Military Spouse Employment

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Military spouses have obstacles to employment but they are not insurmountable. It is definitely harder to get hired as a military spouse, after all, if it’s a choice between a candidate who is tied to the area, vs. a candidate who might only be in the area for two to three years, the decision seems clear. Actually, though, it’s not. Technically employers may not ask if a person is a military spouse, and in my opinion, being vague is in order in these situations. “Yes, I am new to the area.” “We are here for the foreseeable future.” “We moved here because we like the area.” Or, if the employer clearly knows you are a military spouse, you can honestly state that you are hoping to stay as long as possible.

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In an interview, make it clear that, in addition to your work experience, your role as a military spouse has trained you with valuable skills. We adapt well to change, and are used to project management, budgeting and logistical planning. We are highly committed to the task at hand and know how to compartmentalize; and we are so glad the employer took a chance on us, that we put all of our efforts into working hard for the company. Tell the employer that because of your drive, passion and experience, you’ll give more to the company in whatever time you do have there than other, longer term, employees would.

There are definitely some career paths that are more conducive to military life than others. I know a lot of nurses, speech therapists, teachers (I’m a teacher), and freelance artists of all sorts- writers (me), graphic designers, etc., and consultants who work from home. Plus, many people have home businesses. There are plenty of online university programs to get various certifications, and there is scholarship money, through MYCAA, (The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Program is a career development and employment assistance program sponsored by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program) for instance. Some people find jobs they are happy with on military bases, where the people hiring know how the lifestyle works and are especially open to hiring spouses. For more sources on education and employment, visit Military One Source.


If you have a college degree of any kind, you can substitute teach at any level, and it’s a really great flexible job. I’ve done it in four different countries!


Since military spouses, because of the nature of the military, have no choice but to take second chair to their Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine, it’s best to focus on something that brings you joy and try to find a career/hobby/job that fits into it.

I taught when my husband and I were first married, but once we had kids, I stayed home. I wanted to be a Stay At Home Mom. Besides, his job is so unpredictable, and deployments long and frequent, I could never have counted on him to help in a pinch. At first, I got frustrated by his odd hours and having to take odd phone calls in the office in the middle of the night, etc., and I’d speak my mind, after all, I felt I knew how to run things better, until one day, he got tired of me trying to tell him how the military could run better. He said, “I have my job and you have yours.” At first I was really angry, but then I decided that he was right. At that point in our lives, it was my chosen job to take care of the kids, which is no easy feat in any situation, but especially in military life (we have moved 12 times, and been through years of deployments). I made it my mission to be the best mom possible and raise really great kids, and I think I’m pretty good at my job.

Find what makes you happy, and make it happen.


Our family, in 2011, after a long deployment.


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Hardships and Benefits to Being Posted Overseas

Military personnel are posted either CONUS or OCONUS. This means within the Continental United States or Outside of the Continental United States. We have thousands of personnel stationed OCONUS, both on and off military bases. Horatio has been in the Navy for 27+ years and we’ve spent 17 of those living OCONUS, including Hawaii, Scotland, China and Taiwan. There are pros and cons to all situations and living OCONUS is no exception.


Here’s what you need to know:

Living OCONUS can be great.


  1. Travel opportunities. If you live in Hawaii, you can explore all Oahu and the other Islands have to offer using the discount given to residence. Yes, Hawaii life is expensive, but if you take advantage of the Commissary and Exchange for shopping, you can save money for adventures on and off of Oahu. If you are stationed out of the United States, you can travel to nearby countries and gain world knowledge to which you (and your kids) would not otherwise have access. While stationed abroad, we’ve visited: England, France, Germany, Holland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, all over China, and more. We’d never have been able to do this if we stayed in the US.
  2. Friends. You meet people outside your normal circle. This is something that happens by nature of military life, whether you stay CONUS or not, but by living OCONUS, the chances to meet and befriend people from all over the world are plentiful. My Facebook friends list includes people from more than 30 countries!
  3. The Food! Wow! I don’t even know where to start with this. Sure, in the US, you can get pretty much any type of international cuisine, but nothing is the same as when you experience it in the local country of origin. Living overseas might even shape your eating habits. Young Harold thinks nothing of having ramen soup for breakfast. He’ll eat stinky tofu and other “delicacies” at any time of the day.
  4. Free (sort of) Travel. Depending on where you are based, if it’s a hardship posting, like China, the government will pay for one or two R&R trips home during the duration of your stay abroad.
  5. Cultural Exposure. If you have kids, you can show them a world they’d never see back home. By living in China, our kids have seen a culture that is very different from our own. They have absorbed the culture and think of some of it as their own now, but have also come to deplore the way the country runs. They appreciate America much more than if they’d never left.

