Hi there! I’m your English coach Christina, welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll learn American culture and business know-how to become confident in English.
When you’re preparing to move to the USA with your family, it’s a great adventure!
But one question that always comes up: “How does the school system work?”
In the US, it’s probably quite different from where you’re from, so today, we’ll look at 3 surprising but essential things to know about putting your kids in the American school system.
A speaking program to boost your confidence in English
If you want to practice speaking about the topic of raising kids in your country, and other everyday topics, you’re in luck! It’s our the theme of conversation next week in my Faster Fluency Conversation Club.
You’ll talk about it with other motivated students from around the world, and a teacher from my team who corrects and helps you improve.
Do you want the details?
Countries like France, Italy, and Turkey have very centralized school systems, with national programs and school calendars. In the US, it’s a very decentralized education system. Americans tend to prefer freedom of choice over government regulation (which some people see big centralized government as a very very bad thing), and that means that there is no national curriculum or standards.
Everything is decided by states and local school districts, from the hours of schools, to vacation periods, to the subjects that students study. Sometimes, a single city may have more than one school district!
This gives schools a lot of flexibility, but the downside is that it creates a lot of inequality between schools and school districts, because budgets vary from district to district.
And in a culture where customer service and free choice are soooo important, schools are also evaluated and ranked so people know which ones are best for their kids, kind of like restaurants on TripAdvisor! And that brings me to the next point…
Choosing your home based on good schools
This may seem surprising: Many parents choose the location of their homes based on the quality of the surrounding schools. And there are tons of articles to help parents know how to know if the house you want to rent or buy is in a good school district.
Articles with titles like “How to evaluate schools when buying a new home” or “How homebuyers can find a neighborhood with great schools” are all around the internet. Just google it!
In fact, it’s one of the top criteria many Americans consider when looking for a place to live! The quality of nearby schools is more important than the cost of the house.
The only thing that was more important? How close the house is to the parents’ workplace… and even then it was only a tiny, tiny bit more important.
How do you know if a school district is good? Customer service culture to the rescue! The site niche.com has done all the work for you, and you can search for the best school districts, the most diverse, the safest (ahem, school shootings….) or the school districts with the best sports programs.
Here’s the link to niche.com, in case you want to check out the areas you might move to!
The American School Hours
When I first came to France, one of the things that shocked me was how long the school days are! Probably because in the USA, the school days finish so early!
But, they start early too! Not all schools start at the same time… remember how the school districts decide that? The average start time is around 8am, but some schools start even earlier, at around 7:30 or 7:45 am. And sometimes, even before that, sports teams might have practice as early as 5:30 in the morning.
Then comes lunch. Americans are not known for spending long lunch breaks, and it starts in school. I think when I was a kid we had exactly 27 minutes to get into the cafeteria, get our food, eat, and get back to class.
And I think nowadays, it’s even more extreme! the average is more like 15 minutes, according to a very interesting article on the subject by NPR, National Public Radio.
This is probably why many parents prefer to pack a lunchbox for their kids… So they can actually have a few precious extra minutes to sit down and eat, and not lose time standing in line at the cafeteria. Oh, and the generally bad quality of school cafeteria food… Mmmmmm… mystery meat….
And then, the school day ends pretty early, generally some time between 2 and 3:30 pm. Which means that if you work regular office hours and have younger kids,that’s going to to cost a lot in after-school care costs…unless you have friends or family who can keep your kids after school.
In middle school and high school, there are tons of extracurricular activities, like football, baseball, soccer, band, ROTC, cheerleading, and more.
After all, American schools are not just there to educate kids about math, science, and history, but also to teach them to social skills and what it means to be part of a team. I did an entire episode about this aspect of American education, which you can watch here.
Now, what about you?
What’s something interesting about the school system in your country?
Share it with us in the comments so we can see what school is like around the world! Or better yet….
Want to become comfortable speaking about subjects like this?
Come and talk about it in the Faster Fluency Conversation Club! Next week, our discussion topic is “Raising kids in your country”, and school is a big part of that!
You’ll get live speaking practice with other motivated members of the Speak English with Christina community, and our Fluency Club leaders Cara and Trisha.
You can get all the details, and join the the Fluency Club by going to this page.
When you join, you’ll also get extra resources and a conversation guidebook, to help you increase your vocabulary and become more confident in conversations.
Thank you for learning with Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!
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