Tag Archives: children’s education

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!

share-your-story-with-nmfa-blog

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).

90-BUSH-&-CHENEY-WITH-DODDS-TEACHER-OF-YEAR

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

Surviving the Mid-Year School Transition

mid-year-school-transitionA few years ago, I attended a Military Child and Education Coalition (MCEC) seminar held at Fort Drum. “Things are finally getting more manageable,” I thought on my drive to the event. A thought I distinctly remember. After surviving multiple deployments, five moves, an infant with colic, a toddler who resisted the car seat’s five point harness like a ferocious wild animal, my life as a mom finally seemed to be smoothing out. Both kids were sleeping through the night, I was down to one child in diapers. My daughter was approaching kindergarten. I’m a little ashamed to admit, I viewed it as a sort of parole.

I was thinking to the future, confident that I could handle anything now that I was enjoying a solid 6 hours of sleep per night.

Not so fast.

The challenges weren’t ending, they were simply shifting – something the MCEC workshop taught me to recognize. Sure, I would be more well-rested, but with my daughter entering school, each move would present a whole new set of issues. Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations that have worked to facilitate school transitions for military kids.

As I mentioned, MCEC holds workshops to help parents and kids with the challenges of switching schools. The Interstate Compact has addressed many of the academic hurdles that occur when families move from state to state, and School Liaison Officers are available to answer questions about your new school district and its requirements.

Walking away from the MCEC workshop, I was pretty sure I could manage the academic issues related to moving. What really concerned me were the social challenges my kids would face. We were fortunate that our next two moves coincided with summer break and my daughter was just one of many new military kids starting the academic year at her new school. Unfortunately, our last PCS did not, and we were forced to confront the dreaded mid-year school transfer.

Shortly after arriving at our new school this past April, I volunteered to chaperone the kindergarten field trip. I arrived a little early to find my son’s class outside for recess. Kids were running around everywhere and it took me awhile to spot my son. He was sitting on a curb, by himself, making a small pile of dirt. When I approached him and asked what he was doing, he told me he was making a house for his pals, the ants.

My heart broke.

If there is one thing I’ve taken away from the many Army resiliency trainings I’ve dutifully attended, it is that the key to managing this military lifestyle is to optimize the things you have the ability to influence, and try to make the best of everything else.

Leaving old friends and routines is hard. Making new friends and fitting into a new school can be even harder. As much as you’d like, you probably won’t be able to arrange for a new best friend to be waiting at your child’s new school. However, our recent experience showed me the importance of identifying key things to make the experience a little smoother.

I wasn’t always successful, but I want to share my lessons learned in the hope that it might help during your next move:

Contact your child’s teacher before his or her first day of school. Use this opportunity to introduce yourself and make sure the teacher is prepared for your child’s arrival. Your military kid will feel much more welcome if there is a desk, cubby, coat hook and school supply box waiting for him or her.

Ask for any booklets or documents on classroom policy or routines. Most teachers, particularly in the younger grades, distribute something at the beginning of the year. Are there any special folders or a day planner your child will need for homework? Understanding how these systems work will help your military kid get into the new routine.

Learn where to find the most accurate school calendar. I mistakenly assumed the calendar on our school’s website was up to date until I showed up at 11:30am for an early dismissal only to discover that it was a full day. In most cases, you can check with your child’s school administrative office to find an updated calendar.

Make sure your name is added to all school distribution lists. I regularly receive emails from the school’s main office, the teacher, and the PTO. Does your child’s classroom have a room parent? My son’s class has six (yes, that’s 6!) room moms. You need to ensure that each of these volunteers adds you to her distribution list, or you might miss the email to send in items for a craft project or show and tell.

Be sure you understand, and are incorporated into, your new school’s emergency communication system. Okay, that tip isn’t going to smooth your child’s transition, but it may ease your own peace of mind. In the unlikely event that something should happen at your school, or in your neighborhood, you don’t want to be wondering how the school will provide you with updates.

Does your child’s school have any special programs that are unique to it and, if so, how might your military kid be impacted? Our new school’s PTO runs a hot dog lunch fundraiser on Thursdays. I signed up my kids at the front office but, unfortunately, word of the new additions did not travel to the cafeteria. Much confusion ensued when my kindergartener showed up looking for a hot dog. He was sent to the office to eat the “nurse’s lunch” which I eventually learned is a variety of shelf stable snacks she keeps on hand for kids who forget their lunch. I count this as my biggest fail and wish I had taken the time to learn more about Hot Dog Day to ensure it went smoothly.

Consider volunteering at the school as often as you can. For you, it will provide an opportunity to meet other parents. For established families, it allows them to put a face to your name. After spending a day with my daughter’s class and many of their moms, one of them realized that she didn’t see our name on an email list inviting families to a special event for 2nd graders. She tracked down my contact info and called to tell me about it. I was grateful that she thought of us and I’m not sure that would have happened had we not met while volunteering.

