Military-connected students may be present in every school district in the United States, not only at those near military installations. A military-connected student is a child with at least one parent or guardian serving in the armed forces. This includes all branches of the military, both active duty and reserve components, and National Guard units.
Schools located near military installations, and those operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) naturally serve students from military families, but these are not the only schools serving military-connected students.
Families connected to National Guard or reserve units, as well as those on recruitment assignments, may live far from any military installation. Military students may attend public, private, or home-based schools. One of these, or a combination of education choices, may fit the needs of military families as they guide their children through their school years.
No matter where they go to school, these students encounter a range of experiences unique to military life, such as deployments and other family separations, frequent moves, and the potential for combat injury or loss of a parent. Students who do not have the support of a nearby military community may require even more support and understanding from schools and educators.
Relocations required during a military career also have effects on the youngest family members. Military-connected students move and change schools as many as nine times from preschool to high school graduation, according to DoDEA. That’s three times as often as their civilian counterparts. At each new school, students must adjust to a different curriculum, meet new teachers and coaches, adapt to a new learning environment, and develop new friendships—all amid other military life challenges, such as a parent’s deployment.
For these students, the challenges are not purely academic. Military-connected students are concerned about making good friends as well as good grades, and healthy social adjustment plays a part in positive educational growth. Research shows that support for military-connected students — at home, at school, and in the community — is key to that growth.
Adapted from Seasons of My Military Student: Practical Ideas for Parents and Teachers by Amanda Trimillos, EdD, and Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman.