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HEM Support Group News- July 2005
by: Mary Nix



This month's highlight is Valerie Bonham Moon and her website, The Military Homeschooler. Valerie Bonham Moon homeschooled her three younger children in Europe from 1990 until 1998 while her husband served there with the United States Army. She now lives near Kansas City with her husband.

Valerie's sense humor, excellent wit and wisdom are evident at her Military Homeschooler Web Site -- . Each month Valerie offers new information at her site and The Military Homeschooler presents a wealth of information to not only the military homeschooler, but for all homeschoolers.

Here is the interview:

Mary: Valerie, thank you for agreeing to discuss Military Homeschooling. When did you first create "The Military Homeschooler" website?

Valerie: "The Military Homeschooler" was first uploaded in September of 2003. I played around with the website program for a few months before I felt that the site was decent enough to put out in public. It's still fairly simple with no bells or whistles, but since text is so 'small' I can get more information onto the server than with a technically fancier site.

Mary: What prompted you to create the site?

Valerie:The main questions asked by military homeschoolers don't change that much, so the same answers were given out each time new members joined any of the email lists. It seemed easier to provide a URL to the information than to send out the same kind of messages each time a new person subscribed. Also, military homeschoolers have concerns that I didn't see addressed on other homeschooling sites. NHEN has good military information, but the breadth of information needed by military families exceeds NHEN's home education bounds. Parents want to know about shipping pets overseas, dealing with deployments, and whether it's better to live in government quarters or 'on the economy' (which means you live in a civilian neighborhood).

Mary: Does the Armed Forces have an opinion about those in the Armed Services home educating their children?

Valerie: No. According to the DoD Education Activity (DoDEA) in their 6 November 2002 policy memorandum on home schooling:,
"It is DoDEA policy to neither encourage nor discourage DoD sponsors from home schooling their minor dependents. DoDEA recognizes that home schooling is a sponsor's right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor's dependents."

The services have no opinion on whether a family uses a public school system in the U.S., or the DoD dependent schools overseas, or chooses to pay for private schooling. In the same vein, homeschooling is just another educational choice.

Mary: What makes homeschooling in the military different from civilian homeschooling?

Valerie: I don't know because I never homeschooled as a civilian. What's it like?One guess as to how the two differ is that each military homeschooling parent must depend on herself for homeschooling support more often. Because families may be joining servicemembers at a remote area with few other military homeschoolers, and perhaps without even an English-language community nearby, they may need to make do with fewer resources and to improvise.

Mary: Can you point out the benefits of homeschooling while in the military?

* New field trip opportunities with each move
* The possibility of foreign travel
* Consistency in education because schools around the country vary not only in size,
but also in curricular content and delivery.
* No loss of learning time during a transfer from one assignment to the next, and the move itself is instructional.
* Smoothing of some of the ups and downs of military life. After a deployment a family can reintegrate the returning parent into the everyday life of the family at their own pace and can eliminate outside interruptions if they want. Also, if a parent has a job in which he or she travels often, the children can 'do school' while the parent is away, and take a break when the parent returns.

Mary: Can you point out some of the challenges of homeschooling families in the military?

* Moving from an 'easy' state to a 'hard' state. Military families usually don't have a yes/no choice when orders to move arrive. Servicemembers fill out "dream sheets" stating where they would prefer to be assigned but, as always, the needs of the service are paramount. If the service needs you to move from Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, then that's what you do.
* Deciding what to keep before a move. The weight of household goods is subject to limits based on the servicemember's rank. The weight allowance is nothing new, but the addition of schoolbooks to families' household goods has undoubtedly enriched the selection of items at installation Thrift Shops during the summer PCS-season. [PCS = Permanent Change of Station, ie, a move]

Mary: What is the biggest challenge a spouse faces when the other spouse is deployed?

Valerie: The problems are probably similar to those of other single parents such as finding 'alone time' when you're on-call all day, and all night. When do you take a shower? Another problem is 'logistics.' A half-inch of milk in that lonely milk carton in the refrigerator isn't going to magically become three half-gallons in the evening when The Other Parent comes home from work. Planning and scheduling can be helpful, but if a baby has you up all night long, all the foresight won't keep you from feeling wrecked the next day, while having to get up and put one foot in front of the other.

For families who will be facing deployment, a good informational website is:
Other deployment information is at:

Mary: How does having a parent in the military while homeschooling affect the children in these families?

