Category Archives: Resources + Information

Smooth Moves: How to PCS with Your MilKid’s IEP or 504 Plan

Moving with the military is always extremely fun. It’s like a game: what will they break this time? I bet $100 it’s your great-grandmother’s irreplaceable antique tea set.

The other part of moving that is always especially wonderful is finding a new school for the kids. I know you just can’t wait to do this! And for those who are traveling with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan, this process is just super smooth, right?!

All kidding aside, moving is hard and trying to find a district or school that will meet your child’s educational needs is unbelievably challenging. But, armed with a little knowledge, the process doesn’t have to be a battle.


Get the records.
Get all of the records from the school that you are leaving. This is your right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The law states your school must provide access (copies) to your child’s educational file upon your request. Since we all know you are more likely to get service with a smile if you use a little courtesy, it is best to let your school know about your request a few weeks before you move. And if they give you any pushback, remind them about the law. Lots of school will offer to send those records along for you, but as a teacher and mom, I would always feel better if I have a copy to hand carry in addition to the forwarded copy.

Know the law.
While each district might have its own forms, and each state might tweak the process a little bit, an IEP or 504 Plan is a federally protected legal document and must be adhered to until the new district convenes a meeting, or requests new evaluations. In other words, if a child is getting specific services in District 1 of North Carolina, the new school in California must provide comparable services until a new IEP is agreed to. The word comparable is important, since the law doesn’t require an exact match in services, just similar services.

Bonus: There is new language in the Federal Register that took effect on July 27 that requires DOD schools to comply with federal regulations about accepting IEPs from other school systems.

On the downside, private schools are not required to provide comprehensive services for students who have IEPs. Some schools do go above and beyond. And public school districts may be required to provide equitable services, but these will likely not be an extensive as if your child were placed in a public school setting.


Know your rights.
You have federally protected rights that are mandated in ALL states. You have the right to:

  • understand the procedural safeguards
  • inspect and review educational records
  • participate in all educational meeting
  • request an outside independent educational evaluation or IEE (this is NOT required to be paid for by the school district for 504 Plans)
  • to receive prior written notice about all meetings and proposed changes to the IEP/504 Plan
  • to consent or withhold consent (withholding consent means that the current IEP will continue until a consensus on a new IEP is reached)
  • to use mediation or other means specified in IDEA 2004 to resolves disputes

Make a Friend
This might be the most important thing you can do. Teachers know the system, the laws, and have access to all of the educational options in the district. They know what is available, reasonable, and what is considered best practice. You need your teachers on your side.

I know we can all become a protective ‘Momma Bear’ when it comes to our kids, but pull that bear back to the mouth of cave. Teachers are highly educated and certified professionals, so take every opportunity to listen to their advice. She might be seeing things that you aren’t, or see a different way to approach a difficult situation.

You don’t need to bake her a cake, although teachers do love cake. Just keep her in the loop from the first day of school. Let her know all about your child, and the strengths and weaknesses you see. Advise her about what has, and has not, worked in the past; she will thank you for not letting her go down a dead end street. Above all, treat her like a professional who takes her career seriously, and who loves your child.

With your records in hand, a good grasp on your laws and rights, and with an ally in the classroom, even moving schools with an IEP or 504 Plan can be made slightly easier.

What tips would you add for military families with IEP or 504 Plans?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws.

Be a Homework Genius! 7 Ways to Help Your Child With Any Subject!

I was a really good student back in the day. I got good grades, and didn’t struggle… but these days, my child asks me for help with his school work, and at least one a week I am losing badly at “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” I don’t think the schoolwork has become more difficult over the last 20 years or so, but I do know that I need help. I don’t remember all the ins and outs of grammar, or all the steps for finding the inverse of I-don’t-even-know-what in math class.

What I do know, is that there is help for parents like me.



Ask the Teacher
Hopefully, your child has a kind, approachable teacher. You don’t need to be embarrassed if you don’t understand how to help your child. Send them a quick email, or write them a note asking for help. Oftentimes, they will be more than willing to work with your child, and you, to be sure everyone understands the work.

Learn Alongside Them
As my child gets older, I am realizing how important it is for me to look over the lesson in the textbook so I can better help him. If he is stuck on something, sitting down with him to review the text often gets us much farther than just trying to work through the problems.

