Mobile Military Kids: Being Your Child’s Educational Watchdog
One of the biggest stresses about moving is transitioning our children to new schools. Walking into the elementary school to register the kids was always stressful. I would struggle through the doors with a gaggle of kids. Usually I had a baby on the hip and one hiding behind my legs as I would register two, three, or four kids.
Juggling six children and all their unique academic needs and concerns was an exercise in madness at times. I’ve often wondered if I should wear a top hat like the Mad Hatter.
In addition to the chaos that came from the sheer number of kids I have, I would completely stress myself before we moved trying to control where the kids would end up going to school. I would research the test scores, look for any comments, and talk to anyone local to the area who would give me the time of day. In the end, I had little, if any, control over the schools they went into.
Some schools had excellent reviews and test scores, but it was in one of those schools that I encountered the worst second grade experience EVER. And in the schools plagued with low test scores and administrative woes, I found some of the most dedicated teachers. What it really comes down to are the dynamics between the parent, teachers, and student.
I can’t always control where we live. The Marine Corps does that. I can control how our family approaches education and the support my husband and I provide at home. When I adjusted my thinking, a lot of the stress I was creating disappeared, leaving me able to more fully focus on the kids and the new school.
Looking back on my own educational upbringing as child in an Air Force family and my experiences with my own children, I have realized every move brings academic challenges, no matter where we were or where we are going. Struggles in reading and writing are still a struggle on either coast. The difference is the way the school or educator approaches helping our children overcome those challenges. That’s where our work as parents comes in. The greatest influence on my children’s ability to learn is the relationship between the kids, the educators, and us as parents.
When my oldest daughter, Victoria, started middle school I was expecting great things. The school had a great reputation. By the end of the fall semester she was struggling in her math class so much so that I visited the At-Risk counselor. We planned on having Victoria start after-school tutoring in the library at the beginning of the new semester.
The first day of the new semester I called and reminded the At-Risk counselor who I was and what we had decided. Victoria faithfully stayed after school every afternoon. Progress reports came a few weeks later and her grade was even worse than before.
I immediately contacted her math teacher. Although there were only nine students in Victoria’s class, her teacher didn’t seem to know who I was talking about. Then she told me Victoria had been absent for a long time. I called the attendance office next and discovered Victoria had been in class regularly and I could account for any of the reported absences. Something was wrong, really wrong.
I was at home with our newborn baby and waiting for the other three kids to get home from school so my next call was to my husband. Thankfully, he was able to leave work and go straight to the middle school.
His first stop was the library. Not only was our daughter NOT in the library, there was no record of her having ever signed in for the after-school tutoring program. So where had she been? He started looking. The look on our daughter’s face when she ran into her father in the hallway was classic and he would have laughed had the man not been so darn mad. I wish I had been there to see it.
They came home with the contents of her locker and we began sifting through the work. Several of the assignments the teacher had listed as a 0 grades, were indeed a 0, mainly because our child had gotten every one of the problems incorrect. And where had she been all those afternoons? She had been helping another teacher with the school newspaper and yearbook. She was a real rebel…
Needless to say, not all teachers are created equal, not even within the school with the fantastic reputation. To the schools credit, there were changes made and although we ended up moving a few weeks into her eight-grade year, we were able to accomplish some real skill building.
I’ve not always been the mom on top of homework and field trip money and I have never been the room mother who makes those fun cupcakes. Although I did make disgusting monster fingers one year out of pretzels…that was pretty cool. I have, however, been my children’s champion and advocate when they needed it most. That sometimes means discovering what challenges my child is facing not only academically but also in their classroom. And it can mean helping my child respond differently to their environment and teacher.
In the end we are our children’s best advocate, loudest cheerleader, and when necessary, the enforcer. We should never give those roles away to anyone. It does often take a village to raise a child, but it is our responsibility as parents to make sure we know who all those villagers are to work with them to help our children be successful.