Tag Archives: education

Why I Delayed Grad School. And Why Changing Your Mind is Okay.

It was my junior year of college, and my Public Relations Strategy professor very adamantly told us one day in class, “Go get a job after you graduate!” She preached to us on more than one occasion, telling us to forego graduate school right after finishing our Bachelor’s degree so we wouldn’t have to compete with our peers, who would have two years of work experience by the time we finished our Master’s degree.

This really struck a chord with me. In college, I was that girl with two jobs and two internships at one time. The thought of being set back (crazy, I know) by graduate school was terrifying to me.

I was also extremely fearful of the debt. I lived at home during school to help cut down on costs, and avoid leaving school with debt. To willingly take on debt for a Master’s degree, after being able to avoid it in undergrad, just didn’t make sense.


I graduated with my Bachelor’s and packed up my bags to move myself to the Nation’s capital. This summer will be 4 years since I graduated and I’m starting to play around with the idea of grad school.

Aside from my college professor giving me the scary reality that I wouldn’t be able to get a job, I also had no idea what I wanted my career to be. This is what lead me to choose a Public Relations degree; I wanted to study something I could apply to any industry because I was so indecisive (which I still am, but aren’t we all?).

Why now?

There are so many more options for advanced degrees today! In just 4 years, online degree programs have become commonplace. When I was in school, online classes were only offered for a few select classes, and they weren’t the best.

Now, I can actually come to terms with the cost. After working for a few years, and with the strides that have been made with online degrees, there is a possibility to get a graduate degree without the gift of lifelong debt.

I’m also surrounded by a lot of motivated co-workers and friends who are all furthering their education. They’ve inspired me to finally look into going back to school (and to finally figure out a more specific path for my career).

Are you thinking about going back to school? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do your research. You can find an accredited graduate degree program that won’t totally break the bank. If the program of your dreams will still cost a pretty penny, look into your options for scholarships, and what your loan payments will look like when it’s all said and done.
  2. Have a passion? Keep that in mind. If you’ve always wanted to be a teacher, a nurse, a scientist, take your passion and use it to fuel your journey. So often, we put our passion on the back burner and find the job that just works for time-being, but don’t sell yourself short. Go for it!
  3. Give yourself a break. If you have been putting off school and feel like it’s too late, or you won’t be able to keep up: give yourself a break! It’s never too late to follow your dreams and go back to school. There are so many different options when it comes to furthering your degree, so don’t let those fears hold you back.

If you’re ready to head back to school, or pursue the certification you’ve been thinking about, take a leap and start the journey. NMFA is here to help–we’ve got scholarships for military spouses and we’re giving away over half a MILLION dollars in scholarships this year! Apply by January 31, 2016.

Did you put off graduate school? What made you finally decide to go back?

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Military Spouse Scholarships are Waiting for YOU!

“I’m waking up and realized I did not have a dream! I always told myself ‘It’s ok, I don’t need to go to school,’ because I never wanted to take money away from the things my family needed.” –Emily Yancey, NMFA Military Spouse Scholarship Recipient

emily yancey nmfa scholarship

Emily Yancey and family receiving her scholarship from NMFA Executive Director Joyce Raezer

At the National Military Family Association, we meet so many military families from all walks of life. We hear their stories and, whenever we are able, we try to make their family’s military journey a little easier.

Since 2004, NMFA has awarded $3.3 million in scholarships to more than 3,500 military spouses. Emily Yancey was not one of those 3,500 recipients, yet, she still wanted to make a difference through NMFA. Earlier this year, Emily helped NMFA secure a grant to assist local military spouses as they pursue their career and education dreams.

Emily’s dream is to pursue a certification in culinary arts, which will allow her to contribute to her family, lifestyle, and community. She says cooking as a family has helped them heal after their lives changed when Emily’s husband was medically retired two years ago.

