What Homeschooling Looks Like for Us: Homeschooling the Military Child

Once You Decide to Homeschool 

The first major decision that you need to make is whether or not you are going to use a secular or non-secular curriculum. The majority of homeschooling curriculums are Christian in design and content. Finding the curriculum that best suits your family will be one of the more difficult aspects of beginning your homeschooling journey. Our family is not of traditional faith, in terms of the military whole, so pinpointing a curriculum we love took a significant amount of time. Keep in mind that what works for one child may not work for another and it is ok if your curriculum changes every year or every kid. This is not uncommon!

Identifying some key characteristics in regards to play and learning will help aid you in this decision-making process. There are all sorts of curriculums out there; strictly textbook, nature-based, book based, manipulative-based and the list goes on. Using a combination of them all is common as well! There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. There is only the right and wrong way to do it for your family.

homeschooling the military child 1

Some families do not use a structured curriculum at all. This is especially common during the elementary years. If you are a hardcore Pinterest mom, you may be able to create it all yourself. In which case, BRAVO TO YOU!

PCS-ing and State Homeschooling Laws

Homeschooling is legal in the majority of the United States. With that being said, each state has it’s own homeschooling laws. These laws vary drastically! Some states have almost no laws at all and others are incredibly strict. If you have already begun to homeschool and are not sure of the laws in your area, do yourself a favor and keep samples of work from each subject. Being organized and having paper trails can be a saving grace in these types of situations.

If you are not sure where to start in regards to the legality of homeschooling at your current duty station then this is a great website to expose yourself to https://hslda.org/content/laws/. This website is full of wonderful resources no matter where you are in your homeschooling journey.

The Flexibility That a Military Family Needs

The majority of homeschooling families follow a standard 36 week or 9 month school year. This works wonderfully for some people. Especially if your military member works standard weekday hours. In our household (pilot family) we have never in the duration of our family’s history experienced standard working hours. Therefore, I began homeschooling our children year round. We take off all major holidays, but for the most part, we follow a 6 week on 1 week off schedule. What this scheduling does for our family is unmeasurable.

Post-deployment leave is spent loving daddy hard. No one is missing out because of school and we just have to do 6 weeks of schooling on either side of it. When family comes to visit we can plan that visit to fall at the end of a 6-week unit study. Even with this type of schedule, you are looking at a 40 to 42 week school year, which is longer than most. The remaining weeks I tend to leave open for sickness and pcs season if that is something on the horizon.

Scheduling Your School Days

When most families begin homeschooling they compare their scheduling to that of a mainstream school. Mainstream schooling is misleading in regards to scheduling. An 8 hour day is not necessary for your homeschool classroom. In all actuality, about 3 to 4 hours a day of actual classroom work is done in mainstream schools. The rest of the time is spent lining up, recess, lunch, etc. In our home, we do about four hours of school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We are always learning and creating things throughout the week, but standard subjects of Math, Language Arts, Geography, Living Books (curriculum specific), History, Art, and Science are focused on from approximately 0830 to 1330 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The time frame of 0830 to 1330 also includes an hour for lunch.

homeschooling the military child 2

Spending time outdoors is a huge passion for our families, but a huge part of our curriculum as well. We do additional learning activities in nature. For example, we keep nature journals, plant and tree identification, animal tracking, and everyone’s favorite fort building. This side of our homeschooling falls closer to the forest school description that you may stumble upon online. I will be addressing forest school a bit more in a later article. Our afternoons are spent outdoors and sometimes our mornings are as well. We aim for a minimum of three hours outside per day.

Every family and every child is different. What is working for us right now may not work for your family at all. With that being said, it may not work for us in a few years either. Homeschooling, sometimes, means being ridiculously flexible. This can also be one of the biggest perks to homeschooling! Embrace it, but give yourself enough time to feel like you are accomplishing things as well.

Homeschoolers Unite

Finding a support system in the form of like-minded friends and group members is huge for new homeschooling parents. Co-ops are a wonderful option. Though we are not currently part of a homeschooling co-op, we have been in the past and loved it. Some duty stations have plethoras of co-ops and others do not. Do your best to be a part of something larger a couple of times a month. It will help you, as the teacher, feel more supported. When we are part of a co-op we typically reserve a weekday (Tuesdays or Thursdays) for those types of gatherings.

