How to Support and Utilize Back to School Programs for Military Families

How to Support and Utilize Back to School Programs for Military Families

Posted by Christine Vande Griend on Aug 6th 2019

It’s THAT time again – Moms, Dads, students, and educators – time for the kids to head back to school. In just a few short weeks, school will be back in session. It can be a time of relief for parents, a time of consternation for students, and military families may feel that strain a bit more.

The emotions related to going back to school can sometimes be quite intense. Depending on the service situation of the family, kids may be coming into a completely new school and learning environment. And they may have been repeating this new school acclimation process for years. This is not to send military parents packing for departure on a guilt trip – we all have enough of those as it is.

If this is the first time your kids have experienced starting school with a parent serving away, that can be an especially sensitive time. One way to help everyone in the family feel better is to pick out and send a Hero Care Package. Or your soon to be students can end their summer by putting together a DIY Dollar Store Care Package . Doing these activities, especially as a family, takes the focus off self and lets the family share those feelings together.

We can all remember our school days. In fact, school bus trips down the back to school memory lane are such a prominent part of our youth that people love revisiting the trappings of our early school days. What are Back To School some of the most collectible items that people cling to, seek out, and pay big bucks for? Vintage lunch boxes! Insider tip from someone who was there the first time around: the 1970s and 1980s were pinnacle decades for lunch box and thermos combos. There wasn’t a sitcom, cartoon, singer that didn’t have their share of the lunch box merch game. Check out this search on vintage lunch box search on Ebay and you’ll see what I mean.

Amazon is now getting their share of the throwback lunchbox game. Here’s a great reproduction vintage Snoopy lunch box. 

And you can go wrong with this classic reproduction Star Wars lunch box. Or if you want to get something a little more updated and grown up, try Opus Premium Lunch Box.

While you’re at it, you might as well stock up on a few lunch time snack foods. - all favorites for back to school time.

School supply lists certainly have changed over the years; while Big Chief tablets and #2 pencils have given way to thumb drives and even earbud headphones, the same old good standbys make the list every time: pencil boxes, pencils, pens, notebook paper, spiral notebooks, folders, glue, scissors, tissues, etc. These are just some of the things you can buy to donate.

Backpacks can amount to a hefty expense, especially with a larger family. There are several ways to cut costs here. One is by re-using last year’s backpack, especially for older kids. Yes, I know they want a new one every year, but sometimes it’s a good lesson to learn in thrift. Another way is to find that new backpack at a thrift store. Many backpacks donated to thrift stores are far from worn out – and many are barely used. Thrift stores are another great place to find another common back to school budget buster: shoes and clothes.

There are some parts of the going back to school experience that are shared by all American school children. But going back to school for children of military families can be very different. Even if the nuclear family is intact and service is taking place on American soil – there are differences in the way that the family prepares for kids to return to school. Many aspects are mirrored by our collective experience; but there are different challenges – and even different rewards.

What if you homeschool? Depends on the structure of your year, but same deal. Homeschool families need to replenish their kids’ supplies too, so they can come out to get what they need too. While we are on the topic of homeschooling, there are some great resources for homeschooling military families, too. HSLDA Military Families has an awesome resource section. DualCreditAtHome also has an interesting list of tips for military homeschooling families.

While Team Family is conspiring to deploy an awesome (and easy! Select what you want, enter your Hero’s shipping info – done!) Hero Care Package , you might want to organize some type of giving or service project for your kids to get involved with. They may have opportunities to be involved in different projects through school, but this is something unique to your family. It doesn’t even have to be something big or complicated, just make sure that the ideas come from the kiddos. The idea is to tie yourself closer to one another and to your family, and help school kids become aware of the world around them. Something as simple as helping the kids hand out bottles of water in your neighborhood on the hot days of late summer reminds them that we’re all here to serve – and gives them a way to meet new people (and possibly some of their new classmates) in the community, as well.

Together, as a family, sit down and decide on a cause that all really touches and motivate the kids. You’ll be in charge, of course, but the ideas for this ongoing project need to come from the kids. Not only does it not have to be part of an official charity or group – it may actually have a greater impact and benefit both to the kids and to those they choose to help if it is done within the family economy. This is a chance to teach empathy, compassion, and doing instead of complaining.

Making dollars stretch is something all parents have to do from time to time, and there are several ways that Hero families can obtain lower cost and in some cases even free school supplies. [Please note: It is up to each of us to perform due diligence when it comes to charity organizations.]

Back To School provides backpacks filled with school supplies. Operation Homefront accepts donated supplies and funds, and is said to have distributed 350,000 backpacks to the schoolchildren of our Heroes! has put together an excellent, broad reaching resource for back to school needs – from listing tax free days to listing discounts provided by many retailers including shoe manufacturers, computers, cell phones, even tutoring and test prep.

When you are shopping for those back to school items, make sure you ask about military discounts. Many retail stores, from hometown owned to nationwide, offer military and veteran discounts – that extra 10-15% really adds up at back to school time!

By the way – and this goes for Heroes and Patriots alike: when you find retailers who obviously actively support our Heroes, we would do well to guide our business in that direction. If a store you frequent does not currently accept donations to be directed toward a credible effort to support the back to school needs of military dependents, just ask! Most would be happy to place a collection bin in their store for donated items.

At the end of the day, kids are kids; leaving summer fun for textbooks, tests and school rules will always have a bit of a wistful (if not pouty) “I wish it was still summer!” element to it. Yes, military service in the family makes going back to school a little different than it would otherwise be. Whatever we can do to make things a bit easier for families – well, that’s what we’re here for, Patriots. As Patriots, we are grateful for our Heroes, and the kiddos that are part of the Hero package. Back to school time give us another way to help ease the transition back into school. Education and the structure that comes along with it is very important – after all, these could very well be the next generation of Heroes. Find, use and support the back to school programs for our Hero kids! 

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