Tag Archives: children’s education

Dear New Teacher, It’s My Military Child’s First Day of School

Dear New Teacher,

Today my child enters your classroom for the first time in a new school. It might be the first day of the school year, or it might be inconveniently smack-dab in the middle of a grading period. He likely knows no one in his homeroom class, likely no other children in the school.

Every child has a story to tell, and mine is no different. I am hoping to share a bit of his story with you since you will be with him, teaching and guiding him, this year. His story includes attending preschools in three different states. He will be in second grade next year. And he will be preparing to move again to a new school, his third elementary school since Kindergarten.

His daddy deployed to a combat zone when he was very young, and has been home for the past few years. But my son knows what soldiers do. He knows that someday his daddy will likely deploy again to a place he can’t yet find on a map for more days than he can count, for reasons nearly impossible for a child to understand.

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He didn’t choose this life.

But I asked him if he ever wishes that he weren’t a military kid, and he said, “No, why? What would Daddy do if he weren’t in the Army?” You see, this is the only life he knows. He is a happy, resilient, funny, sweet kiddo. I’m so proud of each obstacle he has overcome.

We do have bad days, though. He misses his old friends, our old home, our old church, and our old routines. He occasionally asks when we can go visit our old houses, and the restaurants and parks in a town we used to live in. To be honest, military life is downright difficult sometimes. But this is one thing I’ve learned: military children are so very strong. And so very brave. Military children are resilient. They simply don’t know how to be anything less.

Please keep in contact with me and let me know if he has any difficulties in school during (and after) this transition. The purpose of this letter is not only to inform you of my son’s background but to affirm our family’s commitment to support him, and you, his teacher.

Thank you for answering the call to educate the children of our great nation. What a truly noble and worthy profession you have chosen! Thank you for loving children who aren’t your own, and shaping their lives forever. And thank you for supporting our military-connected child, during yet another transition for him. Because of your support at school and the support of our community, my spouse is able to commit fully to his own calling: serving our country.

Sincerely,
Mama of a Military Child

What would you tell your child’s new teacher? 

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Turning Pages When Turning Corners: Using Books to Start Conversations With Kids

I can’t stand the smell of cardboard boxes. Or saying goodbye to friends. Or living out of a suitcase. However, moving is an inevitable part of military life, and preparing my kids for our move later on this year is coming up on my mom-radar. When facing several pivotal childhood moments, like potty training, making friends, and starting elementary school, my husband and I enlist the help of children’s books to help us begin conversations. As we prepare to turn another corner and encounter our next relocation, these are the children’s books that we’re reading at my house:

Little girl reading

Boomer’s Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge

My son loves this book about Boomer and his big move to a new house, as told through a the eyes of a dog. One day Boomer suddenly realizes all of his favorite toys are packed up in boxes. He’s not quite sure what to think of the boxes and movers. When he arrives to the new home, he learns that lots of new friends are waiting to meet him!

The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Who doesn’t love the classic Berenstain Bear family? Brother and Sister are moving to a new house, and don’t know quite what to expect. The Berenstain family says goodbye to old friends, watches the movers load their household goods, and then finds new, exciting experiences waiting for them at their new home.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Chester’s nervous about starting school, and his mama, Mrs. Raccoon, shares the perfect remedy to assuage his fears. Together, they find a routine that helps both raccoons cope as Chester starts attending a new school. Hands-down, this is my favorite new school book! I think The Kissing Hand is perfect for talking about first day jitters.

My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary Move by Lori Attanasio Woodring

The title was the first thing that drew me to order this book. Written by a licensed psychologist, the ideas in this collection of activities are carefully developed with knowledge of how to help small minds through transitions. This book provides several parent-child conversation starters and the pages are filled with activities to help children and parents understand change and emotions.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Though Guess How Much I Love You does not necessarily relate to moving, it’s a sweet book that I find myself reading to my kiddos regularly, especially during times of transition. Its reassuring message offers parents an opportunity to start meaningful, reassuring conversations with their children.

Though PCSing is difficult, but moving to a new community brings new beginnings, new friends, and new opportunities. Best wishes for your next PCS!

