Education is getting its fair share of attention in the news, although not as much as the healthcare industry these days. The economic underpinning of education is never far from most stories. We can look at the transformation of the higher education through free online initiatives. Will the traditional university endure? Or the crumbling public school system that doesn’t seem to ever show positive results, regardless of the mounds of money thrown at the problem. But a growing trend that might be especially significant is largely flying under the radar, and that would be homeschooling. I was very impressed by a recent story in the New York Times covering a particular subset of homeschoolers – US military families.
Why should we care about the military’s approach to homeschooling? For one thing, the military, for all its emphasis on tradition and obedience, is a laboratory for new ideas. The social structure of the military is also faced with a very defined problem set: lots of moving around and time spent in what are effectively single parent families when soldiers deploy, sometimes for extended periods.
The gist of the NYT article is that the military is very supportive of homeschooling. It recognizes that military families are tight knit communities and possess a keen ability to create community amidst the instability of reassignment and temporary living situations. So the fact that military bases are providing resources for homeschooling and embracing solutions designed by parents is a good sign. The reality is that what is old hat for the military might be turning into the new normal for the rest of us. More people are transitioning through jobs at ever faster rates. We are more on the move than ever before, less tied down to traditional concepts of sedentary living, and increasingly disenchanted with the quality of public education on the one hand and the cost of private schooling on the other.
Looking to the military homeschooling template as a fix to a social problem isn’t easy. The military lifestyle is very alien to the civilian sensibility. But finding good solutions in unlikely places is what makes us want to smile, stand up and salute.