Living OCONUS can also be a challenge.


  1. Internet. Depending on where you are stationed, you might have internet obstacles, big or small. Even if you live in a friendly, English speaking country, access to some websites will be restricted. Most of all, streaming sites, which restrict subscribers by region. In order to watch a Netflix show from abroad, you must use a service that tells the site that you are are in America, when in fact you are not. I will not mention the type of service for fear that the keepers of the Great Firewall of China will crack down even further on it. In China, we also have to use these services to use Google products, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. and sometimes the services themselves are blocked, so we are stuck without these privileges.
  2. Travel. Getting home is difficult. Travel to see family, whether for pleasure, a break from a hardship post, or for a family emergency, is limited, tedious, logistically challenging and often expensive. When we lived in Taiwan, the trip home took nearly a full day. We’d have to fly from Taipei to the West Coast for 15+ hours and, after clearing customs and immigration and enduring a long layover, another 5ish hours to our family’s home. It’s a tiny bit less to fly home from China. Long travel days are hard on most people, but think of doing it with a newborn, or a toddler, or both, or several kids, without your spouse. Military spouses do it all the time. Travel days are no joke, but we do them because at the end of them, we get to be back in our home country, America, and with loved ones whom we haven’t seen in a long time.
  3. Shopping. Food and clothing and other products that we have grown accustomed to in the US are scarce and expensive overseas. Thankfully, as government employees, we have access to shipping through DPO, APO, FPO or diplomatic pouch. These are all government postal services that allow us to ship things to our overseas postings using US mail rates. Our expat friends do not share this luxury. I feel very lucky to be able to order from Amazon, Target, Walmart and others. I just have to wait 2 weeks or more to get my packages. I admit to having an unhealthy relationship with Amazon Prime. I’ve raised plenty of money for my favorite charity, Gateway to Hope, through the AmazonSmile program. It’s easy, you sign up with your favorite charity, shop through (dot) com and money goes straight to the organization. I’ve given $72.36 as of December 03, 2019, just by buying things I’d needed (or wanted)! Through this program, all charities have received $156,109,909.51 as of November 2019! Amazon is not paying for this plug. Also, I encourage you to shop through Rakuten (formerly ebates). I’ve gotten over $1500 back from them since I joined many many years ago. (They aren’t paying me for this post either.) My point is, if you are posted overseas, you’ll probably do a lot of online shopping, especially if you don’t have access to a Post Exchange or commissary, which we don’t. So, you might as well do something good for a charity and for yourself while you’re at it!
  4. Cultural Differences. As I said above, cultural diversity is a great thing to discover. However, some cultural differences are better left undiscovered, but are unavoidable. I’ll mention squatty potties, for one. I won’t go into great detail here, but you can read about it in these posts that I wrote more than 10 years ago. Traffic, sanitary habits, smoking in public, to name a few, are unpleasant when they are not what you are used to experiencing. Cultural differences can make adjustment to a posting overseas difficult, but it is worth the effort. The Pros definitely outweigh the cons.

I’ll leave it there, 5 pros, 4 cons. There are more of each, but I encourage you to discover them for yourself. I wouldn’t trade our time overseas for anything. We’ve had invaluable experiences and our children, all four, are better citizens of the world having lived life as third culture kids; but that’s a whole other post.


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Lawlor, White & Murphey Announces $2,000 Scholarship for Children of Veterans and Active Duty Service Members

The Award Includes Additional $1,000 Donation to the Vietnam Veterans of America


To coincide with Veterans Day, nationally regarded Florida-based personal injury law firm Lawlor, White & Murphey, is pleased to announce an annual scholarship for both current and aspiring college students with a parent or family member that has served their country.

