More military parents are choosing homeschooling as an alternative to the in-school environment, even as Common Core supporters tout supposed significant benefits of the nationalized standards particularly for these on-the-move families.
The official website of the Common Core standards cites a statement – apparently given prior to their publishing – by Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commanding general, United States Army Accessions Command, in which he said: “The rigor of the proposed academic Common Core State Standards will be a benefit to military-dependent students everywhere.”
In his full statement in support of the Common Core, Freakley said, “The development of these common standards will not only benefit the thousands of military dependent students whose frequent moves are often at odds with local standards, but this reform will also allow a national debate on realigning state K-12 education policies and practices, a benefit to all.”
“National standards will raise the bar in education and, ultimately, serve our Nation by producing high school graduates fully prepared for higher education, the military, or the workforce,” Freakley added.
In its statement about military families and the Common Core, Achieve Inc., one of the creators of the standards, noted, “Children of military families must move from school system to school system, often in states and districts not aligned to their previous instruction. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) provide an opportunity for consistent and high quality educational opportunities for the children of our men and women in uniform…”
The Military Child Education Coalition – also supporters of the Common Core – add, “The new standards require a high level of student engagement as well as a focus on both content and a depth of understanding to apply the knowledge.”
“For our military-connected children, CCSS are a dramatic shift from an education experience that has traditionally been a patchwork of various standards and expectations as they move from state to state to one that will be as close to academically seamless as possible,” the statement continues. “Students will not be caught off-guard when they move, because CCSS outline the specific skills and knowledge by each grade that students need to have in order to be prepared for college or employment after high school.”
Pro-Common Core politicians have also cited itinerant military families as a major reason why the nationalized standards are necessary.
For example, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who has been a member of Conservatives for Higher Standards, a group created by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to promote the Common Core standards, said of the initiative, “Children of military families will not fall behind when their parents, who’ve chosen to defend our freedom, are asked to move from Fort Benning, Georgia to Fort Sill in Lawton or Vance Air force [sic] base in Enid.”
According to a 2010 report in the Air Force Times, however, there is data to indicate that more military families are finding homeschooling to be a better educational choice for their children than traditional school settings:
A 2001 Army survey found that 2.7 percent of those with school-age kids were home schooling, about twice the national average at the time. And in the decade since that study, the percentage of home-schoolers nationwide has risen dramatically, climbing from 850,000 in 1999 to 1.5 million in 2007, from 1.7 percent to 3 percent of all school-age children, according to the Education Department.
As the Times reported, Charlie Toth, a top Department of Defense Education Activity administrator, was superintendent of nine U.S. schools in South Korea in 2006, when about 200 military families were home schooling, nearly six percent of those with school-age kids stationed there.
“If that’s representative of the military as a whole — and assuming no growth in the four years since — it would mean about 70,000 military children are learning at home,” the report said.
In general, homeschooling has shown massive increases across the United States since the Common Core has been implemented, with nearly two million children in the nation, or about 3.4 percent of the school-age population, now estimated to be homeschooled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
More military families are rejecting the notion that the Common Core standards are the cure-all for children who experience the disruptions of frequent moves and lengthy absences from parents. Those who have chosen homeschooling say the option provides not only the stability their children need but also the opportunity for far higher academic success than what they would have in public schools.
“I initially decided to homeschool my children because my husband’s job had him deploying overseas for months at a time all during the year,” Amber, a homeschooling parent from Texas, told Breitbart News. “While he was gone, it helped break up the time when we could go visit family. In the time he was home, we enjoyed going on vacation together. If I had put my children in public school we would be tethered to our home during the school year.”
Amber said watching her children make progress enabled her to feel comfortable with homeschooling.
“I taught my oldest child to read by her 4th birthday so I knew I was capable of teaching her on my own,” she explained. “It seemed like the most natural choice for me to homeschool them because that fit our lifestyle best.”
Amber described the Common Core standards as a “cookie-cutter education.”
“Not every child learns the same way or at the same pace,” she said. “And not allowing teachers to have the freedom to personalize education to fit the needs of their class just makes for frustrated teachers and confused students.”
“I also don’t believe in simply using education to prepare my kids for a standardized test,” Amber continued. “I believe that putting that pressure on students and teachers alike misses the mark of actually learning and focuses more on memorizing answers so they will do well on one test. So, no, I don’t use Common Core aligned curricula for homeschooling my kids. It goes against everything I believe education should be.”
