Monday, October 28, 2013

Innovation in the Military


Home schooling, unschooling, flipped classrooms - a lot of alternatives to traditional public school are taking place.  One place you may not expect innovation is in the military, but according to an article published in the New York Times, "more military parents are embracing home schooling, rejecting the age-old tradition of switching schools for their children when they are redeployed."
"They are finding support on bases, which are providing resources for families and opening their doors to home-schooling cooperatives."
"At Andrews Air Force Base about 15 miles outside Washington, more than 40 families participate on Wednesdays in a home schooling cooperative at the base’s youth center. This month, teenagers in one room warmed up for a mock audition, while younger children downstairs learned to sign words like “play” and searched for “Special Agent Stan” during a math game. Military mothers taught each class."
"Military families move nearly every three years on average. The transition can be tough for children, and home schooling can make it easier, advocates say. The children do not have to adjust to a new teacher or worry that they are behind because the new school’s curriculum is different."
"Some military families also cite the same reasons for choosing home schooling as those in the civilian population: a desire to educate their children in a religious environment, concern about the school environment, or to provide for a child with special needs."
"Participating military families say home schooling also allows them to schedule school time around the rigorous deployment, training and school schedules of the military member."
“We can take time off when Dad is home and work harder when he is gone,” Ms. McGhee said, “so we have that flexibility.”
"Strong support for home schooling by the military was uncommon in the 1990s, said Mike Donnelly, a former Army officer who is a lawyer with the Home School Legal Defense Association, based in Purcellville, Va. He said that changed in 2002 with a militarywide memo that said home schooling can be a “legitimate alternative form of education” for military 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 son, then 8, feared 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 Ms. 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 is now home schooling her two oldest children.
“I have no issues with public schools or the system,” Ms. Burchette said. “It’s just working for us right now.”
"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 subjects like advanced math or foreign languages."
Home schooling, of course, is not for every military family, military or not. It requires a parent who can stay at home, and who is willing and able to search out opportunities and resources for the children.  But imagine being stationed in Italy, or in Amsterdam, or any other foreign assignment and being able to teach by just taking a walk to the town square.

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