If you are a military spouse, there is one thing you have either learned or will need to learn: flexibility.
In the 13 years my husband has been in the United States Army we have missed seven Thanksgivings, four Christmases, and too many birthdays and anniversaries to count.
I learned long ago to detach from dates and celebrate family time whenever it happened to fall. We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in October and Christmas on December 28th because deployment sent my husband away before one and brought him home just two days after the other.
Our daughter’s birthday falls on December 23rd. The year she turned sixteen, her daddy found out his window for mid-tour leave from Afghanistan would fall sometime in very late November or early December.
Armed with the best information possible, knowing that he could still miss it, I planned her sweet sixteen birthday bash smack in the middle of his projected leave. As is typical, his leave window got pushed back one day then two, then a week.
After more than four straight days of travel, my husband finally landed the morning of the big party. With no sleep, he showered, put on his civvies and a smile and celebrated our daughter’s big day-several days before her actual birthday. He flew back to Afghanistan on her sixteenth birthday.
Deployment is not the only thing that takes a military member away for days, weeks or even months at a time. They are required to go to various training events that take them away from home, both with their units and as individuals. Our experience is not unique. These types of events and circumstances happen to all of us in every branch of service.
Deployment and training events are not planned around the school year calendar. They are based on the needs of the military. Being a homeschool family in the military has helped ease the burden of the separations our family experiences as a result of these things. It does so because of one of its intrinsic characteristics, that flexibility I was talking about.
While my husband was home on leave from deployments, we simply took the time off school. Had my children gone to traditional school, taking two full weeks off right before the two week Christmas break would not have been possible. My husband’s current assignment involves shift work. He does not work a traditional nine to five Monday to Friday schedule. Sometimes his days off fall during the week and he has to work the entire weekend. We simply chose to take our days off with dad and do school work while he’s at work.
An additional cool benefit to military life and homeschooling life is the ability to take advantage of “space available travel” during slow seasons. The kids and I once took a nice long “field trip” to Germany on an extreme shoestring budget by using free military air travel and staying with friends stationed there. On school breaks, “space available travel” is rather a nightmare, but in the off season, when the other kids are in school, the chances of making flights greatly increase. Even if you don’t take a trip to Germany you can still plan your vacations when other kids are in school. Theme parks, monuments and all sorts of travel destinations are far less busy when school is in session. Who doesn’t like beating the crowds?
We made our decision to homeschool early on in our time in the military. It wasn’t actually based on any of the reasons above, but we have found that it has greatly enhanced our family life in the intervening years.
We take time off when we need to and work hard when we don’t.
We’ve learned that while calendar dates are important, the act of celebrating is more important. And we’ve learned to appreciate each other all the more in the everyday things, because we don’t always get the big days together.
We’ve learned that homeschooling is more than just a onetime choice, but a lifestyle choice. Despite numerous moves and deployments that could have drawn us farther apart, this choice has played an integral role in giving us deep roots. And, that, after all, is what family life and child-rearing is all about. Giving our children deep enough roots that they can grow as high as they want to go.
For more information on how to start your homeschooling experience, visit time4learning.com.
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