Tag Archives: military kids

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

Give Me a Break: The Case for Hourly Care


When I was pregnant with my first child, I went to the gym every day. I participated in exercise classes for pregnant women, I used the cardio equipment and weights, and I felt great. That was six years ago and I have not been to the gym since my son was born. He’s in first grade now, but I have a toddler daughter at home. It turns out that finding quality, affordable part time child care on military bases is incredibly difficult, which means that my trips to the gym have become a thing of the past.

I also work part-time from home as a writer. Well, I did. I haven’t taken on any projects in two years because I found that in order to complete my work on deadline, I often had to work through the night. Working was impossible while also caring for my kids, so the only time I had to write was while they were asleep. Needless to say, this was terrible for me and my family. If part-time or hourly care were available on the installation where I live, I could go back to work. I could also volunteer with local organizations. Heck, I might even be able to use the bathroom by myself once in a while! Like most installations, the base where I live has a Child Development Center, but also like most CDCs it offers limited to no options for hourly or part-time care. Current base policies in many locations require that there be no wait list for full-time care before any part time care may be offered.   Priority for enrollment is given to dual-military families, single parents, and families with spouses employed or enrolled in school full-time. The CDC enrollment package at our current base states, “Employment and status as a student with current enrollment are taken under consideration when determining the need for childcare. Due to the many families requiring care in order to work or continue their education, an unemployed spouse is required to gain employment of 30 hours per week or more or show proof of registration as a full-time student in order to remain eligible for care.”

It’s true that our family requires fewer hours of care each week than a family with two parents working full time. That does not make our need for care any less urgent. Part-time work, volunteer work, and part-time university enrollment are all situations that create a need for childcare. These are all valid pursuits. Volunteering or working part time are worthwhile activities for anyone, but without safe, reliable, and affordable child care available, they are impossible. Child care is also critical to help maintain physical and emotional well-being. Military spouses are strong and capable. We usually live far from extended family members, often in remote locations. Many of us live on a small salary in an area with a high cost of living. Add a couple of small children, send the service member on deployment, and you have a recipe for major stress. I once took a stress management workshop on base (before I had children), and the recommendations included: meditation, exercise, volunteering to connect with your community, caring for your health, etc.  At the time I thought they were good suggestions. Now I think they are hilarious because, of course, all of this is next to impossible with small children in the home while the service member is working long hours or deployed.

Quality child care choices off base are often incredibly expensive or impossible to find. At our current duty station for example, preschool costs $1000 per month! Some organizations offer child care reimbursement for volunteers, but most do not offer the going rate for an in-home sitter, which can be $10-15/hour or more, depending on the location of the duty station. That adds up quickly!  You might be able to trade child care with a friend once or twice a week, but the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. Of course, that total doesn’t include the time required to drive to the gym, change clothing, shower, etc. So that’s at least an hour a day, five days a week. That’s really asking a lot of a friend. We are already asking our friends to help out when we need to mow the lawn or do other vital household tasks that aren’t child-friendly.

I know I am not alone in my need for quality part-time care. Our military and family service providers need to understand why hourly and part-time care is so important to our military families. It would be a welcome tool to keep our families on track and running smoothly.


10 Things Your Child Must Know Before Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten is a major milestone for both child and parent, exciting on the one hand, fraught with potentially worrisome unknowns on the other. Even military kids, who are great little adapters to new situations can struggle. The key to successfully launching students on this first step of their academic journeys is making sure they’re prepared. Most educators agree children need to master a number of basic skills before entering kindergarten.


Here are a few of those, ten things your child must know before that first day of school:

  1. How to be independent
    Students should be comfortable apart from their parents, be able to function independently, and know how to control themselves without constant guidance.
  2. His/her vital statistics
    Children entering kindergarten must be able to spell and write their first and last names—legibly. (Nobody expects perfection.) They should also be able to recite their addresses and know family contact numbers.
  3. Basic self-care
    Can your child tie his/her shoes? Work buttons and zippers? Before entering kindergarten, a child should be able to do all those things, as well as eat with utensils, bounce a ball and manage bathroom breaks.
  4. Social skills
    Being able to speak understandably and form sentences of at least five or six words is a critical skill for children entering kindergarten. Children must also have at least a basic understanding of the need to share and cooperate with others.
  5. kindergarten-must-knowsClassroom etiquette
    Classroom etiquette includes the abilities to sit still and listen without interrupting. Children must also be able to recognize authority, obey rules and focus their attention—for brief periods, at least—on guided tasks. Finally, they should understand their actions have both causes and consequences (good or bad).
  6. Manual skills
    Children should know how to correctly hold (and use) a pencil, crayons and scissors. They must be able to trace or cut out basic shapes.
  7. The alphabet 
    Students should know the alphabet in order and be able to recognize letters randomly, in both upper and lower case. They should be able to relate each letter to its sound.
  8. Word basics
    Children should be able to recognize a few sight words—e.g., stop, she, said, my, have, here, been, was—and understand how a book works (front to back, story in letters versus pictures, etc.). They should also be able to identify some beginning sounds of words and rhyming sounds.
  9. Numbers
    Before entering kindergarten, children should know how to count from 1—10, and be able to recognize written numerals 1—10 in random order. They should also be able to differentiate between groups of objects by how many objects are in each group—one, two, three, and so on.
  10. Colors and shapes
    Children entering kindergarten should be able to recognize and name primary colors—red, green, yellow, blue, etc.—as well as basic geometric shapes like circles, squares and triangles. They should be able to sort objects according to color, size and shape.

