Homeschooling has long been a cultural norm within the military community. Frequent deployments and moves can disrupt the school year, so parents see schooling at home gives them both choice and flexibility to meet the needs of their family’s situation.
In recent COVID-19 news and with the stop-movement order in place for military families, many have chosen to switch to a homeschool curriculum or supplement the district’s online learning.
If you are considering teaching your children at home, the good thing is there is a plentiful amount of resources to get started. The best part is it is really up to your schedule and preferences. Organizing lessons with your military children can be fun, interactive, and a community effort despite its solitary implications.
Here’s how to get started:
Before Deciding to Homeschool
You’ll want to check your state regulations before getting started. Some states require low supervision while others may have several strict standards.
The compulsory age for children varies by each state. Generally, the age ranges from 5 to 19 years old.
If your child is of compulsory age and enrolled in a public school, you’ll need to contact the district to withdraw your child from their school and file an affidavit stating your intent to teach from home. The district will inform you about any additional correspondence and documentation. Different states may have different withdrawal processes. Be sure to find out what your state requires.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before
- Can I dedicate time to gather curriculum and materials? Will I have time to homeschool my child?
- There are superintendent guidelines for homeschooled children. Reasonable documentation must show the minimum hours met in the school year.
- In general, younger children need about two scheduled hours during the day. As the years progress, you’ll want to add an hour per grade level for studies.
- What is the most affordable option for us?
- Homeschool costs more than public but less than private school.
- How much structure do I want/need?
- This is the most beneficial aspect of homeschooling. It is up to you and the needs of your child.
- Does the material convey my values?
- There are available curricula designed to align with your family’s beliefs.
Credentials for the Homeschool Parent
Most states do require parents hold a minimum of a high school diploma/GED to homeschool, while others might ask a credentialed teacher or tutor to supervise your child’s education.
It’s important to keep in mind that details vary state to state, but for the sake of explanation we’ll use California as an example. Homeschool families must file a private school affidavit to establish their school of record with the state. If you are pulling your child out of public school, you do not need to tell them that you are homeschooling, you can simply state that you are transferring to a private school. As a private school, you are free to educate your children using the resources of your choice so long as you keep the appropriate records according to state guidelines. Homeschools do not receive money from the state and it is not a tax-deductible expense. All educational expenses are out of pocket, but with that comes freedom of choice in the curriculum you choose to use. As a guide, some families still refer to their state’s education standards.
Some families who choose to homeschool opt to use a charter school. It is important to note that while you may be doing the majority of school work at home, most charter schools are public, state-funded schools. If you are transferring to a charter school, you do not need to file a private school affidavit unless you plan to spend time homeschooling on your own between schools. As a member of these charter schools, families may be eligible to receive some funding to be used towards the purchase of qualifying educational resources, classes, etc., however, the state determines what is acceptable use of the funding. They also require submissions of sample work and you are assigned an educational consultant that will monitor your student’s progress through scheduled regular meetings. Curriculum purchased with state funds can not be religious in nature and creation-based samples are not accepted. This is just a snapshot of one state. Check with the HSLDA to find out more about what is offered in your state of residence.
Now that you’ve decided to teach your children, what next? Find a teaching method specific to your child’s needs.
Diploma requirements vary by each state. Typically, your child will learn the main subject areas such as math, reading and language arts, science, and social studies.
There is no one-size-fits-all. You can choose to follow a traditional textbook model, prioritize field trips, co-op learning, or combine approaches.
The traditional method involves learning mostly from a textbook. Written curriculum is often mandated by states, and there is a great deal of published curriculum.
Teaching by the traditional method is useful for the inexperienced homeschool parent who may need more guidance in the first years. Students who work best with structured lessons can also benefit from using this approach.
Military communities sometimes have an established homeschool co-op on base. Parents share responsibilities such as planning field trips and mini-lessons to supplement at-home studies. It’s a great option for military children who desire social interaction and provides diverse learning experiences.
Satellite or virtual academies also satisfy academic requirements and offer rigorous subject-area focus.
As technology expands, online teachers and content accommodate student needs. The experience can be enriching and satisfy the “written curriculum” state requirement.
In some cases, a public school district can offer varying facets of home instruction. The advantage here is the option to participate in available programs such as sports, extra-curricular, and support programs.
Every district is different. Ask the superintendent or district official for more information.
Stay up-to-date with state legislation and education advocacy with Home School Legal Defense Association. An annual membership gives you access to homeschool related legal advice and resources to help you feel supported and heard.
HSLDA’s website can navigate you to other helpful homeschool resources, help get you started, and support groups.
The Department of Defense Education Activity is a K-12 education system established to provide parallel instruction to military children. Currently, there are 15,000 DoDEA employees serving more than 70,000 children across the globe.
DoDEA is a useful starting point for parents seeking information on homeschooling overseas.
Other Things to Consider
Homeschooling Children with Special Needs
The flexibility and personalized education can benefit your child with special needs or those with learning disabilities.
Federal law reinforces support to children with special needs. Districts are mandated to provide adequate support to students with IEPs and 504 plans which also includes evaluation and assessment of needs.
Tracking Your Child’s Education
You may need to submit documentation of your child’s progress depending on which style of homeschooling you choose and district standards. For instance, independent private instruction and private instruction can differ in the available programs for your child and the paperwork submitted to district officials.
Always check in with your district official.
Home School Legal Defense Association recommends using certified mail whenever sending documents and filing correspondence. Keep documents in your file for at least two years and throughout high school grade levels.
Tracking records will save you the worries if an impromptu investigation is conducted. Additionally, records are audited for transcript purposes, especially as your child nears college.
Examples of documentation:
- Intent to remove from public school enrollment
- Attendance records
- Instructional Inventory records
- Student portfolios
- Annual assessments
- Certified teacher evaluations
Districts will ask for a paper trail of documents, especially as your child nears college, and transcripts are under interpretation.
Can you homeschool overseas?
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 American states. Families living OCONUS fall under U.S. jurisdiction and can continue to teach their children from home. Parents will have to follow the standards of their state of residence.
This does not cover parents who decide to send their children outside of the base. Foreign countries have their own set of regulations, and some do not legally recognize homeschooling.
Cristina Van Orden is a literary writer and active military spouse. She holds an MFA from Antioch University and taught K-12 English before working in editorial. Cristina currently resides on base with her husband and children.
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