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How to prepare children for USA schooling?

(16 Posts)
NetballandFootball Sat 15-Apr-17 16:47:05

We are soon to move to the US. One DC will be in middle school, the other in high school.
Does anyone know of any online education courses they can do?
And practical knowledge to prepare them for schools that are very different to where they are now?

Any info and tips appreciated!

curcur Sun 16-Apr-17 17:38:09

No experience but bumping as we will be moving next year for 3 years. Is your move permanent or for a set time?

Want2bSupermum Sun 16-Apr-17 19:03:51

If you know where you will be living speak to that school district to identify gaps. The public schools here are generally good and better than private.

You can also sign a release enabling the American school to speak to the current school.

BradleyPooper Mon 17-Apr-17 03:26:37

Agree with super mum, speak with the school district. Each school district has different guidelines and slightly different curriculum (my local Texan school district is pretty different to a New York district in terms of covering evolution for example but we won't go into that here....)

NetballandFootball Mon 17-Apr-17 16:42:25

Thanks so much for the responses.

Curcur - initially on a 3 year visa but hoping it will be permanent.

Want2b - thank you, I will be asking the school about the release. Will add that to my things to remember list!

Bradley - have already spoken to the state education authority (also Texas) but don't yet know the district. They have just asked me to bring examples of the DC's work and reports and they will evaluate them when we arrive and place them in the correct grades. They said any other questions in need to direct to the school.

I can't, however, find any info or work examples that my DC could go through now so we already have an idea of what to expect with regard to work.

And with other aspects of the schooling.... the schools look huge compared to where the are now. Are there any other big differences that they need to get their heads around?

Please note, though, my DC aren't too worried about this. They have changed schools more than once before and it always works out. I think the need for preparation is solely mine. grin

Want2bSupermum Mon 17-Apr-17 19:09:14

You need to be very careful if moving to schools in Texas. Make sure the schools are well rated with good reviews from parents. School digger and are both good sites. The area you live in determines the schools you DC will go to. There is no 'give' in this. Out of district placements are for extreme special needs.

In Texas a lot of families go private because they don't like the huge schools or their DC have gotten lost in the huge school so not reaching their potential. Yes you pay less for property taxes but you also get what you pay for.

BradleyPooper Mon 17-Apr-17 22:32:53

Agree again. We are private, still in the international system because we didn't know how long we would be here. Our local (catchment) elementary school is excellent, one of the best in the state, but so oversubscribed that some kids are eating lunch before 11am and there are no art or music lessons because they don't have space. Schools are obliged to take in all kids in their catchment areas.

NetballandFootball Thu 20-Apr-17 19:15:51

Thank you both again. V helpful.

Pallisers Thu 20-Apr-17 19:32:37

you definitely need to check out the schools very carefully.

Will your children be in the public school system? If so the schools, particularly the high school will be pretty large. And like PP said obliged to take everyone in catchment so there can be bulge years.

The high school system is very different from the UK system (slightly more like the Irish one though). You don't specialise in two or three subjects like A levels (as I understand them).

There are 2 things going on in high school. the first is actually graduating high school. Each school district/school will have its own requirements but generally you need to achieve a certain level of math (geometry and algebra II mostly - I think calculus is optional), foreign language (usually 2 years I think), science (taught year by year so bio in freshman year, chemisty in sophomore, physics in junior year), and english. Have a look on the texas school websites. Often schools have a requirement for hours of community service or athletics.

The second thing for a lot of kids is college applications. So for that your GPA matters and it is calculated from day 1 of freshman year. All homework assignments, quizes, tests, end of year exams all go into the calculation so you can't coast along missing homeworks (yes DD1 that means you!) and then recover with a good final exam.

There are honors and AP (advanced placement) courses available but you usually qualify into them - so for your high school student, his transcript and maybe even some teacher recommendations would be very useful.

Depending on your package, it might be worth looking at some independent schools - very pricy usually (although probably less in Texas than other areas).

good luck.

AgathaMystery Thu 25-May-17 16:44:02

It might not be helpful but the cultural differences I found were:

Parents are very very involved with the school. It wasn't unusual for the parents at my school to come in and help paint a classroom at a weekend.

Ditto sports - if your kids make it into a team you will have a great social network.

Clothing - kids wear a whole new outfit each day. I mean, a cardigan wouldn't be worn again if you'd worn it already that day.

When I moved to a US high school I was ahead in all the arts but behind in maths. Weird.

mathanxiety Tue 30-May-17 06:59:22

You need to find out what the best schools are in the metropolitan area you will be living in, and then find somewhere to live within the School District for those schools (elementary, middle, and high schools will have different Districts). The School District is the administrative body running the schools. In a generally affluent area, there will be good schools.

For high school, please be aware that basic state or District graduation requirements (expressed in terms of credits, often with one semester - half a year - equaling a credit) will fall well short of what universities expect to see on a student transcript.

For instance, a state may require that students do 4 semesters of mathematics, whereas universities will be looking for 4 years (8 semesters) and the selective universities will want a student to have done at least AB Calculus (beginning calculus at AP level) by their final year of HS. Same goes for other subjects - universities in general want to see honours level courses, preferably AP courses (in general, freshman college level) and more years of core subjects than the District or state accepts as evidence of completing the course of studies.

