How important is it to be settled for secondary school?

(18 Posts)
MinusculeAtBest Mon 04-May-15 15:53:50

Hi fellow expats, we are a family with three children, the eldest is 11 currently in Y6. We have lived in many places in the past few years (US, UK, Singapore). We are French but our kids have done their primary years in the British school system, and we really love it.

Now it looks like my husband might have an opportunity to move to the US (West coast, Bay area) for a job. In the past, we have followed more or less the job opportunities, rather than making a conscious decision of choosing a place to live. It was always a combination of good job and nice location though... we have refused some postings that would have been good career/money wise but not appealing to us. We have really enjoyed all the discoveries, but also found it challenging sometimes (especially finding it hard to keep in touch with friends, being away from the family...).

As our eldest is starting secondary school soon, we are wondering if we should not stop our "wandering years". Yes, San Francisco sounds like an amazing place, but what next? If we stay there 3 years and then decided to move back to the UK, it would mean our son would go back in Year 10 from a different system... Has anyone done it? If we stay longer, then the question will be the same for his siblings... But I cannot say for sure now that I am ready to settle in SF for the next 12 years! (And I cannot imagine myself living in Singapore for that long either...)
How did you know it was time to settle down? Or have you decided to NOT settle down??

scottswede Mon 04-May-15 18:33:48

I think it is a very personal choice whether to keep moving or stay put. It depends on the child (children) too I think. I am trying really hard to be settled by the time my eldest will start secondary. I feel for our family dynamics it is not in the kids best interests to keep moving past that point.
Luckily we have the choice to stay-put, I understand that a lot of people have to follow the 'job'.
A lot of children don't do well, being moved around, some do. Personally I have decided it's best for us to stay where we are, even though I would move tomorrow if I only had myself to consider......
The should we stay or should we go conundrum is something I have struggled with for the last 10 years at least.

yallahabibi Mon 04-May-15 18:47:59

Have you considered boarding school for the elder children ? My parents were abroad for all of my secondary schooling, while I happily boarded . Now we are in ME and know lots of families who send their children to board in England.

itsveryyou Mon 04-May-15 19:02:12

Hi there, we're moving back to our old house in the UK after three years in the USA and our DC1 is due to start high school in Sept (well, as long as he gets a place at appeal - long story, much pain!!) We felt it was important to have him in one school system or the other for the next five years, and so we made the decision to move back to the UK at the end of our three year contract, rather than look to extend it for a few more years.

I think the longer we stay here, the harder it would be for both DCs to leave friends here and transition. At the moment, they haven't missed out on any crucial academic areas (maths, English, science), though history and geography are limited to US only, so we might need to work on that with them. DC2 will re-join his primary school class and DC1 will attend one of two local high schools (depending what happens at appeal), where some of his friends from his primary school will be going. We've kept in touch with close friends as we always knew we would be going back.

Hope it all works out for you - we LOVED San Francisco when we visited, but how it would be to live there, I don't know. Good luck with it all.

MinusculeAtBest Tue 05-May-15 07:44:23

Thanks all of you for responding!
Yallahabibi, I know some people really enjoy boarding but it is definitely not an option for us: I would rather live in a place I don't like with a crappy job with my kids rather than being separated ;). I also know that this would crush my son completely as he is very close to his siblings and loves family life. [it might be cultural: in France, boarding school is mainly for kids of military families or for juvenile delinquents!]
itsveryyou, you mention high school: what year level is your son going back to then? How was the transition from the British system to the US one?

mummytime Tue 05-May-15 08:01:40

Think about your options and save for them - would be my first thought.
If you move within the US, there shouldn't be a problem. They don't even start High school until the equivalent of year 10.
If you were moving - could you afford to put him in the local American/International school (they have those in the UK - at least in London and Aberdeen)?
What about a US boarding school for the High School years? There are several that have "needs blind" admission, and 13/14 is much older than 11.
On the other hand even if you moved the the UK and wanted him to go to a State school, the LA would have to find him a place, even in year 10 (or 11). It just could be a jump for him, and some money to pay for tutors could help.

castlesintheair Tue 05-May-15 09:06:05

Yes we are doing it! DS going into Year 9 equivalent in September in another new school and we may well be moving country again next year so he would start Year 10 in another school in another country (albeit hopefully our home country). It is not ideal but our priority is keeping our whole family together and boarding is also not an option for us.

I was under the impression that DC mustn't move after year 9 but I've since discovered that's not the case. As pp says we plan to throw money at tutors if necessary. We also have the international option as we will be in London so I'm not really worrying about it anymore.

yallahabibi Tue 05-May-15 09:54:26

I understand Minuscule, people are very divided on boarding . My DH's family oppose it to the extent my MIL broke down meeting my DS1 at a few days old and pleaded that I never send him away .
However it likely we will send both our sons to board , but as they are only a year apart school wise, I will wait to send them together and also base myself in the UK more.

