Homeschooling in the Military 101
Military schoolchildren have a lot of challenges. They are frequently forced to relocate every three years or so, thanks to PCS moves. They also, however, have access to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) the federally-run school system that provides K-12 education for military families both in the U.S. and OCONUS. These can be terrific alternatives, but they aren’t for everyone. Some military parents choose to homeschool their children.
Is it legal?
Yes, homeschooling is generally legal, though some states impose more regulation and oversight on homeschooling parents than others. Some host nations may have laws concerning homeschooling that you should be aware of, as well.
Are their subsidies available?
While the vast majority of active-duty military family’s children live on or near a military installation served by a DoDEA school, there are occasionally situations where this isn’t the case. If that describes your family, you may be eligible for a subsidy to help support your homeschooling efforts, via the NDSP, or Non-Defense Schools Program. This program provides financial assistance to military families outside Canada and the United Kingdom whose children don’t live within a reasonable commuting distance from a DoD school. You can use the money to enroll your children into a local private school, an approved virtual school, or you can use it to finance a home-based education program for your children. The subsidy can be as much as $5,700 for grades K through 8 and $7,700 for grades 9-12.
Homeschoolers are not eligible, however, in the following cases:
- K-5 in the United Kingdom
- K-12 in Canada and Australia
- Areas served by a DoDEA school
Basic eligibility criteria are as follows:
- Sponsor must be a military service member serving on active duty and stationed overseas on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, or?A civilian employee of the Department of Defense who is employed on a permanent full time basis, assigned overseas, and is either a citizen or a national of the United States;
- Sponsors must be authorized to transport dependents* to or from an overseas area at government expense, and
- Sponsors must be provided an allowance for living quarters in that area.
- Sponsors must be assigned to a location outside the commuting area of a DoD school.
*School-aged dependents are defined as an individual:
- Who is the child, stepchild, adopted child, or ward of a DoD sponsor, residing with the sponsor, and is eligible for other command sponsorship services, postal services privileges, and?Who meets the host nation age requirement for kindergarten, and
- Has not completed secondary school and will not reach his or her 21st birthday by September 1 of the current school year (or February 1 in the southern hemisphere); or
Between 3 and 5 years of age with developmental delays and disabilities may be eligible for services if they meet the DoDEA special education criteria.
What expenses are reimbursable?
The DoD allows you to use NDSP money towards the following expenses:
- Traditional curriculum textbooks and other supplemental materials as may be appropriate for math, science, language arts, social studies, and other subjects on a grade/age appropriate basis.
- Instructional CDs/software, curriculum guides, and manipulative materials for math, etc.
- Fees charged for access to libraries and group participation in athletic, extracurricular, or music activities that are normally free of charge in U.S. public schools. Group participation is defined as a lesson or activity with enrollment open to the public, not a lesson provided exclusively for a family group (see Non-Allowable item h).
- Travel and transportation costs at post or away from post associated with these activities are not allowable.
- Fees for curriculum-related on-line Internet services such as study programs, library services, and distance.
- Required testing materials by either the formal home-study course or other authorized program.
- Advisory teaching service affiliated with the selected formally recognized home-study course.
- Tuition charges, shipping costs, lesson postage, on-line Internet and facsimile charges associated with formal recognized home-study course or other authorized program.
What Expenses Are Not Reimbursable?
The general rule is that if an educational expense is ordinarily and customarily borne by parents outside of the Department of Defense in America, then these expenses are not reimbursable under NDSP auspices. Here is a list of expenses that are not authorized for reimbursement, and parents must pay them out-of-pocket:
- Equipment such as: computers, keyboards, printers, televisions, facsimile and scanning machines, and furniture.
- Non-course specific CDs, videos, DVDs;
- General reading materials, reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopedias, globes), etc.
- Purchase or rental of items that have broader use than the course being studied (i.e. computers/laptops, computer hardware, calculators, band instruments except noted above).
- Expendable supplies (paper, pencils, markers) that are normally purchased by parents in the U.S.
- Parental training in home-study private instruction.
- Any form of compensation to the parent such as childcare or supervisory costs.
- Travel and transportation costs at post or away from post.
- Personal telephone, Internet, satellite, cable or other available communication subscription fees.
- Fees for museums, cultural events, or performances that would normally be paid by parents in the U.S.
- Private lessons.
- Membership in gymnasiums, cultural clubs, spas, and other private clubs.
- Textbooks, Bibles, workbooks, daily devotionals, or any material primarily for religious instruction.
- Insurance associated with shipping charges. (Do not elect the optional insurance.)
- Fees to an independent agency for posting credits and issuing transcripts.
To apply for the subsidy, fill out this brief spreadsheet, describing what materials you plan to be using for each child.
Next, register with the NDSP program here.
State-By-State Homeschooling Laws
Home Education Magazine maintains a state-by-state breakdown of laws as they apply to home education. Note that it is not your home of record that governs your requirements for homeschooling documentation and other regulations. It is your current location or duty station.
Stay tuned to MilitaryAuthority.com, as we’ll be posting updates and additional information on homeschooling specific to the military community here!