The new school year is quickly approaching, which means a time for new dreams and a fresh start. For some students, this could mean new school clothes and supplies. For others, it could mean moving across country and starting at a brand new school. Thankfully, the military is full of families that surround each other with support while going through similar life circumstances. There are also wonderful organizations that deal specifically with these situations and are able to provide relief for military children and families throughout the school year.
Military children are often faced with more challenges than the typical school-age child due to the absence of family members and frequent changes of location. If you are one of many families who recently moved to a new school district, school liaison officers can be extremely helpful. They work closely with local schools and relocating families to assist with the transfer of a student’s credit for courses already completed.
Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night to meet the teacher, find your child’s desk and explore the campus together. Familiarizing your child with their new environment will help them with any first day jitters. A familiar friend can also make all the difference when heading back to school. Reconnect with parents and children from previous classes; refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or start a school carpool.
The school supply list is usually available during open house, through the teacher or on the school’s website. Take a special shopping trip with your child so they can be involved in picking out their supplies, allowing for a couple of splurges like a fun notebook or a favorite-colored pen. School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead and having the right tools will help them feel prepared. Get your child excited about school by explaining how they might use their new supplies.
Operation Homefront Back-to-School Brigade helps military families in need of school supplies. You can receive or donate backpacks, notebooks, paper, pencils and other supplies from your local chapter. For more information on this yearly event, search for your local chapter online or through Facebook. Our Military Kids is another program that provides grants to military children in need for participation in sports, fine arts, camps and tutoring programs that nurture children while a parent is away in service or recovering from injury.
Military OneSource has some tools to help with the back-to-school transition, including: information about special education, scholarship opportunities and homeschooling. You’ll also find a variety of resources on their website, such as: youth programs, military support services and virtual classes offered by the Department of Defense Education Activity as well as non-DoD schools. They also offer free, confidential child and youth behavioral counselors as well as military and family life counselors. Services are available for children who may need help adjusting to a new environment, handling grief, fear, loss or separation. Counseling is also available for parents who need help balancing the challenges of military life. These professional counselors understand the issues military families face and can help to address these concerns in a healthy way.
Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) is another valuable resource for parents, students and teachers. The MCEC is an organization with a mission to ensure inclusive, quality educational opportunities for all military-connected children affected by mobility, transition and family separation. Resources include initiatives such as "The Call for the Arts" and peer-based mentoring programs at the K-12 levels. As part of MCEC, School Quest offers free SAT/ACT prep. With this resource, military families can save some money and make sure that high school students are ready for testing. The coalition works diligently to make sure that the military child’s needs are recognized and supported while empowering caregivers with the knowledge to ensure that children thrive.
Tutor.com is funded by the Department of Defense MWR Library Program, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and Navy General Library Program. They offer military families free tutoring for homework, test prep, proofreading and studying. Professional tutors are available any time you need it on as many as 50 different subject matters. More resources and information is available on the website or app.
One of the most challenging parts of school for many kids is learning how to read. For families that are operating with one parent, or for other family members filling in for a deployed parent, this process can be even more challenging. With United Through Reading, military families can still read together even when they are apart. Parents can record themselves reading a book and then send the recording home. The child can then play the video and the non-deployed parent can record the child’s reaction.
Books on Bases is a program started by Blue Star Families in conjunction with Kids in Distressed Situations (K.I.D.S.) to positively impact the lives of military children through the power of reading. Each year, books are donated to military children, base libraries, Department of Defense schools and public schools in military areas. Digital library resources are also available on Military OneSource once you log in. You can also visit your local installation library for additional learning resources.
Children, especially between ages 6-12, bear a lot of the stress of military life. Working through all of their emotions and the situations they face can cause their academics to slip. Operation Hero aims to help this group of children get back on the right academic path. This program is put on by the Armed Services YMCA and offers a safe place for military kids to find community. Working as a team, the child can process their concerns and fears, while also learning life skills and coping mechanisms.
MilKids Education Consulting is another great resource for both teachers and military parents, providing tools to make the K-12 journey easier for all families. This site offers tips and advice to get through school while also breaking down the educational and legal jargon to more understandable terms. There’s a whole section of the website dedicated to reviews of military schools in a given area. This can help you get a sense of a school before moving to your duty station.
The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission is an agreement between all fifty states and DoD schools for children in the K-12 public education system, ensuring the smoothest transition possible between public schools due to PCS. It guarantees that students enrolled in kindergarten will continue on their academic journey, even if they move to a district where their birthday falls after the enrollment deadline. MIC3 can also help older students stay in gifted programs or meet graduation requirements. For more resources and programs available to you, be sure to check out Military INSTALLATIONS DoD’s global directory, where you can search for information by a specific installation, state or ZIP code.
Whether your kids are excited for the start of school or are feeling a little apprehensive about moving to a new area, these resources will help make the transition back to the books as easy as possible.
For more information on the resources provided, please visit the related website at:
Operation Homefront Back-to-School Brigade – www.operationhomefront.org
Our Military Kids – www.ourmilitarykids.org
Military OneSource – www.militaryonesource.mil
Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) – www.militarychild.org
United Through Reading – www.unitedthroughreading.org
Books On Bases – www.bluestarfam.org
Operation Hero - www.asymca.org/operation-hero.com
MilKids Education Consulting – www.milkidsed.com
Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) – www.mic3.net
Military INSTALLATIONS DoD’s Global Directory – www.installations.militaryonesource.mil