Homeschooling Through Deployment
Those of you who are familiar with my story know that my husband is active duty Army. What you may not know is that in the last 9 years our family has been separated for nearly 6 1/2 of those years. Why? The biggest reason is due to my husband being deployed to a combat zone for over 5 of those years, and the rest of the time was spent apart for additional training. There have been some very trying times during those years of separation – and without our faith in Jesus there is no way that we would have ever made it through.
I remember the eve of our very first deployment. I remember it as clear as day. I remember the smell of the air on that summer night in upstate New York. I remember the embrace my husband and I had as we wept in one another’s arms knowing good and well that he was entering directly into the “thick” of things in Iraq – going to war for the very first time. I will never forget saying good-bye that next day – it is something that no words can express. All I knew is that I had to commit him into the very arms of Jesus – as He is the only one who could protect and keep my husband safe from harm.
The first couple of months after my husband deployed that summer were a blur to me. One of the very first challenges I faced the month after he left was having a mild heart attack. It was a very scary situation. I had no family or close friends in New York as it was our first duty station. I had no one to look after our daughter and my husband was away fighting a war. It was a hard time. I had to find my faith really quickly and choose to believe God’s Word over what the doctor’s were saying. The three weeks following that episode were extremely difficult as my body was so tired and I just didn’t have the energy to focus on my daughter the way I wanted to with her school work. She became frustrated with me and was also beginning to become angry that her daddy was away.
This wouldn’t be the first or the last time that we would go through this as a family. We faced four more long deployments after this first one where I experienced two miscarriages, two newborn babies, a broken wrist, prolonged sickness, fighting off constant thoughts of my husband being hurt or killed at war, and countless other things. It hasn’t been easy, but with the exception of a short period, we have managed to continue to homeschool through these times of separation and want to share some tips to help make it work for your family. I believe that these tips can also apply to any family that has to go through prolonged and frequent separations due to employment.
9 Tips for Homeschooling Through Deployment
- Pray. Before you do anything pray, pray, and then pray some more. Ask the God of peace and wisdom to give you the understanding you need for your family’s specific needs during this time.
- Pick out a scripture (or two or three) to confess over your family. This is something that our family does regularly. We are always finding new ways to speak God’s Word of LIFE into our homeschool. You can find a printable list of confessionals and scriptures that we use HERE.
- Breathe. Give yourself grace and allow for some days to just be “real life” schooling. The reality is, all the academic books in the world cannot teach our children as well as real life situations where we deal with the realities of missing our deployed soldier, conflict resolution, ministering to the sick, caring for children, doing housework, cooking, etc. Remember that one of the blessings of homeschooling is the flexibility we have. I am not worried about making life “fit” into school – rather I make school fit into our life. This is something that has given us great peace and accomplishment in our homeschooling journey.
- Include the deployed parent in your schooling. Before my husband leaves on his long deployments, we always come up with a plan to make sure that he is still included in the instruction while he is gone. One way we have done so is by having my husband record himself (with a video camera) teaching a subject. For instance, while he was recently in Afghanistan, he taught the children several science units. We broke up the lessons into smaller units that he would “teach” and then once his lesson portion was over on the DVD, we’d then do the seat work and experiment. This was a real hit with all three children and allowed them to stay connected to daddy at the same time.
- Study the country that your spouse will be deployed. We did several different unit-type studies about both Iraq and Afghanistan while my husband was away. This included studying topographical maps, climate, culture, cooking traditional foods, etc.
- Do not allow yourself to become isolated. No matter how hard it gets at times, make sure you are always talking to someone to keep yourself accountable for staying healthy in your spirit, mind, and body. It is important that we face the fact that although our loved ones are in harms way, we have to trust in God for their safety, and live our lives as normally as possible.
- Get involved with other spouses who have husband’s away. It can be a very comforting thing to be around those who truly understand what it is you are currently experiencing. I’ve come to see that God always gives me a deployment “buddy” that has the same Christian faith that I do and our children are always matched well also – which has been a huge blessing to our family.
- Be honest with yourself if you need help. Too many times I see spouses falling into depression during deployments because they are too proud to ask for help. It is not only disobedience to God’s word to be prideful, but it is also a bad example to our children. If this is your tendency, I urge you to step out of your “comfort” zone and allow God to bless you – you deserve to have a break and some extra help every now and then!
- Get lots of rest. Your health is of the utmost importance – and even more so when your soldier is away. You will be functioning as a single parent (from a physical perspective) when your spouse is away, so you’ll need to be as well rested physically, mentally, and spiritually as possible. This is of grave importance to me to tell you as after my mild-heart attack, I understood this more clearly than before. You need your rest so your body can rejuvenate!
While the suggestions are not all-inclusive, they are a great way to ensure a healthy and productive time homeschooling while your spouse is deployed. I know how difficult it can be at times when you are so far away from your family and friends (we are in Germany right now experiencing it first hand). I also know how faithful the God we serve is when it comes to giving you comfort, peace, and wisdom. I am confident that if you put the above into action, your difficult time will become much less of a burden. Even if you didn’t finish well during the “last” deployment, be encouraged and know that it can be different next time! I am praying for you and am confident that He will bless you the next time your family faces this challenging time!
Homeschooling Through Difficult Times Series