, youth retreats, and sports tournaments. A little closer to home in the U.S., we’ve ridden on a fan boat in the Everglades, shoveled feet of snow in North Dakota, and strolled through the coolness of the giant redwood forests. As I write this, I am watching a ship come into the Pearl Harbor channel behind my house here in Hawaii. Unbelievable blessings!
All of these experiences have been a result of the 10 military assignments my husband Steve has had in his years in the United States Air Force. But our life as a military homeschooling family is about more than travel and living overseas. There are also challenges that go along with this lifestyle. Numerous deployments and frequent moves are expected of many military families these days, including ours. Steve recently returned from a year in Afghanistan—his third Middle East deployment since 9/11. The “operations tempo” of the air force is completely different from what it was when we were married 22 years ago, and we have learned to adjust. What seems normal now would have been incomprehensible to us a few years ago.
Homeschooling and military life are a logical fit, practically speaking. One study suggests that military families homeschool at the rate of twice the national average.1 My own observations have borne that out. Not only do there seem to be more at-home mothers in the military than in the civilian world, but homeschooling is a fairly common lifestyle among military families. We get few raised eyebrows among our peers when they hear that we homeschool and always have.
Our homeschooling journey began in 1995. Our oldest son is now in his first year of college, and our younger three children are still at home. Many of the reasons we began homeschooling sixteen years ago—the opportunity to teach our faith, lack of morals in the public schools, peer pressure—still apply today, but as a military family, other unique reasons and unforeseen blessings have become some of the most influential in our resolve to continue homeschooling.
“Honey, I’m going to Afghanistan for a year . . . and I leave in three weeks.” These words were spoken to me by my husband in July, 2009. We’d been through several deployments before, but never one of this length, and not while our family was already stationed overseas. I realized I would not only be living as a single parent, but that I alone would be responsible to help our oldest son finalize his plans for college. The children and I ended up staying in Germany for that year, to keep the rest of their lives as normal as possible.
I could say this was an unusual year for us, and in many ways it was. Yet we have had more years than not interrupted by deployments, moves, and even circumstances like illnesses and surgeries.
As a military spouse, I often joke that the only constant in our life is change. As the years have gone by, homeschooling has continued on in the midst of it all. Our kids have not been forced to adjust to new schools in addition to the other changes. When our oldest son graduated, I realized that if he had been enrolled in a conventional school, he’d have attended four different schools during high school alone.
We have learned to take our vacations when Steve’s schedule allows it, to be ready to relocate when a new assignment comes, and to be open to whatever Uncle Sam requires. As much as I like things neatly checked off, I attempt to keep our schedule fluid in hopes that it won’t fall apart during the weeks or months that we need to be more flexible. For instance, we were able to take a vacation when Steve came home for his two week mid-deployment break during the middle of the school year.
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