In Emily’s NMFA scholarship essay, she wrote, “It is important that military spouses pursue their education and career goals because it is important to keep personal identity. I personally know how quickly and easily personal dreams and aspirations can get put on the back burner. My husband is 100% disabled and it has taken me over two years to truly understand a little time for yourself will go a long way. It is not necessarily a negative thing but, it is important to stay true to you. My husband has always been my biggest supporter to get to school but following through on my part is another story. Being a military spouse means traveling to new duty stations, quickly adapting, and most importantly being the glue that sticks the family together. It’s a tough but rewarding job to help encourage and support the ranking military spouse but it is also that important to follow through for yourself.”

NMFA is thrilled to award Emily with $2,500 scholarship to help her pursue her culinary dreams. But then, an anonymous donor heard the Yancey’s story and was so inspired they decided to surprise Emily and her family with a scholarship that will allow her to finish her degree!

As you can imagine, Emily was surprised and graciously shared her feelings with us. “Words cannot say loud enough how thankful I am for each person that made this happen for me. Thank you!”

Are you a military spouse pursuing an educational or career licensure or certification? NMFA’s military spouse scholarship application is open until January 31, 2016, and we’re ready to help you achieve your goals! Apply now!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager

Let NMFA’s Spouse Scholarships Help You ‘Reinvent’ Yourself for Success!

Are you ready to reinvent yourself? Feel stuck in your career? I felt that way several years ago. There I was, a women in mid-life with, what felt like, no responsibilities because the kids are raised and mostly on their own, a husband who had a career going well–both civilian and Air Force Reservist duty–and me…working, but unfulfilled. I was in a black hole and not sure how to get out of it. But because of the support given to me by the National Military Family Association, my story has a happy ending. Yours can, too.


As my husband and I raised our two daughters, I was always employed.  Throughout my more than 35 years of working, all of my jobs have been challenging and rewarding, including the 12 years I was self-employed. I don’t have a formal 4-year college education, but always enjoyed learning. Not having a degree has never held me back with jobs I pursued. My core skill set is in Human Resources.

I found myself in the ‘black hole’ when I took a lateral move with my company into an Administrative Assistant position. There are several reasons why I did this, including the opportunity to get a security clearance. We had recently moved to the Washington D.C. area, and it was pretty obvious when we moved here that I would need a security clearance to remain marketable. My clearance came through very quickly, and I thought “Great! I have all this HR experience and now I have a clearance!”

However, looking for this new job did not work out in my favor. Maybe it’s because my resume now said Administrative Assistant? I didn’t want to be that anymore–I considered myself an HR Professional. My resume and experience validates this. Why was I getting nowhere in finding a new job? Sure, I had interviews and call backs, but not the great HR job I thought I was entitled to.


During this several-year process of getting nowhere, and drowning in my abyss, I realized if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed a professional certification–a PHR certification, which stands for Professional in Human Resources. I was going to put a stake in the ground and declare, “Yes, I am an HR Professional!”  Never mind the pass rate is 57% or that the cost of the books is $750 dollars, and the test is $400. I had no choice. This was my way out.

Once I made this decision, I felt a great weight had lifted. I had a plan and felt confident this was the answer. I also became aware of the scholarships offered to spouses of military members through the National Military Family Association.   I created my profile and went through the application process. I was asked to complete several essays on why it was important to me to pursue my education, particularly as a military spouse.

Several months went by and I received an email that my application had been chosen! I was so honored! Again, this was a validation that I had made a good decision by pursuing the PHR. I was given $500 by a very generous donor.

Within days of passing the test, I was getting call after call for HR opportunities.  I am thrilled to report that I am now a very happy HR Generalist for a government contractor. My day consists of engaging problem solving issues with my client base. I have the job of my dreams. I encourage you to use the benefits National Military Family Association has to offer; if only just for the support and encouragement they give us. And it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

Are you a military spouse ‘reinventing’ yourself by going to back school or pursuing a certification? Apply for NMFA’s scholarships now through January 31, 2016!

Posted by Tracey Stringfellow, PHR, National Military Family Association Scholarship Recipient

PCSing During the School Year: Be Prepared and Ask Questions

According to Department of Defense’s (DoD) Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the military moves roughly 530,000 service members and their families every year. More than half of those moves are during peak moving months of May through August. That leaves more than 250,000 service members and their families moving off season: during the academic school year.