If your child attends preschool, chances are he/she will master most, if not all, of these skills before entering kindergarten. If your child hasn’t attended preschool, you can easily work on these must-knows at home.

Do you have any tips for parents preparing their kids for kindergarten? Share them in the comments!

Aubrey Moulton, military kid, and writer for DiscoveryTreeAcademy.com, a leading provider in safe, secure and fun Preschool for children in Utah County

Mastering the Art of the Empty Nest!

I thought I had this Empty-Nester thing figured out; I spent over 20 years raising children and preparing them for all life has to offer. And, last month, when I drove off to take my youngest daughter to college, I was excited for my new future. The possibilities seemed endless!


The 1200 mile road trip to drop her off was fun–she and I are two peas in a pod. We’re like the Gilmore Girls: she’s basically my best friend (I know what they say: you shouldn’t be “friends” with your children – you should be their parent). But she is special, she’s an old soul. I felt like I was losing my best friend.

The good-bye was actually easier than I anticipated. I was confident her father and I had prepared her for pretty much anything. She was ready to fly the coop.

Upon returning home, things felt weird. My husband went TDY, and for the first time since 1992, I was HOME ALONE. What should I do first?! I could do anything I wanted. My responsibilities had dramatically decreased, so I could sleep all day, lie around watching old movies, or spend the entire day at the gym. Instead, I went to the grocery store. And I didn’t bother with the commissary this time. Heck, it was only my husband and I now, and we don’t eat that much, so I could afford the name brand stores this time! I wandered around aimlessly in a daze, and walked out with a loaf of bread, a six pack of beer, and a rotisserie chicken (and I don’t even eat meat!).

Was this how my new life was going to be? Wasting time wandering around and accomplishing nothing? I felt like I needed a plan. For over two decades I’ve always had a regimented plan and schedules to follow. I’m not used to down time…I need to be productive.

I allowed myself the full weekend to be a big mess of confusion. Then I decided it was time to get myself together and figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was only three weeks into Empty Nest Life, but I still wasn’t sure what that is. For 25 years, I’ve been focused on everyone else. A few months after marrying my spouse, we PCS’d for the first time. I had to quit the big job I got right out of college, and put my career on the back burner so we could pursue his together. Then I had babies.

For years and years, I raised those kids and supported my husband through many PCS moves, deployments, and TDY assignments. I got whatever job fit my schedule. Fortunately, I’ve always been able to find work that allowed me to see my kids off to school, and be there when they returned home. It was never about me and always about them.

How does one go about deciding what she wants and needs, when for most of her life, she’s always been what everyone else wanted and needed?

The possibilities are, indeed, endless. I can finally pursue my group fitness instruction again. My evenings are free to teach classes, since there are no more softball games to attend, no more back-to-school nights, no more homework to help with (let’s be honest: my kids quit needing my help with that years ago). Maybe I can go back to work full-time. My day can now start and end when I want it to. Maybe I can do both?!

Maybe I need to cut myself a break and give myself a little bit of time figure it all out. For 25 years, I did what had to be done. And now it’s only been a month…

In the meantime, I will continue my projects around the house, and continue walking the dogs twice a day (they’re very confused by all of this, and although they enjoy the walks, they are a little tired from all the attention!).

Do I miss my kids? You bet I do. Am I sad to be an Empty-Nester? Nope. I’m excited. And I’m pretty sure I will master this Empty-Nester thing after all.

Are you an Empty-Nester? How did you navigate your new “free time?”

cindyPosted by Cindy Jackson, Finance Manager

In Their Words: September 11th Through MilKids’ Eyes

Fourteen years have passed since the sunny Tuesday morning that would change our nation forever. As we reflect each year on the lives lost that day, and the years following in our nation’s longest war, there are some who haven’t seen the history unfold for themselves.

Many military kids weren’t alive when September 11, 2001 happened, though many of their parents joined the military as a result of the attacks. Many have seen their parent deploy, miss birthdays, even miss the birth of other children.

Some military kids may not have lived through our nation’s darkest day, but they’re left to grow up in it’s wake.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Therapy Dogs and Military Kids Make the World a Better Place!

“Be nice to everyone, even if they are different. If they are different, they may have special qualities that you may really like.” -Awesome MilKid, Operation Purple Camp 2015

Have you thought about this recently? Sometimes, the people who are different from you may actually be some of the most important people you meet or interact with in your life.

At our Operation Purple® Camp in North East, Maryland, that’s one of the messages shared by a young and kind military kid, as she stood up in front of the group and told us what she had learned so far at camp. This was on Military Day, where the kids had a special treat of active duty service members to talk to, military trucks to check out, and a field day just for them.


Another special treat was the appearance of therapy dogs. I met four very special dogs who, with their owners, spend their time helping to make others feel a whole lot better.

