COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
This month, we observe the Month of the Military Child. Services for military children have evolved significantly over the years, especially in education.
My husband and I have one child. He has traveled with us to many different bases and we have experienced a diverse set of communities from small villages to big cities.
In the process, we have experienced both advantageous and unfavorable seasons with our child’s education. Adjusting from school to school can be tough on a child, but can also yield some great results.
In the beginning, I learned to quickly lean on my military family. After the birth of our son, my husband was deployed. While he was away, I spent time with the spouse’s group, learning and volunteering my time helping others.
This was an educational experience for me to network and see how other military children were thriving at all different ages and stages. I watched in amazement, how well coordinated the spouses handled their kids and all of the events when military families gathered. I listened, I learned, and I participated. With the help of my husband’s unit and the spouse groups, we made it through a very tough first year.
After my husband’s deployments, we traded places. I direct commissioned and we moved to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. I planned on placing my son into the Child Development Center on base. It was convenient, close to work, and he was almost two years old at the time.
The plan failed; the CDC was full, and the waiting list was long. The alternative scramble was to place him into a child development program off base. This was his first child care experience and luckily, a positive one. He spent his second and third years of life singing to us with a southern accent.
Next, we moved on to Travis AFB, California. It was impossible to find a good prep school which didn’t cost an arm or a leg. Most were very expensive, and much to my husband’s distress, we paid just that.
My son did well and went on through to Travis Elementary School. These were great times for him; about 90 percent of the children were active-duty military dependents who lived on base. He was taught by teachers who were not bombarded with overcrowded rooms of students. I remember my son racing home – waving certificates with smiley face stickers.
About the time my son was midway into the second grade, we moved again, this time to the University of California, San Francisco. This was the hardest move, and in my opinion, the worst education system my son experienced.
He was enrolled into the third grade at Suisun Elementary School, in Suisun, California. The public schools there ran a non-traditional year-round school. This meant, school was in session for three months with one month rotation of break.
This was very difficult for my son to adjust to. If I could explain it in one word it would be “chaos.” One teacher to 33 students, rotational schedule, rotation of teachers, rotation of students, riding the bus, no sports, and no music.
After one-half year of this school system, my husband and I decided to pull him out of this system and moved him to a traditional school system in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. This was closer to my husband’s family. He spent the rest of his third grade year there.
After San Francisco, we went overseas to Elmendorf, Alaska, where my son was able to finish elementary and moved into middle school with the Department of Defense School system. I must say, this is a 10 out of 10 school system, which can compete against any private school in the nation. Much to my son’s delight, we moved to yet another location where he would receive more DoD schooling.
This time we landed in England. We lived in a very small Village called Alconbury. From seventh to tenth grade, he attended Alconbury High School.
This was a different experience for him. He was able to participate in International relations, Model United Nations at the Hague; attend a Youth group – Club Beyond; join in sports activities such as Track and Field, and American football. Those were four amazing years in England.
His final high school destination was to graduate after a move back to Barksdale AFB. My son finished his last two years in high school, visited his top four universities, graduated with honors, and went on to attend college. Now, after four years of hard brain work, he will be graduating from college. He will be prepared to take on whatever he chooses and the challenges ahead.
As I observed all ages of our precious military children throughout my career, I see they have a genuine interest in people; they are comfortable with each other, and comfortable in their “skin.” When dealing with people they show more respect, and are more sincere and honest than most other children. Most of all they seem to be more worldly and resilient, thanks to all of you military parents raising our military children. Hug them daily and thank them for their sacrifices, especially this month as we celebrate Month of the Military Child.