While moving during the summer months may add a heavy workload to the DoD, moving in summer presents an ideal time for families to transfer schools without missing crucial educational requirements for military connected children. In contrast, moving the other 250,000 military members during the school year brings an entire new set of challenges for military members.

When changing schools during the year, there are plenty of hurdles both parents and students face. The important thing is to gather as much information and ask as many questions to school administrators and teachers before (and after) you PCS. Being organized and prepared is key to a successful mid school year transition.


Here’s a solid checklist and questions for parents with school-aged kids to ask, but we’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks when moving during the school year, too!

Research and Compare Curriculum – Do your research before you move.

  • Will the school be able to meet the educational needs of your child?
  • Compare curricula of your current and new schools.. You need to know if your child will struggle to keep up or be ahead of peers and thus bored in the classroom.
  • Collect and review important schoolwork showing your child’s academic aptitude.
  • Compare current schoolwork to curriculum in new school. What type of math are they teaching? Does the school use Common Core or has it opted out?
  • Plan a conference for your child’s current teacher or counselor to review the new school’s curriculum.
  • Take a picture of your child’s text book covers, websites they use and gather work samples of current work.
  • Ask the new school how new students who are behind/ahead of current grade-level objectives are handled.

The Teacher(s) 

  • Educational continuity is at risk each time a military child – no matter what grade they are in – moves to a new school.
  • Teacher-to-Teacher Letter – A great preemptive idea is to have your child’s current teacher write a letter to the new teacher – even though you don’t know who it will be. This is a perfect venue for teachers to share information about your child’s learning methods or insight into behavior.
  • Meet with the your child’s current teacher before you PCS. Take lots of notes at a parent-teacher conference. These notes will be critical when you advocate for your child’s education or services at the next school.
  • Administrators Ask your current school to explain procedures for withdrawal and forwarding your child’s records to the new school.
  • Ask for a copy of your child’s records to hand carry to your new location.

Education Binder – Compile a binder that is home to all of your child’s important documents, including:

  • Report cards – all of them, even ones from previous schools.  It allow teachers to know the educational history of your child.
  • Schoolwork samples
  • Assessment results
  • Teacher comments and conference notes
  • Individual Education Plan
  • 504 plan
  • Shot records
  • Speech or occupational therapy evaluations/summaries
  • Letters from teachers (to teachers), including specialty teachers (music, coaches and art teachers, for example) if applicable
  • Test results (Cog AT, Iowa Assessments, reading readiness, SAT)

Families On The Homefront offers a free downloadable Operation Dandelion Kids Education Binder to help parents advocate for their child and help tell their child’s education history.

Know Your Rights

Military families have rights and responsibilities regarding children’s education. It’s up to you to understand these rights and responsibilities. Don’t leave your child’s right to a good education in the hands of a stranger. Own it!

  • Interstate Compact – Start here! Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission  is fighting to level the playing field for military family education.
  • The School Liaison Officer’s job is to help parents navigate the local school system, every base/post has one, contact them for insights about your school or if you have problems with placement of services.


Information About Your New School

  • School calendar – Ask for the new school’s calendar right away. It will list important dates you need to know.
  • Registration requirements – Every school is different but most schools require PCS orders, proof of residency and immunization records.
  • Holiday hours – Call the new school and learn when the school will be open to register and take a tour hours.
  • Appropriate placement – Gifted and Talented and special needs programs often differ between schools. Understand what the school offers and how placement works for your child.
  • How does the new school handle new students with IEP/504 plans, documented academic struggles and/or academic discrepancies?
  • How do they program for Gifted and Talented students? Not all schools are equal when it comes to curriculum or testing.
  • Speak with a grade-level teacher and/or counselor to get a feel for the school climate and available programs.
  • Does the school offer a way for your child to connect with a peer school is back in session?
  • Secondary students: understand transferring credits, graduation requirements, ranking and how to determine appropriate academic placement.

