One of the reasons I enjoy homeschooling is because we are a military family. Frequent moves and very unpredictable schedules actually make homeschooling a perfect fit for our lives.
As a military brat myself, I can remember how frequent moves often played havoc with my learning experience. While I thoroughly enjoyed my life as a military child, I found the lack of consistency could sometimes be a problem.
While some may argue that Common Core will remedy this problem, I have to point out that the issue was not the subject being taught. It was the manner the teachers used to teach the subjects. Different teachers wanted different styles of writing and different problem solving methods on math tests.
Teachers often had to figure out whether to spend time catching me up or just give me a different assignment. I got through it successfully and went on to college, but I always had those moments of “I didn’t finish that book” or “I only learned half of that method.”
So I began homeschooling with the ultimate goal of consistency. Consistency seems like a funny word when you move every two to three years. Since nothing is ever the same, you hold onto the things you can make constant.
Along the way I have found a few tips that help to keep things as consistent as possible. (These tips are not exclusive to military families. Moving is stressful whether you do it every two years or once in ten years.)
1. Pack each child’s books together as much as possible.
If you have children in close grades, the books can often be similar. Seton’s workbooks usually have the grade level on the cover. But things like novels for book reports can be confusing.
I try to keep a copy of the packing list so that if the books get mixed up, I can quickly figure out who is supposed to be reading St. Francis this year. I actually learned this the hard way when one of my kids began reading a book, only to find out half way to the end that it was for their sibling!
2. Keep records of Everything!
Since I began homeschooling, I have been in at least two states with extremely different requirements for homeschooling. One state required testing or portfolio reviews yearly. Yet, another state required a simple notification to the county, and our current state requires us to register as a private school.
Because many of our moves are in the middle of the school year, I find it easier to keep records that will cover some basic requirements for many states. Things like attendance records, copies of standardized test results, and work samples.
3. Be open to year round schooling.
One of our moves was towards the end of our first semester, which was December. We had already planned a Christmas break, so it worked out perfectly.
Then, the date changed to just after Christmas. No big deal, I figured. It would be just a little longer holiday break. By the time we moved, the date had changed so much that it was now March and we had done very little work.
I unpacked all the books and saw that my kids were exhausted. The thought of jumping into schoolwork made my head hurt. So we settled into our new home, took a week or so off, and used the rest of the summer to finish up.
It wasn’t in the plan, but it kept us all sane, and the kids were able to finish at their own pace and not feel rushed.
While many parents opt to homeschool on the road, I find that the stress of moving is a bit much for kids as well as parents. Even children worry about their new environment and may want to relax on the trip. While the parents are doing most of the driving or handling the logistics of moving, children can experience stress as well.
Let them use this as a time to watch movies or play games or read for leisure. Besides, do you really want to grade and check the work while on the road?
4. Don’t jump into new groups right away.
It can be tempting to join a new group as soon as you arrive at a new location. This is especially true if it’s your first move or if your kids are missing their old friends. The desire to replicate what you had before can make you blind to certain warning signs that this group is not a good fit.
If you find a group that you want to join, consider visiting during a meeting or going along on a field trip before joining. You may find that the group is too active for your children, or that another activity conflicts with the group meeting times. Declining to join a group because it doesn’t fit your family is much easier than having to resign later because there was a conflict.
5. Make decisions as a family.
When we first arrived at our current location, we visited a different parish every Sunday to figure out which one we wanted to attend as a family. Then we took a vote on which one everyone wanted to attend. I was surprised at which church my children voted for, but it was my favorite as well. Because they all felt a part of the decision to attend, my children have a pride in where we attend Mass. Obviously some decisions have to be decided by parental authority, but we try to let them be a part of the decision as much as possible.
Children have so few choices when it comes to moving, that something as simple as where to eat dinner on the road can be empowering.
A good mix of consistency and flexibility can make the process of moving while homeschooling less stressful.
Consider everyone’s needs and be willing to make changes as things come up.