Homeschool vs Public School: Education Options for the Military Child
Military moving season brings a host of decisions to be made, including whether to live on-base or off and if you have kids, whether to enroll them in public school, private school or homeschool. There is no right or wrong way to educate your children, pros and cons exist with all choices, but before making an ultimate decision, it’s a good idea to consider what is best for your family and your children.
For this post, I’m going to exclude private education for the sole fact that I don’t have personal experience with that route and I’m guessing that if it fits the budget for a military family, that’s pretty awesome. For the rest of us, we’ll be deciding between public school and homeschool.
We’ve chosen homeschool and public school for our kids at different times over the course of their education and I’d like to give you some insight into our thought process if you are weighing your options before the first day of school this fall.
Pros to Homeschooling Military Kids:
- Flexibility – Ultimate freedom! I’m so serious. School in jammies? Yes. Does your service member have a wonky schedule like mine does? I’ll bet. Homeschooling allows your family to take vacations on your terms and do schoolwork around a schedule that suits your family. Want to take a trip back “home” in the middle of October because your service member is TDY? Go for it. Bring math workbooks along, visit historical sites and have your kids write journal entries about their field trips.
- Continuity of Education – Instead of changing schools every 1-3 years and starting over with curriculum and expectations, homeschooling eases the stress of military moves. Knowing they won’t have to figure out the rules of a new school, kids are able to continue schooling seamlessly from one duty station to the next.
- Worldschooling – This is a new term to me, and it essentially means just that: the world is the teacher. Military families often have the unique opportunity to live in all parts of the world and homeschooling provides an opportunity to take advantage of learning by engaging with the local culture. With a little planning, choosing this route can free up a military kid’s schedule to spend their days exploring new cities, local landmarks and historical sites instead of sitting in a classroom.
Keys for success:
*Find a local co-op if you are leaning towards homeschooling this fall. We joined one that met once a week, and my kids took classes with other homeschooled kids, made friends and gave me a bit of a break from being their sole teacher. We especially valued the science classes offered at the co-op, as labs are often meant to be completed in a group setting and it cut down on supplies and materials to purchase for our personal homeschool.
*Online resources abound, so do your research and find sites to help you with curriculum choices. Personally, I liked more structure in our homeschool and I faithfully visited www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com for ideas and encouragement. Believe me, this website is a gold mine and will convince any skeptic that homeschooling is absolutely attainable.
*There will be critics who say children need to have social interaction beyond their parents and siblings and I couldn’t agree more. When we homeschooled, my children were incredibly active in club sports, theater groups, and volunteered with numerous community agencies. We simply had time for it all, not to mention relaxing evenings not spent on homework.
Pros to Sending Military Kids to Public School:
- Immersed in Local Culture – Attending public school offers your child the opportunity to be a part of a mini-culture, and one that likely includes kids from many different backgrounds. Making friends with local families often leads to birthday party invitations, mom’s night out events and school-wide activities like campouts, pancake breakfasts, and skate nights, which are excellent ways to make friends and get a feel for the local culture, which may be very different from wherever you consider “home.”
- Adaptation – While starting over in a new school every 1-3 years can be scary for a military kid, facing the challenge and overcoming can instill confidence hard to come by in any other setting. Adjusting to a new teacher’s expectations and social norms of their peers is a beneficial life skill offered to kids who move schools often.
- Belonging – Everyone wants to belong, whether in a community, with peers, family or school. Public school offers the sense of community military kids may be craving. They will have the opportunity to get involved with student council, sports teams and other school-wide activities.
Keys for success:
*Visit potential schools as you are house-hunting to get a feel for the community and vibe. Talk to parents at the pick-up gate, the school secretary or principal to ask all of your burning questions about the school to see if it would be a good fit for your child.
*www.greatschools.com is a leading resource for rating schools and is worth checking out when you are house hunting and deciding which district to live in. Public schools vary greatly depending on where you live. Even in the same county, one district could offer a far superior education than a neighboring one. You simply have to do your homework if providing a good education for your children is a priority.
*Get involved! Join the PTA, volunteer in the classroom, sign-up to help at a school event. This is a great way to get a feel for your child’s learning environment and to make connections with the other students and staff.
Whether you choose to homeschool or enroll your kids in public or private school is a personal choice and one that you don’t have to defend or explain to anyone. I hope you consider your options, weigh the advantages of all scenarios and choose what is right for your family.
And the good news is that you can always change your mind and try a different way!