Do you use books to help your child through milestones or transitions? Which ones would you recommend?

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, National Military Family Association Volunteer

Month of the Military Kid FREE Printable Activities!

It’s officially the Month of the Military Child, and while we hope your community has some fun activities planned, we wanted to provide some additional resources for you to make this a special month for the military kids in your life.

These printables were designed for kids at our Operation Purple® camps. What’s Operation Purple Camp, you ask? It’s a completely free camp for military kids designed to help them connect with other children who understand the unique challenges military children face. We want them to feel comfortable connecting with their peers and taking about their experience, and these tools help them open up with each other and our camp staff.

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You can use these printables at home with your children, with your church group, scouts, youth center, or school groups. Anywhere where you can find military children!

Military Kid Comic Strips

Some kids may not want to talk about their experience, and most probably don’t want to write an essay about them, either. These worksheets take the pressure off and allow kids to draw and express their experience in pictures instead of words. When they are finished, you can display their work (with their permission) or use it as a jumping off point to discuss their experience.

Military Kid Mad Libs

This light-hearted activity is a good way to help kids open up about their moving experiences. Come up with the word list as a group, and then read the story aloud. Ask the children to tell their own moving stories. Did they have an easy time making friends? Are they homesick, or did they get settled right in?

Military Kid Feelings Search

Sometimes military kids don’t really want to sit down to talk about their feelings. No big deal! This word search is a quiet activity and includes many different feelings, positive and negative. After the kids complete this activity, you can ask them, what feelings were not on the list? Which words would they use to describe military life, or their parents deployment, or the idea of moving? Are they happy or excited? Are they nervous, sad, or mad?

4-6 Kids Activities PINTEREST

Military Kid Ice Breaker Bingo

If you have a large group of military kids to work with, this activity is a wonderful ice breaker. Simply print off one game board per child, find a cool prize for them, and set them free to chat with each other. If they can find a kid who matches the description in the game box, they have their new friends autograph the square. The first child to get a BINGO can get a prize! You could have a second prize for the first child to get a “Blackout” on their game board, too! Ideally, when you are done playing, all the children will have had a chance to talk to each other and learn something new.

Download these awesome FREE printable activities for the military kid in your life! Be sure to take pictures and tag us on social media if you try them out!

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

3 Tips for Monitoring Your MilKid on Social Media

News feeds. Snaps. DM’s. Post notifications. Hashtags. Tweets.

It’s like a foreign language to most parents, but with so many acronyms, apps, and other accoutrements, how do parents keep tabs on their children’s activity on countless social media platforms? I know many parents are catching up with social media lingo, thanks to educational lessons and eyerolls from their Gen X kids. (Mooooom, a DM means ‘direct message!’ GOSH!)

And what about military kids? With Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC) a well-known acronym in military households, what’s the best way to talk about social media with them? How do parents of military kids keep OPSEC a main focus when sending another Snapchat, or uploading another Instagram picture?

3-31 MilKid Social Media Graphic

Here are three tips that might be helpful when it comes to children and social media:

Consider what your child understands about each social media platform.
Have conversations with your child about what they know about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms and find out what and who they want to engage with. Do they just want to take pictures and share them? Are they chatting with friends from school? Use age-appropriate conversations to educate your child about the vastness of each platform, and what they might encounter by creating a profile. And likewise, decide for your child what the best age is for them to start creating profiles on these platforms.

Sharon, a Navy wife and mother of 3 shared how she decided whether her kids were ready to join social media accounts. “Social media is a privilege not a right just because we give you a phone or a laptop. We wanted to know, ‘Can you follow the rules? Do you understand about predators that look for kids on social media? Are you responsible?’”

Create security boundaries for usage.
Most social media platforms give you security and privacy settings to adjust, so once you discuss activity with your child, think about some basic boundaries that will work for both of you. One simple security boundary to set is to make any profile private. Explain to your child that they should only accept requests from people they actually know in real life, and create consequences for rules not followed.

“We had to know their log in and passwords,” Sharon explained. “We helped them create secure passwords that they can take through life with them, and if they violated the rules we set, they lost their account.”

