Try These Home-Schooling Tips, Resources

Two teens on computers for at-home schooling

Current as of April 19, 2021


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, schools remain on modified schedules. Here are some tips and resources you can use to help your child learn at home.

Need More Parenting Resources During COVID-19?

You may be looking for new ideas for managing children at home during the pandemic. Try this updated list of extensive parenting resources.

Virtual and in-person learning

If you are trying to decide between virtual, in-person or hybrid school options for your child, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide this School Decision-Making Tool for Parents, Caregivers and Guardians. In addition, the Department of Defense Education Activity offers these Virtual Learning Parent Tips for Success.

Establish a routine for learning at home

  • Consider your child’s age. Transitioning to home-based learning will be very different for an elementary student than a middle or high school student. Discuss your expectations for learning at home and go over any concerns so you are on the same page.
  • Set and follow a weekday schedule for starting and ending the school day and going to bed. All children benefit from structure, even if they try to resist it.
  • Build in flexibility to accommodate your own work and other responsibilities. If you are teleworking, see if you and your spouse, partner or another adult in your household can share some of the teaching. It might also help to set aside time in the evenings to check over assignments or work together on reading and other skills.
  • Take breaks. Schedule time during the school day for lunch, snacks and age-appropriate breaks. Think physical education, recess, etc.
  • Build in time for creativity. Make time for music, art and other creative subjects. This may include time for your child to practice an instrument, draw, paint, try their hand at drama or develop other skills. Have younger children practice counting by stacking blocks, or build a fort from sheets.
  • Help your child safely connect with friends and relatives. Connecting with friends and family members outside your household is important. Work with your children’s school, their friends’ parents and others to help them stay in touch. Consider taking turns leading virtual lessons or hosting virtual play dates. Have your children write letters to people they care about while practicing handwriting and grammar.
  • Create a designated learning space. Set up a designated learning space that is comfortable and in an area with minimal distractions. Allow children to personalize their space and ensure it contains the equipment and materials they need and can access independently.

Tap resources through your child’s school

  • Embrace online assignments and virtual lessons. Monitor your child’s assignments and make sure all work is completed and logged in on time for online sessions. Provide any help your child may need, such as reading instructions and using laptops and other devices.
  • Ask for teaching advice. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers, guidance counselors and administrators for advice as you support your child at home.
  • Seek assistance. Contact your child’s teachers or school to resolve issues that may come up with technology, connectivity, assignments and more.

Tap installation and community resources

  • Explore home-schooling resources on your installation. These can include installation school liaisons, Department of Defense Education Activity school activities, and programs for children, youth and teens.
  • Check out Head Start and Sure Start programs. Head Start teaches reading, math and other developmental skills to children age 5 and younger before they start school. Sure Start is a Department of Defense Education Activity program open to command-sponsored military children at overseas installations who meet age requirements and other criteria.
  • Reach out to Military OneSource education consultants. They can assist you with questions about your child’s education. These one-on-one sessions are free and confidential and can provide you with referrals to resources in your area. Call 800-342-9647 at any time to schedule an appointment. OCONUS/International? Use these calling options.
  • Turn to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library. This is your source for free online resources for children, teens and adults — including eBooks and audiobooks on virtually every topic. Use the library to help your children learn and stay engaged and entertained.
  • Connect with other parents. Stay in touch with parents in your existing network and work together to widen your circle. Share resources, try teaching virtual group lessons and more.
  • Celebrate reading. Join the National Education Association and schools across the nation in celebrating Read Across America. Check out the campaign’s Celebrate All Year tips and resources to help your child experience the joy of reading year-round.
  • Take advantage of remote learning opportunities. Nonprofit and other educational organizations are offering free resources, such as instructional videos, live streams and webinars. Check out these Sesame Street learning and working at home ideas for preschoolers.

Tap resources in the arts, sciences and more

  • Explore these U.S. Department of Education resources for learning at home. Activities include virtual field trips to the National Energy Labs, interactive lessons from NASA, a STEM video library from the Department of Defense, history presentations from Library of Congress and much more.
  • Serve up science lessons. Turn to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library for resources including ScienceFlix, which offers more than 50 complete units of study with thousands of science-related assets. It uses hands-on projects, videos, interactive features and more to give children and teens a better understanding of science concepts and ideas.
  • DODEA’s comprehensive Parent Resources page is an asset to every family, even if your child doesn’t attend a DODEA school. You will find links to a wide variety of activities for children of all ages.
  • Get homework and tutoring help. Tutor.com for U.S. military families provides on-demand, online tutoring and homework help at no cost to eligible service members, civilian personnel and their dependents. With live, expert tutors available 24/7, military-connected students can receive academic help at their moment of need — anywhere they have an internet connection.