Contact Your New School – Once you arrive, get on the phone and be ready to get to work.

  • Register and tour the school as soon as possible. Bring the education binder with all your important documents, share your education binder when you register so staff can place your child accordingly.
  • Ask about the school’s procedure for reviewing and implementing a new student’s IEP or 504 plan. Schedule any necessary meetings to review your child’s IEP or 504 plan.
  • Ask about procedures for parent/teacher conferences, schedule on within the first two weeks of school and share your education binder with the teacher as well.
  • Don’t be shy. Parents need to be involved within weeks of arrival at their new location. There will be a ton of information and insights you WON’T have access to unless you make yourself available and start connecting.

Organization and preparation are keys to a smooth school transition, especially one during the year. The loss of support, routines, and social networks associated with changing schools can be challenging for both children and parents. Being prepared for this transition is your best chance to ease the anxiety of changing schools. Start early and be sure to follow up when you arrive. We all know that as parents, we aren’t happy in a new location until our children are happy and settled.

Have you recently moved during the school year? What is the best piece of advice you have for others?

stacy-huismanPosted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Air Force spouse, mother, and freelance writer. Stacy was published in the popular book “Stories Around the Table – Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life.” She is also a judge for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year 2015. 

Running Towards an Enhanced Career: Lace Up and GO!

You are at the starting line, with the finish probably no where in sight. A gun goes off. And then you run.

For me, this applies literally–to actual running–and metaphorically to continuing my education. Currently, I’m attempting both. Both journeys are endless pursuits of self-fulfillment and self-improvement.

I started running about five years ago. We had just moved to sunny southern California, and my husband promptly deployed. I knew just a handful of people, had a job that I disliked, and was spending too much time moping about.


So I ran. I started with up and back loops in my neighborhood. I took the dog for company, and we chatted about how my day went, what was for dinner, and what type of treat he wanted when we got back.

Those first weeks were painful. I was doing Couch25K before that was a ‘real thing,’ and I was frustrated. I remembered, from high school track, what it felt like to go fast, and I remembered my sub-three minute 800 meters. I remembered flying around the track. Now, I was barely wogging (if walking and jogging had a baby) along, even with frequent trudging breaks.

Right now, I am going back to school for an additional certificate in education. I am scared out of my mind. I’ve been out of school for over five years, and this whole program is online. I’m not sure how to pay for this, or how much work it will be, or if it will be worth it in the end.

But I’m trying it. If it is a disaster, at least I tried.

That’s how I viewed running when I started out: even if I am the slowest person on the road, I’m still faster than the person who never left the couch.

So I kept going. I laced up my shoes and pushed myself farther and faster every single day. One day, I was running again, not just jogging or trudging, but flying.

Education isn’t new to me; I’m a teacher. So you could say I’m pretty comfortable around a classroom. However, my program is in teaching English as a Second Language. English is my first, and only, language. Fine, I can throw a few “holas” around, and could probably find the bathroom if lost in France. Beyond that, I’m hopeless. How am I going to be able to teach children who are coming in without any English language skills?

Also, we just moved. Once again, I have no connections to the education world in sunny SoCal. My course requires that I teach sample lessons. I need to find a classroom. I need to do so many things to make this successful.

As the worries about ‘what-if,’ and ‘what-then’ overtake my mind, I think back to the very first race I ever ran post-high school,:an off-road 5K up in the hills of Camp Pendleton with my running buddy. I was so nervous at the starting line, my stomach was knotted up. I was pretty sure I might actually throw up, or pee my pants. Then my friend looked at me, smiled, and the gun went off. There we were, two former track runners conquering this intensely hard trail run together, side by side the whole entire way. The amazing part was that we both placed in our respective age groups. She got second in her group, and I pulled off a first place finish in mine. At that moment, I was hooked. I loved running, and everything about it.


I’ve run many races since then. I have only placed in one other race–second place in that same trail’s 5K the following year. But each and every time I cross the finish, I am victorious. My journey to that place, in that moment, has been a triumph of my will over my body, the weather, the road, and my negativity.

