On July 24, the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)’s 2019 National Training Seminar kicked off in Washington, D.C. And as part of the seminar, Jennifer Akin, Applied Research Analyst of Blue Star Families and military spouse, and Shannon Razsadin, Executive Director of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), presented on a panel titled, “Take Action! Four Military Life Events that Impact Military Kids and What YOU Can Do About Them.”
This presentation sought to educate teachers and school administrators regarding the impact of frequent relocations, deployments, and family separation on community integration and the educational development of military children.
Why is this topic so important?
Over the past few years, education has become a significant source of concern for military families. So much so that military family respondents reported military child education as a top-three issue of concern in our 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey. And in our 2017 survey, it earned a spot in the top five.
It’s safe to say the deep-seated issues military families experience as it relates to military children and their education are to blame. So, let’s unpack the top five, shall we?
5 Key Military Child Education Challenges Facing Military Families:
- In addition to the typical stressors, relocation poses unique challenges to military students. Where to begin? Let’s start with extracurricular policies. These are designed to prevent civilian students from transitioning to new schools for athletic purposes. But, instead, they end up impeding the participation of military students on certain sports teams.
Now, you may be thinking: okay, well, what about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children? That surely has to protect our milkids from facing challenges when looking to join extracurricular groups and teams following a PCS, right?
Unfortunately, however, there is no exemption for military students in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children regarding these provisions. Therefore, military students can be prohibited from participating in specific school sports teams because they didn’t attend said school the year prior.
Try telling a sports-oriented milkid that they’re sitting out a season only because they missed the cutoff date. Yeah, thanks to changing schools as a result of their family’s service to our country. That will affect them, don’t you think?
Additionally, military kids don’t have the same amount of time to cultivate relationships with teachers and peers. So, fitting in and tackling often simple tasks like requesting letters of recommendation can prove to be complicated.
- Happy homecoming videos can be misleading as they downplay the real stresses posed by reintegration. But the truth is, school-aged military kids aren’t immune to the post-deployment transitional challenges. After all, reintegration involves a multitude of factors from readjusting of domestic roles to a shared understanding of the growth members of the family experienced during the separation period, environmental changes, and more.
So while it seems like it should be a happy time in a milkid’s life, they will inevitably encounter a range of emotions. And those emotions could lead to academic difficulties and, occasionally, defiance issues.
- Some military students are not identified as such. For example, National Guard and Reserve families are not covered by the Interstate Compact or Military Student Identifier (Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015). That is, unless they are currently activated. Similarly, if you, as a parent, have transitioned back to civilian life, your milkid might not be covered by the Military Student Identifier. Though, if it’s been 12 months or less, they’re covered by the Interstate Compact.
Despite those facts, the important takeaway here is that an entire population of military kids are not appropriately identified. And schools don’t know that they are there. Therefore, teachers and administrators cannot adequately pay attention to the academic, social, and emotional needs of these children.
- Military families are homeschooling their children at higher rates. In fact, according to our 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 12 percent of active-duty respondents were homeschooling their kids at the time they took the survey. That’s three to four times the civilian rate. Why? Well, as the EMC-21 Study explained, homeschooling provides relative stability for military families. Children receive more time with the active-duty parent (due to often arbitrary time off). Additionally, the transition is easier to manage as the curriculum can be maintained throughout relocations and other separations.
All that to say, homeschooling could be a good option for military families. Unfortunately, however, it’s not without its own challenges. Reason being, homeschooling families are not covered by the Interstate Compact, and regulations vary from state to state.
*Ultimately, there is a lot of room for research, and BSF will be covering homeschooling more in our 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Survey report.
- Many military families voluntarily choose to live apart from their service member spouses to keep their kids in schools that they like. This is otherwise known as “geo-baching.” For example, Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, is a substantial military professional training school for senior officers. And it’s here where geo-baching was indicated at an especially enormous rate as a result of the abysmal public school system in the surrounding area.
So officers were often forced to spend a lot of time away from their families right before they entered intense positions. Doing so inevitably created a major source of stress and affected service-member performance.
Were changes made? Yes, because the Air Force threatened to move their officer’s school, causing the public school system in Montgomery to wake up to the issue and begin working with the base to improve conditions.
This isn’t always the case, however, which leads to geo-baching being the best, although generally not the easiest nor most economical choice.
So how can teachers, administrators, and state policy-makers work together to alleviate these unnecessary burdens placed on military families and set the conditions for our milkids to thrive?
Here are just a few of many actionable solutions Blue Star Families and MFAN delivered at this year’s MCEC National Training Seminar:
- Maintain communication with parents to support children who may be separated from a service member for reasons other than deployment or training.
- If your school has a policy prohibiting recently-transferred students from participating in sports or the arts, add a military student exemption.
- Understand that homecomings are stressful, too; reintegration can be a challenge.
- Encourage state legislators to extend the Military Student Identifier to include all National Guard and Reserve Families.
For the complete list, click here.
Want access to BSF survey results to see what additional issues are most important to our military families?
We’ll be releasing this year’s results in early 2020. But you can join Blue Star Families for free today to read through the 2018 analysis of trends related to major shifts in military issues. We can’t wait to welcome you to our family!
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