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SJ27

Joining A School Year

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Hi all,

 

-apologies in advance for a long post.

 

So, from what I've seen from this board so far, there are standardised tests like the PSAT that are used (elementary school) and many people seem to do the "half a year back" if they immigrate sometime around year-end (which is what it looks like we would do, should we be drawn for interview next year, as it seems unlikely we would be interviewed before June, so LSD either July or Sept/Oct depending on interview date, move December).

 

Can someone give an idea of what exactly is in these standardised tests in terms of subjects? Our youngest child will only start elementary school once we are there so that is not an issue really, but for the older child I have this situation:

- SA schools now begin one year older than they used to when we were kids, and from what I gather this is also one year behind US kids ('adjusted' for different start of school years)

- child is one of oldest (and I have to say more mature) in her class, and also very smart - particularly, one of the top maths students

- I am somewhat confused about how the SA maths curriculum compares to the US one. Some people say it is similar, others that SA is about a year behind. From what I have been able to find on the net, the curriculums for e.g. Grade 5 (which she is in now) look similar - but again take into account she is now a year older than the average Grade 5 in the US

- so, as you will see, I am kind of keen for her to move up rather than go back half a year. She started Kumon this year and is already ahead of her grade in terms of this. Could we 'use' Kumon to get her up to speed with what a child of her age, rather than her grade, would be doing in the US?

- As I said, I think age-wise, maturity-wise, and the fact that she seems to be popular and makes friends easily, I would prefer her to be with kids her age, and I think she can cope academically with this

- All this though basically assumes that the most important thing to get her up to speed on is maths. Her English language skills are excellent and we have been told by teachers well ahead of her age group, so don't think that would be a problem either. But what other things do they test for? Are there US-specific things that we just won't be able to do here?

- Any views, insights, hints, constructive criticism welcome...

 

Btw for what it is worth, the areas we are thinking about (have been thinking for a lot longer than just recently winning the DV lottery as we have also been in an F3 visa process) will be those with good public schools. I understand that these schools can be hard to get into even for kids who live in the right district, so any insight on that would be welcome. Does anyone think it is a good idea to contact the schools directly this early on in the game? (I know it is early but if it is a case of getting her up to speed on maths, having around 18 months to do so means there won't be much pressure on her - I have no doubt she can handle it, but don't want to end up overloading the kid at the last minute. At the same time, I don't really want her wasting time repeating some schooling with younger kids if that is not necessary. Note the "if"!)

 

Thanks for your patience reading this :)

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let's start with where are you planning to settle?

that would start to affect what you would need to be concerned or aware of - like you can contact the school you like ahead of time, but you will need to show proof of address in the school zone to apply for a spot in that school.

 

areas with 'good public schools' - if that is in NYC (or any dense and competitive metro areas), it's going to be tough, but not impossible, to get into those specific zones with excellent public schools, but if that's in less dense areas, it should be fine.

 

mostly, foreign kids repeat the half year, ie. stay back - this helps them get used to the system and build a little confidence. this is not always the case, especially if they have studied the US curriculum. either way, all the kids of transplants bounce back and actually do pretty well. doing kumon will help, but there is a huge social and civics part that gets taught here that one would not get elsewhere. this is not a big issue, but kids start to learn about things like conflict resolution, etc. in elementary school.

 

for the most part (and this is just a personal viewpoint) it's less about 'what' they teach, but more about the 'way' they teach it, ie. way different to the way we were schooled. also, (again personal), and this may be a big city thing, is that kids (read parents) are super competitive. some kids can read fully before they arrive at kindergarten. some can do grade 5 math in grade 2, etc. i only point this out, as you wish her rather to be ahead than behind, and i sense most kids are ahead of the grade as it is already. the best would be to arrive, do some tests, and see how she places.

 

also, how old is your oldest? if she is going into grade 6, it could work in her favor as most kids start middle school at this time, and everyone is a new kid.

 

good luck!

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Hi gman,

 

Thanks for a very helpful reply.

 

Well, we just won DV2013, with a high-ish number so expecting to LSD either July or Sept (will need to do in school holidays) and move Dec next year...long time! So daughter will just have finished grade 6 here. I do take your points about middle school, and different teaching methods, so will see if maybe moving back a half year is the best option after all. Do all middle schools start in grade 6 though - for some reason I thought it was 7th grade.

 

As to where - well, haven't fully decided. NYC puts me off partly because of the high competitiveness in schools, and because we're not so keen on apartment living (my father lives in Forest Hills, but if we were to go there we would go for Manhattan). We need somewhere where we can afford something not too far off our current standard of living (we realise there is going to be some compromise, especially given the premium for living in the right school district), with a large financial and manufacturing/tech sector so that both hubby and I can find work, and - obviously - good schools. Kind of leaning towards the Brookline/Chestnut Hill area in Boston at the moment, though San Francisco might be an option too, but we need to do a lot more research about there - I'm far more familiar with Boston and the east coast.

 

By the way, I see there are a few "good schools" websites around, are there any that you particularly recommend?

 

Thanks again for taking the time for the thoughtful reply!

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These 2 sites will help you find schools and allow some comparisons.

http://www.greatschools.org/ http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/

www.k12.com is a home school site that allows you to do some sample lessons.

I used the K12 curriculum with my daughter for grade 4 and 5 and I was very happy with it.

She was up to speed - if not ahead - of her classmates when she went back to school.

Bev

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Thanks Treverly too.

