Growing up in a military family means many things, including getting familiar with the unfamiliar. When kids from military families enroll in Our Savior Christian Academy, some of them have moved as many as 13 times already. Many times, they’re new to the Midwest, though they may have lived on military bases overseas. They receive a full orientation, to help them get settled in the community as soon as possible.
Lavonne Pappert, the Superintendent of Our Savior, estimates that 65 percent of the families they serve are in the military. Everyone on staff works hard to make the school a place where these kids—and their families—can feel at home. It also means finding practical, meaningful ways to support the families who have made great sacrifices serving our country. As a result, the families enjoy a school that doesn’t feel like somewhere they have to explain their way of life. They can enjoy sending their children to a school that “gets it.”
For example, the entire school administration understands that the military isn’t likely to grant the parents leave right on Easter weekend or over spring break. Our Savior has made flexibility in helping families get time together a big priority for how they run their school. That also means that if a student has the opportunity to Skype with a deployed parent, that student is excused from class and in a room with a reliable internet connection, regardless of what’s going on in the classroom. Sometimes it means working to supplement a student’s homeschool education.
Inside the classrooms, kids start with the pledge of allegiance as early as preschool. Instead of simply going through the motions, students learn what the words mean and internalize it. Children also sing a patriotic song every day and the social studies curriculum includes an in-depth history of the flag of the United States, as well as the Christian identity of the founding fathers. It’s easy to know when the school is singing the national anthem or saying the pledge of allegiance—everyone stops and stands at attention.
The school offers outdoor education, with all season camping in Army tents. They also have an advanced camp out that teaches even more skills. Students have the opportunity to learn gun safety and the rifle club uses live rounds.
The unpredictability of military life is something Our Savior has learned to roll with. They can’t afford to make assumptions about their enrollment numbers without considering that some families will inevitably get assignments and have to move. With the help of an attorney, they crafted messaging on enrollment forms that ask about the parents’ military situation, without invading privacy, violating laws or sending an unwelcoming or negative message.
Our Savior has been successful in supporting military families because they understand their values and reflect these values back to them at every opportunity. The students and families arrive with a specific moral compass and families appreciate their children’s education being a part of that.