Check out your local library! Libraries typically have a homeschool meetup, or homeschool events scheduled where you can meet others and learn more about local resources. Libraries also do homeschool resource fairs and bring in speakers and businesses that teach free classes. If you are heading into a new duty station where you know no other homeschoolers, your library is the perfect place to start!

homeschooling the military child 3

Child-Led Learning 

One of the reasons that most families find themselves homeschooling is because of their child’s interests, or lack thereof in the mainstream schooling sector. When you choose to homeschool you are saying “yes” to so much more than the time commitment. Homeschooled children get to pursue their interests significantly more than if they were in the mainstream sector. There are more opportunities and time to do so. There is more freedom to suggest a non-traditional subject.

Our 6-year old’s school year goals include learning to whittle. As a mother, probably raised in the mainstream system, you will have to work the most on yourself. I understand that this seems like a strange statement, but children tend to fall into the homeschooling life quite easily. It is the parent that has to re-write their life to fit this new change.

homeschooling the military child 4

Child-led Learning for You as well

I never wanted to be a teacher. Are you saying the same thing to yourself? Teaching was NEVER in my life plans. When there is ample time to teach and someone willing to learn, you may discover that teaching can be done anywhere doing anything. If your child wants to cook with you. I challenge you to teach fractions and let them at it, no matter the age.

You may begin a space unit study that is only supposed to take two weeks and turns into a two-year rocket building, room decorating obsession. Go for it. This is what homeschooling is all about! It is not that they will never learn how a snake sheds their skin or the life cycle of a butterfly. It is about a love of learning that they find themselves. When they come across it themselves you are suddenly winning on so many parenting and adulting levels. Give them the structure they need to learn and then loosen the reins.

Not every child, parent, and family is made to thrive in a homeschooling environment. You have to decide what is best for your child. Sometimes, homeschooling is a season. Sometimes it is necessary because of a rough duty station, bullying, learning, and teacher clashes the list goes on. The important thing is your child’s happiness and the happiness of your home. Scour for resources so that you feel supported. Join the groups and go to the events. Get out there so that when you are inside attempting to blow the volcano up for the umpteenth time you feel supported and confident in your choice to homeschool.

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Living vs Vacationing: The Travel Mindset

When the public learns of our traveling ventures with our children I typically get a response of “how nice! What a wonderful experience! I bet that was amazing!” It is all of those things, but it is also really challenging and significantly more difficult than people realize. The main reason for the difficulty is that I am not on vacation I am living there. The household rules, budget, and ideals still apply. When you are on vacation, more times than not, everything goes. Suddenly, “Yolo” is thrown around everywhere! We all gain ten pounds and drink too much. When you are living at a destination you have to keep yourself in check. Your household depends on it.

How many times have you gone on vacation and not left the resort? Better yet, how many times have you gone on vacation and bought “Christmas gifts for everyone!” Suddenly, you turn into Oprah. A gift for you and you and uncle bud. If I had to pinpoint the largest difference between living versus vacationing, this would be it. I don’t buy souvenirs in my daily life. I think we can all agree that although Target is a difficult place to be budget conscious, we also don’t go there to get souvenirs. Your time abroad should be similar if you want to get the most out of your experience.

Things That Only Happen on Vacation

How many of us have been on a cruise and eaten chicken nuggets at 2 am because we can? I am super guilty too. Vacations are, sometimes, for these types of activities. One of the most detrimental parts about vacationing for yourself and the place you are visiting is when tourist bottleneck into stalls of products and “buy all the things” instead of going further out into the community to find the made by locals products. This is the case all over the globe!

Being mindful of the economy you are fueling with your money is something that no one wants to think about on vacation! Yet, if you were living there you would be genuinely concerned. The majority of the fine families I know, shop local whenever feasible. You do this because it brings some sense of self to know that your money is feeding and clothing the kids at the store.

It is also fueling the economy that you live and work in. You are a huge part of the equation. Why would that mindset not transfer over to vacations? The answer is pretty simple; vacations are for breaks from the ugly parts of life. The ugly part about vacations is that you can be surrounded by what a destination wants you to see. Just miles away, typically in sub-par conditions, is the elderly man carving the wooden sculpture you just purchased from the “gypsy stall” in town. Vacationers are too uncomfortable and unprepared to see these things. They won’t come back if they aren’t “happy” on their vacation.

living vs vacationing

Uncomfortable Story Time

Allow me to preface this story with the fact that I was not uncomfortable, but my husband (who rarely travels with me) was beyond uncomfortable. As a college graduation present to my husband, who was then my boyfriend, I took him to Jamaica. Being on a ridiculously tight budget I paid for the flights and hotel and he covered the food. Well, I love traveling. I love people, I am as “one love” as Jamaica is going to get.

