Best School Year Ever: Frequently Asked Questions
Did you miss our fun, fast-paced Facebook party focused on school transition issues? Never fear – we’ve collected some of the most frequently asked questions and answers from our panel of experts on how to support your child’s school transition, communicate with your child’s teacher, and how to ensure your school gets the federal funding it deserves.
Impact Aid/Federal Funding
What is Impact Aid?
Most public schools receive their revenue from local property taxes. However, federal land – such as a military installation – is not subject to local property tax. Impact Aid is the federal government’s payment to local school districts where it has a presence to make up for lost revenue. A school district is eligible for Impact Aid if it educates 400 or more federally-connected students (including military-connected students).
How do schools apply for Impact Aid?
Schools are required to submit forms to the Department of Education for each federally-connected child. The forms will ask for the military parent’s name, rank, and branch of service and may also ask for information about where the service member parent is assigned.
Where does Impact Aid funding go?
Impact Aid — like other local revenue — goes to support ALL students in the school district. School districts can decide how best to use the funding. Districts use the money to pay teachers’ salaries, buy books, fund after school activities, or similar expenses.
The information school districts collect is not shared. It's only used for purposes of a school district submitting its Impact Aid application to the U.S. Department of Education.
Smoothing the Transition: The Interstate Compact
What is the Interstate Compact?
The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is an agreement between states designed to smooth transition and provide uniform treatment to military children as they move to new school districts. The Compact is law in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.; Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools are not covered by the Compact but they follow its provisions as a matter of policy.
What are some of the issues covered by the Compact?
The Compact covers some of the most common issues faced by military families when they move to new school districts and states: enrollment, placement, attendance, eligibility, and graduation.
Are states required to follow the provisions of the Compact? What do I do if my school is not following the Compact?
The Compact is state law in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. If your school is not aware of the Compact (many aren’t), visit the website of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) for printable flyers and brochures you can share with your child’s teachers. Families can also contact their State Commissioner or the Compact National Office for assistance. Your installation School Liaison Officer (SLO) is also a great source of information about the Compact and can help support you through other school-transition issues.
What to Know About Homeschooling
I have special needs kids, is homeschooling a good choice for them?
Many families of special needs children choose to homeschool. Your child is still eligible for therapies (speech, OT, PT, and others) under TRICARE, and sometimes under the local school system. There are many programs written specifically for kids with special needs, and the one-on-one attention and relaxed learning environment can be a very good thing for some children.
Do homeschoolers have to follow Common Core or specific curriculum?
No. Homeschoolers are free to choose their own curriculum and follow their own educational plan. However, homeschoolers do need to follow state law where they live, which can mean many different things. Some states will require a certain number of days or hours, specific subjects, or methods of record keeping. Be sure to check the law in your state before you begin!
What about socialization? Is it true that homeschoolers don’t have a lot of friends?
There are many opportunities for homeschoolers to connect with their peers. Many military installations are home to homeschooling support groups and “co-ops,” where children come together for group classes, field trips, and holiday celebrations. If you are not near a military community, almost every city, and many churches are also home to homeschooling groups.
Homeschooled children also join Boy or Girl Scouts, play team sports, and volunteer in their communities. Some school districts, including DoDEA schools, allow children to “dual enroll”-- attend some classes, as well as play on sports teams. Contact your School Liaison Officer to see what options are available to your child.
I don’t know if I am smart enough to homeschool my kids.
At times, many homeschool parents struggle with feeling inadequate. Homeschoolers are not without support. If there is a subject you feel less confident about, you can purchase curriculum that includes teacher training/education, or you can outsource the class online or in the local community, or hire a tutor. With effort, solid resources, and support, you can learn alongside your child and find success.
How do we get started homeschooling?
First, you need to research the homeschooling laws where you live. It is incredibly important that you are aware of local laws and are prepared to follow them.
Before choosing a homeschooling curriculum, take the time to evaluate how your child learns best, and how you would like to teach. For example, you can find hands-on programs, and active programs for kinesthetic and tactile learners, video lessons for visual learners, and audio programs for kids who listen well. There is scripted curriculum with lots of teacher support, or student-led workbooks. Take the time to research what will work best for your family before purchasing a program.
You may want to look to see if there is a homeschooling convention near you, where you can talk to the vendors and look at the materials in person.
How do I show proof of credits if we want to go back to public school?
If there is a chance your child may return to public school, carefully document the scope and sequence of your curriculum, samples of student work, tests and evaluations. You can issue a report card or transcript for your child. You may want to consider using an accredited program, if possible.
When it comes time to enroll in class, your child may need to test into classes, or you may need to share your records to ensure your child is properly placed. If you have issues, reach out to the School Liaison officer, or a homeschool legal support organization.
What is the difference between an online public school and homeschooling?
Students enrolled in K-12, or other online public options, are not considered to be homeschoolers. If your child is enrolled in one of these programs, curriculum is provided to you, and you must follow the schedule set forward by the school. Homeschoolers answer to different regulations, set their own curriculum and schedules and report differently.
Can we follow the laws for our home of record, or use the free public school option from our state of record?
Education policies and standards are set at the state level. You must follow the laws of whatever state you live in. If you move mid-year, simply change your reporting methods to follow the new state laws when you arrive. If you have questions about these laws, contact your School Liaison Officer, or a local homeschooling organization.
What happens if we PCS overseas?
If you PCS overseas, you will follow the DoDEA homeschooling policy rather than state law. Even in locations where homeschooling is not legal (like Germany), you will be protected under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and will be able to continue homeschooling just as you did while stateside.
What are some resources that can help me with homeschooling my child?
Try these resources:
Homeschool 101 (learning styles, teaching styles, choosing curriculum)
What to Know About Talking to Your Child’s Teacher
What are some things I should keep in mind when talking to my child’s teacher?
Here are a few expert tips:
- Make communication part of your routine with your teacher.
- If something goes wrong, be proactive. Ask to meet with the teacher and have a positive, constructive conversation about it. Often, teachers don’t know about a given situation or trigger. Talking about problems calmly can often help resolve this issue easily and quickly.
- If your child's situation is unique, make sure you bring this up to the teacher. Often, teachers may not be aware your child is a military child. Make sure to let your teacher know if your family is experiencing a deployment, PCS, or other challenge so they understand what your child will be going through.
- Ask for help when you need it. As military families, we're often really self-sufficient, but we can't expect other people to help if we don't tell them what we need or how they can help.
What are some resources I can share with my child’s teacher to help them learn about supporting military-connected children?
Try some of these resources:
Helping Military Children Feel “At Ease” by Margaret Morgan and Andrew Ross
In Our Classrooms: Supporting Children of Military Families by Suzie Boss
Educator’s Guide to the Military Child During Deployment
How to Prepare Our Children and Stay Involved in Their Education During Deployment
The Interstate Compact for Educational Opportunities for Military Children (MIC3).
Special Needs and the Military Child
We Serve, Too: A Toolkit About Military Teens
Lesson Plans: The Military Child in Your Classroom
Working With Military Students Video (includes teachers)
Military Life 101—for Teachers
Helping Students Cope
Helping Children With Traumatic Grief
The Invisible Injuries of War: Impact on Military Families and Children
When a Child’s Parent Has PTSD