Visit Kahn Academy
Kahn Academy is my favorite website for reviewing how to do math problems. You can search for specific skills, and there will be a video lecture to explain the work. Oftentimes, there is more than one way to do the problem, and the videos will show you all your options until you find one that works for your child.

There’s an App for That
Sometimes, the problem isn’t that I don’t understand how to do the math, it’s just that I am so tired I can’t think straight. PhotoMath allows me to simply hold my phone over the problems, and it will give me the correct answer to make checking my child’s work quick and easy. Be careful though, it’s a tempting tool for kids who are inclined to take the easy way out.


Make an Appointment with
If you need one-on-one support, you can’t beat It’s free for many military families, and you can make appointments with teachers who will walk you through specific questions and concepts over video chat. If you have children writing essays, they also have a wonderful tool where you can submit an essay for review, and have it back within 24 hours with suggestions to edit it.

Use Games for Extra Practice
If you have a child who “gets it” but just needs extra practice, don’t overlook the huge amount of free resources available online. There are websites for everything from spelling games, to grammar quizzes, math facts practice, and even quizzes to check reading comprehension.

Keep Positive
Whatever you do, reassure your child that everyone needs help from time to time. Model a positive attitude for them, and teach them to be resourceful by showing them where they can go for help when they need it.

Good luck this school year!

How do you help your child when they need it? Share your tips in the comments!

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Homeschooling Your Kids Through Military Life Transitions

If there’s one thing to count on in the military lifestyle, it’s that military transitions never come at opportune times. Summer Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season is only a dream for some families, and sometimes even a summer PCS doesn’t actually mean moving during summer break from school. Deployments aren’t scheduled around holidays, birthdays, final exams, or the big elementary science fair. Even the every day work routine can be changed at any time.

As a military spouse, I can’t do anything to control the timing of deployments, PCS moves, or even job schedule changes. About twelve years ago, I discovered a way to make all those military transitions a bit easier for our family: homeschooling.


Homeschooling through a PCS
We were a little more than halfway through our first year of homeschooling when we received orders to move from Illinois to Virginia. Instead of worrying about how much time my daughter could afford to miss from school, or how she would be able to cope with a new school (especially a school in the midst of annual testing), I just packed up a box of school books to read and work on when we had time. She did a few assignments in the Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF) at our old base, and a few more while waiting for the moving truck to arrive at our new house.

In subsequent moves, we adjusted our homeschool schedule to work around the chaos of unpacking boxes and finding our way around a new location. When we arrived in Arizona, in August a few years ago, we found out students had already been in school for several weeks. We spent a few days house hunting, unpacked a few boxes of school books to use in the TLF, took a few days off to settle into a temporary apartment, and then took a whole week off when we finally moved into a house in October. We didn’t take as long of a fall break as our public school friends, but we managed to finish our required number of school days before the following summer rolled around.


Homeschooling through a Deployment
Just as I have no control over PCS orders, I also have no control over deployment orders. Since we couldn’t pick the day he left, I rearranged our lives to be as forgiving as possible during that stressful time. We spent the first weeks of the deployment reviewing math concepts instead of doing timed math facts drills, reading books together instead of writing research papers, and so on. There weren’t any huge projects to stress over or final exams that counted for 50% of the final grade in a class.

Months later, I rearranged our school schedule to accommodate the R&R trip that didn’t fall during a regular school break time. If the kids had been younger, we might have let them skip school for a week or two; my high school student would have been hopelessly behind in Physics or AP Calculus if she had missed that much class work. With our adjusted homeschool schedule none of the kids fell behind. Who says fall break can’t be in August, anyway?

Our school hours also changed significantly during the deployment. Since there was nobody telling us that school had to start exactly at 8:10 am, we often managed to squeeze in time to Skype with Dad before starting our schoolwork. Time zone changes from the states to the other side of the world often meant that the best times to connect with my husband would’ve been impossible if I had been trying to get three kids to three schools on time every morning.


Everyday Homeschooling
Even when my husband is home and we’ve unpacked most of the boxes from the last PCS, I still appreciate our homeschool flexibility. Schedule change? Maybe we’ll take that day off, too. Working swing shifts or nights? Maybe school needs to be at the library this week. TDY coming up? Maybe we’ll tag along.

