Fort Belvoir Home Educators president, Natalie Mack, left,  briefs families interested in continuing instruction through high school years, at the USO Warrior and Family Center, Jan. 18. School Liaison Officer Marie Bailey, center, also outlined several key resources available to anyone on post to set students up for success.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Belvoir Home Educators president, Natalie Mack, left, briefs families interested in continuing instruction through high school years, at the USO Warrior and Family Center, Jan. 18. School Liaison Officer Marie Bailey, center, also outlined several key resources available to anyone on post to set students up for success. (Photo Credit: Paul Lara) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Belvoir homeschool parents browse resources on hand after a high school preparation workshop at the USO Warrior and Family Center, Jan. 18.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Belvoir homeschool parents browse resources on hand after a high school preparation workshop at the USO Warrior and Family Center, Jan. 18. (Photo Credit: Paul Lara) VIEW ORIGINAL

Frequent moves and different state educational requirements can make attending traditional schools challenging for military students. About 200 students on Fort Belvoir have taken a different path: homeschooling. This initiative is led by Fort Belvoir Home Educators (FBHE), a non-profit organization dedicated to home education.

Over two dozen parents who wanted to learn more about the process attended a High School Workshop in January at the Fort Belvoir’s USO Warrior and Family Center. During the two-hour seminar, parents learned about different homeschooling options, and how to ensure their homeschooled students thrive in high school and are prepared for collegiate success.

Natalie Mack, FBHE President, was the workshop’s lead instructor. During her presentation, she said that some homeschool parents are intimidated with thoughts of teaching high school-level courses. She added that successfully preparing students for high school and beyond means preparation should begin in middle school. She also added that parents should understand the existing state requirements and keep thorough records to make high school graduation a reality.

To understand the state education requirements, Mack noted that the first stops should be with the Department of Education and the homeschool laws of the state the Family is residing in - or plans to reside in when it is time for that student to begin high school.

“You should ensure the curriculum [you plan] meets or exceeds state standards for high school to prepare students for college-level studies, with a focus on core academics (math, science, English and social studies) and also incorporate Advanced Placement (AP) or dual-enrollment courses whenever possible,” Mack said.

She also urged parents to tailor the curriculum to meet the student’s career interests and college requirements.

Area homeschool Families also receive regular assistance from Marie Bailey, Fort Belvoir’s School Liaison Officer (SLO), who serves all of Fairfax and Prince William Counties, as well as Manassas and Marine Corps Base Quantico. Bailey said she routinely provides help in transitioning to the next duty station.

“While there may be 200 homeschoolers on post, they all do something different,” Bailey said.

Bailey said numerous Fort Belvoir Families have discovered that Mount Vernon and Hayfield High Schools work well with homeschoolers, allowing them to audit or attend several elective classes. She did remind them that the agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools prevents participation in FCPS after-school activities such as band or track.

“I love homeschoolers,” Bailey told the parents during the seminar. “I’m here to help you get connected to another home school before you PCS,” adding that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) between Fort Belvoir and FBHE offers access to physical education, art and science classes at Markham School-Age Center.

Bailey said several strong resources for any homeschool Family is tutors.com and Military One Source, along with Military Family Life Counselors, who offer non-medical counseling for improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment difficulties and parenting.

Fort Belvoir Home School member Shelly Dennis said that her decision to homeschool followed her son’s experience in public schools.

“My sixth-grade son is autistic and (has) ADHD, and he did not fit the mold for public school very well. We tried it for kindergarten and first grade, but it didn't work. I taught kindergarten prior to having him, so I pulled [both of my children] and just decided I was teaching,” Dennis said, adding that she is convinced it was the right decision. “We love every second of it.  His favorite subjects are math and science, so he gets to pick the subjects we do and how we do them.”

Mack suggested parents offer flexibility for high school students, even if the student has initially stated that they are not interested in secondary education. This includes through record keeping, socialization, extracurricular activities, college prep, and financial planning.

Record Keeping and Accreditation: Maintain meticulous records of coursework, grades, extracurricular activities, and standardized test scores. This documentation is crucial for college applications. Consider enrolling in an accredited homeschool program or ensuring that the curriculum used is recognized by higher education institutions. Accreditation can ease the transition into college by providing a recognized academic record.

Socialization and Extracurricular Activities: Encourage participation in sports, clubs, volunteer work, or part-time jobs to develop teamwork, leadership skills, and community involvement. These activities are not only important for social development but also enhance college applications. Military homeschool Families can take advantage of community groups, base activities, and online forums to connect with peers.

College Preparation and Testing: Begin preparing for college entrance exams (SAT or ACT) early. Utilize online resources, tutoring, and practice exams to improve test scores. Additionally, research colleges early to understand their admission requirements, and consider visits to potential campuses. For military Families, look into colleges that are military-friendly, offering support services and recognizing the challenges faced by military students.

Financial Planning and Scholarships: Start planning for college expenses early. Explore scholarship opportunities, including those specifically available to military Families, such as the GI Bill for dependents, Military Child Education Coalition scholarships, and others offered by military associations. Educate Families on financial aid, grants, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process.

With these strategies, military homeschool Families can better prepare their students for the challenges of high school and the transition to college, ensuring they are academically and socially ready for the next steps in their educational journey.

Fort Belvoir Home Educators provides numerous opportunities for home educators; field trips, co-op, college prep, testing, friends, and community are just a few of the reasons to join.

For more information, contact Fort Belvoir Home Educators on its website:
www.homeschool-life.com/va/bhe/.