What to Do When Schools Are Closed and You're PCSing

empty classroom
Students move to distance learning at Wiesbaden High School as shown in this picture of an empty classroom. (Kaden D. Pitt/DVIDS)

Schools are closed for the remainder of the year at your current duty station. Maybe they're giving your child work, maybe not. But you're slated to PCS to a location as soon as possible where schools are scheduled to reopen before you arrive or are already practicing distance learning.

So you're caught in a bind: How do you help your child now?

First step: Don't put too much thought into it. Schools everywhere are going to need to adjust their expectations for the 2020-2021 school year. Students are generally going to be further behind in the fall than they were in 2019. Almost across the board, schools look different this spring. They're closed and either attempting some form of distance learning or not. It really does look different district to district and state to state.

Know that your child will be in the same situation as most other students, having missed most of the second half of the year. However, you can do a few things to help your child feel more confident and ease your worries.

Do a Little Work on Your Own

Whether or not your current school is doing the whole virtual learning thing, there isn't anything stopping you from doing it on your own. And it's actually easier than you might think!

First, enroll in Khan Academy. It's free and offers math courses from preschool through college. Plus, for older kids, there are options in science and other subjects.

Add in XtraMath, another free math website, to learn and review basic facts. Free Reading Program is, in fact, free and provides reading support for kids in kindergarten to sixth grade.

If your child is into workbooks, or you like the structure, there are tons of comprehensive workbooks available.

Grab a copy of "What Your Child Needs to Know" for your child's current grade level. Your local library will probably have a copy. This series provides a great overview of a classic education across all subjects.

Check the State Standards

Knowing what your child will be held accountable for in the next place is crucial. You can find your current or future state's standards by searching for: (your state) K-12 learning standards. This will likely direct you to the state's department of education website. Navigate to your child's grade and take a quick peek. Everything will be written in educational jargon, which might be hard to understand.

You could also search for: child's grade + learning standards checklist + your state. This might bring up a simple-to-understand list of content and skills. You'll be able to compare at a glance everything your child should have covered this year in each place, as well as where they'll be going next year.

Contact Your Child's Next School

It never hurts to talk to the teacher. Send an email to the school principal. Ask to be put in contact with the grade-level lead teacher. When you send the email to that lead teacher, you should share what your child's current school is doing, as well as what you are doing at home. Let them know your concerns, if any, about your child's ability to adapt or keep up, given the unique circumstances they're dealing with right now.

If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan or receives gifted education services, that's important to let the teacher and school know, as well. Basically, be upfront and keep the lines of communication open -- starting right now.

Everyone is in the same boat. Schools are closed; actual learning is patchy at best. While not everyone is moving, every school will be playing catch-up in the fall. By doing a little extra learning at home, comparing the different learning standards, and keeping in contact with the next school, you'll be setting your child up for success next year.

What are your biggest concerns about PCSing with a school-aged child this year?

-- Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey.

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