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Some spouses I know have asked: “What’s the best way to select a school for my child at our next duty station?” I’ve heard that Military OneSource (Web site) will do research for you, but truthfully, I don’t know.

— Nancy HodgkissMontgomery, AL

When it’s moving time and time to choose your child’s next school, whether stateside or overseas, the best researcher is you. Web sites are excellent tools, but you will need more than one source of information.

As a starting point, find what your choices are. What schools serve base housing? What other public and private schools are in the area? A good relocation sponsor may provide this information, or it may be available through a base or city Web site.

Narrow down what your child needs most from a school. There are many considerations, such as teacher/student ratio, location, spending per student, specific classes and programs, test scores, discipline and cost (if considering private school.) In my family, our school choices have been based on something different each time we have moved. When we moved to Georgia, for example, we looked at test scores. When we moved to Los Angeles, we were concerned with discipline and security. In our move to Germany, we wanted to know which DoDDS school in the area had honors programs and strong extracurricular activities. Set these priorities, taking into account special needs your child may have.

With those priorities in mind, look for more information about the schools near your new home. Military OneSource provides all kinds of information for military families, including school choices and links such as www.dodea.edu, for information about DoDDS schools around the world. The Web site for the Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit organization, has a free program called School Quest (www.militarychild.org/ SchoolQuest.asp.) Users must register, enter specific information about each child, give a location, and the program will suggest schools in the area that might be a good fit. This program includes a “DODEA” choice. Read the privacy section carefully. This might be another good source of information and a way to connect to specific schools.

Another helpful step is to talk to real people. Call individual schools to ask specific questions or talk to specific educators, if possible. Try to get in touch with families already in the area. Of all the helpful resources in our experience as a military family, this has been the best: real parents of real students.

I found that the Military OneSource site has lists of suggested questions to ask prospective schools and even other parents. Click on “Children’s Education” from the menu on the left, then on “School Selection” then “Choosing a School.”

School decisions are important, but the most important factor in your child’s education is you, the parent. Your involvement and encouragement can make the best of any school choice.

Readers, I would like to hear your insights and advice based on your school choices and experiences. How do you make your choices? How do you help your children to learn in each educational environment? How is the process different in an overseas move? Any advice from military spouses who are also educators would also be helpful.

Send your comments to the address below. Please do not send complaints, especially about specific schools, districts or individuals.

Terri Barnes is a military spouse and mother of three. She and her family live in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein, AB. Send questions or comments to her at spousecalls@stripes.com.

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