Two things are true about military life: it’s unpredictable and you need to be flexible. School calendars, if you know where you’ll be living next year, are typically predictable and set up a year in advance. But what happens when your family wants to travel? Deployments, training, job changes, and military life, in general, has a way of disrupting plans. Instead, your family may need to take a vacation outside a school break. Taking a slightly extended mid-year break from school can be possible! It’s all in how you prepare. Meg Flanagan of Meg Flanagan Education Solutions has tips on how to navigate an Independent Study from school.
What to Ask for in an Independent Study
Terminology is different for U.S. and DoDEA schools. Some schools call it Independent Study, while others use extended school year vacation. Bottom line: you’re asking permission for your child to take several weeks off in a row, with academic work and guidance provided by the school.
Who to Ask for an Independent Study
This is an administrative issue. Ask the front desk staff at your child’s school if there is paperwork. If there isn’t, ask to speak to the principal or vice principal. You may need to ask the school district for approval of any extended non-medical absences. Reach out to your child’s teacher, as they will likely have to provide curriculum for your child while taking an independent study from school.
How to Ask for an Independent Study
Initially, you may want to make your request verbally — with as much notice as humanly possible. Talk to the teachers and school administrators.
Follow up with a formal written request, or complete any paperwork the school provides for this type of request.
Your request letter should include the dates of your extended vacation, the reason for your trip, and a plan to continue learning while your child is away from school. Your plan for learning will require you to coordinate with the classroom teacher(s), so get their input in advance.
RELATED: From Mainstream Classroom to Worldschooling
Working Vacation Tips
Yes, it’s a vacation, but it’s not without opportunities for learning. Make education a priority.
Meg states, “Remember, your child’s teachers have done additional work to ensure learning continues on vacation. They’ve planned lessons in advance and created a file for you to take on your trip. That’s likely hours of planning and prep on their part for your vacation. Honor their work by completing the assignments before you return to school.”
Use these tips from Meg to ensure learning happens in between vacation fun:
- Block out space every day on your schedule for school and learning
- Keep a list of all school-related usernames and passwords
- Download ebook versions of books or scan textbook pages into PDFs to read on a tablet
- Double check you’ll have access to reliable internet or data connection
- Pack school supplies for the road: basic art supplies, pencils, erasers, a glue stick, white out, etc.
- Set a timer and take breaks
- Do some work in the morning and some in the evening
- Create a checklist of all assignments your child needs to accomplish and provide rewards for good progress
What Kind of Work to Expect
While taking an independent study from school, the kind of work will vary by your child’s grade level, teacher, and school. A great deal of the work assigned is going to be based on the school’s policy about extended vacations and grading. Be clear on this before you make your request.
Pack tablets with ebooks, as well as fiction and nonfiction books. Have your child view virtual lessons using the school’s curriculum software or the teacher’s preferred e-learning portal. Remember to complete assigned workbook pages, too.
Most tests will be given at school when your child returns, but they should complete the required reading while on their independent study from school.
Many family vacations lend themselves to learning – going to the Grand Canyon or hiking the Appalachian Trail boasts opportunities in history, geography, and mathematics. Get creative! In today’s virtual learning-centered world, having an internet connection is almost necessary for at-home learning and homework.
Family Time is Vital for Military Families
At the end of the day, creating memories with your family is the most important thing. Luckily, both children and learning are flexible. Create space for your family to spend time together, even if it means taking school on the road (or plane) with you. Take the trip — school will be waiting when you get back.
TAKING SCHOOL ON THE ROAD
Check out this article on What to Pack when Schooling on the Road