Stay informed

Understanding of COVID-19 is continually changing. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also contact your installation’s school liaison for updates in your school district and for guidance on all of your child’s education needs. Find your school liaisons through the Department of Defense Education Activity service-specific liaison directories. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms for up-to-date information.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

Military Child Care Programs

Child interacts with care worker

Choosing child care may be one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent, and it can be hard to know where to start. Rest assured, the Department of Defense provides military families with a variety of quality, affordable child care options.

The Department of Defense is committed to meeting the growing and diverse child care needs of military families, and takes great pride in the quality of services provided to children on and off installations worldwide. While services may vary by location, the standards and quality of services are consistent and meet established regulations. Learn more about military child care program options below.

Hourly child care? You’ve got it.

Through Military OneSource, parents now have free access to a national database to search for hourly, flexible and on-demand child care.

Child development centers

Child development centers, or CDCs, are located on installations and generally offer care for infants through preschool age children. Child care is available Monday through Friday, during standard work hours (e.g., 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.) with some locations offering extended hours. CDC programs provide full-day and part-day care. Centers vary in size and larger installations may operate multiple facilities. CDC programs have Department of Defense certification, and accreditation from a national accrediting body such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Family child care

Family child care providers are certified professionals who provide child care for infants through school age children in their homes, located either on or off an installation. FCC providers typically offer a flexible schedule to support parents with a variety of care needs, including full-day, part-day, and school year care, summer camp, and in some cases, 24/7 and extended care. Regulations limit the number of children who receive care at any one time to no more than six children under age eight, and no more than three children when all children are under age two. Family child care providers must be certified by the installation to operate. Individual providers may voluntarily seek national accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care and receive local support, training, and materials to accomplish this goal.

School-age care

School-age care, or SAC, programs provide care to children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Care is offered before and after school, during non-school days and summer vacations. SAC programs may take place in Department of Defense youth centers, child development centers, or other suitable facilities. All programs have Department of Defense certification, and accreditation by a national accrediting body such as the Council on Accreditation.

Requesting child care

Hourly child care service

In addition to child care programs available through MilitaryChildCare.com, the Department of Defense is proud to offer an expanded child care service to help meet the growing and diverse needs of military families. Through Military OneSource, parents can now access a nationally recognized caregiver database to search for hourly, flexible and on-demand child care.

The online caregiver service lets you:

  • Search for care that fits your own needs and criteria
  • Find potential care providers
  • Check references
  • Review background checks
  • Interview, hire and pay providers on your terms

Use your Military OneSource account to set up free access to the online child care service. Log in to your existing account or create an account to get a unique subscription code and establish your child care service account.

For more information about the online caregiver search service, and to register, visit Military OneSource Expanded Hourly Child Care Options.

Finding child care that is right for you

If this is your first time arranging child care and you’re feeling overwhelmed, Child Care Aware of America offers lots of helpful information for families. Resources include these downloadable checklists with questions to help you compare different options and make the right child care decision for your family:

Child Care Aware of America manages several programs for the military and you may be eligible for fee assistance.

If you have questions about child care, parenting or military life in general, reach out to Military OneSource. Consultants are available 24/7/365 to answer questions and connect you with resources to help your family thrive. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options or schedule a live chat.

Understanding Your Child’s Development: An Overview for Military Parents

Students gathered around computer

Children change quickly. Suddenly your sleeping infant is an independent 3-year-old. Before you know it, your kid is off to high school.

Each phase of a child’s life comes with different joys and challenges. Learning about your child’s developmental stage is one way to become an even better parent. By having the right information at the right time, you can help your child grow and learn. Here are some tips for better understanding and supporting your child’s growth, no matter what the age or stage.

Why you should track your child’s milestones

Many parents look forward to the first time their child will smile at them, take a step or say “mama” or “dada.” These moments are more than memories. Some early skills such as rolling over, waving, saying a few words and walking are developmental milestones. Such touch points help gauge how your child is advancing physically, mentally and emotionally. It is important to learn about healthy changes in behavior at each stage of development.

