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    Military Kids Heading Back to School in 2021: What's the Same and What's Changed?

    Back to school is here again! But this school year might not look quite like it has in the past-- and that’s totally okay. Whatever happens, we know you can tackle it with grace, grit and gumption.

    Back to school for military kids in 2021What Does This School Year Look Like?

    The direction of your child’s school year is more in your control than ever before. There are so many choices:

    • Public school in-person
    • Private school in-person
    • Homeschool
    • Online public school
    • Online private school
    • Online homeschool
    • Homeschool co-op
    • Hybrid public school
    • Charter schools

    The options are seemingly limitless. Different learning choices may be available depending on your location. Whichever direction you’ve chosen, it’s going to be great.

    Back to In-Person Learning

    If your child is going back to the classroom (or joining a homeschool co-op), there are definitely going to be additional precautions compared to years past.

    One major change is face masks. If your family was able to return to in-person learning last year, the addition of these to the dress code might not be new to you. In some states and schools, face masks remain optional. In other locations, face masks are required for all staff and students. Be sure to check with your specific school for guidance.

    Another addition to this school year is daily health screenings. Many schools implemented this tool last school year as kids returned to the classroom. It’s important that you complete this daily since it acts as a first line of defense to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

    Schools may also be completing additional health checks at the door. Many schools are taking temperatures daily. Again, each school, school district and state may require a variety of screenings, mask guidance, or other measures.

    Each school, school district and state may require a variety of screenings, mask guidance, or other measures.When There’s Been an Exposure

    Your child’s school should share their guiding documents with you at the start of the school year. If you have not received this information, please contact the teacher or principal ASAP.

    You should know:

    • The conditions that constitute an “exposure”
    • The notification process when there is an exposure
    • The quarantine requirement after exposure, travel, or illness
    • The process to return to school following an exposure, travel, or illness

    Every school should be following local and state health guidance based on the latest science. It is very important that you receive clarity about how COVID-19 exposures and/or illnesses will be handled at your child’s school. Knowing all of these details will help your family prepare your plans.

    Based on the information from the school, your family should:

    • Determine child care for any child that needs to isolate or quarantine
    • Talk to your employer about telework options during school-mandated quarantines
    • Ask the school how education will be continued for students who are quarantining at home
    • Ask the school how absences for illness or quarantine will be recorded this year

    some schools may make the decision to return to virtual or hybrid learning. If Your School Goes Virtual or Hybrid

    Based on exposures or community spread, some schools may make the decision to return to virtual or hybrid learning. 

    If this should happen, you should think about:

    • Child care
    • Education plans, like IEPs or 504 Plans
    • Your leave from work
    • Access to the virtual learning space

    Obviously, this is not ideal for many families or children. However, taking this step might be necessary to prevent additional illness. Schools and teachers are in a much better position to make this quick pivot than they were in March 2020 or even this time last year.

    Many military families opt to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons, with the ranks growing over the last 18 months. Choosing to Learn at Home

    Welcome to the wonderful world of homeschooling! Many military families opt to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons, with the ranks growing over the last 18 months. 

    If you are just beginning this journey or have moved recently, it’s important to:

    • Understand the homeschooling laws in your location, using a resource like HSLDA
    • Notify the correct person regarding your homeschool, if applicable based on local laws
    • Determine your responsibility regarding attendance, assessments, and grade tracking
    • Understand the reporting of grades and attendance in your location
    • Look at what is required to be taught to your child(ren) based on applicable local homeschool laws

    After you learn the ins and outs of homeschooling in your location, it’s important that you decide what your homeschool will look like and what materials you might use. There are endless choices, from complete curriculum sets that cover all subjects to individual units or subjects. Whether you buy an all-in-one kit or gets items as needed, the choice is yours!

    Many families are choosing to remain virtual this school year.

    Virtual Learning Is Still Here

    Many families are choosing to remain virtual this school year. They have found that this option works best for their child or their family.

    If you are opting to remain virtual, there may be public schools available to support you!

    Many states have partnered with K12 or Connections Academy to create tuition-free virtual schools. You might also want to check out this list from Thought Co. to determine if online public school is available in your state.

    Virtual private school might be another choice to consider. Many offer rolling enrollment throughout the year. That might be important just in case you need to make a change mid-year.

    There are tons of different online private school options, from supported homeschooling to full-time education. 

    If You Need to Pivot Mid-Year, It’s Okay

    If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that being flexible is crucial. What worked in the spring may not be the best choice now. And your choice now might not be ideal this winter.

    Changing your mind is okay.

    You can pull your child into private school, pending space and acceptance, or choose to homeschool at any time. On the other hand, you can re-enroll your child into public school at any time as well.

    There are no hard and fast decisions right now.

    Do what is best for your child and your family as the situation unfolds. Pivot when you need to. 

    You’ve got this!

    What does the new school year look like for your military family? Let us know in the comments or connect with MilitaryByOwner on Facebook

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    Meg Flanagan


    Meg Flanagan

    Meg Flanagan, M.Ed., is the founder of Meg Flanagan Education Solutions. Meg has worked as a teacher and homeschool coach for the last decade, serving families across the country and around the world. She holds a Master’s degree in Special Education, as well as a BS in Elementary Education. Meg is certified in both areas for Massachusetts and Virginia. She serves the needs of busy families through targeted, personalized school support services.

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