Enjoy this interview with Katie, homeschool mom of 5, as she shares her experiences homeschooling as a military family!
My name is Katie Rackley and I live in Mcleansville a small suburb of Greensboro, NC. I have been married for 19 years to my wonderful husband Daryl and we have 5 precious children: Hadessah, 16, Adalai, 10, Rucker, 8, Adara, 6, and Gunner, 11 months. We have been a home school family for 12 years beginning in kindergarten with our oldest and now we are approaching her senior year. It is amazing how quickly our home school years have flown by!
(You can reach out to Katie with any questions by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following along with her family on Instagram @therackleyruckus.)
What led you to homeschooling?
Home schooling, for me, was an easy choice when it came time to decide the educational path for our children. I had personally been home schooled from 3rd grade through graduation and had seen and experienced firsthand the benefits of this choice. I knew there would be no better option. As parents our utmost priority for our children’s lives is their spiritual well-being as well as their personal relationship with Christ. My husband and I knew of no better environment for this to be cultivated than right here in our own home.
What is your primary reason for homeschooling?
If I had to choose one particular word that was the premise for our educational choice it would be INFLUENCE. If our children were going to be exposed to an education system 5 days a week, 8+ hours a day for 9 months a year then what did I want that to look like? Obviously, education is meant to mold a person – heart, mind, body and soul. So exactly how were my children going to be developed and shaped? There were so many concerns with the traditional way of education and not many assuring answers to our questions. Questions like, would we have a thorough understanding of what lessons and curriculum our children would be learning and being taught? How well would we be able to know and get to know the instructors and teachers and thus have an understanding of their values and morals? Most of all, what kind of peer influence would they be exposed to? Would the other students come from similar home lives and backgrounds with godly world views? Home schooling was the only assuring answer.
Tell about your military service.
Not only are we a home school family but we are also privileged and honored to serve our country as a military family. My husband served as an Army Reservist (1999-2008), deploying during Operation Iraqi Freedom and later transitioning to the NC National Guard (2012-present) as an Apache helicopter aviator (Guardsman are required to give one weekend a month and 2 full weeks a year to military training during their term; my husband’s civilian job is an architect). Even though we are not an active duty family our children have seen how important our citizen soldiers are to the operation and functionality of our strong military.
A few interesting facts: both of our boys have military names. Rucker was named after Fort Rucker, Alabama, the military installation we were stationed at during Daryl’s flight school tenure and also where Rucker was born. Gunner is named after one of the positions that is flown when navigating an Apache. It is the front seat position and where most of the weaponry is typically accessed.
What unique experiences have you had homeschooling as a military family?
Home schooling as a military family has brought its own series of challenges but many wonderful opportunities as well. Recently, my husband took a cross-country trip to California in his Apache. This took about a week and the kids and I were able to follow along by mapping out the different places he would stop. He in turn would send us pictures and video of the different parts of the country that he was seeing. This was so neat for our kids because this past year we had just completed a study of the 50 states. It was so fun for them to be able to see our country through their dad and his “bird’s eye view.”
National pride is easily cultivated in our home as our children watch their dad work so hard to protect them, our country and our freedoms. Because of our exposure to soldier life many times our home school lessons have been redirected to understanding the art of war, delving deeper into the study of the different wars that American has been involved in and understanding how the threat of our freedoms being stripped from us (even the freedom to home school) is protected only by those willing to defend it. Many times our history lessons have led us to study more thoroughly various soldiers, war generals and commanders.
Another fun study we have done in recent years was a lesson on weapons of war through the centuries. It was amazing to see how our military went from muskets and cannons to attack helicopters! These studies have helped us to understand the heart behind those that so willingly gave up everything to see the beacon of light that America was created to be, continue on.
What advantage has homeschooling provided to your life as a military family?
When my husband transitioned from reservist to National Guard we found ourselves on active duty and moving to a military base in lower Alabama. Because we were home schooling this huge transition was made easier on our daughter who was six and a half at the time. She was able to focus on and enjoy learning a new area, home, church, and lifestyle (living on a military base is so much different from civilian life) but not become stressed over a new school, teachers, peers and academics.
Because home schooling is so popular amongst military families we were able to find a local support group and get involved in activities like an American Girl Doll Book Club and field trips to different military exhibits unique to the area. Add all of this to the fact that we were on an aviation base so we all had fun learning the different aircraft, military acronyms and even helping daddy study for his flight exams and color his flight maps!
How do you handle deployment?
