Sunday, April 29, 2012

Military Monday - Using Homeschooling in a Military Family


One of the hardest aspects for military kids to take hold of is the constant changing of schools.  Although I wasn't a military brat, I bounced back and forth between my parents' houses growing up and before high school never spent more than 2 years at a school.  When high school came around, making friends was nearly impossible because everyone had already established cliques and I wasn't a part of any group.  To top it off, with the constant changing (in 2nd grade I went to 3 different schools) it was difficult to remain on top of my school work as different schools and districts would be at different places in the curriculum.  That being said, I understand how a military child may feel.

Although DOD schools try to eliminate this problem by having all military installation schools follow the same curriculum, there is still always some gap in the learning process.

Due to this, many families choose to do homeschooling for their child at least until they reach the upper levels and need specialized attention from teachers.  I feel that it is important to educate yourself in all available options before choosing a single route for your child.  Therefore, this post was born.  Here are some important facts that you should know about homeschooling.


The Decision
       The decision to homeschool is the first step in the homeschooling process and it should not be considered lightly.  There are a variety of reasons to homeschool and everyone has their own.  Upon interviewing a few homeschool moms, responses varied from the necessity of their children receiving individualized attention due to a learning disorder, living too far away from a school, having the flexibility that is required as a military family, being able to incorporate more subjects, or an attempt to avoid public school politics and drama.  Heather A. originally had her son in a head-start program but took him out to start homeschooling because her son "was bored, and [there were] some issues with bullying." she goes on to say, "I also dislike the “politics” of public school- the fundraisers, and drop offs/pick ups, PTA".  
       It's important to realize that although the decision is a big one and shouldn't be taken lightly, it is not always a permanent answer.  After homeschooling for a few months parent, child, or both may decide that they are much more comfortable with attending public school.  After reaching the high school level some parents may feel they cannot give their child the proper facts and may choose to send them back to either public school or have them take classes at a local junior college.  Most homeschool parents recommend to take the homeschooling approach a year at a time and go from there.  

The "S" Word (Socialization)
        During the first stages of researching for homeschooling I was about as naive about the subject as everyone else that does not know the truth about homeschooling.  During my school days I had only known one person that was homeschooled.  Her name was Katie and I knew her through my independent cheerleading team (a team not associated with a school).  I couldn't understand why she would want to stay in homeschool because it seemed so lonely to me.  Katie didn't agree though, she loved being homeschooled and wouldn't agree to join me at my public high school.
        Upon interviewing several moms, they agreed with Katie in that homeschooling doesn't have to be lonely and that their children get plenty of interaction with not only kids their own age but also individuals of all ages and maturity levels.  Their schoolwork is done primarily with adults but they also attend activities and programs where they spend time with kids their own age.  My friend Katie used cheer to interact with others that had the same interests as her.  Aside from the Homeschool PE that is offered by the local CYS, Jennifer H.'s children are involved in sports (tennis and soccer), AWANA (a weekly kids' Bible program), church, and Co-op groups.   It also shouldn't be forgotten how useful local playgrounds can be to introduce your children to other kids their age as well.  
        When considering the "socialization" that your children would receive in the classroom versus that of a homeschooler there is an aspect that is often overlooked.  Socialization has good AND bad aspects.  Although it is important for a child to interact with people that have all types of personality traits so they can learn to cope with others that may "clash" with their own personalities, bullying is becoming an increasing problem in schools.  Learning to problem solve and work through disagreements with others is an important skill to learn but when disagreements turn to bullying or picking up negative communicative skills then socializing takes a turn for the worse. 

Materials
        When first getting started in the homeschooling arena it can be a little overwhelming to gather books and supplies as well as planning out a curriculum that will work for your child.  One thing to keep in mind is that there is not a cookie cutter formula or book that will work for every child, household, or curriculum.  When purchasing your first set of books seasoned homeschoolers such as Heather A. warn to "take your time to learn how you teach and your child learns, look at samples and other people's curriculum before spending hundreds of dollars on things you might not be able to use".  When browsing homeschooling packs realize that some companies take advantage of new homeschoolers and often incorporate supplies that you may not need just to squeeze extra money from an anxious mother.  Do your research before you purchase.   As a side note, to save some extra cash cross-reference books that you find on homeschooling websites for those that are for sale through Amazon.com or ebay.com.
        One invaluable tool that should not be overlooked is the power of the library.  Many homeschoolers mention that it is the one resource that they could not do without.  Reading is a powerful skill and the library should be a constant field trip to help your child grow.
        Additionally, Christine D. mentions that the internet has a wealth of information that can be key to teaching your child.  The internet gives you access to worksheets, different approaches to materials, youtube videos or even google image searches that can assist in the learning process.

The Benefits
       There are immense benefits in choosing to homeschool your child, as you can see in the silly poster up above.  Some of the main benefits include:
  • Having more control over your child's education (censorship and added subjects are your terf)
  • Giving your child individualized attention- the students that require the extra help often suffer in the classroom no matter how much the teacher tries to provide for them because there just isn't enough hours in the day for all students to get specialized attention.
  • Improved relationship between parent and child- Being a teacher to your child may seem that it could hinder the "parent role" but many parents claim that it opens up new doorways and have improved their relationship more than they could believe.
  • Ability to "skip school"- Whether skipping school means having a lazy day or going on a long vacation.  You no longer have to worry about what your child will miss in the classroom because the classroom goes with you.
  • Applying what is learned during family "field trips"- Since you are much more involved in your child's learning it is much easier to point out things while out and about and apply them to what you learned that day/week/etc.  If you are lucky enough to be residing in Europe, the plethora of history is an excellent addition to the curricula that you are providing.
  • Learning to be an independent studier- When you are not literally stuck in a fenced in, locked, building for 8 hours a day and forced to sit at a desk and read with the class it may be a little more difficult to focus on the task at hand.  But, when your child gets the ability to study on their own down they will be set for their college career as the majority of the learning is independent.
  • Constant education- Being a military family, moving every 2-3 years is a common practice.  During the moving process a child may have to enter a class mid-way through the year and is commonly either behind or ahead of the current classroom material.  With homeschooling there is no gap to worry about.
The Downside
      With everything positive, there is a negative.  The negative aspects of homeschooling will vary based on each families individual circumstances but some general downsides include:
  • The overwhelming responsibility for your child's education.
  • The loss of "me" time when a child goes from being at school for 8 hours a day to being home 24 hours a day.  In the beginning it might be quite a struggle to do school work, keep the home in shape, and keeping your sanity but once the balance is found, all is well.
  • Planning- Without too much experience in the education realm it can be overwhelming to find curricula that not only covers the topics that you wish to address but also support your views and goals as well as is presented in a way that you can teach and your child can learn.


Links:
The Homeschool Village- Homeschooling tips and articles.  Specializes on homeschooling that incorporates a religious base.
The Well-Trained Mind Forums- Forums where homeschoolers discuss a variety of topics
The Secular Homeschool Community- Website with a wealth of information from curriculum to how-to's and forums to discuss topics with other homeschool teachers
The "Free" List- List of websites where you can obtain a wealth of free materials
Confessions of a Homeschooler- A highly popular blog that has some of the most popular pre-k curriculum and first hand experience from a homeschool mom
Homeschooler Buyers Co-op- Purchasing website for curricula that gives detailed descriptions of the different types of curricula available.
Homeschooling: A Guide for Families- An immensely helpful PDF that gives a perspective on how to get started in the homeschooling realm
Homeschool Curriculum Advisor- A comprehensive list of online homeschooling options and programs with a short description of the type of program that it is (teaching type/curriculum type/etc.)

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