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Supporting Military Children During the New School Year

Current as of September 11, 2020

The start of a new school year can be both exciting and a little scary for kids. They may wonder if the work will be hard, if their teacher will be nice and if they will make new friends. With the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic adding a new layer of unknowns, children – and their parents – may be feeling more nervous than usual.

Although military families are known for being resilient, they are not immune to stress. Frequent moves mean children must leave old friends behind and start all over again in a new school or settle in for home learning. A parent’s deployment can effect a child’s ability to focus on school. That’s why a strong community of support is so important. As a friend or family member, you can help the military family in your life rise to the challenges of schooling during COVID-19 by letting them know you are there to listen to their concerns and to help in any way you can.

A new school year during COVID-19

If anything is certain during the pandemic, it’s that nothing is certain. Some schools are fully open but could shut down if COVID-19 cases spike. Others offer remote instruction only, while still others have implemented a hybrid of in-classroom and virtual learning.

You may have strong feelings about the best learning environment for the MilKid in your life, but what your loved ones really need now is your support. Try to understand that everyone’s decision is different and there is no one right answer. The decision to send a child to school is a deeply personal one that each family must make on their own.

  • Ask your loved one what schooling looks like for their child this year. Try to listen without judgement.
  • Ask for specific ways you can help. Remind your service member and their spouse that you are there to support them and their family.
  • Respect the family’s decision even if you don’t agree with it. There is no clear right or wrong response during this time.

Talking with the MilKid in your life about school

Children will react differently to the changes depending on their personality and individual circumstances. A home-schooled child will likely be less affected by school district decisions than one who recently moved to the area and is enrolled in a local private or public school. Some children have trouble focusing on lessons in a remote environment, while others do better without the distractions of a busy classroom. Through simple conversations, you can get a sense of how the military child in your life is coping with the changes.

  • Ask your MilKid about their typical day at school, wherever the schooling happens.
  • Be reassuring and positive, even if you’re worried. Children can pick up on negativity or concern.
  • Ask about favorite subjects and activities, classmates and teachers.
  • Let your MilKid freely express any concerns, fears or sadness. Sometimes children just need someone to talk to.

Ways to support your MilKid’s learning and emotional health during COVID-19

No matter how well children do in school, having adults who are engaged with their education can improve their confidence and help them excel. Here are ways to stay involved with your MilKid’s schooling, whether they live nearby or are adjusting to life overseas:

  • Send gifts that encourage learning and creativity, like puzzles and art supplies.
  • Make or buy masks in prints that your MilKid will enjoy wearing.
  • Offer to be your MilKid’s homework buddy and help with studying. Use video chat and screen-sharing if you aren’t able to be there in person.
  • Give your military child a special photo in a frame for their school desk or a funny sticker to place next to their webcam if learning remotely.

Video chats are also a fun way to spend time together on activities that help with learning and growth. Schedule sessions to:

  • Try new recipes together. Follow the same recipe and compare results. Or coach your student through the steps.
  • Exercise together. This can be as simple as dancing to silly songs if your MilKid is very young. Older kids might enjoy pushup contests or yoga.
  • Work on art projects. Show each other your progress as you go along.
  • Conduct simple science experiments together.

Educational resources for military families

Military OneSource offers online resources that can supplement your MilKid’s learning. Military installations also have a number of offices and programs that can help. Your service member and their family have access to these resources:

  • The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library offers an amazing variety of education and entertainment resources for all ages. Programs include BookFlix, Explora Primary, Mango Languages, and many more. The Teachables program offers printable activities for children pre-K through grade 6.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families offers many different resources including activities, games, videos and the Breathe, Think, Do wellness app.
  • Military OneSource education consultants can assist you with questions about your child’s education. These one-on-one sessions are free, confidential and can provide you with referrals to in-home tutors and tutoring centers in your area as well as public and private school information. Call 800-342-9647 at any time to schedule an appointment. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.
  • Home-schooling resources can be found on installations. Available to help are installation school liaisons; child, youth and teen programs; and activities through the installation’s Department of Defense Education Activity school. Your service member can find these programs and resources on their installation at MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory so expect that your loved ones may feel unsure along the way. Make it a point to celebrate all the milestones and achievements, big and small. Your MilKid may be the student, but everybody is learning and deserves recognition.

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