How to make a mid-year move smoother for your school-aged milkid
(Photo: Unsplash, JJ Thompson)

Your family just settled into this duty station and school system. Now it’s time to PCS. This year the military decided to put a fast one and move you off-cycle. You’re moving mid-year and feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. While it’s going to be rough uprooting your family in winter, use these tips and tricks to make the transition a little bit easier.

School enrollment requirements

Mid-year moves are crazy for everyone involved. It’s best to start getting the actual formal school transition started as soon as possible.

If you already have orders and a tentative move date, let the school know sooner rather than later. Ask for your child’s complete record to be pulled and copied (or emailed to you as PDFs). Make sure that the record includes their most recent report card, any testing done while at this school, and any education plans currently in place.

For students with any form of special education, including gifted education and 504 Plans, it’s especially important to get the paperwork in order. If your child is on an IEP, request the most recent test results are included. If the triennial evaluation is coming up in the spring, ask to push it up to get that testing done. Either way, make sure the plans are detailed, complete, and accurately reflect your child’s needs.

Then, request a narrative letter or account of your child. This could be a formal letter of recommendation, great for high school students or athletes, or a more informal report. Finally, put it all together in a binder that you will hand-carry.

Find a new school

As you are wrapping things up at your current school, it pays to be on the hunt for your next school. Consider where you are moving and your school priorities and needs. Then dive into the research phase. Use a school comparison tool to help you narrow your decision. Compare schools on concrete data, like the information available on school ranking sites. Also consider your unique needs, like special programs, extracurricular activities, commuting distance, and BAH.

After you narrow your school options, reach out to the schools and their PTO/PTA groups to ask questions and get answers from real people. Using social media to make these connections can also help you get a feel for the school climate.

Beware of asking for school recommendations on Facebook. Every family’s experience, needs, and children are unique. A school that was great for someone else’s kid might not be so perfect for your own child. The reverse is also true. If you find yourself caught between schools or unable to find good choices, consider using an expert like the local School Liaison Officer or a professional education coach.

Say goodbye to friends

Saying goodbye to friends is often the hardest part of a PCS, especially as children get older. You could handle this two ways:

  • Keep this move low-key and nonchalant. Encourage your child to get their friends’ contact information and make a plan to stay in touch. Maybe host one final play date, sleepover, or other small gathering. Otherwise, plan to exit quietly without too much fuss.
  • Go big at home and at school. Send farewell snack in with your child on their last day of school. Create a small mini-yearbook using a photo service. Host a going away party for your child and their friends. Take this opportunity to create more memories for your child.

This is up to you and should be based on your child’s personality, stress level, and feelings about the move.

Make new friends

Before you move, it’s important to scope out ways to help make finding new friends easier for your child.

Use your social media networking skills to “meet” people at your next duty station. Connect in Facebook groups or through mutual friends. Make plans to meet up in real life once you arrive in town. Don’t force things, of course, but knowing a few friendly faces can be helpful.

Reach out to the school and ask to be connected to clubs or sports teams based on your child’s interests. MIC3 should allow your children to enroll in extracurricular activities even after the deadline has passed. Jumping right into a group could also help your child to make friends more quickly.

Don’t prolong the return to school. Give your child enough time to adjust to time zones or for your family to decide on a home; then enroll your child into their new school as soon as possible. This will ensure there aren’t gaps in knowledge and will help them to work their way into the social fabric of the school sooner than later.

If you run into logistical problems transferring schools or have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the local School Liaison Officer or an education coach and advocate. Bringing a professional into your team can really help your family with mid-year PCS moves.

By Meg Flanagan