Therefore, when we decided that we wanted something small to remember our trip by we went out searching for something we could actually afford. We set out on foot, away from what we were supposed to see. Eventually, we stumbled upon what the government of Jamaica calls “squatter shacks.” All of the residents were making goods that they then sold to the bigger tourist vendors in town.

We watched attentively while the locals made beautiful products. The process of which we were never supposed to witness. Eventually, my husband found a lion head carving that he really enjoyed. They wanted $18 for it, which is probably the price it was going for in town. I told my husband to barter. It is more normal than not and not rude at all. He ran up to me later so excited that he got it for $15! He had done the first bartering of his life and I had done the same bartering on another item and gotten for $8 ahahahaha. There is an art form there.

The point of this story is that by going to the source everyone benefited. The old man made a killing off of my husband, but even the man I haggled with made the same amount he would have going through a middleman to market to the high tourist areas. If living on location and getting to know the locals is not an option for you; then being a responsible tourist has to be.

Living on Location

The desire to do every possible activity and buy all the pretty things is strong. Therefore, when I am living on location I try very hard, to find a happy balance. Usually, that balance comes in the form of experiences and food. You should try to do all the things on your list. They are almost always worth it. Be leery of buying all the things, that is where the peri dime shifts. Because I am living not vacationing I plan out our week like I would if I were stateside. In each week, I try to do an outing (museum, excursion, tour, etc).

Also, each week I try to have a “no spend” day. The no spend days help make the other things possible. There is almost always a stay home day. Not necessarily for spending purposes, but because my small children need a chill day. Especially when sightseeing regularly and navigating busy cities. This schedule is similar to anything you might do in the U.S. So many families that I know have regular weekly appointments with friends and libraries, or never leave the house on Mondays just because everyone benefits.

In my personal opinion, the best place to funnel your tourist money into an economy is via food. This will also prove to be one of the greatest ways to make memories. When you eat abroad most of the time you can shake the hand of your cook. You become not a tourist to that person and build a report with your surroundings. These good intentions are especially magnified when buying local produce and eating street vendor food. The same emotional and consumer benefits that you get from shopping at your local farmers market in the U.S. is available everywhere in the world. One of my favorite things to do is return to the same person time and time again. You are let into their lives and a relationship grows.

living vs vacationing 2

The Happy Medium

The best place to start changing your travel habits is with your food. Like I mentioned before, eat locally. Go to the questionable tables. Smile and shake hands with people. Compliment the cook. These are simple tools for improving your travel experiences for the rest of your life. If the sight of some food on the street makes you queasy you should probably buy some. If you see an elderly woman manipulating a vegetable or harvesting something on a sidewalk (cactus fruit in Mexico for example) you should stop and watch. Show your children what is happening. Ask questions. You will make their day! When you walk past tomorrow they will wave. You have just invested in the lives of everyone around you with almost no effort.

“But that scarf! Everyone needs one!” I completely understand this. They probably do “need one.” What I am asking of you is that you step off a few streets. Find the less trafficked areas and buy those scarves. The best way to stay in control of your spending is to decide ahead of time what it is you would be most willing to buy. I say this because, when you are surrounded by beautiful, unique to that country products you will want it all. We do not go without souvenirs, but we do control it. My children get keychains from most destinations because it attaches to their packs and is easy to move around.

Changing the Mindset of Travel

All the things I have mentioned in this article are tangible, real results from traveling. You can affect the lives of your family and globally in a positive manner while still “relaxing” on vacation. The treat yourself mentality that seems to be prominent these days is poisoning not only us but everyone everywhere. The change that the world needs can be done on your vacations as well. If we all made a few comfort adjustments when planning vacations we would all be able to afford to take more of them. Living versus vacationing can be done anywhere and the long term effects of building relationships that bring you back time and time again are invaluable. It is possible to enjoy yourself and do good as you go. Get out there.

living vs vacationing 1

 

Please follow and like us:
error

Finding Your “Non-Traditional” Tribe

On Being “Non-Traditional”

Since the birth of our first child, I have been categorized and labeled at “hippy, crunchy, granola, alternative, free range, attachment” mama. I am that “weird” military spouse that everyone typically avoids until they need me in the form of advice. Over time, I have made an unintentional name for myself as “Ask Bradbury’s Wife” has become something people discuss amongst each other. I am perfectly ok with this. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of self-love practice.

Now on my third child, I feel confident in my advice giving. Confident in my parenting practices and rather hippy lifestyle. I now look forward to young moms seeking me out for advice. It brings me a lot of joy to help them recognize their situation as “normal” and not the end of the world. With that said, finding like-minded mom friends has been a struggle, but I have continued to put myself out there through numerous avenues to meet people. Most of those avenues have been successful, but not because they are all like-minded moms.

