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That time of year has come once again where early mornings and late nights of homework will be a normal routine. In the coming weeks, summer will be officially over and children will be lining up at bus stops for their first day in a new classroom. A variety of emotions are felt by both students and parents

Fortunately, Naval Support Activity Bethesda’s (NSAB) Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) offers educational tools to help families prepare for a new school year. FFSC held a Back-2-School Fair Aug. 12 in NSAB’s Building 17 to give parents a chance to check out the different programs and gather school supplies for their children’s school year.

Horace Franklin, NSAB school liaison officer, described the fair as “Christmas for parents,” who were able to tour a variety of stations at the fair featuring resources offered on and off base. These included Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Tricare, American Red Cross, the Exceptional Family Member Program, Vaccine Healthcare Center Network, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, Operation Brave Family and Resiliency and Psychological Health Services.

According to Franklin, parents not only received valuable information about different resources provided at NSAB, but they were provided basic school supplies and backpacks for their children by the USO, Operation HomeFront, Operation Second Chance and Navy Federal Credit Union.

“The fair hosted different providers from NSAB as well as some non-profits in the area, such as Operation Second Chance, Operation C.H.A.M.P.S., and Operation HomeFront,” said Franklin. “I wanted to make sure that parents had the opportunity to visit the different tables to learn about the services from FFSC, Navy Federal, USO and Resiliency and Psychological Health Services at NSAB and what they have to offer them, whether they are staff, dependents or active duty.”

Operation Second Chance offers a variety of services for wounded warriors and their family members. According to Stephanie Albrecht, who handed out school supplies at the Operation Second Chance table, the organization provides wounded warriors and family members financial support and assistance, planned retreats and counseling.

“We also host day trips and nights out for the wounded warrior,” said Albrecht. “We visit recovering wounded warriors in the hospital and bring them games, movies and favorite foods from local restaurants to pass the time.”

Another resource at the Back-2-School Fair included Operation Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel (Operation C.H.A.M.P.S.). This organization offers parents an opportunity to relax for an evening while their children are taken care of by well-trained babysitters who want to give back to military families. Operation C.H.A.M.P.S. is free babysitting for military families in the D.C. metropolitan area, including wounded warriors and service members deployed from or returning home to the DC Metropolitan area.

“The babysitters, also called ’champsitters,’are college students and high school juniors and seniors. They go through seven hours of training to become CPR and first aid certified,” said Jenner Fink, founder and CEO of Operation C.H.A.M.P.S. “They are also trained in military 101, military cultural competence and babysitting best practices.”

As the fair continued through the afternoon, many parents were very appreciative of the valuable resources on and off base, and grateful to have the opportunity to get basic school supplies for their children.

“The fair was awesome,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Lane. “I have two kids in school; one in elementary and the other is in middle school. So, it helps me by providing the basic school supplies that they will need for the school year.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marquita Watson agreed. “My kids have a long list of school supplies for this coming year,” said Watson. “I’m glad the fair provided the basic supplies. Also, I was able to see the workshops that FFSC will provide for next month and other resources like Operation C.H.A.M.P.S.”

Back To School Tips for a Successful Year

The fair proved to be a success as people steadily came by to see the different resources. Since school will start Aug. 25 in Montgomery County, parents and children will be prepared to start the school year off right. To ensure good habits start early, Franklin offered back to school tips for parents. He said, parents should establish a routine a few weeks before school begins.

“Start getting kids on a schedule. During the school year, kids may have a 9 o’clock bedtime but they were able to stay up until midnight over the summer,” Franklin said. He suggested parents start backing up their bed time an hour a week. “Say, ‘Okay, I want you to start going to bed at 11 o’clock this week. Next week, your bedtime will be 10 o’clock.’ Then, when school starts, they’ll have that time schedule back in their system (of having a bedtime at 9 o’clock),” he added.

Before the first day of school, it would be a good idea to contact the school to make sure you know the start times. “If your child is new to a school, for example, he or she is transitioning from fifth to sixth grade or eighth to ninth grade, you should make sure that they’ve been to the school and walked around,” suggested Franklin.

“Sometimes, schools are open and you can go talk to the secretary about touring the school. You may get to see the classrooms. It may not be finished but at least you’ll have an idea of what it looks like and where it is located.”

The first day of school for kindergarten students will be a challenge for the child as well as the parents, Franklin continued. “For my kindergarten parents, I tell them to prepare themselves. When you leave (your child) that first day, (preparing yourself will ensure) you’re not adding to the child’s stress by tearing up or being visibly upset,” Franklin explained. “Be a cheerleader for that first day of school and talk to them about what’s going to happen.”

Franklin encouraged parents to have a set routine for children when they come home from school. Instead of playing games or getting on social media right away, the first thing they should do is their homework.

“As the parent, you can start checking their homework and folders to make sure everything has been completed,” said Franklin.

Whether your child is starting kindergarten or high school, being involved in your child’s education is very important, according to Franklin. “One of the first things you can do is attend the back to school nights. Most schools have their annual back to school night within the first two weeks of school,” he explained. “Go meet your child’s teacher. Let the teacher know that you’re going to be a supporter with the education of your child. Give the teacher an avenue for them to get in contact with you.”

According to Franklin, Montgomery County Public Schools have an online grade-tracking system.

“When children get to high school, the parents tend to pull back,” Franklin continued. “I like to remind parents that this is the one time you want to stay involved because you’re looking at graduation requirements. You don’t want (your child) to get to their senior year and realize credits are missing in order to graduate.

A reminder to all parents and all commuters in the area is the change in traffic patterns starting next week, Franklin emphasized. He advised that everyone allow extra time because the buses will be back on the streets.

For more information about Montgomery County Public Schools, visit http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/bcchs/academics/edline.aspx or contact Franklin at 301-295-7849