Deployments are a dreaded part of military life, bringing immeasurable heartache and disruption to our daily lives. Throwing household routines into chaos can be additionally frustrating for homeschool schedules, so here are some practical tips I’ve developed along the way to smooth the transition.


For me, deployment emotions kick in several months before the actual departure. During my emotional rollercoaster leading up to the actual event, I try to channel my emotions into preparing our family to have the best transition possible. We have found that making lists of things that are important to each of us can help things keep from slipping through the cracks. Plotting them on a calendar encourages us to be realistic about what can be accomplished, and what is not likely to get done.

In addition to a robust honey-do-list, we try to make time for family pictures. Capturing candid moments is always wonderful, and we like to ensure we have recent family photos—or several. . .who’s counting? Taking family pictures anytime you are dressed up for church or go out on a family outing gives you several options to choose from for a Christmas card picture, or to put on the fridge as a reminder of special memories.

Speaking of Christmas, it is helpful to make plans for any holidays you will be apart. Birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions have a sad shadow cast over them with a vital member of the family serving overseas. Find specific ways to include them! If you don’t plan to float the holiday to celebrate after their return, early preparations before can help children feel connected across the miles.

Hand-written letters planned for special days are one way we have involved my husband in the holidays even when he is gone. We also worked on wish lists for the children’s birthdays and Christmas before he left, helping us feel united in giving presents.

Before they deploy, having several “favorite meal” dinners can help everyone prepare emotionally for the separation. In our house, we let each child pick a favorite or two, in addition to my husband. Dinner time is a key bonding time for our family, so taking time to intentionally acknowledge how much he will be missed helps my children feel less blindsided as his departure dates approach.

Another less-considered deployment prep is a duty station bucket list. Time drags on during a deployment, but it can also eat up your time at a particular duty station. Considering how little time you may have in that location upon your return, it can be helpful to plan to experience some of the unique features of your current duty station before the deployment, or map out which ones the deployed soldier won’t miss as much if you explore without them.

Thriving during the separation

Phase two of the deployment starts once the ship out dates have gone through their final adjustment and goodbyes have officially been said. Now what will you do to stay busy?

In our house, I like to set goals for our time apart. Educationally: what do I hope to accomplish in the children’s school? With our routine: what consistency can I aim for so our days run smoothly? In addition to knowing just how far you would like to get in your school year, planning monthly field trips, or routine crock-pot dinner nights can maximize efficiency in reaching educational goals during deployment.

For longer deployments, I come up with larger home management projects to tackle—one per month—which gives me ways to be productive during time I ordinarily would have spent relaxing with my husband. Cluttered pantry? Black hole kitchen drawer? The junk that has nested and made a semi-permanent home under by bed? With a full month of dedicated attention during downtime, any otherwise overwhelming task becomes a tangible goal.

In addition to bigger picture administrative tasks to keep the house running smoothly, it can be helpful to focus on personal growth during the time away. Spending time reading my Bible and making good on my promise to faithfully use my treadmill or drink the appropriate amount of water can help me grow during our time apart and excited to be a better version of myself upon his return.

While we talk about thriving during deployment, it is important to remember you are not alone. Lean into the networks of support you have around you. From the military Soldier and Family Readiness Groups (SFRG), to homeschool communities, church body, and extended family, reach out to those in your circles to express needs and find community and support.

Staying Connected

Guiding our children through staying connected with daddy and making the most of deployment is another challenge to overcome. We put together a box with a monthly milestone reward for every time we survive a month of Daddy being away. I also put together a paper chain with colorful construction paper—each color indicating a different activity we will do to give us something to look forward to. Whether we are driving through fast food, learning something about the country where Daddy is, taking a silly picture, or getting a treat from the candy bin, each link brings us closer to his return.

Even with all the preparation and planning, difficult emotions during deployment cannot be avoided altogether. Expressing your emotions and giving your children space to do the same can help everyone process them in a healthy way. To aid in creating a safe space to discuss our emotions, we have checked out books from the library about deployment, and prepared to answer questions or listen as the children express their feelings.

We have also tried to make provisions for each of the children to feel seen, heard, and loved throughout the deployment: each week, a different child gets to stay up past bedtime for one night and spend special time with mommy. While it cuts into my time to unwind and reset, I have found it is less taxing than I first imagined and helps me unplug and focus on connecting with one of the children rather than being lost on a carousel of chores and tasks to make the next day run more smoothly.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I love to take tons of pictures on a regular basis. During deployments, that number triples. To stay connected, I send pictures of the most mundane daily events, or the way our cats are cuddled in the windowsill. Not only do pictures communicate better than a thousand words showing the deployed soldier what is happening on the home front, I feel connected to him when I get to tell him about something as simple as getting around to drinking my coffee before it got cold in the mug.

Technology has made it easier for each child to stay connected individually with their deployed parent. Chat applications designed for children on their tablets allow our sons to communicate with their dad directly, and not wait until I can supervise the use of my phone or the computer. He can send each child individualized messages at times that work for his schedule, and they can communicate with him about the highs and lows of their weeks.

While we love the ways technology connects us across the miles, nothing quite beats getting and sending physical letters through the mail. Colorful paper, fun stickers, and plenty of colored pencils allow the children to express themselves and send letters off to Daddy. We have put together care packages with favorite snacks and personal items such as pictures, stationary, or a special mug to send at holidays—or “just because” to brighten his day. Another fun care package addition are puzzle books such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku. These are even more fun if you purchase an identical book to work on at home and compare solve times or discuss difficulty levels. Although you miss out on the more personal touches, to cut down on postage and skip customs forms, many online stores will ship directly to APO boxes for the same cost as a domestic package.

Another way we stay connected is by keeping a running list of “things to do when he gets back” on the fridge. Especially when the children are missing him during a favorite activity, it can be a helpful reminder that Daddy won’t be gone forever, and we will not forget to make new memories with him doing some of the things we love.

Count down to his return

Each member of the family will handle military separations differently. In our house, I go into major meltdown mode in the months leading up to deployment—anticipating how sad it will be for my husband to be away. Meanwhile, my husband is a rock, assuring me everything will be okay. About a month into deployment, we switch places: I am ready to power through, and my husband expresses the difficulty of missing little milestones in our boys’ lives. Throughout the deployment we tend to take turns vacillating between being the supportive spouse, and the one who needs a rock to lean on.

While heartache is a natural part of deployment, strategizing a game plan for thriving while apart and addressing the pain or the chaos as it arrives can give you better peace of mind heading into military separations.