Happy At Home

Article by Tricia McDonald, National Guard Spouse

Flexibility. The folks at dictionary.com tell us that flexibility means “capable of being bent, usually without breaking.”

I prefer to define the word flexible in just two words: To me the definition of flexible is “military spouse.”

Any military spouse will tell you that their life must be flexible. We live by our service member’s social security number. We need an ID card to get to our house, buy our groceries, and swim at our pools.

We have made bedrooms out of closets, offices out of garages, and weight rooms out of patios. Why do we think that schooling would need to
be any less flexible?

It’s really funny, if you think about it:
• The military says, “Move here!”
• The government says,”School begins now!”
• The military says, “Time to move again-NOW!”
• The government says, “But school’s not out yet.”

What’s a parent to do?

Home-school parents can answer that question fairly easily. We start school when we want. We end school when we want. Flexibility with schooling is a fabulous pairing with the military life. It allows us to take advantage of the world around us, be flexible with our time, PCS without school stress, and travel together throughout the year.

Instead of being a liability to education, frequent PCS moves can be a benefit. Military families have fantastic opportunities to experience and explore a larger portion of the world than many of our civilian counterparts.

While stationed in the Washington, D.C., area, our family regularly roamed Mount Vernon and walked where George Washington walked. We gazed in awe over the actual flag that had flown at Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner.

We were able to experience history, rather than just read about history in a book. Now, it’s important to note: You can still do those things, even if you do not home school. And many families do. But as a home-schooling military
spouse, you can do those things as you and your child are learning about them in school together. And you can include the military parent in your adventures, as well.


Let your move guide you.
Stationed in D.C. right now? Study U.S. History THIS year, because you want to, not because it is next on the list. Stationed in Germany? Study European history, not because your child is in the fifth grade, but because you are there
among the actual historic locations. Take advantage of where the military has placed you and learn something along the way.

Not all assignments will be in exotic locations, of course. But all locations have
pieces of history itching to be explored.

Choose your schedule.
Another great benefit of being a home-school family and a military family is the flexibility of time. School can start and stop according to the needs of our crazy, and ever-changing lives.

My husband arrived home from Iraq at the end of January. We knew his return would be right in the middle of the school year. As a home-school mom, I made a proactive decision and started school early that year.

When Dad came home at the end of January, we took off the entire month
of February from school. We spent a few days at home together getting reacquainted. Then we went on vacation. We traveled to visit family and friends in other states. We even went on a ski trip together.

It was a glorious month of “returning to normal” and injecting Dad back into our lives. If the kids had been in school we still would have been able to do some of those things, but we certainly could not have spent a month together without school limiting our time together.

Change the PCS experience.
Got PCS stress? It usually goes a little something like this: The military decides you need to move across country, in one month, in the middle of February! What about school? The home-school family has a couple of choices.

First, you could place the schoolbooks in the not-to-be-packed pile, and conduct school on the floor as the packers box away your household goods.
No missed school. No old school to cry over. No new school to fear. We have done that four times!

Or, and probably most fun of all, take 20 of those moving days to leisurely drive across the country seeing purple mountains majesty and the fruited plains along the way. Oh, and it all counts as schoolwork: It’s the ultimate field trip!

Embrace your TDYs.
Does your spouse spend a lot of time Temporarily Deployed for a Year
(TDY)? You can school and travel together as well. These are great opportunities for the family to tag along and experience Dad’s world.

We once spent a week at Fort Sill, Okla., in January. We were able to “sled” down the ice-covered hills behind our visiting quarters, providing a much-needed change of scenery. We went to the museum on post and received an unexpected history lesson of Fort Sill and some famous Americans and Native Americans. We also learned about howitzer crossings and prairie dogs.

We bought food at the commissary, cooked in the room, did school on the beds, and enjoyed a good snowball fight. And we did it together; experienced another part of the country together, learned about Dad’s world, and school was not interrupted.

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