Supporting both the academic and emotional side is the next best thing to having parental super powers.
It’s the first week of school for your military kid, but you’re not busting out the camera or fussing with new outfits. No, this is second first day of school in just a few short months. It’s the way of the military family and mid-year move.
You’re staring at your child’s face, willing them to be happy, courageous and optimistic. But deep inside, you’re so scared for them. You know they will be fine – eventually. If parents could, we would will them into emotional body armor and douse them with charm spells just to ensure the new kid scenario is nothing more than a short lived blip on the screen of yesterday.
According to Department of Defense’s 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.
Depending on age and personality, moving could be considered and adventure or an anxiety-laden experience. Some milkids see it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, start over or try something. For others, it’s a break in routine, a loss of a support system and academic uncertainty. Because success doesn’t happen by chance, supporting your milkid through transitions will set them up for success. Supporting both the academic and emotional side gives them a fighting chance and is the next best thing to willing them to be happy.
The Academic Side of Moving:
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 after you PCS. Educational continuity is at risk each time a military child – no matter what grade they are in – moves to a new school. Being organized and prepared is key to a successful mid school year transition.
Information About Your New School
- 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.
- Does the school offer a way for your child to connect with peers at school? After school clubs, new student groups or pull out programs.
- Compare curricula from your past school with the new school. You need to know if your child will struggle to keep up or be ahead of peers and be bored in the classroom.
- Plan a conference for your child’s current teacher or counselor to review the new school’s curriculum.
- Ask the new school how new students who are behind/ahead of current grade-level objectives are handled.
- Secondary students: understand transferring credits, graduation requirements, ranking and how to determine appropriate academic placement
- Schedule a parent teacher conference right away. Don’t wait until mid semester or quarter for the teacher to understand the learning style of your child. Take notes, ask questions and set goals.
- Bring as many samples of past schoolwork with you to the conference. The teacher will need to see what your child has been learning. This includes websites and resources your child may have used during the last few months for classroom support.
- Being organized is key! If you haven’t compiled an education binder just for you child, start today! It will make the next move much easier. 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 (www.FamiliesOnTheHomeFront.com) 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. (Here’s some more help on changing schools!)
- MIC3 – Every military family should familiarize themselves with the ever important Compact! Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission MIC3.net 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.