The scholarship will provide students with $2,000 to go toward the costs of tuition or any other related expenses at a college or university of their choice, anywhere in the United States. An additional $1,000 will be donated to the Vietnam Veterans of America, whose mission is to “promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.”

The cause is near and dear to all partners within the firm, especially Benjamin Murphey, who served in the United States Army Infantry where he earned, among other things, his airborne wings and had the honor of serving as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In order to be awarded this scholarship, you must be a current undergraduate or graduate student with a 2.0 GPA and a parent or guardian that is a Veteran or currently a member serving in the United States Military.

The deadline for all applications is midnight, December 31st, 2019. The winner of the award will be announced on the firm’s Facebook page on or around January 15th, 2020.

 To find out how to qualify, apply, or to learn more, please visit

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TRICARE Pharmacy Copayments to Increase Starting Jan. 1, 2020

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On Jan. 1, some copayments for your prescription drugs will increase. If you get your prescriptions through the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or at a retail network pharmacy, you’ll pay anywhere from $2 to $7 more starting Jan. 1. Congress made this change in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal YearClick to closeOctober 1 – September 30 2018.

There’s still no cost to fill your prescriptions at military pharmacies. And these cost changes don’t apply to active duty service members (ADSMs). If you’re an ADSM, you still pay nothing for your covered drugs at military and network pharmacies.

“Military pharmacies remain to be your lowest cost option,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melissa Pammer with the Pharmacy Operations Division at the Defense Health Agency. “Your next lowest cost is if you use the TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery.”

TRICARE Prescription Drug Categories

Your prescription copayments vary based on pharmacy type. Also, they vary based on the drug category. TRICARE groups prescription drugs into one of four categories. This grouping is based on the medical and cost effectiveness of a drug compared to other drugs of the same type.

As outlined in the TRICARE Pharmacy Program Handbook, the drug categories include:

  • Generic formulary drugs: These drugs are widely available. You have the lowest out-of-pocket costs for these drugs.
  • Brand-name formulary drugs: These drugs are generally available to you. Plus, they offer you the second lowest copaymentClick to closeA fixed dollar amount you may pay for a covered health care service or drug..
  • Non-formulary drugsClick to closeA drug in a therapeutic class that isn’t as clinically or cost-effective as other drugs in the same class. You pay a higher cost share for these drugs.: These drugs may have limited availability. You have higher copayments for these drugs. Also, there’s generally an alternative formulary drug that you can get. It’s often more cost effective, and equally or more clinically effective.
  • Non-covered drugs: TRICARE doesn’t cover these drugs. If you choose to purchase a non-covered drug, you’ll pay 100% of the drug’s cost. These drugs are either not clinically effective, or as cost effective as other drugs offered. They may also pose a significant safety risk that may outweigh any potential clinical benefit.

To learn more, you can download the TRICARE Pharmacy Program Handbook from the Publications page.


Pharmacy Copayment Increases

TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery

If you use home delivery, your copayments for up to a 90-day supply of generic formulary drugs will increase from $7 to $10. For brand-name formulary drugs, your copayments will increase from $24 to $29. Your copayments for non-formulary drugs when you don’t have a medical necessity will increase from $53 to $60.

TRICARE retail network pharmacies

At a retail network pharmacy, your copayments for up to a 30-day supply of generic formulary drugs will increase from $11 to $13. For brand-name formulary drugs, the increase is from $28 to $33. Non-formulary drugs will increase from $53 to $60.

Non-network pharmacies

At a non-network pharmacy, you must pay the full price of the drug. After meeting your annual deductible, you may submit a claim for partial reimbursement. Non-network pharmacy costs remain the same if you use TRICARE Prime. With TRICARE Prime, you’ll pay a 50% cost-shareClick to closeA percentage of the total cost of a covered health care service that you pay. after meeting your point-of-service deductible for covered drugs.

