In a 2016 study, the National Center for Education Statistics reported three major reasons families of 1.7 million students in the U.S. had chosen to homeschool:
- Concern for the school environment,
- Dissatisfaction with academic instruction, and
- Desire for religious instruction.
However, for many military families, there may be additional benefits, such as easing the education transition of military moves and flexibility for travel.
Caroline Mabrey, a military spouse, made the decision to homeschool her three children. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, serves as the vice president and co-op coordinator of the Fort Bliss Homeschool Association, is a coleader for Girl Scouts and volunteers in the children’s ministry at her church.
“In the beginning, the decision to homeschool was based on the fact that we were a military family that would be moving every three years or so. I wanted to minimize the amount of transitions my children would have in living this nomadic lifestyle, as well as give them some continuity within their education,” she said.
Methods of homeschooling and curriculum choices
When preparing for the school year, homeschool parents have to decide on a method — referring to the structure and style of lessons — and a curriculum, which is the textbook and supplementary materials used. Mabrey recognizes how overwhelming homeschooling can be initially, but encourages parents to focus on foundational subjects first — Language Arts and Math — adding in subjects as you find a style of schooling that engages your child. Homeschoolers of multiple children may find that a different curriculum works for each child.
“I kept trying to find one curriculum that would work for all three of my children. Eventually I began to understand that this was not possible,” Mabrey said.
There are many reviews and curated lists of curriculums online and methods range from more traditional school at-home programs to learning centered on experiences. Basic questions to start with are:
Will you use religious or secular textbooks; do you want a program that covers every subject or to use a variety of sources; and do you want a book or online-based program?
Finding a support network
Mabrey states unequivocally that, “one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to find someone within your community or a group on social media and ask all the questions. I’ve had many friends ask my advice on curriculum, co-ops, field trips and schedules, and I am always more than happy to help.”
Due to the number of military families that are choosing homeschooling, many military installations offer a support group. The Fort Bliss Homeschool Association, as an example, offers a Homeschool 101 event, plus a variety of events that support the whole family, including a 10-week per semester co-op where children can take a variety of classes offered by parent volunteers, monthly field trips, mom’s night out and activities like field day.
“This group has been like an anchor for me during these formative years of my homeschooling journey,” Mabrey said.
Parents can find a variety of homeschool support groups, ranging from free online communities, to those with an annual cost that include classes. To research options, check out social media, MWR, the school liaison officer and the local library. Pay attention to the cost, volunteer expectations, and attend an information meeting if offered. If there is not a local support group, consider starting one. Mabrey explains that you can start by planning something easy, like a weekly park date, and then expand.
The decisions affecting the education of your military child will be some of the most important you make. As the number of families choosing to homeschool continues to grow, so do the resources and programs that support this option. By researching modern-day methods and leaning on fellow military families’ advice, you can make an informed choice based on your student’s needs.Read comments