Tag Archives: education

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

Military Spouse Scholarship Opportunities!

man-studyingNational Military Family Association is pleased to announce a new affiliation with the University of Southern California and Georgetown University. With master’s degree programs delivered online, these universities can help you continue your education no matter where military life takes you. Plus, through our Association, program candidates are eligible for scholarship opportunities.

What do YOU want to do?
Each of these programs blends live, online classes taught by university faculty with hands-on field experiences in students’ own communities.

To learn more, choose your field of interest:

Education: Make a Positive Impact in the Classroom — and Beyond
You can create positive learning experiences in a variety of educational settings when you earn your master’s degree in education. Ideal for aspiring or practicing teachers alike, the USC Rossier School of Education offers three online master’s degree programs:

Featuring the same highly selective admissions criteria as the on-campus programs, the USC Rossier’s online master’s degree programs can prepare you to inspire students everywhere.
Pre-Requisites: Bachelor’s degree
Scholarship Opportunity: $5,000
Learn more >>

Social Work: Further Social Justice
The University of Southern California School of Social Work is the first among elite research universities to offer its highly regarded Master of Social Work online. Expand your knowledge and gain in-depth training by choosing a concentration that complements your personal and professional interests — including a specialization in Military Social Work. Taught by renowned faculty and leaders in the field of social work, the online curriculum matches the academic rigor of the on-campus program.
Pre-Requisite: Bachelor’s degree
Scholarship Opportunity: $7,500
Learn more >>

Nursing: Improve the Health and Well-Being of All People
Advance your practice and improve patient outcomes as a nurse practitioner. Georgetown University’s nationally ranked Master of Science degree in Nursing features Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner specialties. Taught by Georgetown’s highly respected faculty, these programs are designed to provide the next generation of nursing leaders with the insight and knowledge they need to grow professionally and improve the health and well-being of all people.

Pre-Requisite: Registered Nurse (RN) license and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN)
Scholarship Opportunity: $7,500
Learn more >>

No matter where life takes you, never stop learning!

Are you a military spouse going back to school? Tell us what you’re studying!

Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship: Apply Dec 1!

Female-Psychology-StudentIt’s all in a name.

In this case, that name is Joanne Holbrook Patton. Joanne is a fifth generation Army daughter, and was married to the late Major General George S. Patton IV for 52 years. She has served graciously as a volunteer for the Red Cross, Army Community Service, and the National Military Family Association. She believes strongly in the importance of education for military spouses.

In 2005, the National Military Family Association renamed its scholarship program in her honor. In the ten years since the program’s inception, we have awarded more than 2,700 military spouses with over $2.4 million towards their education and careers.

Over the years, the scholarship program has adapted to the ever-changing military lifestyle. The ‘mobile’ lifestyle requires that spouses have portable careers – those that can be restarted in any state or overseas – in order to remain in the job market after each move. Often times, spouses already own a degree, or may be pursuing a degree, and return back to school to find a career that is more portable. The return to education comes at their own expense. The Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Program is here to help alleviate the cost of schooling, licensure and certification.

Based on the current shortfall of professionals in the mental health field, we believe the military community will continue to suffer unless we devote efforts to developing a future workforce of individuals trained in these specialties. This year, UnitedHealth Foundation has made it possible for the program to cover clinically supervised hours for spouses with a Master’s degree in Psychology, Psychiatry, Social Work, or Counseling, who are pursuing clinical licensure in the mental health arena. In partnership with the UnitedHealth Foundation, we are striving to build an education to employment pipeline for mental health providers.

Wartime realities increase the importance and difficulties of military spouse education. Extraordinary battlefield medicine saves lives that would have been lost in prior wars – but many of the wounded are no longer able to work.

Military spouses require increased educational opportunities to help prepare for “the unthinkable.” In the event that the service member has been wounded, a better education can allow a spouse to rebuild their family, and pursue careers best suited to supporting them long term. To aid such situations, our program offers scholarships to spouses of the wounded and fallen.

Ten years later, we are still inspired by Joanne Holbrook Patton. She exemplifies what it means to serve, and even today, is avid supporter of military spouses.

If you are a military spouse heading back to school, signing up for a licensure exam or pursing a certification, remember to apply to the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarships opening December 1st. Applications are accepted through our website.

See a full list of eligibility requirements here.

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program

Following My Fitness Dream!

Run-Amuck-2013-015For years, I have been following a need: the need to provide stability for our family while supporting my husband’s career in the Navy.

At one time, the Navy was my career as well. I knew being a Naval Officer was not where I was meant to be, but it appears to be exactly what my husband was destined for. I was happy he found his calling. I didn’t mind staying at home and handling the everyday stress and roller coaster ride of being a military family…for a while.