There are so many things I cannot control as a military spouse. Many of those things are easier to handle because I’m not simultaneously trying to force unyielding school commitments into our crazy military life. There are many reasons why I homeschool my children — one of the biggest is that it helps reduce my military-spouse stress level to a manageable level.

Do you military kids who are homeschooled? Do you find it less stressful than regular school? Join us for a Facebook Party!

Blog Teaser Graphic back to school nmfa

You’re invited! Join us for another fast-paced evening of conversation and fun. We want to talk to you about your child’s education, and support you in helping make this the BEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER for your military child. Join us, and our panel of experts on October 15th, from 9-10 PM EST on Facebook. We’ll be ready to answer question on everything from supporting your child through transitions, getting your child’s school the funding it deserves, communicating with teachers, and even educating your child at home if you are considering homeschooling. Join us for a fast-paced hour of fun, support, and of course, PRIZES!

cristi schwambPosted by Crisit Schwamb, military spouse and blogger at Through the Calm and Through the Storm, Cristi  now shares homeschool product reviews, years-ago stories about their family, allergy-friendly recipes, and other random thoughts

8 Tips for Teachers of Resilient, Interesting Military Kids

Congrats, Teacher! You have a military child in your class, and you’re the proud educator of a resilient and interesting student. This child has likely lived in multiple states, and perhaps several different countries, but will need some help from you to make this year a success.


First, welcome this family with open arms. Send out a welcome email or phone call to them, even if they come in the middle of the year; this is a great policy to have for all of your students’ families, every single school year. Let them know about your classroom policies, homework practices, and the basic curriculum.

Next, ask about their last school. The student may have come from another state, and potentially a different set of educational standards, so find out how they did on the state assessments, and ask if you can take a peek at any report cards or comments from the last school. You might also want to contact previous teachers, if your student’s family feels comfortable with this.

Does this student have an Individual Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan? If so, get eyes on that document as soon as possible, and hopefully before the first day of school. Remember this is a legal education plan that needs to be put into place as soon as possible. Check with the family to ensure the special education department and school administration also have copies of this document. Since these documents are transferring from another district, the student will need to be evaluated by your district within 60 days. This could result in more services, the same services, or even the end of services if a student no longer qualifies for special education services.

Everyone is nervous on the first day of school; it’s twice as tough for a military kid. He or she is coming into a school where social groups are established and there is a shared history–he is perpetually the “new kid.” Make that first day, or week, easier for her. Use icebreakers to help your students get comfortable with each other. Good examples are Two Truths and a Lie, partner interviews, creating a flag to depict themselves, icebreaker BINGO, or a find-your-partner guessing game.

Play to your student’s strengths. If they’ve lived in Okinawa, and your grade studies Japanese history or culture, ask the child to share their experiences. Or ask one, or both, parents to visit your class. If the student has a passion for history, or reading, or science, enlist them to help you create teachable moments or create depth in your lessons. A military child has a lot of experiences, and sharing their knowledge will help other students get to know and respect the new addition to their school.


Find out which topics your military student already knows or has covered in depth. For many MilKids, they have covered many topics over and over again due to moves and differences in education pacing. These students might also have gaping holes in their knowledge because of these same factors. If there are gaps, try and fill them through additional assignments, one-on-one teaching time, or by recommending resources to parents. If a student seems to have mastery of a topic, you should try and extend their knowledge and skills through enrichment activities. You can find many ideas for both remediation and extension online.

Keep meticulous records on this student. Your records are probably excellent to begin with, but for military children, exceptional records are crucial. As they move school to school, between Common Core States, international schools, DoDEA schools, and state-created educational standards, things can get lost in the shuffle. Think about the next teacher, and the next school. Think about what you wish you had known on day one, and include that in the file.

Be real, be reliable, and communicate. Don’t pander to this child, or his family. Be honest about any academic or social concerns you have, and talk about them sooner, rather than later. Military families are proactive! Don’t just save communication for the negatives. Let her parents know how she is settling in, if she has made a close friend, and when she demonstrates exceptional character.

