Resources and publications: the Military Child Education Coalition[TM]'s.
I grew up in a small town on the East Coast. The kids I met in second grade were the ones I stood next to at my high school graduation. The middle school secretary went to our church. I visited my senior English teacher in her home. Everyone seemed to know everyone--it's the curse and blessing of small towns--and every family seemed to move naturally forward, unseen records flowing to the next school, all our achievements noted as they should be in our little charts. If ever there was a mix-up, surely it was settled by a quick check back in the filing cabinet or a call one street over to the previous school counselor, who had worked there for a hundred years, at least, and knew every student by name and lineage.
My husband, who grew up in a military home and is a soldier himself, experienced a very different school career, one my six-year-old is facing now: the mobile experience. There are transitions issues, records being lost, districts' rules changing, counselors leaving, tryouts being over, and different shot requirements in all 50 states--all the "what ifs?" that turn into "what nows?" as you navigate through the school system. Oh, ahem, various school systems. For a small-town gal like me, it can be overwhelming, but when you know where to ask for help, it's also far from impossible.
Recognizing the bevy of unmet needs of military families, the Military Child Education Coalition[TM] was created in 1998. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit worldwide organization focuses on military-connected and other highly mobile children and the unique challenges that stem from such a lifestyle. The MCEC's goal is to ensure quality educational opportunities, while including communities: military installations, their supporting schools, concerned organizations, and caring individuals.
Early on, the Military Child Education Coalition incorporated technology into its solutions, which is why you can find so much on its Web site at http://www.MilitaryChild.org. The following is a list of MCEC's resources, including publications and downloads and where to find them. Although the Military Child Education Coalition has workshops and initiatives not included here, these are the materials and information sources designed to help with transitions and other school-related challenges.
Official description: SchoolQuest[TM] provides families who are planning a school move for their child with free, up-to-date critical information about the receiving school and the implications for their child's academic progress.
In other words: SchoolQuest was created with military children in mind! The searches highlight those school districts closest to active-duty military installations. It personalizes your search by allowing you to create a profile for your child. It even has an online library and transitioning tips for every age.
Insider tip: For students with special needs, in addition to the above information, each district's special needs coordinator's contact information is listed, along with a checklist for parents that identifies items, records, and contacts that should be gathered for a smoother transition in both the old and the new locations.
Education Resource Center
Official description: This resource, available on the MCEC's Web site, provides parents with an opportunity to obtain critical academic information and Web site links for all states as well as the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA).
In other words: You can use this site's map to search by state and find information about school records, counselors, assessments, and school calendars--all properly ordered and easy to review.
Insider tip: Search quickly and confidently! Unlike other sites, the MCEC's Education Resource Center is constantly investigated and updated.
Official description: Aunt Peggie, one of the MCEC's valuable researchers, has made it a point to learn about all things military and educational. An "Ask Aunt Peggie" connection can be found on the MCEC Web site as well as within SchoolQuest.
In other words: Aunt Peggie is a great resource, and she can answer your questions concerning school moves and transitions. She also has an "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) page that is very helpful.
Insider tip: Aunt Peggie is a real person, Peggie Watson. She has been a teacher and administrator, and she is currently a mother, grandmother, and a kind, knowledgeable person who not only wants your questions, but also will work hard to find the answers. Really! So go ahead and e-mail her!
Official description: The Military Child Education Coalition's store has a variety of resources available for purchase.
In other words: When I moved my son to Texas last year, we were all set for kindergarten--or so we thought. Turns out, he was missing a shot that was not required in the state from which we transferred. It was one of those times that I thought, "I wish someone would write a book about ...!" The MCEC has written those books. They have taken those frustrations and made them answers for others. (See the abbreviated list below.)
Getting Your Ducklings in a Row[TM]: A Guide to Eligibility and Vaccination Requirements for Kindergarten and First Grade Entry
This is a book that is organized by state and is helpful and easy to use.
Preparing for the Journey[TM]--Birth Through Grade 2
This is a great book, filled with practical, inexpensive ideas that families can use to help spark an interest in learning. It is sectioned into age groups for easy reading. It's an educational handbook every parent should own!
The Military Parents' Guide to No Child Left Behind[TM]
This booklet looks at the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act from the perspective of the military child, alerting parents to potential problems they may encounter.
Growing, Learning, and Understanding[TM] (GLU[TM]) Kits: Infants Through Early School Age
There are several of these kits, and they are all wonderful. Each kit contains a workbook filled with useful activities that are based on a series of popular books (included as well). Each kit encourages communication and early literacy. Individual kits center on different themes, from deployment to mathematics. You'll love the lessons they effortlessly teach, your child will love spending "fun time" with you, and the books themselves will become cherished favorites. Titles include While You Are Away, It's Okay to Be Different, and Wild About Books. In the fall of 2008, look for Stand Tall and Finding Your Way. These are also great for the preschool classroom.
Chart Your Course Kit[TM]: Academic Passport, Road Map, and CD The Complete Guide to College Financing and Admissions DVD
This kit provides practical information for the college-bound student, beginning with sixth graders! It is full of tips and organizational strategies to help students make solid choices about their educational futures.
Insider tip: The Military Child Education Coalition prints new books, assembles additional kits, and reviews their information all the time. Check back often to see what new items become available.
Even More Information: http://www.MilitaryChild.org
Official description: The Military Child Education Coalition Web site contains links to different resources for parents, educators, military families, counselors, and other professionals. It recently underwent a complete redesign.
In other words: You should check the MCEC Web site for updates on all sorts of useful information.
Insider tip: One of my favorite places on the MCEC Web site is something not often publicized. It's called Reading Corner. You can find it by choosing the "Military" button at the top of the home page (http://www.militarychild. org/military-parent/reading-corner/), and then looking at the list of links. It includes recommended Web sites, book lists, downloads, research, and assessments, all about reading and early literacy. There is so much to explore, and all of the information is well researched and useful.
Celebrating our tenth birthday this year, the Military Child Education Coalition[TM] (MCEC[R]) is an organization that continues to grow, form new ideas, and champion the military child. You can join us! Contact the MCEC at www.MilitaryChild.org; Phone: (254) 953-1923, Fax: (254) 953-1925; Military Child Education Coalition, 108 East FM 2410, Suite D, Harker Heights, TX 76548.
Laura Campbell is a mother and a military wife. She works as the Media Specialist for Public Relations, Marketing, and Project Development at the MCEC, and has also worked as a preschool teacher. Her husband is currently deployed to Iraq.