You will find if you want your child to follow an honours track and apply to good universities that they will need to do very much a traditional academically oriented English, MFL, Math, Humanities/History, Science and Elective subject track all through high school, with little room for classes like broadcasting or automotive tech or fashion design, etc. There may be scope for credits in editing a school publication under the heading 'English', and this is a good thing for university applications.

If you think you need to prepare academically, then focus on maths and science. Quite often, high schools will assign a level in classes in both maths and science based on the score in a standardised maths test administered in 8th grade (final year of middle school). Maths and science are pegged together. You can generally look on your school website to find the level of maths expected.

Your child will need to get up to speed in American history too from exploration by Europeans of the New World through the American Revolution, establishment of the constitution, the system of government, civil war, westward expansion, gilded age, ww1, depression, ww2, aftermath, with economy, society, cultural topics thrown in.

YYY - GPA system means you do your best work consistently from day 1.

Depending on the size of the school, your student may find him or herself in classes with students from the other years. My own DCs had art classes with students aged 14-18, from different years, and same for other classes too, especially maths, where students were all on individual tracks. In DD2's final year there were two freshmen taking BC calculus. DD4 did World History as a sophomore, one of three in her particular class. She will do AP US History next year and probably AP Psychology in her senior year. There may be students younger or older than her in her APUSH class. It's not like the UK where you stay with the same cohort advancing through each year of school. Schools are obliged to cater for the needs of all students within their walls, and if there are 14 year olds able to do university level engineering courses then that is what they get, in a School District that can afford to provide that level of educational resources.

Your student may do daily PE, may have an obligatory study period daily, may have lunch at 10am depending on scheduling and how many students eat lunch, may have a closed campus rule...
They will have a locker, will probably have a vast number of extra curricular activities to choose from - sports to arts, music, volunteering. Encourage involvement.

What goes wrt clothing depends on the culture of the area you find yourself living in. Kids around here generally don't mind what they wear or what others wear. Middle schoolers can be a bit more conscious of themselves and others though.

Not having a uniform is a huge plus imo.

My advice wrt schools is,m once you have found a good one and found somewhere to live within the District (double check this) - look up the school academic catalogue online, and read it carefully. Read school handbooks, and District policies on academics, sports, and discipline. Get familiar with the GPA system.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 30-May-17 07:11:27

Wow, fantastic detailed advice from math and others. Mine are:

- everything happens earlier in North America than in the UK. Days start earlier, lunch is earlier etc.

- if you are moving to Texas it will help if you / your kids understand at least the basics of American football. Except don't call it American football, just call it football grin

- Hockey is played on ice. Field hockey is played on a field and almost exclusively by girls.

- not one single one of their new friends will ever have heard of rounders or netball or possibly even cricket.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 30-May-17 07:12:55

Oh and everyone drives. Everyone. Every single teen gets their license the nanosecond they turn 16. It is unheard of not to and a lot of teens then drive themselves to school every day.

Acornantics Tue 30-May-17 07:28:04

We did a few years in the US, DCs were at elementary school and DS did one year in middle school. We found a fantastic state school district and looked at to get an idea of the best schools around.

Make sure you get a list of immunisations from the school District as all kids have to be vaccinated against a wide range of stuff before they'll be allowed to even register. You must register for a school, most are obliged to take all students within their school zone.

Middle and high schools are massive, even our elemtary had 700 pupils! We found that our DCs fared really well in grades with kids their own age, although they were academically 'further ahead' due to having had an extra year in school in the UK. Help them by teaching them imperial weights and measures as they don't use metric at all. Find some books on US history, and state history and geography for the state you'll be in. World history doesn't really kick in until the middle of middle school.

We found that when we returned to the UK, our DCs were in line with their peers academically so I would say the education level at least at elementary was pretty much on a par. Their school day started at 8am and finished at 3pm, with no breaks apart from lunch which was about 40 mins to eat and go outside...the semesters felt very long, and the 12 week summer holiday is great if you don't work, but really tough if you do.

unicornlovermother Sat 10-Jun-17 21:15:05

I would say that the one things they do here in more depth is math so depending on which year your high schooler is in, they may be behind in calculus-I would get an idiot's guide to calculus and start learning it so they do not feel out of their depth. I agree public is better than private in terms of instructors. You do not need a credential at private schools where the teachers get paid a lot less. Rent a house near good schools- is a starting place.

mathanxiety Sun 11-Jun-17 07:47:12

Normally on an honors track students would tackle calculus in their final year, with some students going as far as Calc III, and some outliers taking more advanced courses (well into university mathematics territory).

Most large high schools operate various tracks in each subject. Children are assessed and placed in a track where they will be challenged but not out of their depth. The idea is that each student gets a chance to progress adequately at their own level, and build a solid foundation for the next step. Your DC may well find that there are students of all age in all their classes therefore.

As a student arriving from another school system, your child will most likely take a battery of placement tests administered by the school, and it would be a mistake to try swotting for them. The most useful thing to do as prep is to practice some multiple choice format tests where you fill in an oval beside A, B, C, D to indicate the right answer.

Unless your child is a prodigy, you won't need to bother with calculus until at least the junior (third) year of HS.

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