Tag Archives: children’s education

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.

Military Kid Athlete, College, and Living OCONUS: A Come-From-Behind Victory

soccer-milkid-oconusIf applying for college isn’t stressful enough, try doing it from Italy! And trying to have your soccer-playing military kid seen and recruited while living on a different continent is like having a second job!

Our daughter wanted to play soccer in college, so we focused on the recruiting process and trying to find the right academic and athletic program for her. We always thought coaches were not allowed to talk the prospective collegiate athlete until the end of their junior year of high school. So, we thought we had plenty of time to plan. Because of that, we didn’t take her to college ID soccer camps until the summer prior to her senior year. We were so misinformed. Our daughter’s excitement quickly turned to panic when she realized many of her camp roommates were already verbally committed to colleges. Many had been committed since their sophomore year.

Living overseas made it harder for her to be seen by college coaches; she was unable to attend showcase tournaments, weekend ID camps, or play with prestigious US teams back in the states. Fortunately, my husband took hours of video footage of her playing soccer, and we had taken advantage of every local soccer opportunity that was available in Italy. Little did we know, the footage from Italian and high school games might be the determining factor to gain acceptance into a college soccer program.

One of the best decisions we made was to make a trip back to the US, so our daughter could participate in some college tours before her senior year of high school. We took her to see schools ranging from small to very large, in three different states. It was a great experience for our family, but is was also overwhelming.

To say we were behind the curve in the whole process, puts it mildly. I’m kind of embarrassed to say we had no clue what we were getting into, and we learned so much as we went through the process.


If you are stationed overseas and your athlete wants to play sports in college: do your homework. Make sure you have an NCAA number–coaches will want that. Plan accordingly to allow your athlete time stateside to attend college ID camps, trainings, and showcases. The college application process can be very challenging; schools adhere to strict deadlines and the postal process from a base in Italy to a campus in the US is not very fast. Be prepared, have all of your documents and transcripts ready to go, and mail in the packets early!

Today, my girl is playing college soccer at Virginia Military Institute. She was the first athlete from Vicenza High School to sign with a Division 1 school. Our family considers this a come-from-behind victory, and we know our daughter found the right school for her. Your athlete can do the same!

Living overseas makes it harder, but we’re a military family; we welcome the challenge!

Have you ever gone through the college application process with your military child from overseas? 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!

Posted by Carmen Frank, military spouse

Moving with School-Aged Kids: The Plight of an Under-Informed Mom

Our kids attended Vicenza Elementary School in Italy for two years. As we prepared to move back to the United States, I was nervous about the transition to new schools. Will the kids be behind academically? Will they make friends? Will the curriculum be very different? Will they adjust? As it turns out, my time worrying could have been better used learning more about the Interstate Compact for Military Children. I took the crash course when we made it to Georgia.


After an expedited move from Italy to Georgia and our first home purchase, we drove from our closing (paperwork in hand) to the county office to register our three kids for school. Our youngest was entering first grade, our middle was entering fourth grade, and our oldest was entering seventh grade. We had our copies of sealed school records, test scores, and other required documentation. I was hopeful it was all we needed. The logistics required to get them registered was challenging enough; finalizing the process with the individual schools would surely be a breeze. Or so I thought.

This is not a school-bashing story. It is the plight of an under-informed mom.

We started with the elementary school since we had two kids entering, and “meet the teacher” was the following day. To my surprise, the envelopes of records were opened and promptly returned to their manila home. There were no assessments, no questions about the kids, not even a form to share information about their learning style, or strengths and weaknesses. There was an emergency contact form, and buried half way down the page was a simple question; is your parent in the military? I was told there would be time to schedule a conference with the teachers once school began. With that, we were ushered out the door.

I left feeling frustrated and angry. How could my child, or any child, succeed in what seemed like random placement? My 6-year-old went on to struggle through the year despite conferences and frequent email communication–but that’s another story entirely–one I plan to share when I reach the top of that mountain. My son did fine and I was thankful for that.

We drove to the middle school, hoping to catch someone in the office as the afternoon hours were quickly disappearing. We were pleased to be greeted by the principal, and introduced to the school’s resource officer. My daughter’s envelope was opened and reviewed on the spot. My excitement quickly faded when we were told that the grades for the standardized tests she took in the DoDEA school would not be considered, and that her gifted placement would also not be considered. What? Why? Looking back, I asked myself: why didn’t I know about the resources in place to protect her?

I had heard of the Interstate Compact for Military Kids, but I didn’t take the time to understand it, or know how to use it.


We left the school that afternoon under the advisement that our daughter would need to test into accelerated math and gifted classes. Our child, who maintained an A average over 7 years in school and 5 moves, who did well on standardized tests, participated in student government and numerous sports and activities, wasn’t even given a chance to be placed at her current level until she was tested.

I can tell you now – that is not okay. Our kids have rights, and armed with accurate information, we can fight to protect them. I read about the Interstate Compact all night. I made calls to check facts, and I made copies to take to the school.

My child had the right to be placed at her current academic level. I’m not opposed to the school’s right to evaluate the child to ensure the placement is correct, but she has the right to be placed first and tested after. Even with documentation in hand, she did not start school in the gifted program.

Weeks later, before any testing was done, she received an invitation to enroll in gifted classes citing her grades, test scores, and previous gifted program testing. Ironically, this was all the same information we provided before school began. She went on to finish seventh grade with two gifted classes and an accelerated math class. My military child fought for herself and earned her grades and ultimately her placement.

From one parent to another: know your child’s rights and fight hard to protect them. Moving from school to school is tough, but I know first-hand that our military kids are tougher!

Do you have school aged kids? 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!

KimHeadshot10-15Posted by Kim Edger, Website Architect

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!


