It’s that time of year again — the 2017-18 school year has begun, and with it comes 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 permanent change of station (PCS) move.
Whether your child is returning to a familiar school or starting at 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 for 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 a 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 Department of Defense, 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 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 she 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 website 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.
Home schooling might or might not be the answer for your family. But if you're interested in home schooling, start by contacting your installation's school liaison or reaching out to a local home-school cooperation. There are numerous Facebook groups for home-schooling families and a specific Facebook page for military home-schoolers to help you get started.
If you're interested in home schooling, contact your installation's school liaison or reach out to a local home-school cooperation.
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). These individuals 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.
Dr. Katherine (Kat) Harris is a veteran spouse, expat, and former military contractor with over 20 years of expertise in military/family transition, career counseling, higher education, organizational strategic planning, and international relations. An OpsLens contributor, she has conducted seminars and workshops for many Department of Army commands. She served as a translator and liaison for American, British, French, and German civilian/military communities in Berlin and Helmstedt, Germany. This OpsLens article is used by permission.
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