For all other health plans, non-network pharmacy costs are as follows:

  • Generic formulary drugs and brand-name formulary drugs will cost $33 (up from $28) or 20% of the total cost, whichever is more, after you meet your annual deductible.
  • Non-formulary drugs will cost $60 (up from $53) or 20% of the total cost, whichever is more, after you meet your annual deductible.



Copayments for survivors of ADSMs are the same as the 2017 rates. The copayments remain the same for medically retired service members and their family members, too.

For the latest TRICARE pharmacy costs, you should visit TRICARE Costs. To learn more about your pharmacy benefit, visit Pharmacy on the TRICARE website.

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Will the Military Be Cut Off From US Mail Services?

Almost a year ago, the Trump Administration declared that the United States would withdraw from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a United Nations organization that regulates international mail delivery. The withdrawal could cause severe disruption of international mail, including military mail, to and from the United States.


The 144 year old UPU regulates global mail systems and rates. The Administration’s chief complaint is on behalf of some US companies who are frustrated by the fact that packages sent to the US from other countries, particularly China, have much lower rates than what Americans pay. In many cases, Americans pay three times what China and other countries pay to ship their mail internationally. The UPU will meet at the end of this month to consider changes to the rules and rate structures. If the issue is corrected, the Administration will remain in the Union. If not, major changes will affect military, foreign service and other governmental agency personnel stationed around the world.


Collecting DPO mail at the embassy

Yes, this means that we might not be able to ship our Amazon packages to our overseas duty stations. Our family members won’t be able to mail holiday presents to us, nor us to them, but the disruption is far more serious than what some may perceive as luxuries (I assure you, they are not) as shipment of medical supplies and medications travel through these systems to our Posts, Bases, Embassies and Consulates. Our APO, DPO, and FPO mail, which we’ve come to depend on because it allows us to use the US mail system and its rates, could see significant disruption, if not altogether stoppage. The United States government would then have to negotiate a new bilateral postal service agreement with each country to allow smooth transport of mail, and this will take time.

Military family and other government family associations are working to warn Congress of the destructive implications of the withdrawal from UPU, but it’s the Executive Branch that has the legal authority to withdraw from the Union. The Department of Defense is developing contingency plans, in case the withdrawal occurs and countries do not continue to allow for the special situation of APO, DPO, and FPO mail, to minimize any potential disruptions and continue providing support to families serving abroad.

The immediate reaction by troops and families should be to place orders now to ensure that letters and packages will reach you before the possible withdrawal in mid October. Check on your mail order prescription situation now so that you have plenty of medication on hand, should mail be disrupted.

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Moving As An Adventure- Guest Post

By Julianne Price

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Summer is here again! Popsicles, pools, parties, and—drumroll please—PCS-ing!

For those of us who move more frequently than we buy new running shoes, summer transfer season is as normal as June sunburns. But just because it’s routine, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Packing up, researching a new home, and trying to help our children manage their expectations while we temper our own is always a struggle—whether you’re moving to a new town or a new country.

It can be particularly tricky with small kids. I have an entire micro-library of kids moving books. Berenstain Bears Moving Day, Big Dan’s Moving Van, A Kiss Goodbye… I could fill half a page. But after years of reading these to my children and students at the international schools where I teach, I found they all have a common theme. They treat moving as a challenge to be overcome.

Which it is. No doubt about it. But for families that move every year or so, the language of “overcoming adversity” can get a little tired. I wanted to find a book that treated moving as an adventure. After years of looking, I was still coming up empty handed. So, I decided to write the book I wanted to read to my children. The Adventurers Club is the result.

The book follows the adventures of a sibling duo and their pet turtle as they turn packing boxes into pirate ships, new rooms into art canvasses, and a house into a home. It was published last fall by A15 Publishing, a publishing group formed by a team of combat veterans, and I hope it can be a useful resource to families whose service moves them around the globe.

The Adventurers Club is available on Amazon, or through the A15 Publishing website. Also, for more information, coloring pages, and resources on moving with small children, check out

Happy summer and best of luck with your upcoming adventures!!
-Julianne Price

About Julianne:
Julianne has taught for 14 years in US and international schools. She is a mother of two
adventurous girls who have grown up in Madrid, Tokyo, Washington DC, and Vienna.

