ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. -- A growing number of military parents want to end the age-old tradition of switching schools for their kids.
They've embraced home schooling, and are finding support on bases, which are providing resources for families and opening their doors for home schooling cooperatives and other events.
"If there's a military installation, there's very likely home-schoolers there if you look," said Nicole McGhee, 31, of Cameron, N.C., a mother of three with a husband stationed at North Carolina's Fort Bragg who runs a Facebook site on military home schooling.
At Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., the library sported special presentations for home-schoolers on Benjamin Franklin and static electricity. Fort Bragg offers daytime taekwondo classes. At Fort Belvoir, Va., there are athletic events and a parent-led chemistry lab.
At Andrews Air Force Base, about 15 miles outside Washington, more than 40 families participate every Wednesday in a home-schooling cooperative at the base's youth center. Earlier this month, teenagers in one room warmed up for a mock audition, reciting sayings such as "red leather, yellow leather." Younger kids, downstairs, learned to sign words such as "play" and searched for "Special Agent Stan" during a math game. Military moms taught each class.
There also are events outside the co-op, such as a planned camping trip for kids reading Jean Craighead's "My Side of the Mountain."
"Some weeks, I wonder how my kids are going to do the school side of school, because they are so busy socializing," said Joanna Hemp, the co-op's welcome coordinator.
Military families move about every three years. The transition can be tough for children, and home schooling can make it easier, advocates say. The children don't have to adjust to a new teacher or worry that they're behind because the new school's curriculum is different.
Some military families also cite the same reasons for choosing home schooling as those in the civilian population: a desire to educate their kids in a religious environment, concern about the school environment or to provide for a child with special needs.
Two 16-year-olds interviewed at the Andrews co-op, Andrew Roberts and Christina Cagle, said they are happy their parents made the decision to home school them. Roberts said he thinks he gets a lot more done during a school day than peers in a traditional school, and he sees his friends plenty at Bible study groups and during other social events with teenagers on base.
"There's not like a lot of peer pressure," Cagle said, "considering you're mostly with your siblings and it's kind of a relaxed environment."
Participating military families said there's an added bonus to home schooling: It allows them to schedule school time around the rigorous deployment, training and school schedules of the servicemember.
"We can take time off when dad is home and work harder when he is gone," McGhee said. "So we have that flexibility."
Sharon Moore, the education liaison at Andrews who helps parents with school-related matters, said, at the height of the summer military moving season, she typically gets about 20 calls from families moving to the base with home-schooling questions. She links them with families from the co-op and includes the home-schooled children during back-to-school events and other functions, such as a trip to a planetarium.