Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.

For years the question that concerned many parents was, Can a student who was homeschooled through high school gain admittance into the college of his or her choice? For other parents, the question looming was, Can a student who was homeschooled through high school have a successful career in the military?

This article is focused on the latter and will discuss some of the options the military has to offer, and it also will present data that were collected recently from homeschoolers (or their parents on their behalf) who are currently serving in the military. It is not the purpose of this article to provide an exhaustive historical treatment of homeschoolers in the military but rather to present a look at what’s out there and what to consider.

If your child feels led to embark on a military career, he or she can choose from several options: (1) enlist in one of the military branches, (2) apply for admission to one of the military academies, or (3) attend college and apply to a branch of the military after graduation.

Enlistment

Military recruits have typically been placed in one of three groups: Tier 1 recruits have graduated from accredited high schools, Tier 2 recruits have dropped out of high school but have earned their General Equivalency Diploma (GED), and Tier 3 recruits comprise those who are high school dropouts without a GED. For years, since homeschooled students did not fit quite right into any of those groups, they were often considered high school dropouts, either with or without a GED. Recruits who were not classified as Tier 1 were required to score higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), and those individuals were not eligible for all the benefits available to Tier 1 recruits. Given this clearly unfair policy, the Home School Legal Defense Association(HSLDA) lobbied Congress to create an equitable enlistment. In 1998, with the help of the late Senator Paul Coverdell, this inequity was addressed and a five-year pilot program was started.

Each branch of the military would reserve 1,250 slots for homeschoolers. Homeschooled enlistees would be considered Tier 1 recruits, and their progress tracked. In 2007, the Department of Defense modified its enlistment policy such that homeschoolers who received an AFQT score of 50 or above would enlist as Tier 1. Those scoring below a 50 would enlist as Tier 2.

As a brief aside, what exactly is the AFQT? Basically, all recruits must take a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB includes nine subtests, four of which comprise the recruit’s AFQT score.

Well, with the clock ticking, HSLDA was afraid the Department of Defense (DOD) policy would revert to pre-1998 days, so they went to bat for homeschoolers once again. The result of their efforts was that the DOD would extend their policy through September 2012, so that most homeschool graduates would be able to continue enlisting as Tier 1 recruits, provided they scored a 50 or better on the AFQT.

It’s critical to prepare for and practice taking the ASVAB test. To better understand the ramifications of the ASVAB and AFQT scores, as well as their importance to a recruit, think of these scores like this: Scores on the AFQT determine a recruit’s eligibility for enlistment in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps. Scores on the ASVAB are used to determine the best job for that recruit in the military. Say you want to join the Air Force and you take the ASVAB. The AFQT score might meet the Air Force requirement and, if positions are available, you are in. Conversely, if your AFQT score is a little lower than the Air Force requirement, but at or above the required score of 50, you might find a recruiter steering you to a different branch of the military. The higher a recruit scores on the AFQT, the greater the chance of enlisting in the military branch of your choice, and if the ASVAB scores are high enough, the greater the job opportunities, as well as signing bonuses, promotions, specialized training, and choices of postings.

Check the Internet for practice tests, and look for centers that offer classes. The ASVAB test should be taken before enlisting and, after it is taken, it can be repeated thirty days later if necessary to improve scores. If an improvement over that second test is still needed, the test can be retaken six months later. ASVAB scores are good for two years from the date of the test. All recruits, regardless of their Tier (i.e., 1, 2, or 3) are required to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

Records Required

Because of the efforts of HSLDA, no longer is a GED required as proof that a homeschooled student has completed high school. When being considered for enlistment in the military, a professional-looking high school diploma and a parent-generated transcript are required. Make sure the transcript is an original, typed, professional-looking document that has been notarized to verify that the signatures are those of the individuals who schooled the child.

Military Academies

The military academies provide a rigorous and comprehensive education, including career training. Academy graduates enter military service as commissioned officers with a salary commensurate with the level of commission, and following retirement from service to their country, they will have job opportunities in related fields of interest.