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Military Kids Are Not Brats- Month of the Military Child



2014- Our tenth moving day. (We’ve had one more since then.)

Most military children will say goodbye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will in their entire lifetime. Most military kids don’t know how to answer the question: Where are you from? They’ll answer with any combination of the following: Do you mean where was I born? Where do I live? Where do my parents own a house? Where do my grandparents live? There’s no simple answer because military families relocate so frequently. It’s not uncommon for kids to attend two or more high schools. Military families serve our country too, and kids’ contributions and commitment are often overlooked.

Most military children will say goodbye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will in their entire lifetime.

Our second born Homefront Kid will graduate from high school next month. He attended two high schools, two middle schools, two elementary schools and three preschools. As luck would have it, he is graduating from the international school at which he started Kindergarten because The Navy sent us back to China after we’d been away for seven years. While it can be difficult for military kids to make connections with classmates, Dwight was able to use the social skills he learned from starting fresh so many times to become a good friend and leader among his peers. He was even chosen as the graduation speaker for the class of 2019, and as Most Likely to Change the World.


Military kids have to be very adaptable.

Some military kids struggle to form lasting, meaningful relationships throughout their whole lives. They build proverbial walls around themselves to prevent the emotional pain that comes when they have to leave yet another home and group of peers. Military kids who have lived on bases and immersed in military culture most of their lives can struggle to feel anchored to civilian life. The transition to college life can be especially tough. I recommend that parents read the book, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition. I read it when Homefront Kid #1 was preparing to leave our overseas home for college and I’m rereading it now that #2 is leaving the nest. It’s helpful if the kids read it too, but since that’s unlikely to happen, parents can read it and impart the knowledge on their children.

The military’s migratory lifestyle can impede potential for building concrete relationships with people and developing emotional attachments to specific places. It’s important to also consider the stresses of having a parent deployed for long periods to undisclosed locations, and possibly to a war zone, and also the psychological aftermath of war in dealing with returning veteran parents. In some cases there is also the loss of a parent in combat, or a drastic change in a parent due to a combat related disability. Many military kids personally know another child whose parent was killed or wounded (physically or psychologically) in action. All of these factors shape our military children.

As parents, and a community, we can make every attempt to help military kids handle all of the adverse side effects of military life, but when the side effects are significant enough that they are above our paygrade, so to speak, we might have to seek counseling for the child or whole family. Military One Source is a good place to start, as many of their approved counselors are experienced in dealing with military issues. Also, psychiatric services are covered by Tricare. If someone in your family needs help, get it for them, it’s easy to find.

Despite all of the stumbling blocks that military kids encounter, they often end up as the most resilient among their peers. Adversity can lead to dynamism and adaptability. The skills military kids are forced to develop serve them well in the future, where they proceed to do great things. Military kids are not brats. They are brave, sensitive, adaptable, and above all, solid citizens. Take a minute to recognize one in your life.


Military kids serve too…

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Your Child’s Identity May Have Been Stolen

I was shocked to learn that more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft or fraud last year. According to the Federal Trade Commission, two-thirds of those victims were age 7 or younger. As soon as your child is assigned a social security number, he is at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, and most parents never even check their children’s credit history, so the crime goes unnoticed for years. Generally, parents don’t think that children’s identities might be stolen because they have no credit history. Kids don’t use credit cards, so what’s to check? It turns out, it has never been more important to be on top of this issue. Every day, more and more children’s social security numbers are sold on the dark web, and sixty percent of child victims personally know the perpetrator.

Kid fraud 1

A child’s social security number is usually used to create what has become known as a synthetic identity. The SSN thief takes the child’s unblemished number and creates a new identity with a different name, birthdate, address and phone number to start a new and phony credit file. The thief can then open credit cards and use them to establish a good credit history, which allows him to then take out loans that they never intend to pay back.


Adults of all ages are also at risk. Younger people report more instances of identity fraud, but people age 70 and older report greater losses due to this kind of crime. Those with active social media presence have a 30 percent higher risk of becoming fraud victims due to increased exposure.


