Now that my boys are school aged all I can think about in our pending move is, what school will they go to? Will they make friends? Will they be able to stay on the same academic pace they currently are on? Can they walk to the new school or will they have to take the bus? Can I volunteer as much as I do now? Will there be programs for military children and will the school be accommodating to our needs as a military family? All things that never even crossed my mind on our last two moves. With the move to our current duty station I knew our oldest would be entering kindergarten in the fall, but I never thought of these issues. I don’t whether it was my naive self or the knowledge that an old friend was a teacher at the school or that is was a school made up of 90% plus military students and staff that caused me to not ask those questions. But, that is all changing now because in a year we will be looking at moving our boys to a new school. Even though some answers can’t be made till you are moved and school has started I do have tips to help answer some of those daunting questions that loom over parents when the orders to move come in.
1. Dad or Mom comes home and they have that little stapled packet of orders and every kid know what that means for them…. A NEW SCHOOL!! UGH!!! Instead of waiting, sit down and talk with your school aged kids about what changing new schools will mean for them. What are their concerns? What will they miss? What are they looking forward to? Keep the dialog open and let them express their feelings about changing new schools. The older they get the harder it will be especially in the social department. Friends are so valuable to teenagers and in their eyes irreplaceable. This leads to tip number 2.
2. Get an account for your child on Military Kids Connect and keep them connected with military friends. This is such a great site because it is separated into age groups and allows for kids to talk about their tough military life on a social network just for them.
3. When you go on your house hunting leave also visit potential schools. If it is possible bring your child with you. Let them ask all the questions. Can I walk onto the basketball team since we won’t be here till December 13th? Will all my classes transfer or will I have to retake some of them? As a parent you should be thinking about similar things and help guide your child through this transition. Be sure you are asking about standardized testing. In some states high schoolers only need to take their exit exam once regardless of what grade they took and where. But, you need to ask! Also, be your child’s advocate! If your child has taken Algebra I in 8th grade do not let the new high school tell you he/she has to retake it if that isn’t what you want. All these questions and concerns need to be addressed when visiting because the answers could sway into another school who could be more accommodating.
4. Contact the School Liaison Officer for the area you are currently stationed. This person can help you acquire information on schools in the area you will be moving, too. They will also be able to get in touch with the SLO in your new duty station. SLO can help with everything from answering questions about the school system to being advocate for you if your child is needs assistance with school related issues, such as not be able to take an AP level class. The best way to find the contact information for the SLO is go to the base website and look under the directory or even post on a base/Ombudsman or Housing Facebook page.
5. Make yourself familiar with the Interstate Children’s Compact Commission. This is a initiative created and signed by states waiving military families on a variety of school policies. Such as, kindergarten/ first grade entry dates, immunizations and high school exit exams. Not all states have signed this and so it is very important to make sure you know this information! It could help you in the long run having this document in hand when you are registering your kindergartener in their new school that has a different cut off date then the one you moved from.
6. When you are preparing to leave your child’s current school ask if you can do something special to help your child feel they will be missed. One idea is to have your child bring in a t-shirt and let all their friends write their numbers, email address and well wishes on it. Or maybe offer to bring in snacks and drinks in the afternoon for younger kids. This is what we did for our older son when we moved while he was in pre-school. I feel like it helps give kids closure and not the one day I am here and then next I there and no one cares that I left.
7. On the opposite end of tip 6, get connected with the school counselor in the new school within the first two weeks and make sure you child is adjusting well. See if they have made friends, know how to get around the school and have all the essential things needed for their classes. Children react differently and one kid may come home complaining they don’t like their new school but another won’t say a thing. The first two weeks are crucial in ensuring they have a good school experience during your tour, so be proactive and don’t rely entirely on your child to tell you if they are happy or not.
Transition doesn’t have to be difficult and we are so fortunate to have an abundance of resources at our finger tips to help our children. At this point you all know my favorite place to gain many of these resources and that is FFSC. They have every thing from books to counseling. Also, Military One Source has a wide variety of books and so the Military Child Education Coalition. Hopefully, with these tips and resources your child’s next school transition will be just little bit smoother and happier.
* Visit the Resources Page to the resources mentioned in this blog and more.