August 17, 2019
School is a tremendously important part of a child’s life, and so is being a member of a military family. There are over a million school-aged military kids in the DoD, and they face unique challenges due to their parent’s service. There are many ways that parents, teachers, and schools can work together to create the best living and learning environment for their military kids. Here are some ideas that you can share with your child’s teachers, counselors, and other school staff.
1. Identify the Military Kids
The first battle is knowing which kids are part of a military family. Sometimes it’s obvious when they transfer in mid-year from South Korea. Other times, it’s almost transparent, especially for families who have been in the same area for a while, or National Guard or Reserve families.
Make sure your child’s school knows that they are a military kid, and encourage them to figure out who else is, too. Under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, schools are supposed to be implementing the Military Student Identifier to help track the number of military kids they are serving. And with that information, use aggregate data to ensure that those students are getting the best possible education.
Unfortunately, the Military Student Identifier only applies to children of full-time service members. So the kids of National Guard and reservists aren’t included, and the process hasn’t fully developed yet. More importantly, even if the school records are marking military kids, that information doesn’t necessarily make it to the individual staff members. Therefore, it’s up to the parents and school staff to communicate so that all military kids are identified.
Then, parents need to let schools know what’s going on in their family’s military life. Deployments, training, and news of an upcoming move can affect children in different ways. Schools should have a process for capturing and sharing that information so that everyone, including the art teacher, the lunchroom monitor, and the school nurse can best support our children.
2. Understand The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children
The Interstate Compact is recognized by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It addresses the challenges of transferring schools, including:
Both parents and schools must understand the provisions of the Interstate Compact. If you need help, there are several resources available. The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) is a great place to start to learn how to best implement the Interstate Compact to help your students.
3. Remove Barriers
Outside of academics, encourage kids to participate in extracurricular activities. Whether it’s a chess club at recess or an after school play, make sure every child knows about every opportunity. Encourage new kids to try out for special programs, like the choir, even if they miss the usual deadline.
Also, welcome parents into the school community while recognizing that not every parent can fit their involvement in the more traditional framework. Host activities and events in the evening and on the weekends. Publicize volunteer opportunities on the school’s website and in newsletters, and with enough notice for parents to see if they can get away from work.
4. Be Aware of Their Challenges & Offer Solutions
Children can face all sorts of challenges that might not be obvious at school. For example, a family that’s still living in temporary housing might not have a place to do homework without interruption. A child with a deployed parent may be struggling emotionally. And solo parents sometimes don’t remember every single thing (heck, that’s true even when we’re not solo parenting).
Ultimately, make sure that schools and teachers are aware of the resources that can help. Your School Liaison Officer is an excellent person to start with, followed by private organizations such as the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC).
These strategies help all students, not just military kids. By sharing information and improving practices, we can help every child reach their maximum potential.
Get the Support You Need Throughout Your Military Journey
We’re on a mission to empower you to thrive, no matter where you may be at in your journey as a military family. Want access to local and virtual events and thoughtfully-designed resources that solve your unique challenges? Click here to become a member of Blue Star Families for free today!