Military Families: Homeschooling on the Move

March 24–28, 2014   |   Vol. 119, Week 2

Military homeschooling families can face extra challenges in their educational journey, but homeschooling can also offer you the flexibility to thrive through moves, deployments, and the demands of military life. This week on Home School Heartbeat, three veteran homeschooling military parents offer insights into how they’ve made homeschooling work in their families.

“If I know about a relocation six months in advance, then I plan our school breaks around our moves.”—Crystal Rants

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If you or a loved one is in a military family, do you have questions about how homeschooling works for you? HSLDA helps many families with these questions. Today on Home School Heartbeat, HSLDA President Mike Smith outlines some of the general issues that military families ask about.

Mike Smith : Families in all kinds of circumstances have found homeschooling to be the best educational choice for their family. This week, we’re talking about some common questions and challenges of homeschooling families with a parent in the military face.

If you are currently stationed in one of the 50 states, you should follow that state’s education laws. Homeschooling laws are similar to traffic laws—your physical (not legal) residence determines which ones apply to you. Your physical state of residence sets the school policies, just as your town makes traffic laws.

If your state requires you to file notification paperwork, and you move during the school year, it’s wise to inform the district with which you filed that you’re leaving, to avoid being asked for unnecessary paperwork at the end of the year.

What if your family is stationed overseas? If you are in the military or employed by the Department of Defense, generally, you are not subject to a foreign government’s compulsory attendance laws. If the country has a treaty with the U.S., usually it allows for homeschooling. Parents are free to opt out of the Department of Defense schools and to educate their children on their own.

Homeschooling has an added benefit for families in the military because frequent moves can be hard on school-age children. As a homeschooling parent, you can provide the emotional and academic stability that your child needs.

On our next program, we’ll talk to a military dad. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Chaplain Paul Douglas is with us today to talk about his role as a homeschooling dad in the military. Chaplain Douglas, thank you for being with us today.

Chaplain Paul Douglas: I’m glad to be here, Mike!

Mike: Chaplain, as you transitioned back and forth from being home and being deployed, how did you stay involved in your family’s homeschooling?

Chaplain Douglas: Well, Mike, through email and phone. A lot of the assignments that my wife would give our daughter and our son, I would still review a lot of those and give feedback, even when I was in theater I could do that.

Mike: Ok, what else did you do?

Chaplain Douglas: Well, a lot of times I would give them assignments. And being able to have chat and other online options, I was able to stay plugged in the whole time, so it wasn’t like I missed a whole lot of their education while I was deployed.

Mike: What would you say the biggest challenge was for your wife when you were deployed in terms of homeschooling?

Chaplain Douglas: Well you’re shouldering the primary load of running the home and taking care of all the bills and all of the, you know, washing machine breaking down, and the dryer breaking down, and plumbing, and things of that nature, and still being able to maintain some kind of schedule—because that’s what the kids need most. They need that stability.

Mike: Well, Chaplain Douglas, thank you for sharing your experiences with us and our listeners. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Today on the program, Crystal Rants is with us to share her experiences as a homeschool mom and Army wife. Crystal, thank you for joining us today.

Crystal Rants: Thanks for inviting me!

Mike: Crystal, when you’ve had to move or when your husband was deployed, how did you find support in the homeschool community?

Crystal: Well, the homeschool community is where we turn to find everything—whether it’s furthering our understanding of the state laws, or ideas for great field trips, or even a new home church. They know the area and can help us find unique and interesting things to do. We went to our very first Christmas market in Germany with the homeschool group, and we got to see manatees in Biscayne Bay during a homeschool field trip.

We look to the homeschool community to meet new friends. I know I’m going to find women there with a similar vision who will encourage me and challenge me, and my kids often find the same things within our new homeschool group.

During deployments, we’ve helped each other out with childcare and encouragement to bear the extra burdens that a deployment creates. There are always husbands in the homeschool group who can help out with the things that my husband isn’t there to do; because the car’s going to break down, one of the kids will break a bone, and a hurricane will come through the area; or some Army paperwork will need immediate attention, as long as my husband’s gone.