As a teacher, you have the unique opportunity to make a mark on the lives of children. An excellent teacher can change a child’s life, and this is especially true for our resilient and interesting military children.

Are you a teacher with military kids in your classroom? Do they make your classroom more dynamic?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws.

World Suicide Prevention Day: Change the Direction of Mental Health

September marks the start of Suicide Prevention Month, with today being World Suicide Prevention Day—a time when to reflect on the lives taken too soon, and focus on saving lives. We know suicides within the military community are growing at an alarming rate, with more than 20 veterans taking their lives each day. Studies are only beginning to track military family suicides, but we know this number is unsettling, too.



Mental health and the military community has long been an issue swept under the rug…but why? Some service members say they don’t seek help for mental health illnesses for fear of getting in trouble with their unit, being teased by fellow service members, or being discharged altogether. Family members face their own obstacles when dealing with mental health care, ranging from their own embarrassment in seeking treatment, to the lack of mental health providers equipped to understand what military life is really like.

The National Military Family Association is committed to ensuring the nation’s military families have access to programs and initiatives that strengthen and support them, like proper mental health care. One way we’re doing that is by joining forces with The Campaign to Change Direction and pledging to share, with at least 200,000 military families, the Five Signs of Suffering.

“Those who serve our nation, and their families, face unique challenges and stressors that can place them at higher risk for the development of mental health concerns. The Campaign to Change Direction gives us the opportunity to ensure those in need receive the care and support they deserve,” says Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder and President of Give an Hour, the backbone organization leading the Campaign.

So what is The Change Direction initiative? On the heels of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy, Give an Hour and a collection of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector came together to create a new story in America about mental health, mental illness, and wellness.

“We are honored to partner with the National Military Family Association in this critical effort to educate all military families about the Five Signs of Suffering,” Van Dahlen adds.

This story will spark a movement to change the way we view mental health and help us to recognize signs of emotional suffering in ourselves and others.

five signs of suffering

The most important piece of information we can learn from the Change Direction initiative are the Five Signs of Suffering:

  1. Personality Change. This can happen suddenly, or gradually, and can sometimes look as though they’re acting outside of their values, or the person may just seem different.
  2. Agitation. They seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody. You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable or unable to calm down.
  3. Withdrawal. Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities he or she used to enjoy.
  4. Poor Self-Care. They stop taking care of themselves and may engage in risky behavior.
  5. Hopelessness. Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking.

What happens if you see these signs in someone you know?

Change Direction offers this advice, “You connect, you reach out, you inspire hope, and you offer help. Show compassion and caring and a willingness to find a solution when the person may not have the will or drive to help him- or herself. There are many resources in our communities. It may take more than one offer, and you may need to reach out to others who share your concern about the person who is suffering. If everyone is more open and honest about mental health, we can prevent pain and suffering, and those in need will get the help they deserve.”

The face of mental health within the military community is all too often ignored—by policy makers, military leaders, and even the service member and their family. Through NMFA’s pledge with Change Direction, we will make sure that you and your military family continue to have the support you need, and we will continue to fight for the benefits and programs your family has sacrificed for.

Join NMFA and The Campaign to Change Direction on today’s World Suicide Prevention Day, and make a pledge to create a culture where mental health is valued and achievable.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Military Advance Pay: Caution! It’s Not a Pay Day Loan

Another government ordered move and you are short on cash. You tried to save extra money in a moving fund, but these orders arrived quicker than you expected. You have a great job and your income is a big part of your family’s budget. What will you do?

A little-known provision of military pay is called “advance pay.”

Advance pay is neither an entitlement, nor a guarantee, but may be an option your service member can request, if there is a need, before, or shortly after, a PCS.

Advance pay is a type of pay available to help offset the cost of a move and cover extraordinary expenses such as: loss of a spouse’s income, down payment on a home, or cost of maintaining two households. Advance pay is just that – an advance of your service member’s basic pay.

DoD Instruction 1340.18 provides the nitty-gritty details about advance pay. A service member may be eligible to apply for 1-3 months of advance pay, and the repayment period ranges from 12-24 months. A service member can make a request to receive advance pay 30 days prior to a PCS, or 60 days after a PCS.

