Over the last 25 years, I have seen up-close how military life affects families and, most importantly, how the transient nature of the military affects the education of children. As the wife of a retired Air Force veteran, the mom of two military-connected students, and in my professional roles as a former licensed DoD family childcare provider, and education advocate, I understand how vital continuity in education is to military families.
Education is a high priority for military families – the enlisted and officer ranks care deeply about their children’s educational needs, and the issue is vital to maintaining the morale and effectiveness of our service members. According to the Military Times, 35% of service members say dissatisfaction with a child’s education is a significant factor when deciding to continue in their military service. Providing robust educational options for students is essential to recruiting and retaining members of the military and critical during temporary duty assignments, remote tours, deployments, and permanent changes of station.
As a military spouse and mother, I had my concerns during times of transition. At the forefront of all my concerns was how each move and change in family dynamics would affect our children’s education. The high mobility associated with military life creates challenges for students ranging from the loss of peer groups, school safety, and the academic issues that arise when moving between states with differing standards.
Providing continuity in education during our Air Force years was difficult, and our daughter felt the repercussions from attending multiple schools during her high school years. I remember getting a phone call from a guidance counselor telling me our daughter was in jeopardy of failing algebra. The frequent moves and resulting knowledge gaps in her education had caught up with her. Thankfully, our daughter graduated on-time, but I always felt guilty knowing she went on to college with gaps in her education due to her chaotic K-12 public school experience.
In contrast, our son was afforded a vastly different educational experience, thanks to online learning. When my husband retired from the Air Force and began his civilian career, we believed we would settle in one place, little did we know his corporate career would mean moving as much as we did with the military. We were fortunate to discover full-time online education when my son was in third grade, and he attended online schools for ten years in three different states. The flexibility and world-class curriculum provided by his online school made multiple transitions easier for my son, and he never suffered the academic challenges his sister endured during our military moves.
Military families sacrifice so much in service to their country. Providing families with the resources they need to ensure quality education for their children is critical to the health of families and supports the overall mission of national security. Online education empowers military families with consistency in education, no matter where they are assigned. And while the innovation of online learning came too late for my daughter, it was a lifechanging opportunity for my son. With so much out of their control, online education can give military families their deserved ownership over their children’s education.
Tillie Elvrum, Guest Contributor | Tillie Elvrum is a school choice advocate and education consultant specializing in parent engagement and online learning. She served as president of the National Coalition for Public School Options, currently serves as board president of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families and leads the Parent Support for Online Learning initiative. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado.