by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs
Meeting the educational needs of the children of military families serving onboard Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport is something that Mona Odom, the NCBC Gulfport school liaison officer, has strived to accomplished ever since she began working here in August 2018.
This includes providing information, connections and resources for military parents and guardians who choose to homeschool their children, especially during meetings like the one she is hosting Feb. 21, 2020.
“What has been a challenge is actually identifying our homeschool parents and students and being able to rally them together so that I can offer them the resources needed,” she said.
That’s why in November 2019 Odom started hosting meetings for NCBC Gulfport parents who homeschool their children, giving them the opportunity to connect and share ideas and resources, such as textbooks, curriculums, etc.
“I call it ‘Share and Pair,’” said Odom, who noted that some of the educational materials homeschool parent use can be somewhat pricey. “If I can create an environment where they’re able to share their resources, then I will have reached one of my number one goals.”
The first meeting in November gave parents to opportunity to see what resources are available to them and their children at NCBC, such as the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC), the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) and the Youth Activities Center.
The Feb. 21 meeting is geared toward finding out the specific needs of the homeschool parents at NCBC.
“The first meeting was really me telling them what we have here and what we can offer. For this next meeting, I want them to tell me what it is that they need,” said Odom.
Odom also said that one service she can help parents with is registering for a certificate of enrollment for their homeschooled children through the Mississippi Department of Education. She noted that MS Code §37-13-91 requires children between the ages of six and 17 to be enrolled in an education program, whether its public, private or home school. So when a child is being educated in a legitimate home instruction program, the parents, guardians or custodians need to complete a certificate of enrollment through the Mississippi Department of Education.
Odom said she can help parents with the enrollment process and with making sure the homeschool program is one that meets state and local school district education requirements. This is especially important in case parents ever decide they want to enroll their students in the public education system.
“Is [the homeschool program] going to align with what your child may need if you at some point decide to send your child to the public school system? Because what we don’t want to see any educational gaps that could cause a child to be retained or held back,” said Odom.
The Mississippi Department of Education website also provides further information for parents who would like to home school their children in the state of Mississippi: https://www.mdek12.org/OCSA/HS.
Odom also mentioned that her hope for future meetings is to bring in guest speakers who can speak to specific topics homeschool parents may be interested in, or even engage in different activities with the parents and children, such as reading, culinary or physical education activities.
Military members with children in kindergarten through 12th grade who would like to find out more about how the school liaison officer can assist them with homeschooling or other educational needs can contact Odom at 228-871-2117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.