This is a guest post written by the education advocate and long-time friend, Meg Flanagan.
It’s not easy to be a military parent: frequent moves, changes with support systems, and so many schools. Part of our role is learning exactly how to have a great school experience.
Use these tips to learn how to get the most out of school as a military family!
How Military Families Can Find a Great School
As you get ready to move, it’s important to keep schools in the front of your mind. Finding a great school is critical to making the K-12 years awesome. We don’t get to pick where we live or where we send our kids to school.
Not all schools are created equal, but you can have good experiences no matter where you live. To help you find a great school, use the School Comparison Worksheet from MilKids Ed. You can snag a copy for free in the Ultimate School Success Kit! This important tool will help you to compare schools based on unique to military families criteria, like BAH.
As you’re searching, keep a few things in mind:
- Student needs: what does your child need and what does the school offer
- Activities: sports, clubs, competitive academic teams, course offerings
- School rankings: use Niche, SchoolDigger, and GreatSchools to check out schools
- Technology: check the school’s website and social media accounts
- Community: how does the school “feel” online and via social media? Is there an active PTA/PTO?
If you need a little help, check out the PCS School Transition Challenge! It’s a free mini-course for military families and can offer you quality resources that make parenting MilKids easier.
How Military Families Can Prep for a New School
When you move into your new home, reach out to the school. Email the principal to start building connections. Ask who to contact to start the enrollment process and connect with subject or grade level teachers. You could ask about getting in touch with coaches or club leaders, too.
Making connections early can help your child become known to the new school. You might get information to help with the transition process or feel more in touch with the school community.
Get your paperwork in order to make enrolling super easy. Pull everything you might need and carry it with you. Having all school-related items in a PCS binder can really help the process.
Send any education plans, like IEPs or 504 Plans, to the school as early as possible. This is important for mid-year movers especially. Sending your child’s plans early can help the school to prepare for teaching your child most effectively.
Help your child’s new teacher get to know her. Write a letter to the new teacher (use the sample printable in the Ultimate School Success Kit) and share your contact information. Make it easier for the teacher to understand your child and get in touch, just in case.
How Military Families Can Solve School Problems
No matter where you send your children to school, problems might still happen. When tough things happen, it’s important to get ahead of it early.
Reach out to the teacher as soon as possible to get everything out in the open. Having an honest discussion can help to ease tensions and start finding solutions.
Be open minded about the situation, whether it’s low grades or behavior concerns. Try to get the facts of the situation from the teacher or other school personnel while also keeping your child’s input in mind.
Work cooperatively toward solutions together. Find ways to resolve conflicts that work for everyone.
If you feel stuck, reach out for help. Every base has a School Liaison Officer who can guide you to solutions to many problems. For issues that require more work or additional resources, consider hiring an education advocate specializing in military families. MilKids Ed is a military-focused education advocacy offering services to families around the world.
Military families can have a great school experience with a little forethought and access to resources!
How do you help your military children through K-12 education? We would love to check out your best school tips!
Meg Flanagan, founder of MilKids Ed, is a teacher, mom and military spouse. She is dedicated to making the K-12 education experience easier for military families. Meg holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in elementary education. She is a certified teacher in both elementary and special education in Massachusetts and Virginia.
To get actionable solutions to common K-12 school problems, parents should check out Talk to the Teacher by Meg Flanagan.