Amber described the flexibility of personalized instruction that homeschooling has afforded her children in many ways.
“I teach my children according to their own learning schedule,” she explained. “If my daughter is struggling with division, we stop advancing in math and really work hard at helping her understand and learn so that she really grasps the concept before we move on. If she’s catching on to something else really fast, we go over it and then go on to the next thing so she’s not bored.”
“The benefits of homeschooling have been that our lives are not being determined by a school’s schedule and that we are spending more time together as a family,” Amber added. “I like knowing exactly what my children are learning and being active in their education as well as still being the biggest influence in their life.”
As the parent of a child with epilepsy, Amber said that homeschooling has offered her the opportunity to provide an individualized schedule for her daughter.
“Her medication makes her not able to focus for long periods of time and some days she is just so tired,” she explained. “I am able to work at her pace, stopping if she’s too overwhelmed, and give her a more relaxed schedule so that she can sleep in or take a nap in the middle of the day if need be. I believe had she been in public school, that wouldn’t have been an option for her, and she would have fallen behind.”
For a military family, homeschooling means that we don’t have to take our children from one school to the next every few years and have them adjust to new teachers and rules. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made!
My kids are happy, healthy, smart, social, little beings. They have so much more time to be kids because they are not stuck indoors for eight hours a day. Their schooling is finished in about three hours, and then they have time to learn about things they want to learn about – or just play.
One organization that offers support to military families who are educating their children at home is the Home School Association for Military Families. Launched by Army, Air Force and Navy families stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to provide support and resources, particularly to military homeschoolers, the group partners with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to ensure their homeschooling freedom is protected.
“At HSLDA, we have many member families who are in the military,” director of federal relations William Estrada said in a statement to Breitbart News. “These families know that homeschooling gives their children a tremendous benefit of stability, as well as high academic success, as they move around due to the needs of the military.”
“In addition, HSLDA’s charitable arm, the Home School Foundation, has a special fund dedicated solely to supporting the families of our men and women who serve us in the Armed Forces,” he continued. “More information on how to support this fund, or how to receive help if you are a homeschool family in the Armed Forces, can be found here.”
Kimberly Hunt, currently living in Quantico, Virginia, told Breitbart News that she and her husband, a Major in the Marine Corps, have been homeschooling their two sons for three years. They specifically decided to homeschool their children, she said, when the private school they were attending adopted a Common Core math curriculum.
“When it was adopted, my husband and I both didn’t know anything about Common Core,” she said. “We really started seeing some problems with the math curriculum and started doing research. That’s how we learned about Common Core and realized what a disaster it is.”
Hunt said she has not experienced any drawbacks with homeschooling while in the military.
“I have individualized lesson plans according to each of my children’s needs and learning style, as well as consistency in curriculum and education despite frequent moves,” she explained.
Hunt added that homeschooling has enabled her family to embrace the changes in their environment and use them in their schooling.
“For example, we currently reside in Northern Virginia, where we get to go to Washington D.C. frequently and use the museums and monuments in our study of history,” she observed. “Our children learn a lot by seeing the world instead of being stuck within four walls all day.”
“Being able to adapt our schedule to my husband’s deployment schedule is also a great benefit,” Hunt added. “He can get a month off after a deployment during the school year and we can plan our schooling around it in order to spend time as a family.”
Hunt objects to pro-Common Core individuals and groups deciding what is best for military families as a whole:
Military families do not need anyone telling them what is right for their children. The majority of us do a lot of work to make sure our kids succeed despite the moves, disruptions, and parental absences in their lives. In fact, it is because of these difficulties that most military children I know flourish with resiliency and adaptability.
For the government to come in and say that they know better than their parents what these children need, is a slap in the face to every single parent of a military child who has worked diligently to make sure his or her child’s needs are met. We, as military families, are doing a good job to help our children succeed. Common Core supporters are using military families as a weak argument to bolster their agenda.
“Common Core is really just a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Hunt continued. “What’s good for military children – indeed all children – is for parents to be as involved as possible in their education. They are the ones who know best what their children need.”
“I am passionate about our country, passionate about education, and passionately anti-Common Core,” she said. “Common Core takes away all educational choice from parents, educators, and local government, and puts it in the hands of the federal government.”