Some military families also cite the same reasons for choosing home schooling as those in the civilian population: a desire to educate their kids in a religious environment, concern about the school environment, or to provide for a child with special needs.
Participating military families say there’s an added bonus to home schooling. It 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 so we have that flexibility,” McGhee said.
Sharon Moore, the education liaison at Andrews who helps parents with school-related matters, said at the height of the summer military moving season, she typically gets about 20 calls from families moving to the base with home schooling questions. She links them with families from the co-op and includes the home-schooled children during back-to-school events and other functions such as a trip to a planetarium.
“It comes down to they are military children and we love our military children,” said Moore, a former schoolteacher. “We recognize that they have unique needs that sometimes other children don’t have, and we want to make sure that we do our best to serve them and meet those needs because they have given so much to this country.”
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.