Valerie: For Brats (as children in military families are affectionately called sometimes), military life is normal. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis I lived away from any civilian town with jets screaming over the housing area, and having to sit in our stopped car at a 'plane crossing' (instead of a train crossing) to wait for B-52s to take off. All the dads wore uniforms. In 1977 during the military exercise REFORGER, our older son watched columns of tanks rumble down the road of the German village where we lived near the East German border. All the (American) dads wore uniforms. Our younger kids showed their ID cards at anti-terrorist checkpoints to get into our housing area in Munich during Desert Storm (and took homemade cookies to the guards) while their brother served in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Ninety-nine percent of the Dads wore uniforms, and some of the Moms did, too. Except in times of crisis, military 'stuff' is background noise to Brats.

Now what all those anonymous civilians with no nametags on their clothes or houses get up to, that's a big mystery. And did you know that in civilian theaters The Star Spangled Banner isn't played before each movie, and the entire theater doesn't stand to attention? Weird.

Mary: What is the biggest challenge the children face when their parent/parents are deployed?

Valerie: Besides television news? The feeling of powerlessness to change the situation, and worry about the safety of their parent can be overwhelming for children. A surprising problem is feeling happy. One mother said that her daughter was devastated to find, after a month or so into the deployment, that she'd 'forgot' her dad and was laughing with her friends. The little girl wanted to keep her daddy in her thoughts at all times. Some children have to be told that it is good for them to be happy and have fun while Daddy is deployed, because when that child's happiness is sent to Daddy in letters and pictures, Daddy feels better. Deployed Dads (and Moms) are safer when they aren't distracted by the welfare of their families.

Mary: If they wish to, what can other homeschoolers do to support Military families who might live near them?

Valerie: Be a friend. It's the simple, everyday things that can be a pebble in the shoe that gives rise to a blister that can't heal; an everyday thing such as getting the mail. During one five-month separation while my husband attended a school in America, I remained overseas with 'twinfants' and a ten-year-old (who was old enough to be helpful, but not old enough to babysit). To do anything outside our quarters (including laundry, since the building's washroom was in the basement) I had to carry one baby, while wearing the other in a backpack. Going anywhere entailed a trek down the stairs from our 2nd-floor quarters. For errands I had to walk to the on-street parking, bundle the kids into the car, drive to where I wanted to go, find a space in the always-too-small parking lots on the installation, wrangle the twins into both their strollers if my son was with us, or, if I was by myself, wear one in the pack and put the other in the stroller, and then repeat everything to get home again. To get mail, I had the additional steps of signing-in to a controlled-access building (with stairs) - with the kids - and picking up the mail from the unit mail room. I was spared this (at least for getting mail) because a kind sergeant in my husband's office brought me the mail every day on his way home. His help was a godsend and that was one pebble out of the shoe.

Mary: Is there anything else others wanting to offer support could do to help?

Valerie: Seriously?
* Offer to mow the grass. Every week.
* Offer to babysit during the day so Mom gets out for a little while.
* Have the family's kids over to play in the back yard.
* Stop by to see if Mom needs anything from the store.
* Ask if there's any necessary maintenance work Mom needs done around the house or with the car.
* Be close enough to the family so the kids feel comfortable being left when Mom has to go to the emergency room with (the inevitably) injured child.
* Bring meals.

Mary: Is there anything others wanting to offer support should not do?
Valerie: I threw out this question to members on one military homeschooling email list and the following are some of the responses:

Laine: Sometimes the best thing anyone can do for any spouse of a deployed servicemember, not just a homeschooling one, is to talk about the weather! Sometimes we just want to chat about something OTHER than the fact our husband is overseas, and we're home trying to hold down the fort till he can come home again and do his normal duties around the house, and we won't have to do his and ours anymore--until the next deployment comes along.

Jessica: Don't show up expecting that Mom can run out for coffee at the drop of a hat. A friend may think that Mom 'needs' to get out of the house, but someone's got to watch the kids.

Cindy: Don't say, "How do you do it? I could never do this. It's impossible!" It is fine to say, "I am impressed with how you are doing -- amazing!" Positive comments are fine, along with offers of help, but don't get tears in your eyes when some child says daddy is in Iraq -- the child will notice and it does not help.

Mary: What do you feel was the best advice you were ever given about home education?

Valerie: The reassurance from all the writers in Home Education Magazine, that, "Yes, you can do this."

When I began homeschooling in 1990 I was the only one I knew who was trying such a stunt. Two years into our homeschooling we moved from Munich to Heidelberg, and still there were no other homeschoolers. Slowly, though, homeschoolers arrived at the local installation and I met one, then another, and we supported each other. A group grew and, for about a year, I had homeschooling friends. Then we moved to Belgium, and I was back to being the Lone Stranger. Throughout that time my subscription to HEM kept the magazines arriving at the unit mailroom with the message that, "Yes, you can do this."