Milestones provide important clues for parents. Remember every child is different, and there is a wide range of expected dates for any particular skill. There are guidelines, for example, that most babies learn to walk between 9 and 15 months. Note that accomplishing a developmental task early does not necessarily predict that the child will be superior in a particular domain.

Keeping track of your child’s major milestones, especially early ones, helps you be more attuned to know what to expect. It can also signal you when your child may need additional help. Track your child’s changes with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s milestone checklists or with the CDC Milestones Tracker app. You can also consult the CDC’s developmental milestones resources to determine if your child is on track. Trust your instincts and talk with your medical provider if you have concerns. Help is available, and early intervention is of the essence.

Age-appropriate discipline for children

It’s important to understand the types of discipline that best match your child’s age and stage of development. Discipline of infants is never appropriate. However, helpful strategies with toddlers include distracting your child, allowing natural consequences to play out, ignoring tantrums and using timeouts in certain cases.

Typically, parents find positive consequences are easier and more effective in shaping a child’s behavior and can have more favorable and lasting effects to curb negative behaviors.

See the parenting tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including insightful tips on using discipline and consequences. Get even more ideas from the article Tips for Disciplining Your Child.

Penn State’s Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and the Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy have partnered together to provide comprehensive, on-demand parenting programs to assist you in handling parenting challenges at any age. Be sure to check out the parenting resources offered through Thrive, the free, online parenting education program that includes positive parenting practices, parent and child stress management and physical health promotion.

How to keep your children safe at every stage

Informed, attentive and involved parents are key to keeping children and youth safe at every age and stage. That means more than putting covers on electrical outlets. Safety involves everything from car seats to climbing hazards. As children grow, safety needs change. Read Keeping Your Children Safe for tips on ensuring safety for your youth, as well as how to teach your military child about healthy boundaries and how to identify and address peer aggression in order to keep them safe from potential harm.

Military OneSource stands ready to help you enhance your family, whether it’s by offering a better understanding of your child’s development stages, connecting you to the New Parent Support Program and Military and Family Life Counselors, or tapping into the many other parenting and children resources offered. Schedule a New MilParent specialty consultation — designed specifically for expectant parents and parents of children up to 5 years of age. Whether you are looking for tips on toilet training or trying to find time for self-care, free and personalized support is here for you to tackle your parenting challenges. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to learn, engage or discover ways to take your parenting to the next level. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options or schedule a live chat.

Top Military OneSource Parenting Resources

Military father shopping for diapers

Military parents have busy lives as they juggle careers, children, house demands, meal planning and carpools, along with the added disruption of PCS and deployment. Military OneSource understands your life is complicated and is here to help. We do the homework to consolidate the best and latest parenting resources, information and advice so that you can spend your downtime with your family, not searching for answers to your needs. Your Military Family Readiness System, through the Military OneSource website, has some of the best parenting resources available to you.

New baby? Child with special needs? Bored teenager? There are resources for these situations and many others. Check out the top resources for busy parents on the Military OneSource website.

Resources for everyday parenting:

  • New Parent Support Program — New and expecting parents can build a network of support with the New Parent Support Program. Manage those first few years with access to trained staff who can answer parenting questions, provide home visits or even set you up with supervised playgroups and parenting classes.
  • Safe sleep environments for your infant — Learn how to teach your child good sleeping habits by setting a bedtime routine and making your infant’s sleeping environment safe.
  • Exceptional Family Member Program — Don’t go it alone. If you have a child with special needs, check out the Exceptional Family Member Program page on Military OneSource. Read a collection of articles with specific assistance and resources for military family members with special needs.
  • Military child care programs — Searching for child care that’s high quality and affordable? This article explains how to locate quality, affordable child care in your community, both on and off the installation.
  • Military OneSource expanded hourly child care options — Service members and families now have free access to a national database of more than a million caregivers. Find hourly, flexible and on-demand child care that’s right for your needs.
  • Department of Defense child and youth programs — Explore a wide range of Department of Defense child and youth programs which can help your child make friends, stay active and develop new skills.
  • Military OneSource Parenting and Children page — Visit this page to find great information on adoption, parenting skills and child development stages, as well as tips for dealing with grief and loss, divorce, bullies, routines and discipline.
  • Thrive online parenting-education program — Questions about parenting? We all have them. That’s why the Department of Defense partnered with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State to develop a free online parenting-education program. Find out how Thrive can help you raise healthy, resilient children from birth to 18.
  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation — Need some fresh and fun ideas for family activities or your next family trip? Connect with your MWR program. From fitness and sports to tickets and travel, MWR has something for everyone. Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to locate your local MWR and get active and have fun with your family.
  • Best Kept Secrets: Joint Services Campgrounds and Facilities — Looking to get away? Morale, Welfare and Recreation joint services campgrounds and facilities across the United States offer service members and their families a variety of accommodations and amenities at great rates without sacrificing luxury or location. Don’t delay – start planning your next family adventure now.

