How do home school graduates enter the military?
When home school graduate Andrew White* decided to join the military, his first choice was the Air Force. When the local Air Force recruiter brushed him off, he decided to stop in next door at the Navy recruiting office. After testing high in mathematics and science on the military entrance exams, the Navy recruiter suggested Andrew apply for training in the Navy’s elite nuclear engineering program.
Although Andrew did not have an accredited high school diploma, the recruiter was able to get him an “educational waiver.” After his first tour, Andrew was accepted to Officer Candidate School and commissioned as a Naval Officer. Now 13 years later, Andrew has served as an instructor in nuclear engineering and an officer on a nuclear submarine. He is currently stationed in Monterey, California at the Naval Post-Graduate School and is working on his master’s degree.
Andrew gives home schooling a lot of the credit for where he is today. “Home schooling taught me to be independent, to structure my life and to manage my time properly,” Andrew says. “I had plans for my life.” This seemed to set Andrew apart from the recruits that surrounded him.
Notwithstanding anecdotal stories of military success and “educational waivers” (typically difficult to obtain), before 1998 home schoolers were officially considered “second tier recruits” by all branches of the military.
The military divides all potential recruits into three groups called “tiers,” based on their educational background. Tier 1 recruits are graduates from accredited high schools. Tier 2 students are those who have dropped out of high school and passed a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test. And high school dropouts without a GED are considered Tier 3.
Since home educated students do not fit neatly in any particular category, they were usually considered high school dropouts. And students not categorized as Tier 1 are required to score higher on military aptitude tests and are not eligible for all the benefits available to Tier 1 recruits. The number of enlistees accepted from each Tier depends largely on the personnel needs of each particular branch of service. For example, in 1997, both the Marines and the Air Force only accepted Tier 1 recruits. That same year, only 10 percent of Army and Navy enlistees were not Tier 1.
HSLDA lobbied Congress to fix this situation and create an equitable enlistment route for home schooled graduates. With the help of the late Senator Paul Coverdell, an amendment containing a solution was attached to the 1998 Defense Authorization bill. The new regulations created a five-year pilot program where each branch of military would reserve 1,250 slots for home schoolers. The program stipulated that home schooled enlistees would be considered Tier 1, and their progress during military service would be tracked.
The four branches of the armed services secured the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) to conduct a one-year, one-time study of the five-year pilot project. The CNA examined several indicators for 67,000 recruits including attrition rates, Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT) scores, pre-service drug tests and interest in military service.
Sixty-four percent of the home school recruits scored above 50 on the AFQT. Since they had very similar attrition rates (12.2) to private and public school graduates (12.7 and 11.3, respectively), the CNA concluded that home school enlistees who score 50 or above should be placed in Tier 1.
All signs indicate that home schoolers are making excellent soldiers. Seventeen-year-old Christopher Rudow, home schooled on the mission field of Japan his whole life, recently enlisted in the Navy. After reviewing his transcript, the Federal Educational Reviewer told Christopher’s mom Emily Jung, “This is the best transcript and education I have ever seen documented in all my years as reviewer!” She congratulated Emily for educating her son so well. Even though Christopher was the youngest man in his boot camp, he went on to win the Academic Excellence Award over the 80 other people in his division.
Like so many home schooling parents, the Jungs gave their son the academic start he needed to thrive as an adult. Andrew White agrees that home schooling should in no way hinder those who want to enlist in the military. Now with five boys of his own, Andrew hopes to instill in them the same character that his parents used home schooling to give him. “Home schooling helps my kids learn to schedule and motivate themselves,” says Andrew. “When they follow their interests, they are encouraged to try and get ahead.”
*Name changed by request due to security concerns.