3-31 MilKid Social Media PINTEREST

Make sure your child understands OPSEC and PERSEC.
Though OPSEC has many layers, it’s important that your child understand what is, and isn’t, okay to share on social media. Just like many spouses, kids can also get excited for a service member’s return from deployment and want to share it with their friends. Explain to your child why it’s not okay to share specific locations, their school name, or even their last name, on the internet. It seems like a crazy idea that a terrorist would find their way to a military kid’s Facebook page, but that’s the thing: terrorists are crazy, and we shouldn’t expect any less from them.

Social media is a constant in the life of most people, and in a lifestyle where change comes with every PCS move, it can be a good way for your military kid to keep up with friends from other duty stations. Be sure to consider what works best for your family, and for your child, and monitor their activity frequently.

How do you monitor your kids on social media? Share your thoughts with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

My Military Kid is Still Struggling in School: Now What?

You moved last year, last month, last week. As directed, you handed over those official and/or unofficial school transcripts, letters from past teachers, and test results. You met the teacher, the principal, and a few other parents. You’ve tried to enroll your child in enough sports and extracurricular clubs to help build new friendships.

But something is still not right.

So much can go wrong when transferring schools, even if you check all the right boxes. But what can you do, as a parent, to help remedy some of these situations? A whole lot as it turns out!

First, get familiar with the laws…and there are a few.

3-30 MilKid School Graphic

The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, applies to all students of active-duty or activated Reserve/Guard families. It also applies for one year only to children of medically retired service members, and children of service members who were killed in action, or are deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.

This is most helpful in terms of placement in the correct education categories and classes. For states that have adopted this compact, public schools are required to accept official AND unofficial records, test scores, and placements when the student arrives. Schools should operate under “trust but verify.” Students arriving in public schools in member states (which is all 50 states), even with unofficial records, should be placed in courses and programs equivalent to their previous placement. In short, if your child was in the gifted program at Camp Lejeune, she should still be enrolled in the gifted program in Camp Pendleton. Your child might be retested by the new school, and placed differently based on those results, but initially she should be kept at the same level as her last school.

If they try to fight you on this, be sure to direct them to this interactive map that shows all 50 US states as members of the Interstate Compact. Then direct them to the guiding documents that outline how schools should operate upon receiving new military dependent children.

For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special education needs, receiving schools (public schools including DoDEA) must comply with the current, legal IEP until such time as testing can be conducted to create a new IEP. The important thing to note is that this helps to provide comparable, not identical, services. So if your child has PT services provided, they will still be provided, but maybe not at the same frequency or duration as they previously were. The new district will conduct updated assessments, and convene a new IEP committee to create your child’s new plan.

Another important tool for families with children who have special education needs is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program is designed to identify and assist families and individuals with medical, emotional and educational needs. Enrollment is compulsory, but there are definitely more than a few families who skirt around this. Honestly, it is in YOUR best interest. Not only will EFMP do the legwork for you on determining which schools are best for your child, but they help with the transfer process. If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or any other educational plan, enroll in EFMP yesterday (a.k.a., NOW!) Each base has a local office and representative to walk you through enrollment and assist you with the paperwork.

3-30 MilKid School PINTEREST

To go along with this, look into the School Liaison program at your new base. Every branch of service, as well as reserve components, maintain an active School Liaison program. These education professionals are employed to help build connections between the military and schools. They are there to help you transition into and out of schools, as well as to help handle any sticky situations that might pop up.

With the legal stuff taken care of, what do you do when everything else happens? Regression. Failure to adjust. Emotional concerns. These, and many more, can seriously impact a child’s academic and social life. Even one “off” aspect of life can severely affect others. A depressed child might exhibit academic regression or fail to make friends. A child who is struggling academically might lash out with anger or retreat into sadness.

There is help out there.

For families with academically focused concerns, Military OneSource has special education consultants. These are fully licensed, master’s level education professionals ready to help walk your family through the special education system. This service is free and unlimited.

Actually, Military OneSource is a one stop shop for so many things to help military families and children. Through this service, you can arrange for non-medical counseling. This can be an awesome and powerful resource for children who are struggling emotionally with school, moving, anxiety, depression, or just need someone other than a parent to talk to. The help is confidential and free.

