My plan for the kids during this week.

Here is my plan:-

We are not commencing home schooling. The schools have advised they hope to be up and running online learning next week. We will wait for their guidance and expertise – I will not place undue stress or pressure on them or myself this week.

My kids will enjoy the time catching up on some reading, music, working out, golf simulator and playing F1 and FIFA on the xbox, FaceTiming their friends and doing revision as they normally would during school and the long summer vacation here.

They will learn more patience and form stronger bonds with each other.

They will learn new skills in the kitchen.

They will learn and understand all the craziness that the world is facing.

They will form their own educated thoughts on how we and the world will continue to be affected and how we may move forward.

They will grow in their own compassion and understanding for people and their own situations. They have seen the empty grocery stores, the elderly and vulnerable not being able to buy items due to the selfish nature we have become.

They will come out of all of this better humans!

Posting Overseas and Schooling🐨

Australia to the USA Posting

As I have spoken about previously, we are currently enjoying our third posting to the US. This has had consequences and benefits regarding our kids schooling. As an Australia family our school year follows the calendar – school begins at the end of January and finishes mid-December. The school year is broken into 4 Terms with holidays in April, June/July, Sept/Oct and then 6 weeks from Mid-December until the end of January.

Our eldest started kindergarten in Hawaii during our first posting o/s and then on our return, she completed Grade 4, 5 and part of 6. Our middle one, completed Grade 2, 3 and part of 4 whilst our son started kindergarten.

This time around we had to make a compromise with our eldest regarding high school and her ability to graduate back in Australia with the required credits to enable her to chase her dreams following school. This meant instead of going forward she had to repeat the final few months of Grade 9 (she had already completed in Australia prior to our arrival) – this means she will be graduating a year later than her peers. This girls is amazing though – she listened to the advice we had received from one of her highly regarded teachers from Darwin, two work colleagues of mine (Principal & Teacher) and also a teacher friend of ours, the decision was met with a high about of trepidation and at times anger but once the decision was made, she ran with it.

Our other two were simple. The middle one went forward into Grade 8 and the youngest returned to redo the final few months of Grade 4 – this kept them with their peers, and will all line up for our return home.

Schooling in the US is completely different than schooling in Australia for many reasons:-

Elementary, Middle School and High School

Elementary and Middle Schools are located on the large Military bases and the standard of school in most areas is of a higher standard than off post. At some locations there are more than one Elementary school and placement will be allocated related to on post housing location and if living off post you will also be assigned a specific school. High Schools are located off post and will be a mixture of surrounding local feeder schools and those coming from off post. In some locations, Elementary school finishes in Grade 5 and there is a purpose built Grade 6 centre where all Grade 5 students will feed into for the school year.

School Year

School generally commences mid-August and finishes the end of May. This of course is location based and some schools do not commence until mid-late September. Other important things to note particularly about on post school is they regularly have early release or late start days to enable staff development. School also tends to start earlier 0740-0800 will a finish time of 1500-1515).

Grading System

Everything is graded! Classwork, homework, participation and assignments. The class grade and GPA for High School changes daily and the system is generally A+ to F to U. Whilst this is great in enabling the student and parents to see their progress, any missing work etc it is also reliant on the teaching staff imputing the correct information and correcting along the way. Teachers have enough to do daily.

Subjects

One of the great benefits of schooling in the US is the vast array of available subjects for Middle and High School students to study. Many of these are not available in Australia and provide a different opportunity for learning something new and possible specific to career goals. Many are study for either a semester or a full year.

There is also many options that as Aussies we find a little odd……Math is one. Math is integrated for Elementary and early Middle School however from Grade 8 is taught as a broken down subject. You either do Algebra I, Algebra II or Geometry. This is something I have particular issue with and would have preferred that Math continued to be integrated until Grade 11 and 12 (Junior and Senior year) – continuance of building on Math skills.

Math for us was a particular sticky situation and it took a lot of patience and some shuffling for all of our kids. The transition from not only metric to imperial but for the older girls what they had learnt in Australia under an integrated Math subject didn’t line up with the required Math options here. Thankfully we were able to ‘shuffle’ and have them placed in a Math option that enabled them to begin the whole subject and not play catch up completely.

The science subjects are also integrated for Elementary and early Middle School before a break into more specific science areas – Biology, Honours Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Other great options are JROTC and Debate which also compete locally, district, State and National also. Both are amazing programs with great opportunities and possibilities.

High School Graduation

Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia all have a have minimum high school graduation requirement while Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania leave high school graduation requirements up to local districts. Each student is required to complete a certain about of subject semesters with credits to graduate high school. The best place for advice is the School Guidance office as it is quite a confusing process.

