- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

Military families face a unique set of challenges in educating their children — being sent all over the globe to schools where the curriculum varies greatly and trying to foster stability throughout all these changes.

Julie Gannon’s experience with her eldest child, Michael, is an example. Michael entered kindergarten in California but finished it in Rhode Island. He did first grade in Virginia and second grade in Okinawa, Japan, in 1995 at a Department of Defense school.

“I was worried about gaps in his education with all these changes,” says Mrs. Gannon, whose family is living near Winchester, Va. “He was in a gifted program but still bored, and the teacher offered me some extra work that he could do at home, and by the end of the year, I decided to home-school full time.”

At the advice of Navy friends, the family chose the Calvert School system. Mrs. Gannon says she appreciated its highly structured approach, which was very supportive for a new home-schooling mom.

“Calvert has an advisory teacher program, providing feedback on composition, what areas need to be worked on and what expectations are reasonable for a child at that level,” she says. “We used mail service, sending the tests from all over the world by military pouch to U.S. mail, and we received our results back in a very quick, timely manner. The quality of the programs is very high.”

Michael flourished in home-based education, so in the next year, his brother Conner joined, and later, sisters Katherine and Morgan began learning at home. The children loved the Calvert classic texts; they avidly read “A Child’s History of the World,” “Farmhouse Legends,” “Mighty Men” and “Smiling Hill Farm.” books.

In her 11 years of home-schooling, Mrs. Gannon found that it gave her family a continuity and stability needed for the frequent moves and the new circumstances of each posting.

During postings in Japan, India, England and the United States, Mrs. Gannon maintained the continuity of the children’s education through the Calvert program. At the same time, she took advantage of opportunities for learning from their surroundings.

The family attended a traditional Indian wedding in New Delhi, spent a month backpacking in Ireland and traveled to Paris and Venice to view the artworks pictured in Calvert’s textbooks. Mrs. Gannon arranged for a French Embassy official to tutor the children in French and for the children to attend performances of Shakespeare in Britain’s Royal Albert Hall.

After continuing through eighth grade with Calvert, both boys decided to attend public high school in Virginia, and they earned academic honors. Michael earned a perfect score of 800 on the SAT II history exam, was selected for the summer Virginia Governor’s School for the Humanities, and was accepted into the University of Virginia, where he is enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is an editor for a political magazine, Uncommon Ground, and is active in political and religious activities on campus.

Conner, 16, is blazing his own path, playing football, soccer and chess and maintaining high grades. He earned four A-pluses and three A’s in the most recent grading period. He was first in his class at the end of his freshman year and scored in the 99th percentile on his PSAT exam as a sophomore.

Katherine, in sixth grade, plays violin in the Shenandoah Valley Youth Orchestra and is active in service projects with her church youth group. Morgan, in fourth grade, plays classical guitar, cares for her cat and dog and loves to read. She wants to be a veterinarian.

Most important, Mrs. Gannon is grateful for the values her children have gained: respect for adults, the ability to enjoy the company of children of all ages, a sense of curiosity about the world around them and the ability to behave appropriately in widely varying circumstances.

After she had home-schooled for 10 years, Mrs. Gannon’s husband, Michael, surprised her with a plaque and wrote a tribute for her outstanding work educating their children. You can read it on the Calvert School Web site (www.calvertschool.org). Go to the site’s community section and click on Military Families. The piece is called “Calvert Gives Us Tools to Succeed.”

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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