It’s that time of year again—the 2017-18 school year is beginning, and with it can come challenges, in particular for kids in military families. Starting the school year in a new location can be a tough time for military families, especially when a military family throws in a deployment or a recent PCS move.
Whether your child is returning to a familiar school or gearing up for a new one—or if your family is opting out of traditional school entirely—the “back to school season” is crazy busy for most families. Whether you just PCS’d or you’ve been living at your duty station a while, your kids always start the year with new teachers and a new routine.
Consider this: the average military child will move six to nine times during their parent’s military career. Often, this means more than just new teachers and a new grade. Trying to figure out how to meet the requirements of a new school in a new state can be daunting. Over the years, educators, the DoD, and military family advocates have worked together to remove some of the barriers hindering a smooth transition for military children.
Did you know that as of 2014, all 50 states participate in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children? It’s designed to facilitate easier transitions due to government-ordered relocations. Eligible children include those whose parent is in a uniformed service (including the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Public Health Service) on active duty orders. Eligibility is limited to one year after medical discharge, retirement, or active duty death of a service member.
Under the compact, schools agree to consistent requirements for students’ enrollment, eligibility, placement, and graduation. For example, prior to the compact, a child might have had to repeat a local history course to graduate, even if they had already taken a similar course in a previous state. Adoption of the compact ensures families can request a waiver for this type of coursework.
The compact also outlines how quickly schools must send along records, immunization deadlines, Kindergarten entrance ages, and more. School liaison officers at your local installation are well-equipped to help families understand how the compact can aid a smoother transition to a new school.
Additionally, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children helps create continuity for military children’s education when faced with a PCS and when attending a public school. It is administered by the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3), which enacts rules for implementing the compact.
Every state has representation in the MIC3. The MIC3 site provides a guide for parents, school officials, and public administrators, FAQs, and an interactive map enabling users to identify their state’s compact leadership. With the information available via MIC3, parents can focus on helping their child adjust to a new school and mastering another PCS.
Homeschooling might or might not be the answer for your family. But if you’re interested in homeschooling, start by contacting your installation’s school liaison or reaching out to a local homeschool cooperation. There are numerous Facebook groups for homeschooling families and a specific Facebook page for military homeschoolers to help you get started.
Another great resource for military families is the Military Child Education Coalition, whose work is focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.
Last but not least, know your school liaison officer (SLO). They serve as your primary point of contact for school-related matters. They also promote parental involvement, educate local communities/schools regarding the needs of military children, and develop and coordinate partnerships between the military and schools. Most importantly, your installation SLO provides parents with the tools, resources, and continuity necessary for our children’s education.