Fueling the Different Facets of Your Personality

As “self-help” as it sounds, making a list of your passions is a good place to start. My first list looked something like this;

  • Natural Birth/Homebirth
  • Breastfeeding/Cloth Diapering
  • Running
  • Reading/Writing
  • Dancing
  • Natural Living/Essential Oils/Chemical Free Home
  • Home Schooling/World Schooling
  • Nature/Forest School/Hiking
  • Non-traditional faith. We are Baha’i.
  • Homemaking Goddess
  • Baking/healthy families
  • Career identity outside of motherhood
  • Massive sense of rather inappropriate humor

It seems simple enough, right? Most of us have different facets of our personality that we enjoy equally, but not all at once. From this step, I begin my search for a well-rounded tribe. I joined a local Nature Homeschooling group that meets weekly to hike and do nature crafts. I went to a book club, which you can find anywhere in the world for any genre imaginable (a great place to start if you love reading). While stationed in California I learned to love running by joining Stoller Warriors. Therefore, when we PCS-ed to North Carolina the first thing I did was join that Stroller Warriors chapter. Big Surprise- I didn’t like the North Carolina chapter, but I had to try it to find out.

What happened next was rather simple. When a group of women get together they tend to talk about kids, birth, schools, food. Boom. Natural minded mamas tend to levitate towards each other. I am certain that this is the case for most genres of moms.

11987191_10153194785793366_4099894315417650485_n

The Different Tribe Members

One of the biggest mistakes that I see young spouses doing is putting all of their eggs in one basket. Expecting ONE person to be their BEST FRIEND FOREVER. Expecting ONE person to be passionate about everything that they are. This is not a one person job. Tribes typically consist of numerous people. For visual purposes I will describe my tribe (names changed);

Anna: Feeds my mama soul with her love of reading and writing. She is a domestic diva that makes me a better mother, wife, homemaker. She homeschools her kids. Loves good food. Finds comfort in the tradition that is the Marine Corps and always has time for our friendship.

Bethany: Hardworking career woman that never says “no” to a new experience. Fabulous sense of humor and loyalty. Semi-crunchy. Views my hardcore crunchiness as a personality quirk that she adores. I feel accepted by her entirely.

Chris: My foul-mouthed workout buddy. She takes her health very seriously and helps motivate me to reach my own goals. She is not a runner at all but understands why I am. We can laugh forever together.

42500406_10161074025320533_4444808092093251584_n

Debbie: My go-getter, hardcore Liberal Lesbian friend. She embodies the diversity that I try to instill in my children. Truly loves all of mankind and helps me be a better person. She finds my need for religion amusing but doesn’t judge me for it. She is the first person to tell me she is proud of me.

Erin: My friend found through faith. We share a religion that is very uncommon on Marine Corps bases and then discovered, through that connection, that we were both very crunchy, similarly spiritual mothers.

NONE of the women above meet all of my emotional needs as an individual. This is why the tribe exists. Their common interest is ME!

15780742_10211484457044696_5451982403679308604_n

 

Avenues for Meeting People

There is a stereotyping that occurs when people meet others online. Fear not, a lot of those online groups that meet occasionally are full of regular people. I have had wonderful success with Facebook groups that meet up at different times. I have danced with strangers and discussed books, mothering, and babywearing with people I have met through meetup.com.

Stroller Warriors and Stroller Strides are wonderful resources for moms with kids in tow that really want to do group fitness. You do not have to look far to find a bible study or book club they are in abundance. For my crunchy mamas, your best bet of friendship is joining a babywearing group or attending events during breastfeeding week.

For those of you saying “I am not very outgoing.” There is a simple, yet potentially anxiety-inducing answer; simply rsvp “YES” to everything you are invited to. I mean it, everything. Yes, this means you will attend a lot of pyramid sale in-home gatherings. You should go because you know what? When they are finished you will get time to get to know each other better and you will forever go down in their books as “the friend that showed up.” A lot of relationships develop from that sense of loyalty that can be earned just by showing up and eating the food they provide.

13124455_10154120108927790_6744040967766973609_n

Get out there and be raw without being rude. People respond well to honesty, especially in a military lifestyle like most of us lead. This life is difficult. It takes a special kind of person to thrive in this type of environment. The vulnerability is difficult, but it pays off when it comes to building your tribe. For what it is worth, my door is always open to new friendships. I cannot guarantee that we will love each other, or that we will have anything in common, but you are always welcome. Go show the world what you have to offer.