Recently, I picked my son up at school for a dental appointment to a chorus of kids shouting his name and asking when he’d be returning. It was such a relief to see that he has been embraced by his new classmates. While I wouldn’t want to repeat it, we seem to have survived our mid-school year move and learned a few things in the process.

Have you experienced a mid-year school transition? What are your lessons learned? What advice would you give to families facing a mid-year PCS?

karen-rPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

FAQ Series: Tips for School Success

Teacher-and-students1Although it’s only been a few weeks since school started, it already feels like forever since summer. The days are getting shorter, leaves are starting to turn, and at our house, the piles of homework are starting to grow. Like so many families, we start every new school year with the best of intentions. This is the year we’re going to get organized, stay on top of assignments, and actually use the planner that was handed out on the first day of school. But every year, somehow, life gets the best of us and those good intentions fall by the wayside. Homework assignments get put off or forgotten, or the teacher introduces a new math concept before we’ve completely mastered the old one. Inevitably, there will come an evening when I find myself seated at the kitchen table with a kid who has a science project, math assignment, or history paper due – of course – tomorrow, and no idea where to start.

Luckily, military families have access to great resources to help us through those desperate moments or – even better – keep them from happening in the first place. Online resources are available to help with homework, prepare for college, and even make sure kids are where they need to be, academically, before a move. Here are some frequently asked questions for school success:

Q: I’ve forgotten all the geometry I ever knew. How can I help my eighth-grader?

A: Tutor.com is an online service that offers free homework help and tutoring services to military family members. Expert tutors are online 24/7 and available to help in more than 16 subjects, including algebra, chemistry, calculus, and physics. Tutors can also assist students with college applications and preparation for standardized tests. Military kids – and spouses too – can log on via their computer, tablet, or mobile device and connect with a tutor to get real-time, live homework help. Every tutoring session is anonymous, and no personal information is ever shared between tutor and student. Students can send transcripts of their tutoring sessions to their parents, allowing parents – even those who may be deployed overseas – to keep up with how their children are progressing. Visit Tutor.com to learn more and sign up your student.

Q: The SAT is coming up in a few weeks, and test prep classes are expensive. Are there any alternatives?

A: Military kids preparing for standardized tests have many sources for free and reduced-price assistance. Test prep software is offered to military-connected students at free and reduced-price through eKnowledge. Families pay only shipping and handling for standard test prep software. Premium software programs are available at a discounted price.

Many families don’t realize that the Department of Defense (DoD) has an extensive online library system. One of the many free services available to families through this system is the Peterson DoD MWR Education Resource Center, which offers online test prep assistance and classes. In order to access the Education Resource Center, military families must set up a log-in through Military OneSource. Visit Military OneSource to learn more about online library resources available through DoD.

Q: It looks like we’re moving again. How can I help my child get ready for his or her next school?

A: SOAR, or Student Online Achievement Resources, is sponsored by the Military Impacted Schools Association (MISA) and was established through a partnership among the University of Northern Iowa, Princeton Review, Skills Tutor, and CORE K12. It allows students to assess their skills against grade level standards in all 50 states and provides tutorials to help students where they may be falling short. Other education resources available on the site include links to military installations, transition resources and school websites, resources from specific states, including curriculum frameworks and testing information, and links to United States Department of Education online web resources. Registration is free for military families.

The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) has many resources for military children, especially those transitioning to new schools. They created SchoolQuest which includes information to help transitioning military families find a school and features a library with articles, web links, and other educational resources for military students and their families.

What resources have you found to help your military-connected child in school? Let us know in the comment section!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Early Childhood Education: How important is it to you?

military-family-2-kidsAs a mom, I am in the habit of thinking that whatever age my kids happen to be is THE most critical stage in their development. This makes sense, of course – when they were little I worried about reading readiness, while nowadays I stay up nights fretting about SAT scores. And certainly, every age and stage is an important part of a child’s growth and development.

Increasingly, though, research is demonstrating the importance of the early years. In fact, according to the Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC), 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age five.

Knowing this, it makes sense that quality child care and early education programs can have a huge impact on our kids’ development – and conversely, a lack of good early childhood education can threaten a child’s long-term academic success.

Busy parents – especially in military families – need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they are at work. Some military families are able to enroll their children in their installation Child Development Center. Other families find care outside the installation through the Services’ fee assistance program administered by Child Care Aware .

Still, we know that the demand for quality child care is far greater than the supply. And for many families, the cost of quality child care or preschool is far out of reach. For this reason, our Association was pleased by President Obama’s recent proposal to expand access to pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs. We want to make sure all of our military kids have access to the quality early child care and education they and their parents need and deserve.

The ECEC wants to let our government leaders know how important early childhood education is, and they need your help! They have launched a campaign, Strong Start for Children to show Congress how much early child education means to children and families.

Do you have a great story about your child’s experience in child care or preschool? Email info@ececonsortium.org and your story may be included in the campaign. Find out more at the ECEC’s Strong Start for Children page for parents. Every day, policymakers make decisions that impact you, your children, and your ability to access high-quality and reliable early care and education to meet your family’s needs. Make sure your voice is heard!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director