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Military parents embrace homeschooling
This kind of support for home schooling by the military was uncommon in the 1990s, said Mike Donnelly, a former Army officer who is an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association, based in Purcellville, Va. He 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.
Lindsay Burchette said she first considered home schooling in 2011 when her husband joined the Navy and they were living in suburban Knoxville, Tenn. Her then-8-year-old son stressed about having to start a new school in Pensacola, Fla., when they moved there for her husband’s training and then again within a year when they reached his permanent duty station at Andrews.
“Starting a new school is bad enough and doing it twice over seemed like a lot,” said Burchette, a mother of three. “He kind of perked up after we mentioned that. The move kind of changed perspective for him.”
Her family is now preparing to move again - this time to Norfolk, Va., and she’s now home-schooling her two oldest kids, ages 10 and 5.
“I have no issues with public schools or the system,” Burchette said. “It’s just working for us right now.”
Home schooling in recent decades has grown in popularity in the general population, with the most recent government statistics estimating that about 3 percent of school kids are home-schooled in America.
Within the military population, Donnelly said his group estimates that from 5 percent to 10 percent of military kids are home-schooled. An estimate by the Military Child Education Coalition, using very limited research data, estimated that up to 9 percent of military kids could be home-schooled.
The vast majority of military kids attend local public schools, with a much smaller percentage attending Department of Defense schools and an even smaller percentage attending private schools or home schooling, the National Military Family Association estimates.
Like home schooling parents in the general population, military families at home often use online curriculum and materials to enhance instruction. Some hire tutors for areas such as advanced math or foreign languages.
Home schooling, of course, isn’t for every military family. It requires a parent who can stay at home, and it can create an extra level of stress for the parents at home if the spouse is deployed, some spouses have told researchers.
For military families and others who do opt to home-school, there’s very little scientifically rigorous research about the long-term social and academic effects, said Joseph Murphy, an education professor at Vanderbilt University who wrote a book about home schooling.
“At this point, I think we would say there’s certainly not the evidence of problems with academics that a lot of people predicted, these kids do OK and they may do better than OK, I just don’t want to overstate given the science of the question,” Murphy said.
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