It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org. Please keep external links to a maximum 3 links.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Interstate Compact for the Win! #WayBackWednesday

On August 18, New York became the 50th state to jump on board and adopt the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children! So what does this mean?

This important legislation, now accepted across the United States, levels the playing field for military kids who transition to new states and new schools because of military orders. The Interstate Compact ensures they receive uniform treatment over a variety of different scenarios common when changing schools, like enrollment, placement, attendance, eligibility and graduation.

But that’s not all. Even though all 50 states have taken the steps to support military children, we’re finding out some school administrators and teachers still don’t know the provisions of the Interstate Compact, even in states where it has been law for years.

You can help. Visit our website to find resources, information, and even some printable documents you can take to your local school to share.

We are thankful for all the administrators, teachers, and educators who teach our awesome military kids, both stateside, and overseas! In this #WayBackWednesday photo from 1990, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet with Teachers of the Year from Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS).


One Test, Two Test…Here Comes a New Test!

Books---EducationState standardized testing. Those words can make anyone get a little damp under the arm pits. We all took them as kids. But today, they are a BIG deal! When you’re a military kid, who moves from state to state, they are a REALLY BIG deal.

In Florida, our daughter’s first grade class made good luck cards for the fifth graders taking the FCAT (Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test). Another class made signs to post on the walls. There was even a pep rally! My fourth grader was told if they didn’t pass the writing portion they couldn’t go on to the fifth grade. Really? Children can get held back by one exam?

Can that really be true?

In Washington, the teachers didn’t make a sporting event of taking the MSP (Measurements of Student Progress) exam in the early spring, but the test results weren’t available until the next fall. That’s a l-o-n-g wait. And the scores only get released to school districts… not directly to parents. Six months later we found out they all passed. We weren’t even living in the state anymore!

We’re in Virginia this year for the SOL (Standard of Learning) tests. Here, they’ve talked about the SOLs since the first week of school! The pressure to succeed here is massive because Northern Virginia prides itself on its national reputation for superior public schools.

Our eighth grader is most worried about the science exam because his seventh grade science course in Washington was not the same as the science curriculum in Virginia.

As a military kid, he can use Tutor.com for free! We also recently learned about SOAR (Student Online Achievement Resources), a free assessment service that helps kids and parents see whether they are meeting state standards and where they need extra help. But what 14 year old wants to study extra in May… for another exam… in another state… with another standard?

Not mine. And I don’t blame him.

Military families all know the answer to this word problem: another new state + state testing = anxiety!

Our house is a bowl of SOL stress soup right now.

In the near future, one of my three kids has a test, is going to bed early for a test, is celebrating a test being over, or is complaining about the upcoming test. I can’t make their test anxiety go away.

But I gave them this advice, “You’ve gained more life skills and knowledge from 8 moves, 5 states, and Japan than you will ever learn in a classroom. You’ve been tested time and again when your dad has gone on long trips, trainings, and deployments. You’ve passed with flying colors each time. You’ve got this!”

And they do.

How do you help your military kids get ready for school exams?

meredithPosted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

Finding the Silver Lining: Military Family “Wins” in 2013

army-dad-with-babyOver the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the many ways that Washington is breaking faith with military families. Just in the last month, we learned that in 2014 the military will receive a pay increase of only 1 percent – the lowest such pay raise since the creation of the all-volunteer force. At the same time, we were told that cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases to military retiree pensions will be reduced starting in 2016. And just last week we learned the stateside commissaries may be eliminated in the next three years. These blows came at the end of a year in which military families watched as the programs and services they depend on were threatened by budget cuts. Under these circumstances, it’s understandable that military families feel that they are the big losers in Washington’s epic budget battles.

Fortunately, there were a few bright spots for military families in 2013. Both the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) included provisions to support military families and improve their quality of life.

As a parent, I was particularly pleased to see the NDAA provides a total of $30 million to assist public schools educating large numbers of military-connected children. Even better, the spending bill passed by Congress restored $65 million in Department of Education Impact Aid funds that had been cut by sequestration. These funds are used to compensate school districts for the loss of tax revenue due to the presence of a federal activity or federally connected students (like military kids). These two provisions mean public schools educating military children will receive much-needed financial support in 2014.

In 2013 some retiree families learned that they would no longer be eligible for TRICARE Prime because of the elimination of some TRICARE Prime Service Areas. This change struck many military family members as unfair and disruptive, and Congress agreed. The NDAA offers a one-time opportunity for those families to opt back in to TRICARE Prime. We have not yet received any information from TRICARE about how this policy will be implemented.

The NDAA recognized families of service members in Special Operations Command have unique needs that may not always be met by regular family support programs. To address these needs, Congress authorized $5 million to develop support programs dedicated to those families.

We were gratified to see Congress take on the issue of suicide among service members and military families in the NDAA. Our Association has long been concerned about suicides among military family members. We have heard reports the numbers may be increasing, but currently there is no data on the numbers, the causes, or how they can be prevented. We recommended Congress call for a study on this issue and were especially pleased to see this request included in the NDAA. The legislation also called for enhanced suicide prevention efforts for members of the reserve component.

Finally, we were pleased to see that the NDAA included provisions to care for wounded service members, their families and caregivers, and survivors. DoD was directed to improve assistance for Gold Star spouses and other family members in the days following the death of a service member. The legislation also aims to support wounded service members as they transition out of the military and seek civilian employment by providing additional information about disability-related employment and education protections in Transition Assistance Programs. Congress also directed DoD to provide service members’ medical records to the VA in an electronic format.

In 2014, our Association will continue to fight for programs and services that support service members and their families.

What issues are important for you and your military family? Let us know – and let your Members of Congress know too!
Click here to find contact information for your Representative or Senator.

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director