From the very young, to the very elderly, we are all at risk, but we can take steps to minimize the risk by utilizing services designed to protect us. Identron has a variety of plans designed to protect and insure individuals and families against identity fraud. It’s important to take steps to protect ourselves before it’s too late and the damage has been done.

This is a post sponsored by Identron. 



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Strengths of the Military Family

“I could never do what you do.” I hear this refrain again and again. No matter where I go, if I’m not with other military spouses, conversation inevitably makes its way to some form of this phrase. I always respond with, “yes you could,” because of course you could. We do what we have to do, do we not? Sure, there would be some people who would just put up their hands and say “no way. I’m out,” but for the most part, we are in, all of us,  no matter what is thrown at us.

I never would have predicted, as a young midwesterner in the 1980s, that I would end up married to a man in the military, moving house 12 times in 23 years and going strong.  Never. Nor would I change it if I could. Sure, the military has bumped and bruised us along the way (years of deployments, among other things), but it’s also led us to a life of great opportunities to meet people, travel and learn from the world. Am I where I thought I would be when I thought about my future 25 years ago? 10 years ago? No. But what makes the military life unpredictable and hard, also makes it exciting and even inviting.

In 2009 our family of six moved from China back to Northern Virginia and we were finished moving. Really finished. I was over it and ready for military retirement. The deal was: Horatio was going to deploy in 2010, and then he’d come back to us, do a twilight DC job, and then retire. When he was away, though, he called me on FaceTime and said, “I got a call offering us a new job. How’d you like to move to Taiwan?” Initially, I said “no thank you,” (literally) but after weighing the pros and cons, we found ourselves unpacking boxes in a house on a mountain in Taiwan in 2014, and then back in Beijing in 2016.

Home is where the Navy sends us.

Horatio is doing an important job that he’s passionate about and good at, and our family enjoys the perks of, and looks past the downsides, of living all over the world as we support him. While Horatio does his job, I do mine, the kids do theirs. I have a lot of responsibilities that are a part of his job. I don’t get paid, but these duties, both at home and in the diplomatic corps, are no less important. It does not escape Horatio or me that without me doing my job, he could not do his effectively.

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Pollution in Beijing (No filter. For. Real.)

Some days are less easy than others. The air pollution is bad, the traffic is a giant mess, and it feels like there’s an obstacle in the way of almost anything we try to do. Thankfully, though, when I can’t find my own strength to get through it, I can always count on the other transplants around me to help me keep things in perspective.


Desperately Poor in China

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Obscenely wealthy in China

Life can be quite a challenge, living in a culture so different from our own, so far from home. (Did you ever hear of a Chinese squatty potty? Google it with caution.) Would I love to live closer to my family, drive on the roads with civility and shop at Target whenever I please, while not carrying toilet tissue and hand sanitizer wherever I go? Yes. Do I dwell on it? No. What would be the point? Instead, I celebrate the fact that our willingness to serve our country (yes, I said OUR willingness) has led to our kids having a sense of what it is to serve, going to state of the art International Schools, meeting high level officials (both US and foreign) and visiting countries that would have been unattainable (South Africa, Australia, Cambodia and Israel, to name a few) had we not chosen this life.  Our kids have seen obscenely wealthy people and desperately poor people in the course of a day, on more than one occasion. It’s my job to point out these contrasts and pull lessons from them. Plus, we’ve all learned to speak Chinese, which is another thing that people say they could never do. Let me tell you, though, if you lived in a country that speaks another language, you’d do your best to learn, even if it’s just the basics. We are in our eighth year in Asia. We have lived in 9 different cities, the kids have been to more than a dozen schools, combined. It’s our life. How do we do it? We find the strength or it finds us. The kids and I know that we are here for the greater good. Horatio serves our country, so we serve our country.

Horatio and the family during leave from deployment in 2011




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Strengthening Children – The Special Education Process

A guest post by Kimberly Wilkerson

Family is everything. Two months ago, at the end of a 12+ year stint in the Portland, OR area, I packed up a house, a speech pathology career and a t-shirt business and moved to Idaho with the sole purpose to be a constant, positive, and fun influence in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives. (And two months later – despite the craziness of “starting over” – it’s absolutely worth it!)

