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Family Matters Blog: Guard, Reserve Children Need Help in School

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2010 – Over the past year, I’ve spoken with many military families about the challenges they face, and a common issue is education for children from Guard and reserve families.

These children attend off-base schools with teachers and administrators who may or may not understand the unique issues and concerns so common to military families. In a classroom of 20-plus children, the teacher may even be unaware that a child has a parent deployed for a year and, as a result, is unable to address some very specific needs.

I read a great blog post on the Defense Centers of Excellence website that addresses this topic and shares tips that military parents can use to help schools understand the unique stressors military families face.

The blog is written by Dr. James Bender, who recently returned from Iraq after a year there as a brigade psychologist.

More than 90 percent of military children attend non-Defense Department schools, Bender wrote, citing department officials.

Bender explains that children of Guard and reserve members often live in places where there is less community support. And, they don’t have a base community with a support system to return to, as do children of active-duty members who attend school off base.

The following are Dr. Bender’s tips for military parents with children attending civilian schools:

- Talk to your child’s teachers and educate them on the impact deployment has on children.

- If possible, don’t pull your children out of school for vacations or non-emergencies. You should send a message that attendance is important and school is their job.

- Encourage extracurricular activities. These tend to increase school attendance and foster friendships. You may want to check out www.ourmilitarykids.org, which provides grants for enrichment activities and tutoring for Guard and reserve children.

- Keep track of your child’s school progress. Do homework together, look at tests and know what grades your child is getting. Children with involved parents typically have much higher grades than children whose parents are not involved.

- Link your child’s schoolwork to the deployment. For example, have your child do a book report on the history of Iraq or the climate in Afghanistan. You also can incorporate schoolwork into your child’s communications with the deployed parent. For example, you can say: “Dad’s good at science, let’s ask him for help with your homework when we talk to him tomorrow.”

- There’s help out there for your kids. Free online tutoring is available 24/7 at www.tutor.com/military.

I hope this information helps our military parents, particularly with a new school year approaching. And if you have any tips regarding education, please don’t hesitate to write in.

To comment on this blog, please visit the Family Matters blog.

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