Home School and the Military – A Perfect Pair

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Flexibility, an adjective, meaning “capable of being bent, usually without breaking; easily bent” (dictionary.com) I prefer to define the word flexible this way-military spouse. Any military spouse will tell you that their life must be flexible. As the spouse we have virtually no control over our lives. We live by our service member’s social security number. We need an I.D. card to get to our house, buy our groceries, and swim at our pools. We have made bedrooms out of closets, offices out of garages, and weight rooms out of patios. Why do we think that schooling would need to be any less flexible? It is really funny if you think about it. The military says, “Move here!” The government says, “School begins now!” The military says, “Time to move again-NOW!” The government says, “But school’s not out yet.” What’s a parent to do? Home school parents can answer that question fairly easily. We start school when we want. We end school when we want. Flexibility with schooling is a fabulous pairing with the military life. It allows us to take advantage of the world around us, be flexible with our time, PCS without school stress, and travel together throughout the year.

Military families have fantastic opportunities to experience and explore a larger portion of the world than many of our civilian counterparts. While stationed in the Washington D.C. area our family regularly roamed Mt. Vernon and walked where George Washington walked. We gazed in awe over the actual flag that had flown at Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner. We were able to experience history rather than just read about history in a book. You can still do those things even if you do not home school. But for the home school family you can do those things as you and your child are learning about them in school together, and include the military parent as well. Stationed in D.C.? Study U.S. History THAT year, because you want to, not because it is next on the list. Stationed in Germany? Study ancient history THAT year, not because that is what you are supposed to do in fifth grade, but because you are there among the actual historic locations. Take advantage of where the military has placed you and learn something along the way. Not all assignments will be in exotic locations, but all locations have history itching to be explored and revived.

Another great benefit of being a home school family and a military family is the flexibility of time. School can start and stop according to the needs of our crazy, and ever-changing lives. My husband arrived home from Iraq at the end of January. We knew his return would be right in the middle of the school year. As a home school mom, I made a proactive decision and started school early that year. When Dad came home at the end of January, we took off the entire month of February from school. We spent a few days at home together getting reacquainted. Then we went on vacation. We traveled to visit family and friends in other states. We even went on a ski trip together. It was a glorious month of “returning to normal” and injecting Dad back into our lives. We were all able to participate because we home school. If the kids had been in school we still would have been able to do some of those things, but we certainly could not have spent a month together without school limiting our time together.

Got PCS stress? It usually goes a little something like this: The military decides you need to move across country, in one month, in the middle of February! What about school? The home school family has a couple of choices. First, you could place the schoolbooks in the not-to-be-packed pile, and conduct school on the floor as the packers box away your household goods. No missed school. No old school to cry over. No new school to fear. We have done that four times! Or, and probably most fun of all, take twenty of those moving days to leisurely drive across the country seeing purple mountains majesty and the fruited plains along the way. Oh, and it all counts as schoolwork. It is the ultimate field trip!

Does your spouse spend a lot of time TDY? You can school and travel together as well. At different times in my service member’s career he has traveled TDY rather frequently. These are great opportunities for the family to tagalong and experience Dad’s world. We once spent a week at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in January. We were able to “sled” down the ice-covered hills behind our visiting quarters providing a much-needed change of scenery. We went to the museum on post and received an unexpected history lesson of Fort Sill and some famous Americans and Native Americans. We also learned about howitzer crossings and prairie dogs. Oh, it was not your typical family vacation. In fact, it was not a vacation at all. We bought food at the commissary, cooked in the room, did school on the beds, and enjoyed a good snowball fight. But, we did it together; experienced another part of the country together, learned about Dad’s world, and school was not interrupted.

Explore the world around you while the military has you planted there. Use the time you spend apart from your service member wisely so that when you are reunited you can take full advantage of your time flexibility. Say good-bye to the school-related stress during a PCS and hello to the fun you can experience along the way. If you can tagalong with your service member, you can experience something different and share a bit of their world. The military family needs flexibility. The home school family has flexibility. What a wonderful pair they make.

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