Mary: What do you feel is the best advice you can share with new home educators?

Valerie: Know thy regs. Wherever you are, you will have greater confidence in what you're doing if you have a solid understanding of the rules in place around you.

Mary: What do you feel is the best advice you can share with veteran home educators?

Valerie: Pass along your collective wisdom to new homeschoolers through mentoring.

Mary: Finally, what was the benefit for your family to have the choice to home-educate available to you?

Valerie: Memories. Our eldest son was publicly schooled because I didn't hear about homeschooling until he was a senior in high school. After he graduated from high school he joined the military, just like his dad, his mom, his granddads, his grandmothers, an aunt, uncles, some cousins and probably more people in our family than I know about. He was sent to Saudi Arabia and Iraq and, through the wonders of technology, I was able to sit in my Munich living room watching the live-feed CNN broadcasts from Saudi Arabia patched into the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. [note to families with a deployed servicemember: do not try this at home - stress, stress, stress]. As I sat there with his by-now-homeschooled siblings wandering around our quarters, I wondered where his school years had gone. What happened? Yes, we'd had evenings, weekends and summers together but, during most of that time, what had he done (besides go head-to-head with me and his dad during the teen-culture-wars)? Where had he been?

As I write now, his younger brother and sisters are the same age he was during the Gulf War, and I know exactly where their school years went. We had a family life, not just a passing acquaintanceship as we all grew older and became involved in activities away from each other. Just like their big brother the younger kids had friends and teen adventures, and went to rock concerts (Pukkelpop, anyone? No, nothing to do with upset tummies, it's just the name of a rock fest near the Belgian town of Hasselt).

Kids are supposed to grow up, leave and have their own adventures. That's life. But it sure is nice to really know them before they go off on their own.

Mary: Thank you Valerie, your words ring so true. I suggest folks bookmark your site for out of the country and general homeschool information, wit and humor.

Valerie: You're welcome.

Access to public school programs for homeschoolers

Homeschooler access to public school programs has been a controversial issue for many years. Recently the subject has been in the news again: - Should home-schooled have access to public school programs? - Jul 1, 2005

Homeschool Athletic - Rules Even though the State Supreme Court upheld the ban on homeschoolers in public school athletics, there are still are a few ways they can participate Posted 7/8/2005

Homeschoolers seek access Charlotte Observer, NC Jun 13, 2005

A-Z Homescooling offers a list of sport programs for home educators at:

And finally, here are some thoughtful articles on the subject from the Home Education Magazine Archives:

Why the Question of Homeschoolers' Playing Public School Sports Affects All Homeschoolers - This article by Larry and Susan Kaseman was originally published in the May-June 2000 issue of Home Education Magazine:

One Problem... And One Possible Solution - This article, by Peggy Daly-Masternak, was originally published in the July-August 1997 issue of Home Education Magazine:


Would you like to get involved in a community service project, but you need some ideas? Here are a few sites to visit that might be of help:
* Homeschoolers Educating, Assisting, & Reaching-out Through Service - During the months of July and August, home educating families with H.E.A.R.T.S. (Homeschoolers Educating, Assisting, & Reaching-out Through Service) will be gathering school supplies for donation to local children in need. Hundreds of homeschoolers throughout the United States are expected to participate in this project in their own communities. Supplies- such as paper, notebooks, book-bags, lunch boxes, and filled pencil cases will be donated, collected, and delivered. Donations will be made to benefit children in homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters, as well as through other agencies assisting children in need. Past school supply collections have found home educators hosting very creative events such as backyard fetes - and "Tye Dye for School Supplies" events. For more information on this project please visit the H.E.A.R.T.S. website at:

H.E.A.R.T.S. is also encouraging participation in Pinwheels for Peace. Here is a link to the Pinwheels for Peace page on the H.E.A.R.T.S. website:
Homeschoolers throughout the country, under the auspices of the H.E.A.R.T.S. program, are joining the international Pinwheels for Peace project. Locally, home educators plan to create pinwheels and to "plant" pinwheel gardens with messages of peace at libraries, churches, and other gathering places in celebration of International World Peace Day. Pinwheels for Peace is an art installation project started by two art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, as a way for students to express their feelings about whatís going on in the world and in their lives. The Pinwheels for Peace website points out that "Peace doesnít necessarily have to be associated with the conflict of war, it can be related to violence/intolerance in our daily lives, to peace of mind. To each of us, peace can take on a different meaning, but, in the end, it all comes down to a simple definition: a state of calm and serenity, with no anxiety, the absence of violence, freedom from conflict or disagreement among people or groups of people." All members of the community are encouraged to join this project. For more information on participating with H.E.A.R.T.S. (Homeschoolers: Educating, Assisting, & Reaching-out Through Service) in the Pinwheels for Peace project please visit the website at:
* Community Service Ideas from 4-H
* Roots and Shoots

If your group is involved with a project and you'd like others to know about it, or to make it available for others to participate, email me at and please put "Community Service" in the subject line.


