Intro Guide to Homeschooling in the Military
Military life is demanding, requiring sacrifices from and challenges for the entire family. For military kids, this all too-often impacts their education. Frequent PCS moves, varying standards and curriculum from one school to the next, and simply dealing with the upheaval that comes with being a military family, all take a toll. More military parents are researching homeschooling to determine if it may be a viable option for their child’s education. We’re happy to help you take a closer look at homeschooling from your unique perspective.
Homeschooling Benefits for a Military Child
While there are many benefits of homeschooling in general, there are several important advantages to homeschooling a military child.
- Security and stability – With homeschooling, gone are the days (and worry) over trying to adapt to new school schedules, curriculum, teaching and grading styles. Homeschooling allows military kids to maintain a sense of stability by providing a consistent education. In turn, this enables students to grow in confidence, avoid learning gaps, and develop academically at their own pace.
- Operates on ‘Military Time” – Homeschooling allows military families to adjust to the schedule that best suits their family. If your service member’s work schedule is afternoons/evenings, you can adjust accordingly. If you have a loved one home from deployment, you may choose to take a break to embrace that treasured family time together.
- Mobile-Ready Options – Today’s tech-savvy generation appreciates the online/distance learning curriculum options available. Military parents are thankful to have alternatives that are more space-friendly. (Military housing is not often known for ample storage space!) Online curriculum is also mobile-ready for your next PCS move, visit to a TDS, or as you travel to see family and friends.
- Explore the “world” (or at least your new part!): Homeschooling allows military families to take full advantage of their new surroundings! You can adapt lessons, plan field trips, and truly immerse in new cultures.
Getting Started with Military Homeschooling
Military families can begin homeschooling at any time. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and in many cases, overseas, but the related laws and requirements vary. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) has applied this same right to all OCONUS bases for those on military orders. According to the official stance of the DoDEA and FAQ’s “It is DoDEA policy neither to encourage nor discourage DoD sponsors from home-schooling their dependents. DoDEA recognizes that home-schooling is a sponsor’s right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor’s dependents.”
Whose Laws Do You Need to Follow?
As you are trying to determine which laws to follow, these tips can help.
Homeschooling Within the U.S. and U.S. Territories
Military families must follow the homeschooling laws of the state where the students physically reside – not your state of record (home state.) Just as your child would be expected to attend area schools, while homeschooling, they are still considered to be within the state’s jurisdiction.
If a PCS occurs mid-year, timing will play a role. Rest assured that you do not have to comply with the homeschooling laws of both states at the same time. If your PCS occurs near the end of a school year and only testing remains for compliance, complete the testing and move on! In most all other scenarios, you will move and submit to the homeschooling laws of your new state of residence – just as you would if your kid was required to enroll in a traditional school.
Those stationed OCONUS on military orders should refer to the DoDEA Administrative Instruction 1375.01, for Home-School Students and the base school liaison to determine if your student is covered by the State of Forces Agreement (SOFA). If you are assigned to an area where DoDEA schools are not available and choose to homeschool, you can also apply for reimbursement of your eligible homeschooling expenses via the Non-Department of Defense Schools Program (NDSP).
Homeschooling overseas can be rather freeing as there are no state laws, deadlines, testing, or portfolio requirements to follow. Enjoy this opportunity to expose your children to a new culture and discoveries! (Word of advice: Consider maintaining basic records to make life easier in the future. While you cannot be required to comply retroactively with the laws of your next state of residence, having a list of grades earned and courses completed can help with planning. Parents of high school students will need this information to compile high school transcripts that may be required for college admissions, trade school or job opportunities ‐‐ including military enlistment!)
Homeschooling Through Deployment
Once deployment orders are received, family time becomes even more precious. The flexibility homeschooling provides enables you to make the most of your remaining time together. Once the deployment has started, it can require a re-evaluation of your homeschool routine. There is no specific roadmap to follow. Some families need time to adjust to having a loved one deployed, choosing to resume activities slowly or to adapt to new work schedules. Others find comfort by sticking to their familiar schedule and routines – diving back in. There is no right or wrong approach – only one that is best for your family. Once your deployed partner returns, homeschooling offers the freedom to focus again on family togetherness!
How Do Military Homeschoolers Socialize?
The frequent moves of a military family can be difficult on kids. Parents (and children) may view schools as a means to develop friendships in their new home and fear homeschooling may be too isolating. Within the U.S. there are hundreds of homeschool support groups, co-ops, tutorials and more. Many bases throughout the U.S. and worldwide have organized military homeschool groups available. For those overseas, you may find more local options, depending on the country. Joining in extra-curriculars such as sports, theater, dance, music, youth groups, special interest clubs, and volunteering opens more doors. The DoDEA also extends auxiliary services to eligible military homeschooled children. These include library use, participation in band, sports, and extracurricular activities, JROTC, special needs, gifted programs, and more. The biggest challenge may be avoiding over-booking your social calendar!
Returning to Public School
If you plan to return your student to the public school system in the future, for instance, following an OCONUS appointment, then maintaining academic progress will ease this transition. Reviewing the current DoDEA educational standards can help you ensure your student is on track. Parents using Time4Learning as their student’s core homeschool curriculum can easily generate reports documenting the student’s progress along with the scope and sequence of all courses taken.
Homeschooling – Hoorah! (or your branch’s version!)
While homeschooling isn’t always the best fit for everyone, many military parents find it is an option worthy of consideration. You can read the positive impact it made on this military family!
Financial Assistance for Military Families
Time4Learning is honored to serve military homeschoolers stationed throughout the U.S. and worldwide. As a token of appreciation for your family’s service and sacrifice, we are proud to extend a LIFETIME discount of 10% off your Time4Learning subscription. Contact us for more details!