My favorite races have been the hardest. The Marine Corps Marathon 2012 was the hardest race I ever ran. Completing a marathon less than six months following a PCS move from SoCal to DC, training through humidity and heat, and healing an injured knee, was just plain hard. But nothing would stop me from lining up that morning; not even Superstorm Sandy, and not even the nausea that hits before every race. I hit the wall hard at mile 20, but trucked along, pretty sure that I would need to stop, but willing myself forward. When that Marine handed me my medal, I had tears of absolute joy rolling down my cheeks.

Right now, as I look over my program–the expense of it all, the time required–I’m pretty sure I might throw up. How on earth can I balance military life, being new to my region, raising a toddler, and taking these courses?? But then I remember how satisfying it is to cross that finish line. How rewarding it is to overcome all of the obstacles placed in front of you by the military, by motherhood, by finances, by sheer self-doubt.

So, I’ll lace up my shoes, pay that hefty bill, and move forward. I will overcome everything in my path. I am a runner. I am a mother. I am a determined, courageous, highly-educated military spouse who WILL advance my career. Because when I reach the finish line of life, I don’t ever want to say I didn’t get off the couch in any part of this journey.

Have you ever conquered something awesome in your military life? What made you push through and do it?

meg-flanaganPosted by Meg Flanagan, a special and elementary education teacher who holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. In addition to classroom experience, she has also worked in private tutoring and home schools. Meg is passionate about education advocacy for all children, but especially for children with special needs and children of military and state department personnel. You can find Meg online at MilKids Education Consulting, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

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.


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

Our International School Experience: “Mom, Can I Visit My Friends in Norway?”

When most people think of a child’s first day of school, they think of a huge school, a yellow school bus, and most people speaking the same language. But this wasn’t the experience my family had when my oldest son, Justus, went off for his first day of school.

Like most military families, we’ve traveled and moved A LOT! In the 8 years of my son’s life, he’s lived in four different places; one of those places is a small town called Pápa, Hungary.


After years of military service, my husband decided to take the knowledge he got during his service, and become a military contractor with the Boeing Company. In 2011, he took a job that moved us to Pápa Air Base in the small country of Hungary. There, my husband helped maintain the C-17 Globemasters for the Strategic Air Command, which consists of our Air Force, and also countries such as Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria.

Justus was five when we moved to Hungary, and adjusted better than I did. At first, I decided homeschooling was the best option for us. But I quickly learned Justus was much too energetic for my homebody ways. So, for his first grade year, I enrolled him at a school called Quality Schools International (QSI) Pápa, a small, private school made up of only the children of Boeing and the Strategic Air Commands.

On his first day of school, he came home and told me about all the kids he was going to school with, a total of seven nations in one class of children! Can you imagine? My son learned to love, not only the English language, but the German one, as well. The school didn’t offer Spanish, like here in the US, instead, they offer one hour of German every day. His love for reading and writing began to come through, and his love for diverse culture had him soaring.


The school put on many events where each nation could show case their traditions; I can still remember him coming home talking about wooden shoe races, and the beauty of the Dutch tulips in spring time. The school made sure to incorporate a little bit of ‘home’ into each class. These teachers, from all over the world, made a lasting impression on my child–something I know will last through his time and memories.

If I can leave you with any advice about a child going to school overseas, it’s to embrace the culture and get your hands dirty. Go out and visit the local shops, try to learn the language, try the food, and travel. Our three years in Hungary were brief, but in those years, we made lasting memories. We also made lasting friendships that will go with us through all our years.

Justus is already asking to go to Norway & Bulgaria to visit some of his friends–how many children can ask that? In some ways, being a military child puts a huge burden on our children, but in other ways, it opens up their lives to opportunities only most people could dream of.

So, if your next assignment happens to be Japan, Germany, or somewhere else outside of the United States, don’t dread it… embrace it. Your memories are awaiting you!

krystal-adamsPosted by Krystal Adams, veteran military spouse and mother