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In Their Own Words: What Military Children Want You To Know

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Special thanks to Andrea Donegan, Shelley Joan Weiss, and all the military children who shared their experiences with us.

In honor of the unique challenges and contributions of military children, April is designated as Month of the Military Child. Over 1.6 million military children make sacrifices, experience numerous transitions, demonstrate resilience, overcome barriers, and make a positive impact. Military children lead lives that are often filled with change, frequent moves, deployments of loved ones, and the demands of military life. They display remarkable courage, adaptability, and strength.

We Asked, They Answered

  1. What is the best thing about being a military child?
    “Being proud that my parents have a cool job.” Keegan, 15.
    “My parents keep me safe!” Jameson, 10.
    “That I can always go to Mommy’s work.” Julia, 6.
    “The best thing about being a military child would be being able to meet new people and seeing new places.” Lilly, 8th grade.
    “My mom has friends in the military and mom takes me to her work sometimes and they make hot chocolate. Seeing new places, I get to go on a cruise to the Bahamas soon! Making new friends in different states.” Colton, 1st grade.
    “I like to go to my dad’s office and I like to spend time with my dad.” Estelle, 1st grade.
  2. What do you want your teachers and school staff to understand about your experience as a military child?
    “That my parents are gone a lot and aren’t always home.” Keegan, 15.
    “It’s not easy to have your dad gone for deployments.”
    “I don’t like when my mom has to go away for training.” Jameson, 10.
    “It is hard sometimes because my parents have to leave for months sometimes.” Jeffrey, 8.
    “It’s hard because you are gone for long days.” Julia , 6.
    “That times can be difficult. With my dad going away for different amounts of time and moving every three years. It can be pretty overwhelming having to move.” Lilly, 8th grade.
    “You get to see new places and you get to go to really fun places in other states.” Treyton, 4th grade.
    “When my mom or dad have to leave, it’s scary and I feel sad.” Everleight, 2nd grade.
    “Moving to a lot of different places is tiring. I’ve lived in seven different places and I’m seven years old.” Colton, 1st grade.
    “When my dad is gone I miss him and feel really really sad.” Estelle, 1st grade.
  3. What has helped you most to feel included and participate fully at school as a military child?
    “Playing sports.” Keegan, 15.
    “My teacher was in the Air Force and shares a lot of her stories that I can relate to.”
    “I’m lucky to have parents that come to school on Veteran’s Day!” Jeffrey, 8.
    “My parents come to school on Veteran’s Day and I get to dress up in red, white, and blue!” Julia, 6.
    “Most often when I move to a new school or state there is generally a number of other military children that have some of the same experiences and generally welcomes you with open arms. It makes it easier to learn about the school and area while making friends relatively quick.” Lilly, 8th grade.
    “Other people in my class who have experienced what I have experienced, like moving a lot.” Treyton, 4th grade.
    “Everything! It’s fun to be included and it feels good when my friends ask me to play.” Everleight, 2nd grade.
    “Making a lot of friends and being good at playing soccer so I can play soccer everyday.” Colton, 1st grade.
    “My friends let me play with them.” Estelle, 1st grade.

Honoring the Strength and Resilience of Military Children in April
Shelley Joan Weiss, Wisconsin Commissioner for the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children (MIC3) offers her own perspective not only as an adult committed to serving our military family students, but as a former military child herself:

Military children learn to be very flexible and responsive - often on short notice. As a child, we moved multiple times. We are fortunate that the Interstate Compact and other types of changes in legislation and rules have made it easier for families to take copies of student records to enroll and register students. Electronic record keeping has also removed barriers for students to move between schools and states.

In some cases, teachers and other school staff were very welcoming and supportive. Some educators understood that it may be challenging for students to frequently be "the new student," and were quick to find ways to actively involve us and help us to connect with other students. In other cases - some educators seemed to "blame us" for having to move frequently. Those educators created barriers that made us feel like "outsiders" and that we didn't "deserve" to be in their class/school. These folks made it difficult to want to go to school.

Also, because we often came with numerous and unique experiences (e.g. had visited many places across the country and in some cases across the world), some teachers did not "believe" us when we talked about places we had been and experiences we had. Some of those educators made us feel like we were "liars" (best way to describe it). Others embraced our experience and encouraged us to share and build on our experience. This was particularly true when we were having discussions in content areas like social studies.

Our math education was probably the most disruptive. Depending on where we were - districts were using different approaches to math. Although "common core" got a "bad rap" when it came about, for military children, the more consistency in curriculum across districts - the better it is for students. It seemed that we were always on a "different page" in math depending on where we lived and attended school.

The most welcoming and often the BEST experiences were with teachers in music, art, and physical education. They used their special talents to always find the best in our frequent moves. Those teachers helped us to fit in - no matter when we arrived or where we were coming from. At the same time - as students got older it could be a challenge with sports as there were often "rules" on when students could try out and be on competitive teams and those could be barriers - unless you were an extremely talented athlete - and then the rules seemed to change.

I also saw how different children dealt with the challenges. Some loved the ongoing changes and all the opportunities they offered, while others hated them. In every situation - children respond in different ways. Some educators understood this and others would have liked us to all be the same.

This is just the "school part" of being a military child. There is an entire story of handling family members leaving frequently and being gone for long stretches of time and being in the face of danger.

The state of Wisconsin is dedicated to supporting and ensuring equitable access to educational opportunities for our military children.
State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly and Governor Tony Evers have proclaimed April as Month of the Military Child. Through the legislature (Wis. Stat. § 14.91), Wisconsin participates in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.

The Interstate Compact is an agreement among states to support the seamless educational transition of military children as they move from one state to another. It addresses key educational challenges faced by military-connected children, such as enrollment, eligibility, placement, and graduation requirements. The compact aims to ensure that these children receive the same high-quality education and support services, regardless of where they live due to their parents' military service.

As we celebrate our military children, we can show appreciation with a kind word to make them feel welcome and included, a helping hand to overcome an obstacle, a simple gesture of gratitude for their sacrifice, and learning more about ensuring equitable opportunities for military children as set forth in Wis. Stat. § 115.997.

Resources to support our military students and celebrate April Month of the Military Child can be found on the DPI’s webpage.