Military academies are extremely selective in their admission policies. It’s important to check with each of the academies for admission requirements and to clearly understand what is required in terms of a commitment to that military branch following graduation.

If a student is interested in an appointment to a military academy, begin to investigate the requirements early during the high school years. Extracurricular activities are important, as is involvement in sports. Applicants also must meet the physical requirements. A congressional recommendation is required for appointment to a military academy.

There are five military academies that an interested student might consider: Air Force Academy, located near Colorado Springs, Colorado; United States Military Academy(West Point), located in West Point, New York; United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland; United States Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Connecticut; and United States Merchant Marine Academy, located in Kings Point, Long Island, New York.

Military Service After College

Another option, if a student opts to go to college rather than to attend a military academy, is to consider military service after college. Students should check out the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) that is affiliated with the college of their choice. They can apply for the ROTC program and possibly receive an ROTC scholarship. Scholarships may include up to full tuition and other benefits during college, in exchange for an active duty service obligation following graduation. Typically the service obligation is one year of service for every year of college; however, it is best to thoroughly check out the programs before applying.

The TOS Survey of Homeschoolers in the Military

Often it is difficult, if not virtually impossible, to survey a very select population. We wanted to survey homeschoolers in the military, but there wasn’t a clear path through which we could tap into those individuals. Thus, we opted to post, on three different occasions, a survey on the TOS Facebookand Twittersites and hope that we might find some homeschoolers who are currently serving in the military, ones who served and have been discharged, and those who tried to serve but were rejected for some reason. In terms of numbers of respondents, our results were not what we had hoped, but they do provide a flavor, if you will, of the issues we thought were important.

Our survey consisted of sixteen questions. Twenty-three individuals responded. Of those who responded, 57% were parents of homeschool graduates who are currently serving in the military, 17% were homeschool graduates currently serving, 13% were parents whose homeschool graduate is interested in serving in the military, 9% were homeschool graduates who have served in the military and have since been discharged, and 4% were parents whose homeschool graduate served in the military and has since been discharged.

Looking at which branch of the military the individual was interested in serving, 43% selected the Air Force, 17% selected the Marine Corps, 13% selected the Coast Guard, 13% selected the Navy, and 13% selected the Army. The Army Reserves was the choice of 9% of the respondents, and the Army National Guard was the choice of 4%.

If the graduate applied to a specific branch of the military, was he or she accepted? Of those who responded, 87% were accepted and 9% were not.

Of those responding, 90% entered the military as enlisted personnel and 10% as officers. And, when asked what job they were assigned when they finished their training, responses included these: Security Forces, Aircrew Flight Equipment Specialist, Logistics, Signal Corp, Hospital Corpsman, Operations Specialist, Data Analysis, Mechanic, Special Forces—Engineer, Aviation Operations, Light Armored Vehicle Crewman, Infantry Rifleman, and Combat Engineer.

When you went into the recruitment office, did the recruiting officer or military personnel seem favorable to homeschooling? Respondents indicated that 61% were favorable to homeschooling, 9% were negative, and 30% were indifferent.

As far as documentation required was concerned, 86% of respondents stated that their homeschool diploma was sufficient for entry into the military, while 14% said it was not. Seventy-eight percent of respondents were required to show a transcript, while 22% were not required to do so. As for whether a respondent’s home education provided opportunities or options to choose from for job choice or placement, 50% said it did and 50% said it didn’t.

Did extracurricular activities or special talents provide opportunities for job choice or placement? For 55% of respondents these did, but they did not for 45% of respondents.

Was a placement test required? Ninety-one percent of respondents said yes, while 7% said no. And as far as the test results were concerned, 90% said they scored above average and 15% reported their score as average. No respondent indicated that he or she had scored below average on a military placement test.

