Welcome to my niche of homeschooling—the military!
In my job here at Home School Legal Defense Association, I help military homeschoolers keep going as they navigate some of the same kinds of challenges my own family faced.
I constantly hear, “I just don’t know how you did it, always moving around every few years.” Truthfully, I often don’t have to provide much of an answer. (Though as a retired Navy chaplain’s wife, I can truthfully say our family relied on a sweet balance of prayer, resiliency, and dedication.)
Military families are strong and committed. Sometimes all they need is a reminder of why they chose to serve—and why they chose to homeschool. A quick review of the benefits of military service also helps.
As my husband’s assistant would say, military spouses just “get ‘er done.” Add homeschooling to military life, and it’s a wild combo.
Adjusting to Change
Our family moved 16 times. Although some of those relocations were over a very short distance, they were still military moves, resplendent with the familiar moving truck, cardboard boxes, and those colorful but annoying stickers placed on every box or piece of furniture.
We knew that we would only stay in one house two to three years on average, so as the time approached for new orders, the process of “hurry up and wait” began. I often prayed for particular duty stations, knowing the military detailer didn’t care about where I wanted to go next, but that God did.
One such example is when we desired orders to Naples, Italy. The military detailer informed us that with five kids and a child with an EFMP Category 4, we shouldn’t hold our breath. So we didn’t, but we did pray.
We soon received orders to southern Italy and excitedly began preparing for the move. Many important questions surfaced in my mind: What should I pack in my express shipment? Should we travel with our homeschooling curriculum for the year (we had orders to move in mid-October)? Was there a support group on base? Would homeschooling high school overseas be more challenging? And the most crucial question of all: how many Trader Joe’s boxes of “Joe Joe” cookies should I stock up?
As October approached, our family of seven, plus our beloved rescue Irish setter–Brittany spaniel mix made our way from Norfolk, Virginia to Dulles International Airport, to Munich, Germany, finally landing in chaotic-but-beautiful Naples, Italy.
What did our wondrous eyes behold? Drivers who followed no traffic rules, the most delicious margherita pizza, incredible history, and mounds of trash controlled by the Italian mafia.
As you can see from this tale of a single move, military life is not for the faint at heart. The name of the game is resiliency. With each relocation, each deployment, and each lost household good, military spouses square their shoulders and march on.
But as I mentioned, there are benefits, too. Homeschooling in the military offers amazing opportunities to combine real-life learning in incredible locales around the globe. During our amazing three years in Italy, our children learned about volcanoes firsthand, climbing what I called Big Daddy—Mount Vesuvius—and the Fiery Lady—Mount Etna—on the beautiful island of Sicily.
We visited the Colosseum in Rome and the amphitheater in Verona, took pictures in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and rode a gondola in the flooding waters of Venice.
Not only did we explore Italy, but our family toured Greece, France, England, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain (with a side trip for momma to scoop up Polish pottery in the charming town of Bolesławiec, fondly known as “Bole” by military spouses.)
While most of military life is an adventure, we serve alongside our spouses because we believe in the USA. We dedicate our time and energy to our country and our homeschooling journey.
We choose to homeschool because we believe it provides stability to our family. While homeschooling is a sacrifice, being a military homeschooler seems to require even more. It means continuing the homeschooling journey amid lots of pack-ups and pack-outs, lots of deployments, and lots of time away from our extended family. Through it all, I am proud to call myself a military homeschooler.