After my second daughter was born, I struggled with postpartum depression. I figured it would pass, but a year later, I was still not “myself.” I did a lot of soul searching and realized I wasn’t doing anything for myself. How could I be myself when I wasn’t living the life I wanted?

Part of the reason I joined the military was to further my education. I had earned the GI Bill, but had yet to use it four years after separating from the Navy. In college, I played sports and lifted weights, but I hadn’t done either since leaving the Navy.

I knew it was time to reclaim the things I loved. I joined a local gym, and began playing in a volleyball league. It took months to really motivate myself to get to the gym just three days a week. I started to feel stronger and happier. I knew, from past experience, the euphoria one feels after completing a difficult challenge.

I decided to challenge myself. I signed up for my first 5K race. Despite my physical training in the Navy, I never considered myself a runner. I hated running! That’s exactly why I had to do it. If I could just finish, I would get a small taste of that sense of accomplishment. While I didn’t break any records, I had a blast. I was hooked.

I began to look at working out and running as my anti-depressant. It is amazing the clarity that comes during a run, or after a tough workout. Nothing else matters anymore. You can do anything. I wanted to share this feeling with everyone.

Using the GI Bill I had earned, I became a certified personal trainer. For the past five years, I have been learning as much as possible about health and fitness. A Master’s degree was simply the next challenge.

I am currently completing my graduate education in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and continuing to improve my own health and fitness. As challenging as it is to balance my kids, my school work, and my husband’s ridiculous schedule, I couldn’t be happier.

Depression is no match for the enlightening powers of exercise, and the euphoria of accomplishment. My greatest hope is to pay it forward. I want to teach my fellow military spouses and children that exercise and good health is one of the best ways to handle this crazy adventure of military life.

Now instead of a need, I am following a dream.

MelissaGuest Post by Melissa Wilkerson, Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship Recipient

Sinking to Soaring: 7 steps to position yourself for success

successHitting the books has always come easy for me. In fact, I love school. I could easily become a perpetual student if given the chance. I already have an undergraduate and a graduate degree under my belt, and I’m currently pursuing a certification that will open many doors in my current profession.

And of course, there’s plenty of additional training in my future. I recognize the tremendous value of education. Education is the key that has unlocked many opportunities for me.

So why do I continue to struggle to reach my educational goals?

Over the years, I have found that my educational pursuits often take a back seat, because finding the time, energy, and money to spend on my schooling is a problem when life is so busy. Like many other military spouses, I struggle to carve out the time it takes to tackle my educational goals with so many other demands on my plate.

Between the endless chores necessary to keep our household afloat, and keeping all my other plates spinning, I sometimes feel as if I’m struggling to keep my head above the water and a smile on my face. With all that, how can I plug in something extra?! I think we all find ourselves in this spot at one time or another.

I would love to tell you how great it is to invest in yourself through training and education, but if we’re in a place where we’re already overwhelmed, that sort of advice is about as useful as an oar without a rowboat.

The key is to position ourselves in a more comfortable place where we can do more than just survive. We need to get ourselves to a place where we can make choices without something else forcing us to make a decision, a place where we can put in extra effort for the things that truly matter, which make a real impact on the quality of our life in the long run. We need to reach a point where we can engage in our life instead of trudging through it and feeling depleted and at a standstill at the end of each day.

Even though I have successfully completed a number of educational goals, I still occasionally find myself in sinking mode. Recognizing that life never seems to be completely in control, I have come to rely on a few steps to get myself back in a ready position when I feel like I am thrashing.

Try these steps the next time you find yourself struggling to stay afloat:

  1. Recognize. Awareness is vital to change. I first need to recognize that I am sinking.
  2. Decide. Action starts with the decision to act. I must decide that I want to stop sinking. If I never make the decision to change my situation, the likelihood that it will naturally work itself out is pretty slim. So, instead of just crossing my fingers, I will make a deliberate decision to change.
  3. Plan. The most difficult part is to figure out how to get out of it. Once I wrap my head around my current situation and identify my goals, then I can start connecting the dots. I will write down my game plan and list out the actions necessary to get from point A to point B.
  4. Rally. The journey is often exhausting and defeating without proper support. I will pick out sources of support so that I know where to go, or who to talk to, if I run into problems or want to give up on my plan.
  5. Act. Plans are worthless if not acted upon. I will make the sacrifices necessary and put in the hard work required to act on my plan. I will do what it takes to reach my goal.
  6. Rebound. Bumps, setbacks, and turns are inevitable, but the result depends on the response. I know that the road will be difficult, and when I get knocked down, I will get back up and continue towards my goals. If I need to reevaluate my plan, then I commit to making the changes necessary to ultimately reach my goal, even if it is redefined.
  7. Recognize. Just as awareness is important to start the process, recognition is important to complete the process. Once I find myself no longer sinking, I will stop and give myself a pat on the back. I will recognize my small successes along the way, and I will be sure to thank those who helped me in my journey.