Lunches

Big topic…..lunches in the US school system is something that as Aussie it is completely unfamiliar, frustrating and laughable at times. Lunch times of course vary for each school across all levels and is held in the school cafeteria. Students have the option of taking a home lunch or purchasing from the cafeteria. The food is interesting to say the least, however it is a cheap option and the novelty at first may be exciting for the students. You may find this wears off fairly quickly and lunch boxes will again need to be purchased and packed. Some Middle Schools and High Schools have menu options including salad bars which can make it a lot more palatable.

Eating times are generally very early too with no recess in between school starting and lunch – our kids come home famished every day.

Outside time

One of the biggest differences our Aussie kids struggle with is the lack of outside time, particularly where we are currently. Due to lunches being eaten inside and either no or very short recess (play no food) time the kids really miss the ability and freedom to run around, kick a footy or even just walk and talk. We have been fortunate that the two schools in the US the kids have been enrolled at outside time was planned daily. For us Aussies outside time is planned in the school day, we eat our lunches outside, we do recess which involves a snack and play time. One of the greatest examples of the importance of outside time was our primary school in Sydney when Miss C was in Grade 4 – their teacher Mr T took the whole class every morning outside where they walked laps around the oval for about 15 minutes, this let the kids stretch their legs and get some jiggles out before class but it also gave them a last minute chance to get all their chatting out – it worked great.

Sport

Sport is massive in Middle and High School – think every tv show that you may have ever seen that involved high school sport in the US (One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights, Greece). The try outs, the training, the home and away games, the playoffs, homecoming, concession stands, band, cheerleaders, JROTC, the mums with the kids face printed on their t-shirt, the banners, the tailgates – it’s all there. Sport options are amazing (not all offered at each school):-

  • Badminton
  • Baseball (Boys)
  • Basketball
  • Bowling  
  • Cheerleading / Competitive Spirit Squads
  • Cross Country
  • Dance Team  
  • Field Hockey
  • Flag Football (Girls)  
  • Football (Boys)
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics  
  • Hockey  
  • Indoor Track & Field
  • Lacrosse
  • Skiing & Snowboarding  
  • Soccer
  • Softball (Girls)
  • Slow Pitch Softball (Girls)
  • Surf
  • Swimming & Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track & Field
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Weightlifting
  • Wrestling

Thankfully we are a sport loving family and wish that sport was more incorporated into the Elementary schools too, particularly for grade 5 and 6). Our middle one has been training and playing sport like crazy this past year (Volleyball and Basketball) and both girls have just commenced Football (soccer).

The training schedules have been insane and will continue that way for Football, everyday day 1630-1900 and will include home and away games, fundraising events and team dinners for the next three months. The facilities are amazing with schools having incredible stadiums, courts, full gyms, locker rooms and access to a physiotherapist also.

Vaccination Schedules and Enrolments

Each school district and State has their own enrolment requirements and vaccination schedules to be followed. At times this can be particularly frustrating due to Australia having a great vaccination program. If you are not fully vaccinated by their schedule, enrolment may be declined and if the child has commenced school may be unable to return to school until fully vaccinated per their schedule. I had many heated discussions with our Elementary school nurse concerning Australia’s vaccination schedule and the implications that our son received a vaccination two months earlier than the State of Kansas stipulated. It was all sorted, he received another jab and we got on with it. If you are posting away from Australia, I strongly suggest you research the vaccination schedule and policy for the state where you will be located – they do vary greatly.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are many differences between schooling in Austalia and the US, the biggest issues for our family has been math and the lack of outdoor time and eating times. With our girls doing sport, they leave the house at 0700 for school and are not returning home until close to 1930. They pack protein shakes and a snack to have before training but they are super hungry when they walk in the door as they have eaten lunch just after 1100. For our boy, he too is super hungry but he is home for a quick snack around 1530 before heading to golf.

I have spoken to many parents and teachers about the lack of outdoor time that we currently experience. Some is due to the extreme cold weather but the kids rug up and could enjoy at least a quick run around, other reasons are due to timings. All kids need to have a break, they all need to run and to be given a chance to reset their brains and bodies to ensure they are given every possibility to retain information and perform at their best.

There is a mountain of research showing the importance of food breaks and also the order in which works best. At our previous school in Darwin we were fortunate to have amazing administrators who saw a need to change and were proactive in finding good research and solutions to ensure the students were given these options. All students were able to enjoy a ‘brain break’ of fruit or veg snack at approx. 0930, recess followed about 1030 where the students were let out to play before toilet break/handwashing and eating time. Lunch followed the same routine, play time, toilet break/handwashing and eating time. The change was remarkable. The students enjoyed the chance to catch up with the friends, play soccer, tag, before happily sitting down to eat. Students then returned to the classroom settled and ready to learn again. I wish this system was in place here too.