Kudos and a warm welcome to Daryl Cobranchi who has joined Home Education Magazine with his blog: Home Education & Other Stuff:
Like the Pheonix, VAEclecticHomeschool rises out of the cyber-ashes and becomes VAEclecticHS!

The VAEclecticHS List is the rebirth of VAEclecticHomeschool, which was a large, active list for in-depth discussion of issues affecting homeschooling, and for news about media articles and programs, proposed legislation, research, conferences and other information of interest to Virginia homeschoolers.
Kudos to Noelle Scelina, Sam Weldon, Brianna Marasco, Tar Marasco, Jeremy Whitson, Jacob Whitson, Mieks Steven, Alli Steven, and coach Teresa Steven, all members of the inclusive Ohio HEART support group who recently received a TOP AWARD at toy challenge national SHOWCASE. They were one of 300 teams that participated from across the country and they went on to tie for second place at the TOYchallenge Final Judging and Awards Ceremony held on June 27 at Hasbro's headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I. with their innovative game called "Trash It". Trash it is designed for those 8 and up and encourages recycling.
Again, congratulations to each of you!
The Military Homeschooler was updated--7 Jul 05

As your read in this month's highlight, The Military Homeschooler is not just about the Military, but it also offers a wealth of information on homeschooling outside of the United States and General Homeschool Information. Read the articles, with linked references, at:


The Learning In Our Own Way Conference
August 12 - 14, 2005
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Woburn, MA
Voice: 781 - 395-8508 Fax: 781-874-1053

The 9th National Rethinking Education Conference is
September 1 - 5: Labor Day Weekend
"To Thine Own Self Be True"
HURRY - REGISTER by July 15 and save $20 per person!

Visit HEM's Conference Calendar at to find other conventions coming to an area near you. If you are having a conference, seminar or perhaps a getting started homeschooling meeting, here are some FREE resources from Home Education Magazine:
∑ Getting Started:
∑ Questions and Answers:
∑ HEMís Free Information and Resource Guide:
∑ Home Education Magazine Resources:


August- Annette Jurczyk and her National Charter Schools Watch (NCSW) list

September- Midsouth Eclectic Homeschool Network and its founder Jeanne Faulconer

October- Shay Seaborne and Amy Wilson share the history of their grass roots victory in


Home Education Magazine's Editorial Blog: The weblog of Helen Hegener, co-publisher
and managing editor of Home Education Magazine:

Home Education Magazine's News and Commentary Blog: Homeschooling in the
national media, with commentary by Ann Lahrson Fisher. Also provides space for continued commentary and discussion of news items by the weblog readers:

Home Education Magazine's Support Group News Blog: Ongoing encouragement and resources for support group volunteers, including a monthly newsletter, coordinated by HEM Support Groups Liaison Mary Nix:

Home Education and Other Stuff: Cyber-charters are NOT homeschools, Daryl Cobranchi's HEM blog:

Home Education Magazine's Resources Blog:Learning resources reviewed and described, with space for comments by homeschoolers who use the resources, and links to the company web sites:

Home Education Magazine's Conference Blog: A listing of conferences, conventions and other events, with contact information and links:

HEM's Online Newsletter:

AHA Weblogs Blog - The AHA's blog showcasing homeschooling weblogs:

Subscribe to Home Education Magazine:

Thanks for taking the time to read this month's newsletter. Be sure to bookmark Home Education Magazine's Support Group page, which can be accessed at:

Listing your group on the HEM Support Group web pages is a free service provided by Home Education Magazine. To list your group, fill-in the form at

Looking forward visiting with you all next month!
Mary Nix
HEM's Support Group Liaison

Subscribe to HEM SUPPORT GROUP NEWS here:

This service is available free. Read the newsletter at:

© 2005 Home Education Magazine (All rights reserved). This newsletter is provided as a free service of Home Education Magazine. Readers are encouraged to forward this newsletter in its entirety, including headers and footers, to others who might also find its contents helpful.

About the author:
Mary Nix lives in Ohio where she enjoys living and learning with her family.

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