These seven steps can help you change anything, from daily tasks to increase efficiency, to making a major career change to feel more fulfilled by the work you do.

However you choose to apply these steps is up to you, but make sure that they are taking you to a better place. The goal is to eventually seek out that oar and take larger, more impactful steps toward improving your life through education.

The goal is to soar.

maikman-headshotGuest Post by Michelle Aikman, 2012 recipient of the National Military Family Association Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship

FAQ Series: How the Interstate Compact affects school aged kids

kidsclassroomYou have questions, we have answers!

This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, more commonly known as the Interstate Compact.

Q: What is the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact is an agreement among states that allows for the uniform treatment of military children transferring between school districts and states. As of August, 2013 it has been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It addresses issues that may affect military children as they move to a new school district, including enrollment, placement, and graduation requirements.

Q: Who is covered by the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact covers children of active duty service members enrolled in grades K-12 in public school. Children of National Guard and Reservists are covered when the service member is in active duty status. Children of retirees are covered for one year following the service member’s retirement. Note that the Compact only applies to public schools. The Compact does not apply to private schools and does not address home schooling.

Q: My child is old enough to start kindergarten in our old location, but the new state has a different cut-off date. What can I do?

A: Under the Compact, if your child has enrolled in and attended kindergarten in your previous state, he should be allowed to continue kindergarten in your new state. However, this only applies if your child actually attended kindergarten. If your child was old enough for kindergarten in your previous location but you moved prior to the beginning of the school year, the new district is not required to allow him to start kindergarten.

Q: My child was receiving special education services at our old school. Will he continue to receive them at our new school?

A: The new school should provide comparable services based on your child’s current Individual Education Plan (IEP). This is required both by the Compact and by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new school is permitted to evaluate the student later to ensure appropriate placement.

Q: We had to move midway through my child’s senior year. Will he graduate on time?

A: An important goal of the Compact is to ensure that students graduate on time, even when they have to move during their senior year. For this reason, the Compact states that districts should waive specific course requirements for seniors as long as similar course work has been completed. If a waiver is denied and there is no way to complete the required course work on time, arrangements should be made for the student to receive a diploma from the previous school district.

Q: I don’t feel as though my school is following the Interstate Compact. What can I do?

A: It’s not uncommon for teachers and administrators to be unfamiliar with the Interstate Compact. Your installation’s School Liaison Officer can help you work with the school to resolve any questions about how the Compact should be implemented. Each state also has a Compact Commissioner responsible for helping ensure that the Compact is adhered to.

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission website includes FAQ’s and other resources, including printable and downloadable brochures for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

What is your family’s experience with the Interstate Compact? Share your story in the comments below!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellows

accountant-womanThe job market for military spouses can be intimidating, and employment can be daunting. Especially when you know you won’t be in one spot for long. Portable careers are the most coveted among military spouses. One career that fits the portable bill is financial counseling.

In 2012, Forbes reported positions for financial advisors were one of the fastest careers in desperate need of talent. The Forbes report states, “The demand for financial advice is increasing as Baby Boomers approach retirement and seek help getting there.” The world of financial advisors is expected to grow at a rate of 32% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the average growth rate of all occupations is 14%.

This financial industry is an excellent option for military spouses. Thanks to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, military spouses have the chance to break into the industry by obtaining their accredited financial counseling certificate at no cost. In March of this year, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program opened the application process, for the eighth straight year, for its class of 2013 military spouses. The FINRA Fellowship Program provides military spouse recipients with the education and training needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) designation. Hundreds of military spouses applied for the program in 2013. Fifty military spouses throughout the U.S. and overseas have been awarded the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellowship.

Here are the 2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellows:

Karen Bond
TruVonda Boone
Ana Brown
Michelle Budzien
Lauren Chaplin
Tisha Curry
Katelynd Day
Kira Dentes
Kornkamol Diskul
Jessie Ellertson
Maria Firestone
Hyunhi Flot
Dawn Foster
Prece Fountain-Reid
Mari Fries
Patricia Geiger
Cynthia Giesecke
Adrianna Gonzalez
Sara Griffin
Olga Guy
Brynn Hanson
Julia Harris
Meredith Hathaway
Diana Hook
Katrina Horsley-Watts
Sabrina Johnson
Karin Knapp-Parham
Rebecca Lenard
Sarah Malufau
Michael Matheny
Emily McConnell
Sara Miller
Diana Mitsch
Meghan Northcutt
Uchenna Oranebo
Lucie Pak
Andrea Peck
Kia Plumber
April Postell
Angela Reyes-Hill
Angela Setering
Elaine Smith
Rebekah Strausheim
Sarah Tellefsen
Gideon Thomas
Whitney Thomas
Jennifer Trimble
Kelley VanDyke
Tuawana Williams-Jenkins
Valarie Young