Moving Again: 5 Options Military Families Consider for Their High School Students

For most high school students in America, the last few years of school are full of excitement. Most seniors are busy applying to college, others are going to prom, and enjoying the last ‘hoo-rah’ before they make their way into the world. But many military teens miss out on a lot of that, even missing out on graduation.

Military-connected students are the perpetual new kids; changing schools six to nine times on average before they graduate. This is not a new concept for most military families, but those with high school students have an entirely different set of challenges magnified by moving at the tail-end of their child’s school career.

The Problem

Because academic standards and requirements vary across state lines, your military high schooler may move in their senior year only to find that they don’t have enough credit to graduate at their new school until the following year. Or maybe they’re on the fast track for valedictorian at their current school, only to learn they wouldn’t even rank in the top 25 percent of students at their new, much larger school.

These are just a few of the issues that military families with high schoolers are faced with when PCS orders come through. Frequent relocations are already disruptive and stressful, so it’s important you know your options.

What You Can Do

There are several options your military family might consider when faced with these dilemmas—especially during senior year. Not every option will work for every military family, but knowing what you’re up against will go a long way in securing your military teen’s future.

Transfer to the new school – If you decide to move your high school student to the new duty station, make sure you know their rights under the Military Interstate Children’s Compact. The Compact was designed specifically for military families who find themselves in this situation. It allows for waiving of required courses already completed and enrolling students in the grade and level courses they’re entitled to be in.

Long-distance learning – See if your child’s school will allow them to complete their senior year by doing classwork at home through distance or virtual learning.

Homeschool – Allow your student to complete their education through homeschooling. Just make sure you know the homeschooling laws of your new state.

Early Graduation – If you know your family is due for a PCS, but haven’t received orders yet, see if there’s an option for your senior to graduate early. They may have enough credits to graduate early if they complete additional summer school classes or online virtual learning in addition to their regular class load.

Staying Behind – There are two options when it comes to staying behind so your high school senior can graduate with the rest of their class.

Your service member could choose to be a geobachelor; moving to the new installation while the family stays behind. This could be done temporarily to see your child to graduation, or permanently to see other children through the school year. Not many families choose to separate voluntarily.

Option two means your military child remains behind while the rest of the family moves to the new duty station. Some military families have chosen this path, having their child stay behind with family or friends to finish out their senior year. Leaving your child behind will not be an easy decision, so think this one through carefully. There are many variables that need to be considered, such as living arrangements, rules, medical issues, responsibilities and transportation. But the first thing you should do is sit down with your child and see if staying behind is even an option in their mind.

Moving with school-aged children is tough to navigate, but when those kids are high school age, the issues become more complex. Be sure you’ve educated yourself on the new school system, the graduation requirements, and to make it a little easier, have your high school student participate in researching their new school.

Posted April 26, 2018

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