As co-owner of MyFreedom MyFamily T-Shirts ( and a speech-language pathologist who advocates for kids and their families, I recognize and praise the importance of family as the foundational unit of our society. Our communities need strong families and families are strengthened as each member is valued, loved and supported in the specific ways they individually need to grow and thrive.

Sometimes the younger members of our families need extra support on their path of development and education. U.S. schools provide opportunities for specialized instruction to students who need extra support to succeed in academic requirements. Some of you may have students already receiving special education services and others may be wondering if your child could benefit from such services.

What is special education and how do you know if your child needs it?

Your school provides a team of professionals specialized in areas that target academic learning needs, childhood psychology, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and in some schools – autism, deaf and hard of hearing and assistive technology.  Those of us who work with your children seek to create an environment that provides meaningful and fun opportunities for your child to learn, reach goals, and experience happiness.

If you have specific concerns about your child’s development and academic progress, you have a right to request review and assessment in the particular area(s) of concern. Often, school districts have established intervention processes that can be implemented immediately to provide tiered support for your child with progress monitoring at regular intervals to determine if more support/instruction is required. If “in-class” supports are not demonstrating adequate results, a referral is made to the special education team for a comprehensive evaluation in the area of concern (e.g., academics, speech-language, occupational therapy). Results of the evaluation help guide the team in determining the best plan to support your child at school.

How can you help your child in the special education process?

Parents may wonder if their concerns are relevant. Many assume the challenges they see at home are typical and their child will grow out of them or overcome them with further schooling. For families who frequently move – as is the case with military families – their child may have been referred for in-class supports and interventions and/or special education services, but did not qualify for those services based upon numerous factors. Keep in mind – districts’ criteria for special education services vary and criteria for many services is based up a child’s age at testing. So, if you’re child struggled with saying their “l” and “r” sounds at age 6 years and did not meet criteria for therapy services last year, they very well could be eligible for therapy services this school year.

When it comes to kids, all concerns are relevant, and bringing forward those concerns should always result in increased understanding and knowledge of how to help your child. Even if specialized instruction is not warranted, strategies and tools you can implement at home to help your child can always be provided by teachers and specialists. Though not comprehensive, the following is a list of academic, language, speech, and motor-based skills that are necessary for school success. If your child demonstrates challenges in these areas, it may be advantageous to talk to your school team about his/her progress and performance in class:

  • Reading fluency

  • Reading comprehension

  • Understanding vocabulary

  • Using vocabulary in the correct context

  • Formulating grammatically correct sentences (oral and written)

  • Expressing thoughts and ideas in a written format

  • Ability to retell a story or sequence information

  • Grade-level math concepts and problems

  • Using writing tools (e.g., crayons, pens, pencils) effectively

  • Using cutting and eating tools effectively

  • Ability to manipulate objects in self-care (e.g., buttoning, tying shoelaces)

  • Following multi-step directions

  • Understanding and using age-appropriate social cues in peer and adult interactions

  • Producing speech sounds correctly in conversation

What is best practice for communicating concerns and collaborating with your school team?

Transparency and clear communication is critical in helping your child receive the supports to meet challenges they’re facing. You should expect it from your school team and they should expect it from you as a parent.

Keep organized records of all screenings, testing, evaluation reports and provided at-home strategies and resources. This is particularly important when frequently relocating to different towns and school districts. Concise, clear information results in a smoother transition for your child and a new school team can easily step in and resume the necessary support more efficiently.

If a new concern arises or if you’re voicing a concern for the first time, take a few moments to document the specific challenges you’re observing, including how those challenges are impacting home and school tasks. If background information is relevant to the observed challenges (e.g., history of multiple ear infections, family history of stuttering, extended absences from school), please document and share that information with the team.

One final thought – I love working with parents who are willing to seek answers, find solutions and help and encourage their child in education-based goals at home. Collaboration between parents and school staff is always better for kids than independent objectives and plans. Kids succeed faster and better when we’re all working together in their behalf.

So, ask questions. Seek resources. Suggest ideas.

When we work collectively to support and strengthen one – we grow power in the family. And that power blesses us as a nation.

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