The last question asked, was “If you or your child were in the military, what was your overall experience and would you recommend it to others?” Some of the comments offered were well worth sharing, because they provide helpful insights and recommendations:

          Entering the military was the exact right choice for both of our sons. It is not something that is right for every person though. Our sons both wanted to be part of something that was worthwhile and larger than themselves, they both appreciated the discipline and structure that the military would provide them, they were not concerned about being away from home, they love our country and had hearts for service, and neither of them was interested in going to college right out of high school. The military gives young men, in particular, an opportunity to get experience, to grow up, to immediately be productive, and to learn what sacrifice and service truly are. That is not the right choice for everyone and not something I would recommend to someone just interested in the college benefits. But when someone has a heart to serve in this way it can be of tremendous benefit to them, and I would absolutely recommend the military to that person.

          I have been in the military for over a year and it has been the best choice I could have made, for me. I have grown and matured in a way I would not have been able to outside of the military. I’m 21 and have a house of my own, and I’m living overseas and seeing the world! But of course, there are downsides to all of this and it can sometimes wear you down. That’s part of it. Everything has a downside. And I would recommend joining the military to anyone who is single, eager to see the world, and looking to serve his/her country.

          My daughter has been in the Army since 2009. She has enjoyed most of her time and still has 2 years left. At the moment she is in Iraq as a 2nd Lieutenant in charge of a platoon. She has a job where she is learning leadership and new skills most of the time. Not crazy about the running but understands the need. At no time has she been penalized because of homeschooling.

          My son is just beginning his military career. He plans to get his education and work his career for a good   long time in the military. My husband is a Vietnam vet and both grandfathers are veterans. We believe everyone should be open to the possibility of serving God and their country in some capacity in the military. We were amazed at the wide variety of career options and training opportunities available.

          I was enlisted for 6 years, my husband has been in 30 years and counting, both enlisted and officer. The biggest advice we have told our son is to secure the job you want before enlisting so you know exactly what you will be doing. Pray. The Lord will lead and open/close doors.

          Yes! The military has a lot to offer. It can pay for college and teach a skill useful in the civilian world. It       can also instill confidence. It is, however, not for everyone and should be considered prayerfully.

Summary

Many options are available to homeschoolers in the military, and it would be prudent to anyone interested to begin researching those options to determine if the military might be the career path choice. Pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray to determine if God is leading you in the direction of the military. Pray about the choices before you. And pray for those currently serving in our military, especially for those in harm’s way.

Heather and her husband, Steve, live in Edgewood, New Mexico, where they have homeschooled their five children: Edward (17), Joseph (15), Emily (11), Hana (6), and Ezekiel (5), for the last twelve years. When not homeschooling, doing things with her family, or writing for TOS, Heather works as a human factors engineer in her home-based consulting business. For more information about the Allen family, please visit their website at www.hippityhooves.com.

References:

General Information

1. The ASVAB Explained. www.military.com/ASVAB/0,,ASVAB_Explained1.html

2. Benefits: Money for College and More Benefits: Bonuses for Home School Graduates. www.goarmy.com/benefits/additional-incentives/home-school-graduate.html

3. Bohon, Dave (Friday, 13 May, 2011). Military Weighs Change in Home School Recruitment Policy. The New American.thenewamerican.com/culture/education/7462-military-weighs-change-in-home-school-recruitment-policy.

4. Reserve Officer Training Corps. www.rotc.com

5. The Military Homeschooler. www.militaryhomeschoolers.com

Branches of the Military

1. United States Air Force www.airforce.com

2. United States Navy www.navy.mil/swf/index.asp

3. United States Marine Corps www.marines.mil/Pages/Default.aspx

4. United States Army www.army.mil

5. United States Coast Guard www.uscg.mil

Military Academies

1. United States Air Force Academy www.usafa.af.mil

2. United States Coast Guard Academy www.cga.edu

3. United States Merchant Marine Academy www.usmma.edu

4. United States Military Academy (West Point) www.usma.edu/SitePages/Home.aspx

5. United States Naval Academy www.usna.edu/homepage.php

Publication Date: June 14, 2012