Guest Blog: Military Homeschool 101 with Erin Eskew
Updated: Sep 9, 2022
It's that time of year....Back to School! Back to school can mean so many different things to different families. Some are sending their kids to public school, others are headed to private school, while some families are gearing back up for a year of homeschooling. Today I am so honored to have guest blogger, Army wife, and Air Force homeschool graduate, Erin Eskew on the Spouse SERVE blog to share her tips and advice for homeschooling in the unique situation as a military family.
Homeschooling has become an increasingly popular choice in recent years for a plethora of reasons. Whether your homeschool was birthed in reaction to COVID restrictions, or based on flexibility or personal values, homeschooling can take several different forms. As your homeschool journey develops, here are some tips that can help both beginners and more seasoned homeschool families. Each state has different local and state ordinances that govern homeschool requirements. As your family prepares for PCS, it is important to research the homeschool laws for the state you are moving to. Organizations such as HSLDA list a summary of each state's ordinances online. Membership in HSLDA offers a variety of additional benefits, such as legal representation if homeschool rights are questioned, and teacher identification cards to allow you to get discounts and deals on educational materials at several department stores. More important than what curriculum you choose and what style of homeschooling you pursue, it is important to prioritize your education and lifestyle goals and embrace the freedom to pursue those goals for you and your family. One of our favorite areas of flexibility is school year start time. We often get an early start on our school year, kicking off in July in some of the major subjects, while keeping a flexible schedule on some of the less intense subjects to allow time for summer fun. That headstart gives us more flexibility to take extra days off for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays, or moving across the country or to welcome daddy home from deployment.
Keeping in mind the weekly events at the post library, MWR or other community organizations can allow us to build our schedule around regional education opportunities. Community opportunities can be fun additions to your schedule, but with the number of opportunities available both on post and in the surrounding area, it is important not to over-commit and stretch your day too thin. Thinking ahead about the school year, it can be helpful to pace the curriculum to build in an off day each week for field trips, doctors appointments, catch up, or to get ahead. Crafting a daily schedule, we like to start with essentials, like food and rest, then plug in core subjects such as reading, writing, and mathematics, then we add in special interest subjects, and finally the "fluff" of the day. As we add the elements of the day, I try to alternate between intense and required materials and more easy-going activities. It also helps to alternate between active, hands-on subjects such as art and music and our textbook subjects. Don't be afraid to include non-traditional subject focus. Segmenting time to study religious and moral convictions can be part of your regular school day. Focusing on literature for your avid reader, or blending the study of one subject with another can also be a fun approach to learning. While we are studying about pasteurization in science, we can also learn Geography and study the home country of Louis Pasteur. Sing the state names or the order of presidents to incorporate music and arts into your studies of geography and history. Whether your home has space for a full school room or whether you store your books on a shelf and learn at the kitchen table or in the living room, it is important to establish a routine to help keep everyone on track.
Homeschooling can take much less time per day than the average public school, eliminating large class sizes and cutting down on transitions from one subject to the next. Use that extra time to explore more educational interests, or to promote learning through educational play. Flexibility can be such a gift to homeschool families, but it is also helpful to keep the schedule of the local public or private schools in mind, so your children are free to play and socialize with the neighbors when they are out of school. Speaking of public and private schools, research your state laws and regulations to see what parts of your local school district programs may be available for homeschool participation. Set aside time for planning. Daily goals and meal plans can help your homeschool day run more smoothly. Even though most days homeschoolers may not leave the house, packing meals the night before allows for a flexible lunch period--your children can eat as they are ready, or you can all sit down together, but without the prep-time that may slow down the progress of your day. Curriculums range from video instruction, to parent-taught, traditional to unconventional, self-paced or extremely structured. Finding the best fit for your family can be overwhelming. Asking around local and online homeschool communities can give you helpful feedback for curriculums. Also, Cathy Duffy's reference book 101 Top Curriculum Picks compares several top curriculums for learning styles, labor intensive, and user-friendliness. The information is also published online at: https://cathyduffyreviews.com/. Picking curriculum for each school year can be a daunting task. Starting with long term goals and breaking them down into annual goals, and finding a curriculum to meet each goal can give you added confidence in your curriculum choices. But if you map out your educational goals, it is important to maintain flexibility and be ready to shift to meet your child's needs and learning styles through the years. One of the first things I do when we learn the location of our next duty station is look for local opportunities. Many science centers and zoos have reciprocal agreements allowing you to explore museums in nearby municipal areas, or across the country if you visit family or travel with your service member. Extra curricular activities are frequently available through the YMCA, or through private community sports organizations. Sometimes gymnastics or karate organizations will offer a homeschool lesson during normal school hours, allowing you to meet other homeschool families and learn new skills at a group discount rate.
Local churches often offer educational programs that can serve as extra curricular activities such as Roots, AWANAs, Pathfinders, or Trail Life, that offer socialization and religious instruction. Additionally, many local churches also host homeschool groups during weekdays, or would be open to offer their space at reasonable rates (or free) for new homeschool groups looking for a home. Homeschooling is still considered an untraditional approach to school--so why not pursue non-traditional learning options? Internships and field trips through local businesses can help high school students explore their interests. Also, developing research not only helps students explore what naturally intrigues them, but they can open up new extra curricular options in your area. Homeschool groups in person and online can also highlight local opportunities and provide a sense of community. Search for local homeschool groups online and use social media to connect with homeschoolers both locally and across the country. It is important to stay focused. With all the options available, overcommitting for fear of missing out can lead to burnout. A helpful rule of thumb in prioritizing activities is looking to your long-term educational goals, and being open to the interests of your students. Those two guiding forces are a lens through which all educational opportunities should be measured. Finally, keep homeschooling fun! Set your own beginning of the year and end of the year rituals and routines. From traditional school pictures, to hand-prints on a t-shirt to mark growth through the years, spirit weeks and other activities, you can keep the energy alive. Keeping in mind the transient nature of military life, we mark our boys' heights on a bookshelf we built for our school room rather than a door-frame, so we can bring it with us from place to place. Whether you are new to homeschooling or just trying to refocus, I hope some of these tips will help you fulfill your educational goals. Graduate of an Air Force homeschool, Erin is now an Army wife of nine years and homeschool mother of four elementary age boys. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Patrick Henry College, and is pursuing a masters degree through Liberty University. She blogs about military life, homeschooling, and travels, and is a freelance writer for news publications, businesses and non-profit organizations. https://havesoldierwilltravel.wordpress.com https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2whS2vZqzm8A7zNnLeZ5XrQNpSZtVSAN https://muckrack.com/erin-eskew