Military Family-Stuhlfire

06/08/2010  | 

When her daughter was two years old, Colleen Stuhlfire started to think about her education and decided that she would school her child at home. Her decision was based on conversations with other military families who spoke of the strain on children who often change schools because of multiple redeployments, coupled with curriculums that vary from state to state.

The spouse of a Navy aviator for 19 years, Coleen also recalls watching a TV program featuring a K12 executive who was discussing the benefits of online education. So when her daughter was ready for kindergarten, Coleen did her homework to find the right curriculum and selected the K12 program. Today, seven years later, Colleen is a veteran K12 parent educating both her 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son through at last count, five relocations.

“I chose to educate at home because we were relocating so frequently and I wanted the stability of having that one sure thing in their lives,” explained Colleen. Moreover, she discovered that kids who relocate often have to skip a subject because different school districts offer subjects at different grade levels.

“For example,  if you move to a new state and you expected your child to start learning American history in the sixth grade,  because that was the curriculum schedule in your old school, you [might] find that the new school taught it in the fifth grade — so you miss an entire subject,” she explained. On the flip side, some kids can take the same subject twice because of the difference in state curriculums. “Think about it,” she continued. “Kids can miss an important subject such as physical science when they change schools, and then they are expected to tackle biology without the science background.”

Out of the Box

What impressed Coleen and her husband about the K12 curriculum is its quality, portability, and ease of use.

“I had a goal in mind when I decided to school at home, and it was that my kids would get a great education and have fun,” she said, adding, “K12 made it attractive because my kids can learn anyplace and at any time. And I liked the fact that all the materials came in one box and I don’t have to spend hours and hours trying to first learn it myself,” she said.

Colleen pointed out that parents should find an educational curriculum that works for them, but advised that it’s important to find a program with comprehensive courses and support, so you can spend more time teaching and having fun.

“I find that people who have to put together their own curriculum are constantly harried and researching everything and always working to figure out what they are going to do tomorrow. They don’t realize that they are eating into their own teaching time,” she explained, adding, “It’s not that I don’t plan ahead — I certainly do. But I know that with the K12 program, when I have to teach any particular unit — everything is already there for me. I don’t have to go find more information.”

Further, Colleen noted that the K12 curriculum comes “all together, so I don’t have to spend hours and hours at night trying to first learn it myself, or go look at 100 different sources and figure out how to present it,” she said. “Basically, I log-in in the morning and figure out what we want to do and if I don’t already know it, I can learn along with the kids.” she added.

K12 Is the Glue

Moving from state to state during their 19 years in the military, Coleen knows firsthand how hard it is for families to make the switch from school to school. 

“It’s difficult because in the Navy you get orders in midyear and it can be overwhelming moving to a new place. You often don’t even know where the library is for the first three months. But all we need is an Internet connection, and we’re back in school the first day. And if my husband gets deployed overseas, I can go to my parents’ house and school there for three months. K12 is a real glue for the family; it’s something we can always count on,” she said.

Exceeding the Tests

Before being relocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area this year, the Stuhlfires lived in Virginia, where the state requires that children in grades three through eight be tested every year. Colleen was given the option to select from a number of tests and chose the California State Achievement Test for her daughter. “I had no idea how she would pan out, but she did fantastically — scoring in the 95th-99th percentile,” Coleen said. “I was really surprised because it gave me another validation outside of K12 that she is doing really well,” she added.

Another benefit Coleen discovered about teaching at home is the amount of time the family has to explore new things and follow passions. Because they lived right outside of Washington, D.C., Coleen often took the children to museums and historical sites. The Stuhlfire family views each new deployment as a new adventure, and they act as if they are tourists wherever they go.

“We know we’ll only be someplace for a short time so we make sure we explore the area, which enhances the children’s education,” she said. For example, Coleen will take the kids to a museum late in the afternoon, knowing that the bus trip for other schoolchildren will be long gone and that they’ll basically have the museum to themselves. And when they visited the National Zoo during a weekday because it wasn’t crowded, the staff offered special behind-the-scenes tours of the zoo. “In Texas, we go to the rodeo, and they have a great farmer’s market. It’s all a great learning experience for the kids.”

Anyone Can Do It

Coleen advises parents who are considering educating their children at home that they don’t have to make it hard on themselves. “Anybody who wants to do it can do it — basically, the only requirement is that you have to know how to read,” she laughed. 

Exceptional Education

K12 treats military families with an extra measure of service.  K12 partners with more than half the states and Washington, DC to offer tuition-free options. What’s more, where those options are not yet available, active-duty families can always save 15 percent on independent study courses or full-time options with teacher support.

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