Homeschooling Around the World, Military Style!
Originally written in 2014
As I write this, a Navy destroyer is sailing out of the channel behind our house here on Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam in Hawaii. When we began homeschooling years ago in Texas, I couldn’t have imagined that our journey would lead us here!
We’ve been homeschoolers since 1995. Since that time, we’ve lived all around the world, in locations as diverse as Guam, Germany, and North Dakota. My husband is in the Air Force and has had over a dozen assignments since we married. In his current job, he is gone more than he is home, and like most military families, we’ve been through several deployments over the years. Honestly, there has not been one year that’s been exactly like another! I believe homeschooling has brought a measure of stability to an otherwise very fluid lifestyle. It has been an absolute blessing to our family and I wouldn’t change a thing.
We’re in an interesting place in life—with more homeschooling years behind us than are left in front of us! Our older two children are in their 20s, and we’re about to graduate our third child. Our oldest son is married and serving in the military, and our second son is in Bible college. That leaves me with one homeschooling student left at home next year. It seems I went from a houseful of little ones to all big “kids” in the blink of an eye! If you’ve got little ones, you may not believe this, but sometimes I miss the chaos and busyness of that time. (Except for that part where I get to sleep through the night now!)
What does a typical day look like for us?
For the past few years, I’ve worked from home as a writer and editor. The time difference here in Hawaii puts me 5-6 hours behind my colleagues, writing team, and clients. I usually get up and check my e-mail first thing to see if any issues have cropped up while I’ve been sleeping. I answer e-mails and do a little bit of work while my high schoolers work on chores, music practice, and independent work.
One of the highlights of our homeschooling day, even after all these years, is read-aloud time! Usually at some point in the late morning, I’ll check in with my students to see if they need any help, if there are papers to grade, and to read together.
It’s such fun having older students, as I can introduce them to some of my favorite writers. We just finished Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie!
We started all of the children off with the wonderful curriculum Five in a Row, which I still recommend for homeschoolers with young children. Different learning styles and needs have shaped our curriculum over the years, but I think we’d best be defined as eclectic and literature-based, with lots of hands-on activities.
Some of our favorite curricula includes Teaching Textbooks math, In the Hands of a Child notebooking and lapbook packs, WriteShop, Lightning Literature from Hewitt Homeschooling, and literature from Sonlight Curriculum. We’ve also done lots of unit studies through the years--many that I put together myself, using online resources and the local library.
We’re a pretty active family and we like to hike, bike, and go to the gym together. Right now, we’re trying to make the most of island life with hiking, beach time, and sightseeing.
Learning to Adapt
I often say that if you’re going to homeschool for the long haul, you must learn to relax or you won’t make it. Military life has helped me be more flexible, because I have so little control over what will happen in any given year. It has truly forced me to rely on the Lord’s strength, because I am a person that likes to know ahead of time how things will go.
But it seems just when I have a good routine down, my husband is sent on a long deployment or we are moving across the world! For instance, he served in Afghanistan for a year while we were stationed in Germany. I had to quickly adjust to this, because being alone, overseas, for our first child’s senior year was not what I’d envisioned. I’ve also had spells of physical illness and surgeries where we needed to revamp what “school” looked like for extended periods. Yet, God is faithful. Psalm 91 and Proverbs 3:5,6 are my lifelines!
Even if your life is completely different from ours, it has this sneaky habit of changing at a lightning quick pace. Every year, you are faced with a different “classroom,” just when you think you’ve got it figured out! I have learned to not hold too tightly to my plans and desires.
Since we’ve lived in so many different places, we’ve learned to comply with all sorts of state homeschooling regulations from very strict to very lax. I’m an expert at filling out forms! Our family has been involved in co-ops, once a week charter schools, dual enrollment, and sports through the local high school. It’s worked out well for my kids and allowed us to tailor their educational experiences.
Each of them has had very different interests: varsity sports, piano, drumline, Irish dance, youth performing arts, and media/photography. They are all involved with church ministry as well, and their talents have truly shaped what we’re involved in. One of our family mottoes is: “We don’t homeschool to close doors for our children, but to open them.”
As we come to the end of our homeschooling journey, I love to encourage other homeschooling families: you simply can’t beat the flexibility, uniqueness, and FUN of homeschooling! Hang in there; it is so worth it.