For military children the concern that the children won’t experience the ‘real’ world is immaterial because they live and play with people of varied backgrounds. On an email list my words were once taken even farther out of context than the typings of e-correspondence are usually subject to. I made a comment about an issue that I termed “black and white” and was chastised for couching the discussion in terms of race. I replied that I was only referring to polarized opinions. The misperception was easily cleared up but it got me to thinking. Civilians may look at references to “black and white,” and default to a skin-tone viewpoint, but as a former military Brat, a former WAC and an Army wife, my ‘racial viewpoint’ would be more ‘green and white.’ My polarity is between military and civilians.
Military children are surrounded by people of all colors and often of many nations, whether they’re living abroad or not. The military services are a glorious amalgam of the obvious “black” and “white” and with all shades of beige, tan and brown in between. To add to the experience, these are not people only glimpsed in the community, they are one’s friends and neighbors. Military people live in a thoroughly integrated society whose segregator is rank. It matters not what color your skin is but rather what’s on either your shoulder or your sleeve. Of course race isn’t invisible and many military members bring civilian attitudes with them, but over time those differences matter less and less and we look more at the quality of the person and the trueness of heart.
Apart from the makeup of the forces, military children learn to get along with civilians in many ways. Our children see the host nation’s ‘engineers’ (whether the nation is foreign or is America) who come to fix whatever is wrong with the family’s quarters. Our children order food at restaurants, and converse with clerks in stores at home and while on the road. We learn how to ‘speak’ the local dialect so as to be able to order a Coca Cola: ‘soda’ in the west, ‘pop’ in the Midwest, ‘tonic’ in the northeast, ‘cola’ in Germany and ‘coca’ in Belgium. We learn that in the northwest the attitude is that although you may miss the joy of snow if you don’t live in the mountains, “you don’t have to shovel the rain.” In the southwestern USA, indigenous wildlife might include transparent scorpions in the drains. Bitter cold and blistering heat await us in the middle western states along the Canadian border, while coastal Atlantic temperature inversions can make for nasty summer days. And we find that no matter where we go, we can get a McDonald’s hamburger.
Brats grow up nothing if not flexible.
In addition to learning the various flavors of civilianity in America we also learn how to say ‘pizza’ or ‘hamburger’ with a foreign accent. Mistakes such as ordering a pizza with ‘pepperoni’ in Germany are self-correcting after the first bite of a jalapeño pizza — with the jalapeños hidden under the cheese (to get an American pepperoni pizza in Germany, order a ‘pizza-salami’). English beaches are cold, Hawaiian roaches are big. Alaska has mosquitoes. Take off your shoes in Japan. Don’t expect toilet paper at French highway rest stops — or even someplace to sit (footprints?! I’m supposed to put my feet on the flipping footprints?!?).
For military homeschoolers the ‘real’ world becomes more ’real’ when we see that a grocery store doesn’t always stock five kinds (or more) of the same item. Toilet paper isn’t always “squeezably soft,” and guzzling your Coca Cola before you eat your meal means that you’ll have to buy another one because there are no free refills. Overseas, capitalism has a foreign accent.
Military homeschoolers can take advantage of so much more of Real Life than their schooled counterparts. Studying various periods of history can be done on-the-spot in castles, fields of honor, across ancient natural borders, or within five minutes walk from your front door. History becomes real and the contemplation of Hannibal’s journey over the Alps — complete with elephants — is given a reality-shot when you peer over the edge of the road from inside the car, and you can NOT imagine climbing up all that way on your feet, much less on an elephant. No-sirree-bob. Military homeschoolers have the ‘real’ world covered.
Copyright 2006, Valerie Bonham Moon
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