Military life can give kids amazing educational opportunities. In fact, these experiences can often offset the challenges that, all too often, get much more airtime when it comes to schooling.
Yes, there are difficulties. Since it’s common for military kids to move six to nine times during their school years, this lack of continuity due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves is probably the biggest challenge. When your education is interrupted up to three times more than your civilian peer’s, can you still get a quality education?
For many children, the answer is “yes,” especially if we stop viewing education as just what happens inside of the classroom and start viewing ‘changes’ as positives, rather than negatives. It’s about time we turn the tables on how we view a military child’s education.
Here are a few ways we can re-frame some of the issues common to a military kid’s education:
Stop with the labels
Issue: Moving away from a ‘great’ school.
We are moving to a ‘worse’ school; you are getting the ‘best’ teacher. All too often, we set a child’s mind (and our own) to what is ahead before we even arrive at a new duty station. A child should be given the chance to explore and figure out where they fit in without a preconceived notion of what the educational experience will provide.
Maybe your quiet child will blossom in a small-town school. Or your high school athlete will finally make the football team at his new school and get straight A’s. Both will boost their confidence more than feeling like a ‘mediocre’ student at a great school.
Takeaway: Change your focus from one of searching out the negatives, and instead, point out the good in the situation to your kids. This change in mindset can go a long way in not only helping them seek out opportunities in school, but also in life!
Focus on quality versus stability
Issue: Frequently changing schools.
Moving. Yes, it’s hard, but remember that quality and stability are not necessarily the same thing. Stability does not necessarily equate to a quality education. While a move from a school with a super teacher and great program that fits a child’s needs might feel discouraging, the opposite can also happen; you just might be moving into a better situation.
The chances of keeping a stable level of quality through many moves are slim; however, the chances of finding different pockets of quality educational opportunities at every duty station are very high.
Takeaway: Parents play a large part in becoming the stabilizing force of quality in their child’s education. They must seek out the best opportunities at each duty station. And advocate for change in the places where there aren’t programs in place that meet the needs of their children. Because stability is not an option for a mobile military kid, the next best option is to find the best situation possible where you land.
Use moving as a chance to reevaluate
Issue: Having a child with special concerns.
Moving forces reevaluation. Children change and so do their needs. While it is burdensome to have to re-do the same help you have sought at other duty stations, you also have to seek out the opportunity in each situation.
Here’s one family’s take on it: “When our family moved to Kansas for just one year, it proved to be very unsettling for many of those months. But if we hadn’t moved, we might not have met the specialist who recommended the eye doctor who diagnosed our son’s vision disorder, which was having a huge effect on him academically and emotionally. When therapy improved his vision, his grades and his behavior improved too.”
Takeaway: A new set of eyes on an old issue can mean an opportunity for your child. Yes, repeating the same laundry list can be tiresome, but so is running up against the same walls at a school you go to for years.
Recognize the possibilities
Issue: Feeling limited in what a new school can offer.
Each military base brings together people from all walks of life, diverse cultures, and distinct groups. Everyone your child meets could have a story to share or something to teach. This is part of your child’s education.
Assigned to another country? Go beyond the social studies book with family field trips that will enhance the lessons your kids learn in the classroom. The Eiffel Tower, Kilauea Volcano, the Matterhorn; military kids are the ones who read about these places and then casually say, “Yeah, I’ve been there.”
With proactive parents as their tour guide, a military child’s education can be full of opportunities a civilian child might only dream about. The world truly is a military kid’s school. What an education!
Takeaway: Education isn’t just something that happens in the classroom. Military life means an opportunity to explore different areas of our country, or world, without having to pay for a hotel or airplane ride for a vacation. Apply what your child has learned in the classroom to life around them in the world.
Remember, learning doesn’t stop when you leave a ‘good school’ or move to a ‘small town.’ Learning also happens when we have to rise above our adversity, meet people from diverse backgrounds, and adjust to a new way of learning at our fifth school in five years.
We need to start looking at things differently…
Military kids are doing some pretty awesome things in this world! They have grown up to be Olympic athletes, astronauts, teachers, soldiers, and so much more. They managed to succeed, even with all of the moving..or maybe all of that moving allowed them to succeed!
Let’s keep our military kids on the road to feeling empowered to succeed by focusing on the opportunity for education as a military child. Yes, we need to continue to build up a system that gives them opportunities no matter where they move. But we also need to re-frame challenges so they don’t become roadblocks to success.
How do you make the best of your child’s education, regardless of where your family is stationed?
Posted by Amy Crispino, Army spouse, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Chameleon Kids, publishers of MILITARY KIDS’ LIFE magazine