Schooling options for your children when moving to the USA

Moving to the USA offers so many great benefits for school-age children. They get to learn about different cultures and experience a new way of life, without a language barrier getting in the way.
The best way for expat children to make friends when moving to the USA is through the school system, and luckily there are plenty of options to choose from. There is a good level of education throughout the USA, so wherever the relocation is, there is sure to be an establishment that suits.
While the US Department of Education is responsible for national schooling, each state system is governed by its own State Department of Education so there may be differences from state to state. It is compulsory for all children living in the USA to attend school until 16, and in some states 18. Children attend school from age 5, but it’s not unusual for younger children to have been in a nursery or pre-school before that. Bear in mind that there is no government scheme for childcare, so for families with under-5s it can be expensive.

The American schooling system

The schooling system is similar to that in the UK, but it is split up a little differently into Grades rather than year groups. Elementary school goes from Grade 1 until Grade 5/6, middle school or junior high is up to Grade 8/9, and finally high school or senior school takes children through to Grade 12. At the end, children leave, hopefully, with a High School Diploma and can begin applying for colleges and universities, which may have additional entry requirements.
Expats living permanently in the USA have the option to send their children to the state schools. This can be good for meeting local children and integrating into the neighbourhood. It may take a little time to adapt to the curriculum and learning methods coming from a UK school, but children tend to pick things up quickly.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that schools can vary massively from state to state and school to school. It pays to research the area and find out more about the local schools, visiting them in person if at all possible. Desirable neighbourhoods have higher house prices, often influenced by a good school, so bear this is mind when conducting a property search to get the right area.

Independent and private

There are plenty of private schools in the USA for both American and expat children. Again, there is the option to go for an American school where children can integrate with local families and engage with the cultures and traditions. These private schools are popular and may have long waiting lists, along with high fees, but there are plenty to choose from, especially in the larger cities.
Another option is to attend an international or British school. International schools will have expats from all over the world and usually offer the International Baccalaureate, which is a recognised qualification taught in international schools globally. This is useful if children are likely to be moved again at any point, as it will make it easier to have consistency in their education. Similarly, if a child is likely to move back to the UK, whether as a family or for university, for example, there are schools that follow the British curriculum.
The key thing is to research all the options available, read the literature and try and speak to other expat families on forums to get a good view of different schools in the USA. It’s important to have this set up before moving to prepare children and to help set an education budget.