Overseas posting offer families a lifetime of memories and experiences that we may not in Australia. If you are in line for an overseas posting, especially with school aged children do your research and jump in. The benefits far outweigh any negatives.

Thank you for reading my little snapshot in to schooling in the US on posting from Australia. As always, thank you for following the journey:)

Celebrating Christmas as a Military / Defence Family🎄

As a Military / Defence Family we quiet often celebrate Christmas away from our blood families, however, this does not mean we don’t celebrate or celebrate with ‘family’. Australia’s posting cycle is a major factor in Christmas plans – we usually get to spend one Christmas in our home in the posting location we are at as we are usually packing up a house and moving our life to somewhere new. December is the peak posting (PCS) cycle for us, it’s hot, the school year has finished and summer holidays have started.

One of the many joys of being a military family is getting to meet and form close relationships with other families all in the same boat – away from their own families.

This year we are lucky to have my mum visiting from Australia and although we were hoping she would have a white Christmas, it doesn’t seem likely (we had a big dumping of snow prior to her arrival). Whilst this takes our family count to 6, we will have a house full and a table set for 21!

We are excited to be welcoming other Military families into our home for Christmas who are also international and have no family here. The table will be set filling both the dining room and living room with 6 people from Australia, 4 from New Zealand, 3 from America, 4 from Spain and 4 from Brazil. Lunch will be a multicultral experience with roast lamb, roast vegetables, turkey, glazed ham, potato bake, cheesy brocoli, corn, peas, trifle, pavlova, Spanish wine and desserts also from Brazil and Spain.

The chatter filling the house will be vast and a learning experience for us all. The Spanish and Brazilian families working on their English and the rest of us excited to learn about other cultural experiences and Christmas traditions. Our eldest and the children from Spain and the eldest from Brazil know each other well and spend quiet a lot of time together both in and out of school, this will be a great memory for them to share.

Today, we had our Christmas photo taken with Santa while at Bass Pro. This year like some previous are shared with other special people joining in our photo. Today was Matilda, friends of ours from the UK who are also here on Exchange. Matilda is great friends with our daughter and she came along to spend the day. She is in the front row of our photo and we love that she joined in – more memories to share and treasure.

Christmas as a Military / Defence family may seem at times quiet and separated from the usual experience that families have at this time of year – we have shared many Christmas’s in motels, once at West Point Acadamy asking the Night Manager to write a note for the kids explaining they need to find their presents under a motel Christmas tree (they searched under 3 trees) and Christmas’ with family and friends.

From our family to yours, no matter what you believe or where you are – have a very Merry Christmas a happy & safe holiday.

Christmas can also be a lonely period for the Military / Defence Family with members on deployment, recalled from leave and those who we have lost. Consequently, spare a thought, say a prayer, open your home to other families and create new memories.

Taken at Christmas 2018 in South Dakota.
The Christmas stockings are our childrens and they travel with us every Christmas we are on the road.

Defence / Military Kids

As a mum of three, my children change every day. Children from all walks of life have challenges, morals and lifestyles that are different. My focus today is on Military Kids and I certainly appreciate that their challenges are far from challenges other children around the world.

Military kids are known for their Resilience. The lifestyle that they are born into is one of constant change. For this reason they are usually very adaptable. Adaptable to change, surroundings, people and situations. Their resilience is to be commended, embraced and nurtured.

Military kids are generally kind, thoughtful and very aware of their surroundings and of others. They have said goodbye to more people by the time they are 18 than most people do in a lifetime. This helps make them understanding and open.

Military kids are strong. They are strong at times that matter however, this does not make them immune to emotion. These kids are aware of the difficulties faced by others and their own families. They generally are happy to jump right in to help others and stand up for what they believe is right.

Military kids can be fiercely independent. They come from homes that are regularly in upheaval, with the serving member away or in a high tempo area. They are taught from a very early age the importance of independence, they still need help but are very capable of handling situations that other children may not.

Military kids are proud! Not all show this openenly, often they are unsure what the response will be for others – don’t dampen their spirit. Let them and encourage them to be proud of their Military family.

Military kids have a great sense of humour – let them laugh.

Military kids are supportive to other military kids. They give each other strength and an amazing support system. Sometimes without words they bring comfort to others.

