For me, one of the most stressful parts of moving is the first day at a new school. New people, new buildings, new classes, new teachers - you know the drill. But those worries aren’t present for all military kids. Many forget about the homeschooled military kids, including those who attend online school. Unlike many other military kids, their worries don’t necessarily lie in transcripts and required classes. To dive deeper into this topic, I interviewed one of my longtime homeschooled military brat friends, Kira.
Kira has been homeschooled since Kindergarten, and much prefers it to traditional school. She says that she "enjoys being able to pace herself” and is able to take breaks “whenever she needs to," trusting herself to complete the work at another time. This is the real benefit to homeschooling: work can occur on a non-traditional schedule. It is an ideal scenario for those who hate the rigid structure of a school day. Homeschoolers have no concern about completing a certain course by the end of May or taking a week off in the middle of March when they have to move in the middle of the summer. Transcripts are not a concern, as there isn’t a new school that requires four years of P.E. when you’ve only taken one. Moving isn’t as stressful, nor does it have a set deadline for the start of school. However, homeschooling presents other issues.
Schools can be overwhelming. Being thrust into a huge group of people is not everyone's, really anyone’s, comfort zone. But traditional school has advantages that homeschoolers miss out on: homeschoolers do not have an immediate place to find friends. Kira said that she has had to “force” herself into other environments, such as religious communities, sports, and the arts in order to find friends. Without school, these environments can even be tricky, lacking a daily connection with people there. It is, however, important for homeschoolers to push themselves into these situations, as Kira said that she “wants to pick up and move again” if she doesn’t establish connections.
Without those connections, homeschoolers are stuck at home with their families. FaceTime and social media are great for talking to friends in other places, but they can only go so far. Relationships with parents can be strained and Kira mentioned that they can be “difficult” to deal with when they know every aspect of your life. As most of us learned during quarantine, family is great until you’re completely stuck with them and you go stir-crazy. Homeschooling, as Kira noted, can be similar, and can lead to feeling trapped if there hasn't been any happenings outside of the house. These feelings often lead to a “deeper understanding” between these types of military kids, understanding the complexity beyond not having a traditional summer break. Kira also said that being a homeschooled military brat “teaches you to hold on to the relationships that you do have," since it is so much more difficult to find deeper bonds.
In summary, homeschooled military kids may have a different experience than most of us military brats, but they are no less of our kind. They still struggle with deployments, change, and losing friends. This small but mighty group of teens deals with complicated problems, just as the rest of us do, even if they aren’t dealing with transcripts and finding a classroom. Don’t exclude them when thinking about challenged military teens; they count just as much as the rest of us, even if they get “unlimited” (not really) vacations.