The opinions expressed in this guest column are the views of the author.
As you prepare to enter the busy Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season, which typically occurs from May to August, let’s discuss a few tips to assist you as a military homeschooler.
The Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) reports that children in a military family will move six to nine times on average during a school career. That’s three times more frequently than non-military families. Even for homeschooled children, moving isn’t easy. Just like us moms, they too will be concerned about making new friends and getting adjusted. Tune in to their emotions leading up to and during this time.
Include them in the planning for the new duty station – let them research it, talk about what you will see and do there, and make plans for visiting historical sites and fun activities. If your move includes cross country travel and stops along the way, this is learning as well. Don’t miss out on all the fun in seeing new places.
On one of our cross country moves, we allowed our children to help plan the stops along the way from Camp Pendleton, California to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Yes, we did stop at Denny’s a lot, but we also saw the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Central High School in Little Rock, and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico – to name a few.
EMOTIONAL CYCLE OF PCS
Often the emotional cycle of deployment is discussed but there is also an emotional cycle of PCSing. We have to consider being aware of the input we give and receive from others:
- Negative responses – “I was stationed there and I hated it” or “I know someone who was there and they were miserable”
- Negative cognitions – “I won’t find any homeschoolers like me”
- Negative emotions – Being sad and depressed
- Negative behaviors toward others – Acting gloomy and moping around
Our kids can and will pick up on these. Remember, we are the family thermometer.
Military homeschoolers not only have to make decisions about household goods but also homeschool curriculum and resources. Should we allow our curriculum to be packed on the moving truck or should we move it with us in our personal vehicle? Depending on whether the move is CONUS or OCONUS, you might make different decisions. I always advise bringing the three “Rs” — reading, writing, and arithmetic — for each student. Otherwise, easy learning workbooks and books to read should suffice.
If you have a high schooler, that student’s books should be carried with you. Since high schoolers are on a different timeline to earn those high school credits, they do not want to get too far behind. What about moving overseas and express shipments? I recommend packing the additional textbooks and other items in the express shipment. It will arrive soon after you and will help with the adjustment process if your children at least have their schoolbooks to keep them busy while you deal with other moving logistics. I also advise homeschoolers to travel with their homeschool documentation (if in a state that requires notification). You are not likely to need it for the new state or OCONUS, but it is good to have.
RESEARCH, RECONNECT, & REJOIN
Check on the new state’s homeschool laws and make sure to follow them. Join the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) if you are not already a member, for legal questions but also for educational consultations.
Once you have arrived, take the resources you found from your pre-move research and begin to reach out to local support groups. I even encourage homeschooling moms to reach out before you arrive. When I was President of Naples Christian Homeschool Support Group, and Facebook had just become a thing, I opened our Facebook Group up to anyone headed our way. By the time they arrived, we had a few months of communicating via social media with them. They felt like they already knew us.
Contact your School Liaison Officer (SLO) for assistance; they are there to support you as a military homeschooler. If you are a member of your state homeschool organization, kudos to you. When you PCS, join the one for your new state! Often, homeschoolers may be hesitant to join state homeschool organizations because they know their stay in a particular state is limited. You may feel as if it is not worth the effort. It is my belief, after 22 years of military homeschooling and moving all over the country, that we miss out on a lot of benefits when we choose NOT to join. State organizations even have databases of support groups which we can access.
Yes, PCS season can be daunting with its usual array of transitions and challenges. But with solid planning and the typical resiliency of the military family, homeschoolers can make the adjustments with ease.