Military kids generally have a more worldly view on life. They are open and aware of different cultures and diversity – this is a great thing.

Military kids are unique, brave and incredible souls.

Being Thankful this Thanksgiving:)

As a Aussie family in the US we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with a traditional turkey and pumpkin pie for dessert (we will go without candied yams (sweet potato and marshmellos).

As I sit and ponder the process for the day, what time to put the turkey in and how many people will be filling our house – we like to open our home to those that are not travelling to family or those that are not having family visit – another part of Military Life, I cannot stop thinking about all that I am Thankful for.

I am thankful to be here to celebrate with my family and to welcome new friends and old into our home.

I am thankful for my husband who I have always loved and admired and for the man he is today. It’s been a journey for us and has certainly made our marriage even stronger.

I am thankful for our children who keep me busy, who understand when I need a nap and who keep me laughing and smothered in love, even if they are laughing at my grey hair. It’s the hugs and the ‘love you mumma’ that I am thankful for the most.

I am thankful for the love and support that we have received this year from those we love and for those who we had only just met.

I am thankful for the generosity of those we live near.

I am thankful for the phone calls, text messages, facebook messages I have and still am recieving from people checking in to see how my beating heart is. I understand how busy everybody is but am truly thankful that these are ongoing – our lives are filled with amazing people.

I am thankful for those that have offered their prayers for our family and for those that paused to think about us.

I am thankful that I have found the joys and frustration that is the game of golf to keep my mind focused, body moving and some amazing ladies to laugh with.

I am thankful for those that have joined me on my blogging journey and for taking the time to read, share and follow.

No matter where we are, we do not need a Thanksgiving holiday to be thankful. Be kind, give somebody a helping hand, make that phone call, tell somebody you love them, give that hug, cook that meal for somebody, write that note and be the best version of you!

Don’t take anyone for granted, be thankful for the people in your life, show them love, show them kindess

The joy of writing and why I do (try)!

My writing style is free and casual. I write about feelings, thoughts and opinions that are important to me or about topics that have affected my family and I.

My writing comes from my knowledge, my own personal knowledge, by talking and listening to others.

My writing comes from experience – the experience of being a wife and mother, an army wife and mother, a mil spouse, a friend, a daughter and a survivor.

My writing is based on what I am thinking and feeling at the time. I take notes, both written and mental during the day, when I’m grocery shopping and when I’m trying to sleep.

My writing is an outlet and a journey for me. A place to share, connect and hopefully help somebody else on their journey.

My writing for me is therapeutic in a sense, the struggles I face, the acceptance that my life has changed a little as opposed to what it was nearly 7 months ago but also the struggles we all face.

I believe that every person has a story, a story to be shared, a story that we can all learn from. My battles are centred around as strange as it sounds – not being able to workout the way that I was, that I am learning to respect and trust my body again, to keep calm when I get a niggle in my chest/back/arm or jaw and to be aware of my emotions and triggers that may send me into a flood of tears – these battles are shared by many, but my battles are nothing compared to others. I am thankful for my health, my family and our friends, I am also thankful for the roof over our heads, the warmth from the heater, the food and clothes that we have and also for the experiences we have had and look forward to.

We all have a story. Be kind, be respectful and carve your own journey!

What fills your refrigerator door?

What fills your refrigerator door? Is it photos, magnets, bills?

And all those pictures hangin’ side by side
Forgotten memories from another time
And all the places that you’ve been before
Couple magnets, recipes, and Polaroids
Yeah, but that’s our lives on the ‘frigerator door
On the ‘frigerator door Songwriters: Jordan Brooker / Luke Combs

The words in the song ‘Refrigerator Door’ ring true for most people I know. Their fridges are covered in all kinds of things but mine are the…..memories.

As I sit and look at the doors of both our fridges, I am taken on a trip down memory lane. There are photos of the girls, our son as a baby, our German Shepherd Monty and my husband when we were about 24, a photo of my son and husband prior to a deployment, artwork, certificates that the kids have received, defibrillator vest accounts (thankfully paid), a calendar, permission slips and magnets from our US travels over the years with a couple of Australian ones too and emergency contact numbers.

These memories and items are not neatly positioned but are placed on there usually in a mishap, running out the door kind of way. They are sideways, but they all tell a story.

As I was writing this post my mind drifted to those special people and memories that are not on our fridge, the ones that are on my phone and not printed – I quickly went upstairs and printed these memories. We keep so many digital memories these days and rarely are the put to print.

With updated photos and new ones added, the piece of art that is our refrigerator door is taking place. It’s important that we have memories in a prominent place, a place that we can look at each day. ♥️