By Anna Larson
SpouseLink Ambassador
& Guest Blogger

You’re a military spouse, which means you’re no stranger to the challenges that come with our ever-changing lifestyle. One of the areas that can be particularly impacted by frequent moves and deployments is your children’s education. My daughter had just started preschool when I realized that home-schooling was the only viable option for her education. It’s been ten years, and we love being part of the home-schooling community and don’t plan to ever go back.

Why Homeschool?

There are lots of reasons families choose to homeschool their children. Specialized learning needs, negative public school experiences, personalized educational journeys, flexible schedules for travel, and closer parent-child relationships to name just a few. 

For our family, it came down to my daughter being an early learner and us having a PCS move cycle between November to January. Not only was moving in the middle of a school year extra difficult, but our moves never took just a couple of days because we transferred from OCONUS to CONUS locations with each change in duty station. 

Before we get too far into the homeschool conversation, let’s debunk a common myth about homeschooled kids — homeschooled kids don’t socialize. 

Ninety-eight percent of middle and high-school-aged homeschool kids average five extracurricular activities per year. I would offer that elementary-aged students who are homeschooled have more opportunities than their public school peers to socialize. Between one lunch break and one or two recess breaks for public school children, there is little time for quality social interaction. In contrast, home-schooled kids have multiple opportunities for interaction from going grocery shopping with their parents to attending co-op classes or meeting up with other home-school families for playtime at the park or for field trips. 

It’s true, however, that my kids have very little experience getting in a straight line to follow a leader. And they are sorely lacking in “raise your hand” etiquette for answering questions. My son likes to do math lying under my desk in my office while I work. And my daughter would prefer to wear pajamas all day long. 

We get really excited when public school starts up again because the pools, museums, parks, and libraries are less crowded and ours for enjoyment. And we take extended breaks from the standard curriculum  in the middle of a traditional school year to go on trips and have adventures and we still call it “school.” 

But, you see, those experiences are some of the benefits of homeschooling. Home-schooling is a unique and personalized journey for each family.  So, if you’re considering having your children join the ranks of the 3.7 million other home-schoolers, this 10-year veteran home-school mom has five tips to share with every military family considering this non-traditional educational path for their kids.

1. Don’t try and make it public school at home.

Your home-school days shouldn’t follow a traditional school schedule. Instead, your routine and approach to home-schooling will fluctuate based on the age of your children, the curriculum you choose, and what is going on in your life.  And that’s all okay. Flexibility is one of the greatest advantages of home-schooling. So, if your kids aren’t sitting at the kitchen table by 8:00 a.m. every morning, don’t sweat it. On average, elementary-aged home-schooled children can complete their schooling in just two to three hours a day and that time increases as they get older. You can also choose your schedule, and in our family we school Monday through Thursday and try to leave Friday open for field trips.

2. You still need a routine.

Although flexibility is important, a routine provides structure and stability to your day. With an established routine, you can make sure you’re covering all the topics that are important to you, while including outside activities, field trips, park days, co-op days, etc. Routines let your children develop good study habits, too. 

For our family, I set specific curriculum goals each day for my children, but I let them choose the order they do it. Some days you want to start with math and some days you’d rather start with reading. Letting them make these choices also creates a sense of responsibility and empowers them to make decisions. When they’ve completed a topic they mark it off and move on to the next. Our family uses Trello as a way to keep track of classwork and assignments. 

3. Find Your Home-schooling Style

There are so many choices in home-schooling styles. You may have heard of some of them: Charlotte Mason approach, unschooling, classical education, secular home-schooling, or eclectic home-school. There is no right or wrong. Your home-school style will be based on what’s important to you, as a parent and how your children learn best. 

Our family is what I call eclectic. We don’t use only one curriculum for all subjects, and we mix it up with workbooks, online classes, and video learning. A great resource to find out about your options is Cathy Duffy Reviews. Not only does she offer a comprehensive overview of the approaches to education, but if you dig into the website,  she gives top picks for curriculum options that best fit the style you think will work best for your family. 

Remember that it’s okay to experiment and adjust until you find the best fit for your family. As your children mature, you may want to adjust your home-school style so it flows with their learning patterns as well.

4. Use Military Resources

There is a wealth of resources you can use to support your home-schooling journey available through the military installation nearest to you! 

First, find your school liaison person who works with homeschoolers. There is one for every DODEA school district.  Next, check with your local library and ask about resources such as tutoring services, activity days, home-school groups that have meet-ups, etc. 

Every home-school family should make sure to know the laws for homeschooling in their state. You need support or guidance, military-affiliated organizations, such as the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) and the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), provide information, guidance, and support specifically for military home-schooling families.

5. Take Advantage of Where You Are and Real-World Learning Opportunities

Something I love about home-schooling is that I get to incorporate real-world learning opportunities into our curriculum. That means that in every location we’ve PCS’ed to we’ve been able to include local history, museums, art galleries, and community events, helping to reinforce important concepts because the kids get to experience them first-hand. 

For example, when we moved to Fort Hood, we went to see the  1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment (HCD) demonstration, toured the stables, and watched leatherworking as a way to introduce my children to their new home. In Kentucky, we frequented the Woodlands Nature Station at Land Between the Lakes as part of our earth sciences curriculum. In Arizona, we hiked out to a ghost town as a fun way to learn more about the Old West. 

There are so many opportunities for our children to learn outside of a traditional school, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

About Anna Larson

Anna is a copywriter and digital marketing strategist, and owner of NomadAbout, a digital marketing strategies company that helps entrepreneurs and other business owners showcase their organizations through social media, websites, and marketing campaigns what they are passionate about and how they do it better than anyone else. She is active in the military community, co-hosting a weekly business-oriented livestream and co-leading the Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood) Cha Chapter of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs.

Europe, Africa, and the United States, her family made the leap into military retirement. Anna is also a SpouseLink Ambassador with two kids and two dogs. She’s a long-time homeschool mom that loves dance parties, popcorn, camping, and snorkeling in the ocean. In her spare time, you’ll find her traveling the world with her family, relaxing around a fire pit, or on a long walk with her pups. 

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