I really want them to have social as well as academic continuity as well as develop some independence and get away from the expat brat syndrome that is rife here

jomidmum Tue 05-May-15 13:29:51

We home educate our children (10 and 12 years) so it doesn't matter where we are located, they just continue their learning in the same way. It works well for us.
We're about to relocate to Riyadh and they will continue with internet based learning for English and Maths, the rest is child-led ie they follow their own interests and we facilitate that. My eldest has started studying for IGCSE physics and maths and I am planning to be in the UK in 2 years time so he can sit them in an exam centre.
They learn so much from different cultures: history, geography, religious and cultural factors.
The stability for us is within our family unit, rather than stability from a school system.

itsveryyou Tue 05-May-15 19:15:37

itsveryyou, you mention high school: what year level is your son going back to then? How was the transition from the British system to the US one?

Hi, he will be going into Year 7, from 5th Grade here in the USA. The transition was fine for both DSs, one went into 1st Grade and one into 3rd Grade here. Obviously they spell things differently here and aren't metric, but the curricula in maths, science and English seem to be pretty similar in terms of core content. What the school here has excelled in is pastoral care, regular classroom-based input from an on-campus counselor, an in-house school nurse, excellent library facilities with full time librarian and super sports facilities.

I think they will be fine going back into the UK school system too, although of course there will be gaps in history/geography which we will fill over the summer to some extent. As other people have said though, the experience of living in such a different culture/country/school system has offered them so many opportunities which we couldn't have exposed them to if we'd stayed in the UK, so it's all been positive.

gordonpym Mon 11-May-15 04:08:35

Minuscule, we are facing the same situation. We are in Sydney now, my son is 11, but already started High School.
Like you, and many here, we have moved a lot, and it started getting more difficult lately. Too many goodbyes, to many languages, too many schools.

My son hates being the new kid all the time. The more they grow up, the more it takes to make friends and to nurture these friendships.
Certainly there are tons of positive aspects, but honestly, I want to settle now at least until my kids finish school.

Laptopwieldingharpy Mon 11-May-15 08:34:34

Asking myself the same question. Ours entering year 7 ( and another year 3) and we are in HK with no wish to continue breathing this pollution for another 12 years.
Both did primary foundation years in british IB schools and moved to US system in year 1/ grade 2. I see very little difference in academic levels but in Asia all prominent international school are similar regardless of the curriculum ( As you know I suppose from experience in singapore. Our eldest did 4 years in TTS). In the Bay Area you will find lots of very good public schools. I would have no qualms about changing them to the American system at this stage.

From my observations The MYP is very weak anyway and preparation in a good school of any medium still allows you to apply to IB schools from the Diploma if you were so inclined.
As for moving back to a UK system, There would probably be minor gaps and it would not be a problem if you accept the possibility of repeating a year. A year's worth of extra maturity is not a bad thing in my book considering they will have a big emotional adjustment to do too.

Our main worry with these moves is how to keep up with the mandarin......we also speak french at home and am now wondering wether to stop mandarin altogether and start another european language or persevere......
difficult choices, I sympathise.

Laptopwieldingharpy Mon 11-May-15 08:36:36

Oh yes, our experience is the same in US school re pastoral care etc.......very inclusive.
Very selfishly i would just pack up and go without a thought given the chance to move to SF/bay area.

Laptopwieldingharpy Mon 11-May-15 08:37:31

blah! year 2/ grade 3

CamelHump Mon 11-May-15 08:42:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

meditrina Mon 11-May-15 08:43:54

I think a key question is which formal qualifications you want your DC to do at age 16 and 18 (or different points, perhaps, in some countries). When would they take them, and how long are the courses for them?

So 'don't move after English Y9' really means 'one year finding feet and aligning with new system' then two years uninterrupted GCSE course'

Then repeat with ages of all DC.

Staying in international schools which offer IB might ease it a little, but the bit about being settled in the run up to actual exams is probably desirable whatever system.

The American a School in London is always oversubscribed, and although it has a lot of leavers and joiners in all year groups, you cannot count on getting a place.

MinusculeAtBest Tue 12-May-15 16:15:56

Thanks to everyone for the responses. I think the anxiety over schools is probably the sign of a more accute issue of not knowing where we want to be long term. It does not seem fair indeed to put the children through too many changes. They are very sociable, have adjusted well wherever we have been, but they can feel when change is in the air (even if we do not tell them until we know what is happening). Yesterday my son told me he was homesick sad but could not tell me where home was...
Reading this it looks really bad...

MinusculeAtBest Tue 12-May-15 16:23:42

Laptopwieldingharpy, it is nice to read your comments on the schools in the Bay area. Still waiting for an offer but I don't think private schools will be an option. We just need to find the right place to live then to get into the right schools... Piece of cake! Languages are indeed another question. The kids have not really been into Mandarin and I am not necessarily committed to it, so we would most likely drop it for Spanish, more relevant in CA.

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