As a military family, we move frequently. While most families move within the United States, we have lived in six different countries in the past ten years, and we have two school-aged children who are a part of our adventures. In the last three years, they have attended three different schools. Maneuvering through schools, educational systems, and cultures can be overwhelming and rewarding.
In northern Italy, our kids were able to attend a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school where they were surrounded by Americans. There were lots of resources, extracurricular activities, and support services. However, interactions with local Italians were limited to hours outside of the classroom, which minimized the possibility of immersion within the host country. In order to provide more cultural opportunities, we found local Italian soccer clubs for one of daughters. Consequently, both her soccer skills and her Italian improved. After some time in northern Italy, we moved south to the capital city, Rome.
In Rome, there is no DoDEA school. We needed to find a schooling option in the city of Rome with English as the instructional language, and one that had tuition within the allowance DoDEA provides. We also needed to apply through the Non-DoD School Program (NDSP) to have payments made to the school. NDSP is a DoDEA program that provides funding and support to dependents of military members and Department of Defense civilian employees who are in locations where there is no DoDEA school available.
The school in Rome was different than the one they attended in the north Italy because, in Rome, they attended school with mostly Italians and several international students. The school had fewer resources, but the staff was willing to think outside the box. For example, our daughter needed to take geometry, but it was not a class offered at the school. We started looking into the possibility of DoDEA virtual high school–an option available to eligible DoDEA students. In the end, a teacher was willing to teach geometry, one on one, to our daughter. Amazing! The small community feel of international schools is hard to beat.
We now find ourselves in another international school setting. This one, however, is quite different than Rome. We are in Africa. Our children are attending school with local children, whose parents can afford the tuition, and other international students. To be fully American is the novelty, not the norm. Here, the challenge for us is that the school offers integrated math as part of the International Baccalaureate® (IB) program. While that is great for students who will be here long term, or for those are working at grade level ( 9th and 10th grade) while they are here, it does not work for those who don’t fit into those two categories. But it doesn’t work for us. If our children do the suggested math for their grade level, it will not prepare them for the math classes they will take at our next duty station.
To complicate matters more, both of our children have been in gifted programs and need math placement in classes that are a higher level than the norm for a given grade level. One child has been placed in a math class that is not part of the integrated math program which will prepare her for the correct level of math (for her) at the high school at our next assignment. Our other daughter will take a class here at the school this year but most likely will need to use an on-line option next year in order to be prepared for the next level of math once we move. While this school does their best to meet the needs of our children, the reality is that we, as parents, have the responsibility to be advocates for our daughters.
Military life is challenging for all of us, whether you are in the US, or if you’re like us, and you move all over the world. We don’t always understand the language or the culture, but that is also part of what makes this adventure so great. Our children are well-rounded, flexible, open-minded students, and more importantly, the same can be said for who they are as people. Maneuvering through schools, educational systems, and cultures can be a full-time job, but the opportunities given to my kids from living in different places and attending different types of schools have helped to create who they are, and who they are yet to become. That makes it worth it.
Have you lived overseas with school-aged kids? What obstacles did you overcome? Join us for a Facebook party to talk about it!
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 Guest Author, Army spouse and mother of two