Resources for challenging times:

Whatever your situation or parenting stage you’re facing, let Military OneSource help you connect to the parenting support you need. Call 800-342-9647 or set up a live chat today. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options.

Education Directory for Children With Special Needs

Father reading to son

The Education Directory for Children With Special Needs is a web-based tool that helps military families with special needs make informed decisions about education and early intervention services available on or near installations within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The directory has two components:

Both sections of the directory offer the following information (specific to the needs of each age group):

  • Services, contacts and resources each state offers
  • Profiles and contacts for service providers and school districts
  • Links to tools for a smooth transition
  • Links to national trends and resources
  • Definitions of related terms

Use the Education Directory for Children With Special Needs to help you prepare for the services your family needs.

Healthy, Active Children and Academic Achievement

Youth playing volleyball outside

We all want our youth to enjoy learning, achieve good grades and have academic success. Nutrition, physical activity and mental well-being are all linked to academic achievement, so making sure your children are healthy and active will fuel them to reach their academic goals.

A healthy lifestyle can help improve a child’s:

  • Attention span
  • Thinking ability
  • Memory

Listed below are some tips for making healthy eating, physical activity and mental well-being part of your child’s daily life. For more nutrition, physical activity and mental health help, set up a
live chat with Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 to arrange a specialty consultation for health and wellness coaching. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

Nutrition

According to studies from the Journal of School Health, hungry children tend to have shorter attention spans and have difficulty with problem-solving, math skills and memory recall. Children need a nutritious breakfast of whole grains, fiber and protein. They also need snacks throughout the day that are high in protein and low in sugar to boost their ability to listen, process and remember what they are learning.

Visit these websites to get tips about healthy food choices:

Physical activity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical activity can include school recess periods, hiking, dancing, playing sports or walking to and from school.

Check out the following resources for ideas about how to keep your children physically active:

  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities are available on your local installation.
  • Installation youth centers offer a safe environment for youth to explore interests, build skills and experience success. Most youth centers have informal and formal sports programs as well as instructional classes.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America MISSION: Youth Outreach provides military youth no-cost membership in clubs that offer a wide variety of recreational and educational programs. Perfect for families living off base and not near a youth center.
  • 4-H Military Partnerships provide military youth the opportunity to join 4-H clubs in their communities and participate in summer camps around the country. Visit the 4-H Military Partnerships website to learn more.

Boost your child’s social and academic success by making healthy eating and physical activity part of your family’s daily life.

Mental health

Your youth’s mental health is also essential to maintaining energy and engagement in their physical and academic activities. Help your child remain rested and mentally healthy by keeping an eye on these factors:

Connecting to comprehensive information on nutrition, physical activity and mental health will help enable you and your family to be mission ready. Military OneSource is your 24/7 connection to information, parenting tips and support – your one source for your best MilLife.

Department of Education Impact Aid Program — How You Can Help Your Child’s School

Pen laying on top of financial forms

The majority of school age military-connected students attend public schools operated by school districts or local education agencies, or LEAs. It’s important to understand how your service to your country financially impacts your child’s school district. Here are a few simple ways you can support your child’s education opportunities at each installation.

What is the Impact Aid Program?

The Impact Aid Program provides the financial support to compensate school districts with concentrations of children residing on military installations or other federal properties and, to a lesser extent, concentrations of children who have parents in the uniformed serves or employed on federal properties who do not live on military installations.

You can help your child’s school by completing the Parent-Pupil Survey so that the Department of Education can provide the proper aid to assist schools.

