When asked to share their thoughts on the benefits of school choice and their homeschool experience, this military family did what they do every day: they turned the occasion into a learning opportunity. Dan, his wife Jenna, and their six kids gathered at the dinner table to shape a response – as individual, independent thinkers and as a family.
In this interview, slightly edited for length and clarity, the family describes the transformative of impact school choice.
1) Why did we decide to homeschool?
Our initial decision rested within the goal of protecting the health of our oldest child, who has Cystic Fibrosis (CF). In CF, each sickness (especially respiratory) contributes progressively to degrading lung function. It was obvious to us that keeping her out of a classroom, where sickness seems to rule the winter, would greatly benefit her long-term health. We are thankful to report that she has been healthy so far.
Another important influence on our decision to homeschool stems from Dan’s career as a U.S. Naval officer. This career dictates a move every two to three years. Moving six children is a huge undertaking in itself. However, knowing we homeschool diminishes the stress and chaos of “new school,” and increases our flexibility and adjustability as to when we move and when we can logistically start our school year! Homeschooling has proved efficient and seamless as we take our curriculum with us everywhere we go.
We have seen a few of our kids struggle with learning challenges. Homeschooling has allowed us to slow the pace in applicable subjects. Likewise, in subjects where a child may be excelling, we have the freedom to move ahead much faster – sometimes allowing them to work a grade or two ahead, as we watch their natural gifting and passions grow. Additionally, in the case of attention difficulties, we can craft our days to include many physical education breaks where needed.
We are Christians and believe it is important to adequately share that worldview with our children. We appreciate that we have choice over our curricula. We do openly discuss various worldviews with our children, which often results in healthy discussions, as we examine issues from all sides. Ultimately, though, our school reflects our family’s worldview and values.
2) Can you tell me about your school?
We would describe our homeschool as academically rigorous, but eclectic and fun. We spend time researching and selecting curricula that best fit our family and our days together. Reading, writing, arithmetic, speaking, history, science, foreign language are all very important to us. Our ultimate goals, though, are that our kids would love (and know how) to learn, love to read, and love to see the beauty of the great things in life – God, nature, literature, art, music, recreation, travel, people, relationships.
Our kids are heavily involved in music and they enjoy athletic activities. We travel in the areas we are stationed, as well as when the Navy moves us to our next destination. We’ve had wonderful learning experiences in national parks and historical landmarks, as well as museums and nature.
Family read-aloud books are integral to our teaching and learning, even though our kids range in age from two to fourteen years. In fact, on Fridays, we parents read through Shakespeare with our three oldest kids. For us, the greatest part of exercising this school choice of homeschooling is getting to spend ample time as a family.
3) What does school choice mean to you? What about parental privilege?
School choice allows us the freedom to engage in the aforementioned activities and educational methods amidst health concerns, military moves, learning and behavioral challenges, and curriculum choices based on our worldview. We are extremely thankful for the privilege we have to homeschool. We believe all parents should understand, and be made aware, that they have the option to exercise this right of choice.
We suspect many parents don’t even know there are alternatives (like homeschooling) outside the traditional school model. For some families, a child who really struggles in the traditional mold could possibly be rescued and inspired in his or her education, simply by changing the child’s educational environment.
Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.