29244498_10160287203750533_7383862014111575269_n

Please follow and like us:
error

When Travel is Torture: Adjusting your Expectations and Comfort Levels

We flew out of Baltimore on a 7 pm flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. Final destination Amsterdam, Netherlands. I deliberately planned this flight as a sleeping overnight flight. By leaving at bedtime I thought for sure that my children would sleep and wake up magically refreshed in Amsterdam…I know you can see where this is going. The children did sleep three of the five hours of the first flight, but when they woke up to enter the Schengen security in Iceland they did not go back to sleep on the second flight. Instead, they spent four hours making best buddies with an Icelandic farmer who had pictures of her ponies.

At this point, you are probably wondering what I did, but the answer is nothing. Gauging what is within my control versus what definitely is not is one of the most challenging parts of traveling. When we landed in Amsterdam I had some very irritable children that were then struck in the face with fierce cold and a very long wait for our bags. The result is the photo below, my oldest son falling asleep with his pack on next to the baggage carousel.

When Travel is torture: adjusting your expectation and comfort levels

Adjusting Your Expectations

As Americans, we tend to look at Europe with eyes studded in gemstones. Everything about Europe seems glamorous because “only the wealthy can afford to go.” Europe is not as glamorous as we believe it to be. Actually, most Europeans are prone to believing the same about America because as Americans we live in a land of convenience. Most of Europe is without the conveniences that most Americans take for granted. Also, many Europeans do not think twice about what they are missing because it is the way it has always been. They have always been without certain amenities and therefore don’t need them.

As an American coming from a home that has things like a microwave, dishwasher, and dryer there was a learning curb for me on how to run a house well without those things. I was humbled and empowered, but FIRST I was made very uncomfortable. I had to find extra time in my day for things like hanging laundry. When a child was hungry after the meal had been cleared away, I had to re-dirty dishes in order to heat leftovers back up on the stove top. It was not easy if anything it was frustrating.

How My Comfort Levels Changed

Now, I find myself hand washing dishes because it’s the natural next step. I find myself wishing for sunny clothesline weather. There is an adjustment period when you travel. It is very possible to find places that accommodate those standards, but it is not the norm and definitely not an authentic European experience. You will also pay heavily for amenities like that.

Instead, I challenge you to make cost-effective plans that allow for a lot of learning. It will give you a plethora of stories to tell. Some of those stories are really funny now that I have amenities at my disposal again, but mostly I now miss the simplicity that is spending extra time caring for your things. It sounds silly, but you appreciate your belongings more when you spend that additional time caring for them.

Adjusting Comfort Levels

We finally made it to Denmark via train and then had two bus connections before we were dropped off at the beginning of a road leading through farming fields in a blizzard.

When Travel is torture: adjusting your expectations and comfort levels

In this photo, you cannot see the snow blowing sideways. You cannot see the child in front of me crying nor can you hear my elderly grandmother cursing my name. There’s also a child on my back and one following me crying about his gloves not fitting right.

We are walking to house number 71, the first residence we come across on this road is number 4. . . This is the type of situation that I spent months researching trying to avoid. This photo was one of the scarier days. This was early on in my Euro trip and there was no food at our destination so I had to turn around in the cold and hike back to the nearest market in the snow.

It Doesn’t Always Go According to Your Plan

Sometimes, despite your researching efforts, the dots don’t connect perfectly. I was told the bus would take us right down the road from the hostel. It did not. I was told the weather would be a low of 54 degrees. It wasn’t. There were no taxis, no uber, no help to be found so we did the only thing we could and we walked. We were wet, cold, highly uncomfortable in a country where we didn’t even know the word for “hi.”

It all worked out, but that day I definitely had to do a few things that I never want to do again in the name of adjusting my expectations and comfort levels. Now, I can laugh hysterically at the entire experience, but only because we survived. This particular experience would begin the conditioning that I needed to withstand many uncomfortable situations in the months to come.

When Travel is Torture you Adjust and Overcome

As cliche as it sounds, there are very few things in this life that come easily and without discomfort. I am confident that many of you have done something that really really sucked in the name of getting the job done. Traveling is ALWAYS worth it, but if you are anything like me, you need to cut costs where you can. I could have rented a car. I could have hired a car and driver. I could have taken a $60 taxi, but I didn’t. Instead, I  mapped out my plan and didn’t plan on awful weather and country roads.

Things happen. They will happen if you choose the adventurous route. That is part of the adventure. Adjust your expectations of what the world owes you and focus more energy on what it doesn’t and you will suddenly have lower expectations. You will also have a much better time if you lower your expectations. Enjoy the journey no matter the weather or road and get out there.

 

Please follow and like us:
error