How Impact Aid is Determined

The Department of Education is required to collect specific information from LEAs to determine the number of federally-connected children the district serves. LEAs can use one or both of the following methods to collect information to determine the level of financial aid:

  1. Parent-Pupil Survey: The form requires parents or guardians to provide student information, such as name, birthdate and school, as well as residence and parent employment information, including but not limited to student address if on military installation, name of the military installation on which a parent is employed and name, rank and branch of service of a parent who is a member of the uniformed services on active duty. The form must be signed and dated by the parent or guardian providing the information. All required information must be provided or the student will not be counted as federally connected.
  2. Source Check: LEAs may count the enrollment of federally-connected students by using a source check to substantiate a student’s place of residence or parent’s place of employment on the survey date. A source check is a form provided to the employer, such as an installation official, who identifies the place of employment of the parent of the student claimed. The form may also be submitted to a housing official who indicates the residence of each student on the survey date.

Importance of Impact Aid to school districts

Public school districts are funded in large part by local revenue. This revenue is primarily a combination of local property taxes on homes and businesses and other local fees. School districts serving military installations are at a fiscal disadvantage because the federal government is exempt from paying taxes on the property it owns.

The presence of federally-owned property impacts school districts in two main ways. First, it reduces the local tax revenue that can be generated for school purposes. Second, projects and activities related to that property can cause an influx of people into a community, increasing the number of children to be educated without an equal increase in the local tax base. Congress created the Impact Aid Program to ensure federally-connected school districts, and the students and taxpayers in their communities, are not at a financial — and educational — disadvantage.

The Department of Defense Impact Aid Program is a supplement to the Federal Impact Aid Program which provides assistance to LEAs with specific concentrations of military-dependent children. There are two ways additional funds can be awarded to school districts:

  1. DOD Impact Aid Supplemental provides financial assistance to LEAs that are heavily impacted by the presence of military-connected students. LEAs that had at least 19.5% military-connected students in average daily attendance in the preceding year, as counted on their Federal Impact Aid application, are eligible to receive payment from this program. The DOD Impact Aid Supplemental includes the dependent children of active-duty military members and civilian employees of the DOD.
  2. DOD Impact Aid for Children with Severe Disabilities, or CWSD, provides financial assistance to LEAs with at least two military-connected children with severe disabilities that meet certain special education cost criteria through an application process. DOD Impact Aid for CWSD includes the dependent children of active-duty military members but does not include dependent children of civilian employees of the DOD.

Importance of returning the Impact Aid Survey

The collection of student data for the purpose of Impact Aid is critically important to school districts. Each survey is significant to the school district because it can impact the amount of funding they receive. The funding goes into a district’s general fund to pay for operating expenses, such as curriculum, teacher salaries, technology and facility improvements — the same way local taxes fund these expenses.

Military families have a shared responsibility to support the communities in which they live. Impact Aid for schools is one small way a military family can help.

If you’d like to learn more about how Impact Aid Surveys are processed in your community or what you can do to help, contact your local school liaison.

Keeping Your Child Healthy and Engaged Over the Summer

Children running outside

A little leisure is much needed when school lets out; however, children with special needs thrive with a little structure. It’s beneficial to maintain a routine during the summer as a way to keep your child learning and developing healthy habits.

Here are a few ideas to help your child with special needs have a healthy and happy summer:

  • Seek out a summer program. Check your installation, local schools, recreation centers and other community-based organizations for programs on topics that might interest your child.
  • Consider child care services. Plan activities or outings for your child when you are tied up with work or other activities. The Department of Defense offers military parents the option to find expanded hourly child care services through free access to a national database of caregivers.
  • Crack open a book. Whether reading with your younger children or encouraging your older children to read on their own, summer reading can help keep brains engaged and study habits fresh .
  • Take a field trip. Visit parks, museums, zoos or nature centers for low-cost educational opportunities for your entire family.
  • Count, track and measure. Find fun ways to incorporate numbers into everyday tasks. Measure items around the house or track daily temperatures. Go to the grocery store and practice adding, subtracting or multiplying the prices of items.
  • Think ahead. Check with your child’s school to see if there are summer packets of math and reading skills activities to help prepare for the next school year.
  • Get moving. Don’t forget to schedule time for your child to play and burn off energy with some sunshine and exercise.
  • Snack HealthyA healthy diet is just as important in the summer as it is during the school year. Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand to encourage good snack habits.
  • Recharge. Keep a regular summer bedtime to make sure your child is getting enough sleep.

Helping your children stay engaged academically and physically throughout the summer helps set them up for success in the new school year. Contact your local Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support provider and look for a Parent Training and Information Center near you to see what types of summer programs are available to your family.