Mike: Crystal, thank you for sharing your experience today. I’m sure other homeschool moms will find your words very encouraging. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Moving presents challenges both for homeschooling parents in the military and for their children. Crystal, how did you keep your children’s education going during those moves?

Crystal Rants: Well, if I know about a relocation six months in advance, then I plan our school breaks around our moves. There was a four-year period where we moved every single time we took a school break. The Army is good about trying to schedule moves around a traditional school calendar, but it’s just not always possible. Because of homeschooling, I’ve been able to change our schedule to coincide with the move.

We always move our curriculum with us, even when professional movers handle the rest of our house. We take at least two weeks off to get unpacked and settled in, regardless of the time of year. But we still bring books to read and even some math to do, just to keep a normal structure to our day.

We start school slowly, usually with math and reading, adding in a couple more subjects each week until we’re back up to a full-school program in about four weeks. We might decide to school longer than 36 weeks, if we feel that we lost too much time to the move or if the state laws have different requirements. Either way, we have the freedom and the flexibility to change things so that our schedule works with our current circumstances.

Mike: Crystal, thank you very much for sharing your experience today. I’m sure other homeschool moms will find your words very encouraging. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Catherine, thank you for joining us today!

Catherine Barber: You’re welcome. Thank you!

Mike: Catherine, how did your sons take an active role in their own education, especially when your husband was deployed?

Catherine: Mike, from the time our sons were young, we knew that we wanted to teach them a love for learning, and even for them to assume an active role in that education. So when David was deployed for 13 months in 2005, the boys were ages 19 months, 13 years, and 16 years.

The older two were in high school, and they were both in the same grade, so our days were often very long with schoolwork. And just keeping up with the “dailyness” of life kept us very busy. One of our sons is particularly gifted in math and science, and that proved very helpful during that time that my husband was gone because he kind of became the in-house tutor for his brother, who sometimes found math a bit confusing.

Overall the boys were just great about taking responsibility for their schoolwork and got their work done before free time. That was always kind of the carrot we hung before them. And of course don’t assume we did all this without all that goes on in any typical family! We had our moments, but God is faithful, as you know, and He saw us through all of it.

Mike: Catherine, thank you for sharing your family’s experience with our listeners. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Major Paul Douglas

Chaplain Paul Douglas is 50 years old and has been married to his wife, Christine, for 24 years. They have two children, Victoria (18) and Ian (16), who have both been lifelong homeschoolers. Chaplain Douglas has been in the Army National Guard and Reserves for 29 years, both as enlisted and, for the last seven years, as a chaplain. He currently serves at the National Guard Professional Education Center.

Crystal Rants

Crystal Rants has been a military wife for 20 years. She met her husband in Japanese class while attending the University of Colorado, where she pursued a degree in the double majors of Spanish and psychology. Neither of them can speak Japanese. Together they have four children and have lived in Colorado, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Germany, Kansas, Alabama, and Florida. Crystal finds it especially amusing that after spending seven years becoming fluent in Spanish, God sent her to live in Germany. They currently reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they are finishing out their last Army tour.

In addition to homeschooling their four children, Crystal directs a Challenge II class for Classical Conversations, works as a support manager (also for Classical Conversations), and is currently learning the ins and outs of sending her oldest two off to college. She collects pottery, because it is heavy and easily breakable. Their family may be moving again, but their oldest has refused to budge another inch!

Catherine Barber

Catherine Barber has been married to David for 30 years. After graduating from college, they married, and then attended graduate school together. With David’s military service, Catherine Barber became a military wife and mother. They have been homeschooling for 20 years. Their two oldest boys graduated from their homeschool and went on to graduate from Patrick Henry College. Their last child is currently being homeschooled and is in 5th grade. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys knitting, encouraging women, and spending time with her family.

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