Sometimes, even though a child is doing well in school and seems to be adjusting to their new home, they struggle to form connections. Let’s face it, Military Kid Life is like no other life out there. Sometimes our kids just need to connect with other military children. Now, they can. Military Kid Connect is another free web service that allows kids from ages 6 to high school to connect with each other through videos, games, and online (parent-approved) message boards. There are even resources for parents and teachers!

Moving with children, especially school aged children, can be challenging and difficult. Armed with the law and with an arsenal of free resources to help support your family, it can help to ease your burden a little and work to guide your child toward success academically and socially.

The help is out there. Now, go use it.

Have you ever had a child who struggled after a PCS? How did you tackle the problems?

meg-flanaganPosted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws

You Don’t Have an Advanced Degree–So What?

It’s no secret military spouses are a force to be reckoned with; no longer the ‘silent ranks’ of decades past, spouses are determined to play a huge role in the financial stability of their families. More military spouses are leaving the stereotypes of yester-year behind and forging into territories that match their civilian counterparts.

No longer just the baby-making, bon-bon eating, Dependapotamuses they were made out to be, military spouses are so much more than that. And they’ve got the credentials and degrees to show it.

But what if you’re one of the many spouses who don’t have an advanced degree? Are you still a force to be reckoned with?

Abso-freaking-lutely! Here’s why:

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You’ve mastered the art of scrapping. And I mean that in the most rad way possible. Human Resources expert Regina Hartley gave a TED Talk recently, encouraging employers to “interview the scrapper.” Not having a Master’s degree, or even a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean your resume can’t stand up to the next guy’s.

Military life means spouses have to learn to be scrappers. You survive deployments, pack up an entire house, deliver babies alone, learn how to fix practically anything, budget like a beast, raise kids, and even work multiple jobs. And you do it all to support your service member.

You face adversity in the job market when you move to remote locations, or places where everyone seems to have a Master’s or Doctorate. It’s overwhelming to compete.

But because you’re a scrapper, your value goes up.

“[Scrappers] embrace their trauma and hardships as key elements of who they’ve become, and know that without those experiences, they might not have developed the muscle and grip required to become successful,” Hartley went on to say in her TED Talk.

More companies are expanding their employee base with diverse and well-rounded people, and not all will be the Harvard grad or the 4.0 GPA intern from New York City. They’ll be the military spouse with 4 jobs in the last 5 years in 3 different states, or the military spouse with an Associate’s degree, who also runs her own business. And you can bet they’ll be the veteran spouse who holds down the fort while his significant other is deployed.

Even without an advanced degree, you are a valuable asset because you’re a pro at cultivating relationships. You are constantly moving, reinventing, and holding sorting ceremonies to find your new tribe (feel free to join me in Ravenclaw). And that’s not something a Master’s program can teach.

As a military spouse, you know the only thing you have full control over is yourself. You are sometimes at the mercy of the service, and ‘to expect the unexpected’ is as prepared as you can be. Because of their ability to thrive and bloom, regardless of whether they have a degree or some fancy letters after their name, military spouses and scrappers, alike, have “a sense of purpose that prevent them from giving up on themselves.”

Just because you didn’t finish your Bachelor’s degree, or you decided to forego debt and pass on getting your Master’s or that other certification, doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable to a company. And it dang sure doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable as a military spouse, friend, and human being.

There are many ways to break free of those old stereotypes, and having a degree isn’t the only one. You’ve already mastered the art of scrapping, what will you do next?

What would you tell those military spouses without an advanced degree? Do you think a degree makes a difference?

If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, or decide it’s time to achieve your next educational goal, NMFA is here to help. This year, we’re giving away over $500,000 in scholarships to deserving military spouses. Don’t miss out. The application period is open until January 31, 2016, and there are SO many different opportunities waiting for you on our website. Apply today!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

The World is Your Military Kid’s Classroom…Take Advantage!

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.

the-world-is-your-milkids-classroom

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.

find-the-best-in-your-milkids-education

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