The service member’s administrative department can help process the necessary paperwork, form DD 2560. Remember, you must be able to demonstrate why the funds are needed. A shopping spree, or a new pool, does not count as an unmet need. Your service member may be asked to complete a budget, or financial worksheet, outlining the additional costs related to the move.

If your service member requests more than 1 month of basic pay, the request will need to be reviewed by the service member’s immediate command. Likewise, if you request a repayment period exceeding 12 months, the service member must justify the extended payback period.

Cautionary tips:

  • Advance pay is an interest-free advance of the service member’s basic pay and must be repaid. This means the service member’s pay will be reduced each month during the repayment period.
  • Advance pay must be repaid, even if the service member voluntarily or involuntarily separates from the service. You borrowed against your future earnings and must pay it back.
  • Your advance pay is taxable income, and may impact your income taxes. Be sure to consult with a tax professional to review your specific situation.

Personal stories from families who have applied for advance pay suggest having your justification and supporting paperwork ready. Many families are able to receive 1 month of basic pay with a 12 month repayment period. Anything beyond 1 month of pay and a 12 month repayment may require additional financial counseling and documentation. Be sure to fully understand the cautionary notes before your service member requests advance pay.

Have you requested advance pay? How did it impact your family’s PCS budget?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

My PCS has Gone Bad…Now What?


In the peak of summer, military families are immersed in the chaos of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) cycle. This process involves so many moving parts; it is amazing that it works as well as it does. Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is the executive agent for the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Personal Property Program. SDDC recommends diligent planning, attention to detail and flexibility for a smooth move. Our Association even has a fantastic smart phone app, called MyMilitaryLife, that does all the hard work for you! But we all know things go wrong, even with the best planning, and most flexible parties. SDDC’s website is a great starting point for links to everything that follows. Bookmark it, write it down, and make it your friend!

Even though we are on the downswing of peak PCS season, we still get questions on the “rules” about moving. US Transportation Command’s guide can be useful, with information from weight limits, to the hours your packers should be at your home. For questions about what can be moved to how, it is a great guide.

Most people are now moving using the online Defense Personal Property System via instead of going through the Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO, aka PPPO, TMO or TO) to arrange their PCS move, but you can still find your installation PPSO. By using the website portal, you can stay informed of where you are in your moving process, along with access to your Transportation Service Provider (TSP). In most cases, you will want to contact your assigned TSP as your first line of defense with any complications that arise. However, you can also email, phone, or submit help tickets directly to SDDC via the website portal.

If you are in the middle of the moving process and something goes wrong that costs you extra money (for example, your packers don’t finish in time and the movers are delayed, causing you to incur extra costs because you can’t leave as scheduled) you can file an Inconvenience Claim. This would be done through your TSP via Your claim must be reasonable and the costs must be directly related to the newly created hardship, and you must be able to provide receipts to support your claim. If you have trouble with an inconvenience claim through your TSP, you can contact the PPPO or Military Claims Office to assist in the settlement process. We sometimes hear the claims process can be cumbersome, but there are a lot of resources on the Move.Mil website portal to help you understand the process. Check out their guides and tutorials available.

If your problem is related to your Privately Owned Vehicle (POV), get in touch with the contractor moving your vehicle, International Auto Logistics (IAL). If your vehicle has not been delivered and the Required Delivery Date (RDD) has passed, you are entitled to reimbursement for a rental vehicle. The military will cover up to seven days at a rate limited to $30 per day that expires upon the date the POV is delivered. Any car rental required beyond seven days will have to be submitted to IAL. They will review claims for temporary lodging and rental car expenses due to a missed RDD via their website.

  • For damages to your POV, you need to contact IAL to file a damage claim. 1-800-389-9499 or email
  • For IAL’s customer service, email
  • For more assistance on POVs, you can reach the USTRANSCOM POV Inspector General Customer Support Team at

After your move, you want to make sure to fill out the Customer Satisfaction Survey. The scores you provide help determine whether or not the TSP you used will continue to ship for DoD families. Good or bad, your feedback matters.

Don’t forget that all of these resources and quick links are at the touch of your fingertip through our innovative, perfect-for-your-military-journey, smartphone app, MyMilitaryLife!

Have you used any of these resources? What questions do you have about PCSing? Share them, and your experiences, in the comments!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director