After 2 years of active duty my husband graduated from flight school and we once again were on the move back to NC and back to civilian life. And once again, home schooling made this move easy (moving as a home schooler just means your school moves with you!). However, three years later we found ourselves faced with that dreaded word: DEPLOYMENT.
Even though we had already endured one deployment early on in our marriage our children had never experienced this kind of separation. The longest they had ever been away from daddy was during a 6 week training and for little ones, as you can imagine, that had felt like an eternity! What would 9-12 months feel like?! And to top it off he would be gone during the better part of our school year! How would I, as mom and teacher of four children, manage a household and maintain academics simultaneously as a temporary single parent?
Not to sound cliché or comical, but my relationship with Christ grew much stronger during this time. Each day began with mommy’s uninterrupted quiet time with Him. There really is no other way to begin your school day as a teacher (or mother, for that matter). But I greatly needed His strength and wisdom during this time. I was gifted a wonderful devotional book for military wives and this along with my personal Bible study was such an encouragement to my heart during this separation time.
What does homeschooling look like when your husband is deployed?
For the children I saw this as an opportunity to try some new academic tools in our school year that would benefit their learning and also help to alleviate some of my load. It was during this time that we began using video lessons full-time for our oldest in our home schooling. We also saw this as a great opportunity to travel and plan various field trips throughout the year. These helped to keep excitement in their days and give them something to look forward to even though daddy’s presence was missing from our daily lives.
How did you adapt your lifestyle to meet the emotional needs of your kids during this time?
To help daddy feel not so far away we utilized several different communication apps on our phones, did a geography study on his area of deployment and made art class projects out of care packages we sent to him overseas. We also set up a deployment wall in our home that was all about daddy – complete with a world map that showed his location as well as a “Daddy Mail Box” where the kids could place any letters or drawings to be mailed to daddy. The kids also decided to learn a song and sing it for our Christmas service at church that year as a gift to their daddy who was half a world away at such a special time of year.
There were, however, days that were hard and difficult – not just for the children but also for mom. And on those days, sometimes school came last. Sometimes we just needed to cry together, talk about our fears and snuggle and pray. The truth is, our children and their hearts and what they need emotionally and spiritually is far more important than checking the box off of what they learned academically that day. It was comforting and reassuring for me to be able to be with them daily and sense their struggles and know that sometimes math and grammar weren’t the priority but feeling loved, understood and heard were. Our reassuring theme during that time was that even though our earthly father couldn’t be physically present with us our Heavenly Father was always there. And He was BIG ENOUGH.
Thankfully my husband returned home safely and his reunion with the kids was not only a huge surprise but filled with love and gratefulness.
Our home school journey continues. I find myself learning and growing right along with my children. We branched out this year and tried a new curriculum for one of our kids that has shown a difference in learning style from our other three. It was a huge step for this creature of habit but we found it to be very beneficial for her learning. “You have to be brave and try new things,” is easier taught than practiced and also what is meant by “learning and growing along with your children.”
What benefits has homeschooling provided for your family?
The benefits of home schooling continue to be too numerous to list. For our military lifestyle it has certainly been a blessing and encouraged us in our walk with Christ as well as our love for this grand country He has placed us in. We know that America can only continue to exist as a great nation because of God’s hand upon it. He has used our land and the many freedoms we enjoy as a means to further His Gospel as well as raise up a godly heritage. Home schooling allows us to exercise those rights as we teach, cultivate and nurture a love not only for America but most of all for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Tell about your favorite field trips.
We have enjoyed numerous field trips due to our military status that may not be typical to most traditional schools. We have been to Fort Bragg, NC to see the paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division descend from airplanes as well as listened to one of the soldiers explain and demonstrate the steps to becoming a paratrooper and all that is involved before they take that leap! The kids even got to participate in a “pretend” jump. I, personally, was able to experience riding in a simulated Apache – a gift from my husband on one of our anniversaries. All respect to our Apache aviators. It was quite difficult! We have visited several U.S. Army museums and my kids have frequented helicopter hangars and climbed all over numerous military helicopters too many times to count.
Katie’s Favorite Resources
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We have typically been an explicitly Abeka Curriculum family until this past year. We branched out and used Master Books for our 4th grader and she thrived using them (their History lessons are the BEST!).
We also fell in love with Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis’ Paleontology study and I highly recommend it. The Lord used this in helping bring our 6 year old to salvation in Him.
Another recent find was a read aloud book we enjoyed called Shadow written by Michael Morpurgo. This is a book we happened upon in our local library’s give away bin. It is a true story about a little boy in Afghanistan. The military devotional that was such an encouragement to me during deployment was Faith, Hope, Love and Deployment by Heather Gray.
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!