The Team Leader for the HOPE, Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, who attended the North Bay Adventure Camp Military Day said one of the biggest benefits of bringing therapy dogs to a camp where kids have faced stress that many of us have never felt or understand, is it creates a ‘bridge’ for them. He said it helps them be able to talk out their feelings, just because of the excitement or distraction of playing with a loving therapy dog.

Military kids sometimes feel different from their peers–like no one understands. But being in a setting where they’re surrounded by other military kids, and exposed to the amazing feeling of being around a therapy dog – it’s just a match made in heaven!

Below are the four amazing dogs I met. These therapy dogs want to make a difference. If you, or someone you know, is in need, please reach out to HOPE, Pet Partners, or the American Humane Association.

Puck is a 4-year-old English Springer Spaniel, who has been a therapy dog for two years. This is Puck’s first year being with the HOPE team, and his first time at an Operation Purple Camp. When Puck isn’t hanging out with awesome military kids, you can find him making his weekly rounds at the Caroll Hospital Center, or on-call at the State Attorney’s Office for kids who are being asked to testify in court and need someone to help them feel more calm.


Peppe is a 9 ½-year-old Italian Grey Hound, who’s been a therapy dog for eight years, and has been with Pet Partners for two and a half years. This is Peppe’s third Operation Purple Camp! When Peppe isn’t making military kids smile, he is working as service animal for those who need to monitor their blood sugar levels. Pictured here, Peppe is hanging out with the kids while one military kid reads to him.


THE BEAR + EMMA (left to right)
The Bear and Emma have been therapy dogs for three years, and have been with HOPE for two years. This is their third year at Operation Purple Camp and love that some of the kids remember them when they return! The Bear and Emma are very busy dogs spending time at the NIH Medical Center, Yellow Ribbon events, with TAPS, and have even shared their love and care after tragedies like the Navy Yard shooting and Hurricane Sandy.

the bear and emma

You never know who you’ll meet in life, but I know these military kids met some new furry friends, who, despite being completely different from them, had some awesome qualities that made their lives a better place.

Do you have a pet that’s helped you through difficult times? Tell us about them!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager


Will Our MilKids Find Their Place in This World?

As a military spouse I can tell you first-hand that military life is unpredictable. You are always wondering when the next shoe will drop. Will we move this year? Where? Are we going to be closer to all the family or farther away? Is the next deployment right around the corner?

When you have kids those questions become even more daunting. Because my husband and I signed up for this life, and although we were young when we started this journey, we were adults who had coping skills and the ability to adapt. This is not the case for our military kids. These little people are living this life because of who their parents are, not because of a choice they made themselves. And they have to learn on the fly – at a very young age – many of the things that it takes the rest of us a lifetime to learn. They have to learn to make friends quickly, but be strong enough to tell those friends goodbye when the time comes. They have to be able to pick up their entire life and move somewhere new and see how they fit into the new place, and make it their own. I worry about my kids every day and how their life as part of a military family will impact the person they become. Mostly, I worry that they will feel alone or out of place.

MilitaryKids Find Their Place

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to attend one of our Operation Purple Camps in NorthBay, Maryland. I was fortunate enough to witness something at camp that made me worry just a little bit less.  I arrived at NorthBay on the third day of camp. I was just in time to join a group of campers who were heading out on a hike. They were all about 10-13 years old with the exception of one 8 year old boy. As I walked behind the group I noticed that one of the boys seemed to be hanging back and wandering off a bit. I was constantly having to encourage him to stay up with the group. He didn’t speak much and didn’t seem to want to participate in the scavenger hunt or even really the hike itself. As soon as I had a chance, I asked the counselor about him. She told me his name was Treyvon and the 8 year old with the group was his little brother, who was with the older kids to make Treyvon more comfortable. Throughout the rest of the hike I was mostly with Treyvon. I spoke with him a little bit about what he liked about camp and what kind of stuff they had been doing. He was a very reserved kid, and often didn’t want to speak, but it was clear that the group activities made him uncomfortable. He didn’t like hiking and whenever we stopped with the group he would start to wander off. This continued throughout the morning with the other activities. Treyvon did not really want to participate. I left the group shortly before lunch time, but Treyvon was weighing heavily on my mind, I was really hoping he was finding his place in his camp activities.

The afternoon at camp was designated “Military Day.” Some soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Ground had come to the camp and brought vehicles for the kids to climb in, body armor to try on, and a rock wall to climb.

I was concluding my time at camp by taking some pictures of the kids enjoying Military Day. I tried to capture as many kids as I could and the fun they were having. As I was looking through some of the photos I had just taken of the rock wall I saw a boy who just leapt off the top – after climbing all the way up – and was laughing with complete joy. As I looked closer I realized that this boy was Treyvon. He had found his happy place at camp – at the top of the rock wall. In that moment I realized that my own military kids are going to be ok, there may be times when they hold back. Times when they feel like wandering off or not participating, but they will find their place. And it may just be at the top of the rock wall at an Operation Purple Camp.

mandy-culverPosted by Mandy Culver, Executive Administrative Assistant