The Covid-19 pandemic brought educational institutions to a screeching halt this past Spring; now, they are being coerced to refashion traditional learning environments.
Many military families, and service members were well equipped with the tools to seamlessly shift to virtual learning prior to the pandemic. A lot of active duty members and their spouses have been pursuing online degrees for several years. Prior to the pandemic, virtual learning was the primary choice for its convenience and affordability.
Virtual educations are now reshaping the landscape of educational institutions. It’s expanding opportunities to tailor education to individual learning styles. The definition of “classroom” is undergoing a facelift.
There is little doubt, education will never look the same. Military members and their families could be one of the largest benefactors as modern learning environments take shape.
How will an increase of virtual learning positively impact military members and their spouses pursuing a higher education?
Higher learning institutions have expanded their offerings of online courses in response to the pandemic. Degree programs that may not have been available online pre-Covid, are now accessible. The increase of colleges and universities offering a wider range of online degrees and certificate programs is predicted to lead to more affordable educations.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “the average price of undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board at public institutions rose 31% between 2007 and 2017, while prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 24% after adjusting inflation.” Online educations are often a fraction of the cost.
Between the increase in price of higher education, and the change of student demographics, online learning is growing in popularity. Virtual learning is becoming increasingly accessible and affordable among nontraditional students, including military members and their spouses. Online schools are opening more doors to nontraditional students, i.e., older, those employed full-time, and students with families. With the high cost of a traditional college education, high student loan debt and low return of investment for college graduates, nontraditional students could become the top consumers of four-year degree programs.
How does this impact military members and their spouses? Providing more options in their choice of schools and degree programs that otherwise might not accessible to them pre-pandemic. Increasing competition between schools, coupled with economic uncertainty, and a decrease in enrollment are predicted to drive down the costs of higher education, which would stretch GI Bill benefits further.
The Covid-19 Effect on military children and their educations
Schools across the country are weighing options in returning to the classroom. Many school districts are offering hybrid options, with students splitting time between the classroom and virtual learning. Many school districts are opting for full-time virtual learning.
There are different approaches to Homeschooling. The term “homeschooling” includes students receiving virtual, public school educations. The approaches are:
- Traditional homeschooling—Most of the learning is textbook based, and parents create lesson plans and choose their own curriculum.
- Co-Op—Communities comprised of homeschool parents. Small groups of students are taught together. Parents plan field trips, share teaching responsibilities and supplement lesson plans. This type of homeschooling is optimal for socialization.
- Virtual—Students follow online homeschool programs, curriculum and lesson plans.
- District Programs—Students following public school curriculum and lesson plans.
For parents embarking on the virtual learning journey, it may seem daunting—with a plethora of questions. Military families who choose virtual learning, or homeschooling may find the experience more beneficial in hindsight. Homeschooling benefits military families for several reasons. Those include:
- Educational freedom—Frequent moves and deployments deeply impact military children’s educations. Housing and rental markets in good school districts are extremely competitive. Military families are often forced to settle for below average school districts. Opting to homeschool gives parents the freedom to choose the curriculum and lesson plans.
- Taking charge of their education plans—Mobile learning helps military children maintain consistent educations amid frequent moves. It alleviates the problem of children bouncing from schools with higher standards, to schools with lower standards, and vice versa. Children won’t need to play catch-up or have their education stagnate, leading to negative impacts on their education.
- Flexibility to spend quality time with loved ones—When military families are in control of their education schedule, they have the freedom to spend precious time with loved ones deploying, or returning from deployment.
- Hands on learning—Have more opportunities to travel, which can be experiences of a lifetime while stationed overseas. Children are more likely to retain lessons when engaging and visiting in-person educational sites. Imagine how effective it would be to visit Lincoln sites in Springfield, IL while simutanusly studying President Lincoln. Homeschooling provides ample opportunities to create three-dimensional learning. Every duty station offers hands on learning in their area. Children stationed in Washington State can visit Mt. St. Helen’s. The visit provides multiple lessons: history, geology and geography. Military children have an advantage in experiencing various states, countries and cultures.
How can military life benefit families who choose homeschooling?
- Military discounts for home-based education programs, curriculum and text books.
- Grants available for military families in need.
- Tapping into fellow military homeschooling families to share resources, plan joint lessons and group activities.
- Military families living overseas on PCS orders that don’t live within commuting distance of a DoDEA school, are eligible for reimbursement for expenses stemming homeschooling.
Helpful resources to utilize when considering homeschooling:
- Military OneSource, which can assist in providing helpful information on state regulations for homeschooling.
- Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
- National Military Child Education Coalition
- National Military Family Association
- Home School Foundation
- Homeschool Association for Military Families
- Home School Legal Defense Fund
- Local School District