In the United States, military bases are increasingly addressing the needs of its families by providing support and resources for home schooling cooperatives and other events. Military families, who can move frequently and face uneven education systems, are embracing home schooling to end the age-old tradition of switching schools for their kids.
Advocates believe that home schooling is better option for military families, which move on average nearly every three years. The transition affects children the most, who have to adjust to a new teacher and have a new school’s curriculum and environment. Home schooling helps smooth that transition, and bases are opening their doors for home schooling, writes Kimberly Hefling of The Associated Press.
The National Military Family Association says that the vast majority of military kids attend local public schools, a small percentage attend U.S. Department of Defense schools, and an even smaller percentage attending private schools or engage in home schooling.
It is estimated that ~5% of military kids are home-schooled within the military population. Using very limited research data, the Military Child Education Coalition estimated that up to 9% of military kids could be home-schooled.
“If there’s a military installation, there’s very likely home-schoolers there if you look,” said Nicole McGhee, 31, of Cameron, N.C., a mother of three with a husband stationed at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, who runs a Facebook site on military home schooling.
At Virginia’s Marine Corps Base at Quantico, the library sported special presentations for home-schoolers on Benjamin Franklin and static electricity. In North Carolina, Fort Bragg offers daytime taekwondo classes. Virginia’s Fort Belvoir offers athletic events and has a parent-led chemistry lab.
For some military families, reasons for choosing home schooling include a desire to educate their kids in a religious environment, concern about the public school environment; and to better provide for a child with special needs.
According to participating military families, there is an added bonus to home schooling. It allows them to schedule school time around the rigorous deployment, training and school schedules of the military member. Two 16-year-olds interviewed at the Andrews co-op said that they are happy with home schooling because it offers a more relaxed environment.
Sharon Moore, the education liaison at Andrews who helps parents with school-related matters, said at the height of the summer military moving season, she typically gets about 20 calls from families moving to the base with home schooling questions.
She links them with families from the co-op and includes the home-schooled children during back-to-school events and other functions such as a trip to a planetarium.
Mike Donnelly, a former Army officer who is an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Virginia, said this kind of support for home schooling by the military was uncommon in the 1990s.
Donnelly said that changed in 2002 with military-wide memo that said home schooling can be a legitimate alternative form of education for military member’s children. Most military bases today are friendly toward home-schoolers, he said.