October Moments from Michelle Galvez
School is in full swing again, which at my house means no more sleeping in, a debate over the definition of “hurry” and daily afternoon struggles to fit in homework, dance, dinner, dog walking and family time. For this mom and adult learner the school year isn’t a break, it is more work.
But we buckle down and get to it. After all, making the best of things is what puts military families everywhere on the honor roll.
Many of us have experienced the challenges of enrolling in new schools when moving frequently, whether cross country or within the city when buying, renting or when your number finally pops on the base housing wait list. When families stay put but a child’s parent deploys or travels often for their military duties, the home front dynamic, everyone’s responsibilities and capacity for stress changes as well. During this long war local troops have come home wounded or not at all, hugely impacting many local families. Academic performance, concentration, behavior and sleep are affected by all of those military situations.
Do local schools make the grade when it comes to military families? Hampton Roads is home to not only the largest naval complex in the world but also families from foreign militaries and all US service branches: Army, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reservists and National Guard. Virginia’s Department of Education says the state leads the nation – with 80,000 – in the number of students with military ties. Virginia Beach alone has about 22,000 military connected students in its district.
Virginia joined 42 other states in signing the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The compact aims to address enrollment, placement, eligibility and graduation issues military families might encounter. The Department of Defense has established a network of School Liaison Officers (SLOs) who work at local military installations and are a resource for families, an advisor to base leadership and an advocate in the local schools. Several school districts encourage commands and service members to become school partners to volunteer and be mentors to students. Some schools with high populations of military kids have received a grant to hire dedicated military connected counselors. My own kids’ schools offer deployment support groups, an after school club for military children and the Armed Services YMCA’s Operation Hero resiliency mentoring sessions.
Parents should do their homework too. Perhaps communicate with teachers about being a military family so they can also be on the look out for issues and give students some grace when they’re having a hard time due to military stressors. Ask guidance to facilitate support groups and clubs. Talk to the PTA about appreciation events and outreach. Search the web for local and state education resources for military families and call your SLO if advice is needed. Start here: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/student_family/military/index.shtml.
Michelle Galvez is a Navy wife, mother of three, graduate student and government contractor who writes in her spare time. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org