Published: August 28, 2021
Military families move on average every two to three years, with an average of 400,000 service members moving on permanent change of station (PCS) orders every year.
We often talk about the implications for spouse employment and the difficulty of building a network of support as a result of moving frequently, but what about the implications on education for military kids? Packing up for a new location means finding a new school, potentially with a different curriculum or different practices. It can be hard to ensure military children have continuity with the quality of their education.
The education challenge has become such an obstacle that military families, who already face such long periods apart for deployments and trainings, are choosing to “geo-bach.” This means that service members live apart from family members; in this case, to create stability for kids. In fact, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, nearly a quarter (23%) of all active-duty family respondents report geo-baching in the last five years, and of those, half (49%) of geo-baching families with children who are not enrolled in special education report children’s education as one of the reasons for geo-baching. That number only increases when considering children who are enrolled in special needs programs.
We also know that access to quality education is a major factor for military families who choose to homeschool their children. For the 2020-2021 school year, 13% of military family respondents to the survey report homeschooling their oldest child. That’s a much higher percentage of the population when compared to the national average of 3%(1). One Air Force family shared: “We chose to homeschool our children because the quality of education was inconsistent from state to state. We will continue to homeschool our children until there is quality education available to them.”
Amse, a fellow Air Force spouse and mom of three, also found herself searching for the best educational opportunities for her children. “My oldest child is very bright, and we know she has an amazing future ahead of her,” Amse shared. “But it can be a challenge sometimes for military kids. The struggles with being new to a community aren’t just felt in school. It can also be hard when it comes to extracurricular activities and volunteering — things that are so important to well-rounded development for kids and for opening opportunities when you look at elite high schools and colleges. Volunteering and service opportunities for tween and teen military kids can be hard to come by.”
Amse is right. Starting over in a new community doesn’t just mean difficulties in finding quality education. It also presents challenges for extracurricular activities and volunteering. Constantly being the “new kid” can take a real toll on kids’ willingness to participate. It’s intimidating to join a team or group when everyone already knows each other, and you feel like an outsider. And the same goes for volunteering, too. When you don’t have the built-in connections or access to a local network that’s willing to give you an opportunity, it can be hard to find service opportunities, especially as a teen. All of these factors are why, when considering preferences for their next duty station, active-duty service member respondents to the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, who have children under the age of 18, list “education options for children” as a top factor.
Blue Star Families knows how important it is to support the entire military family. Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families, has said, “It’s a pleasure and a privilege to serve your country, but no one’s going to do it if it hurts their family.” To retain talented service members, we need to ensure families are taken care of.
Amse’s family knew they could count on Blue Star Families to support them in a number of different ways, one being volunteer opportunities for their kids. “Through Blue Star Families, our daughter was able to really get involved and support her community wherever we were,” Amse said. “The opportunities Blue Star Families afforded her gave her confidence and showed her that she can make a difference. In the fall, our daughter will attend one of the top high schools in the country — a school she had to apply and interview to get into. Along with her hard work and many accomplishments, her commitment to service was cited as her most outstanding quality. Volunteering for Blue Star Families set her apart from her peers. She could not have done this without the support of Blue Star Families, whose staff and partners worked with EV every step of the way to achieve her goal.”
Military families like Amse’s are counting on Blue Star Families to be the liaison that bridges the gap and keeps them mission ready, especially when it comes to their kids. We do this by maintaining a pulse on their concerns through our survey, then using the data to find solutions to their challenges by fostering collaborations, informing legislative change, and creating free events, programs, resources, and volunteer opportunities.
Why? Because our nation is strongest when our service members and their families are thriving. We’ll continue to be there to support families who serve as they reach for each new goal. Your family can serve with us, too! Learn about the many programs and events available, and sign up to volunteer at bluestarfam.org/volunteer.