 

I've just found out Boston operates some kind of lottery system for school allocation...being within a walkzone gives you some level of priority but no guarantee, there is an honest-to-g-d lottery element in terms of random numbers assigned to applicants that comes into play, and it sounds like chances are even slimmer if you move in the middle of the school year. It's rather dispiriting, and I'm not really interested (for a number of reasons) in private schools. Getting the kids into a good school is non-negotiable, so we may have to rethink Boston as our preferred destination :(

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Hi,

 

Our experience was similar to your current concerns. We arrived in the December holiday so our son faced the same dilemma - he complete grade 9 in SA with good marks (80%+), so we wanted him to start grade 10 in the US. We first searched for the best school in the state and then decided where to live. The problem here in was the that the school district office did not put the kids to the next grade in the higher grades so we had to settle for the idea that our son would do another 5 months in grade 9. When the kids are young your chances are better to advance to the next grade.

 

He had to do reading and maths tests on the first day to determine his skill levels,and even though he performed exceptionally well in those tests, they still wouldn't budge on the idea of him moving to grade 10. Their reasoning is that there are other areas - such as the US history and culture that he lacked and could put more effort on him. What they did do is give him credits for subject he already completed in SA and that gave him the opportunity to take extra subjects for a next year / grade.

 

Personally I would have loved him to move to a higher grade, but this now gave him the opportunity to settle in without additional stress....and because he is one of the top students in his grade now he has made friends easily.

 

Hope you find the sweet spot in the choices you have to make.

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We were lucky enough to have our kids start their schooling in the US. I have learnt a bit about how the schools work - at least here in Florida. There are four main types of schools that I have identified: Zoned Public schools, Magnet Schools, Charter Schools, & Private Schools. You need to understand how these work. In Florida this is how it works:

 

Zoned Public schools are the default schools your child will go to based on their address (where they live). You can not be denied entry into your Zoned school. Equally it is very difficult to remove a student from a Zoned school.

 

Magnet Schools are Public Schools that usually specialize in certain fields (Science and Maths; Humanities; etc). In florida these are populated by lottery in the first year - i.e Kindergarten, Sixth Grade or 9th Grade. After that there is a waiting list system for the other grades. Magnet shools are usually 'better' schools than the zoned schools as they have the ability to ask you to leave if you don't follow their rules, standards etc.

 

Charter Schools are also public schools and therefore free, but they are not bound by the local School Board. They are run indepedently. If you home-school your children, a 'Charter School' can also be used to create an Umbrella school for home-schooled families if your state requires they belong to a school. I haven't come accross one of these yet though.

 

Private schools are self-explanatory. In my county they range in price from $3,500/yr to $20,000/yr. A lot of the Private Schools are religious schools.

 

Where in SA are you? In CT there is an American International School. You could also home-school very easily here. There are a multitude of curriculums to choose from. There are also home-school groups everywhere. They have organised activities and sports groups too. That might be an option if you need to 'kill' 6 months or so. Actually it's more like 8 months as school starts in August here.

 

You could also possibly do a Summer School bridging program if you are worried about her not being up to speed.

 

Hope this helps.

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Thanks Rusties and Dolphie.

 

Since my last panicky post :) I've found out the lottery system only works in the "city of Boston" itself and the 2 suburbs we are looking at are actually separate towns with their own school systems - so the zoning system works as normal there and we just need to live in the right area. They both have good school systems so I'm very happy to send my kids to public schools, in fact, I would rather like that. They are at a private school here and I sometimes think they need a bit of wider exposure, if you know what I mean. Besides, the only private school I liked the look of is almost $40K a year, which could eat up the college fund before the kids are even in high school :o ...but seriously, if in an area where the public schools are good, I can't justify that amount and also I understand the private school crowd in Boston is even more "removed" from reality than in SA.

 

Dolphie, I did think about the American school in CT, but (logistics aside as they are on the opposite side of town) I don't really want to take my daughter out of a school she's well setttled in and doing well, to another one only to have to do it all over again in a year's time or so. Particularly given that at this stage we only have a very vague idea as to when our number will come up for interview.

 

Re home schooling - not sure about that. I realise it works well for some people, but I think I'd rather have her in the system and making friends etc as soon as possible. While there are different elementary/middle schools (the two towns we are looking at work differently - one has pre K-Grade 8 schools and the other elementary and middle schools) they all end up at the same high school in each town. Also while I don't plan on working for the first few months while we arrive, I do want to start looking and if a really great job pops up be able to take it, so I personally may not have the months to "kill"! or rather, to focus properly on home schooling.

 

Thanks again to everyone for the comments/insights! I think I'm starting to relax a bit more about the fact that she may have to repeat half a year, if that is what it comes down to.

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Re home schooling - not sure about that. I realise it works well for some people, but I think I'd rather have her in the system and making friends etc as soon as possible.

My wife decided to home school a few years back when our lives started to crumble during the late '08 & '09 economic crisis. At that stage we were living in Zim had a great job but it all came to a grinding halt. Little did we know that everything happens for a reason and that by Sept 2011 we would be boarding a flight to live in the USA legally and permanently. Because of this move and the uncertainty involved about job prospects and locations, Anna continued to homeschool despite excellent schools here in our area of Texas. We chose the British Cambridge System & Sonlights Curriculum's "Teaching Textbooks" for the 2 older kids and Sonlight Curriculum with "Teaching Textbooks" for the 2 younger. Both excellent especially "Teaching Textbooks" a maths program designed to teach maths,-no input required from Mum or Dad. Thankfully. Our children can be upset by such major moves in our lives and one way we as parents can combat that is through homeschooling until we find our place. Despite common perceptions, social life definitly does not suffer as there are an unbelievable amount of parents homeschooling in this country and they find each other, form networks and minor schools that meet for school & sports on a weekly basis,as in our area. Home schooling is not for every parent or family situation so careful thought should be given before making that step, however saying this, it is so easy to change it back and reinstate back into formal school when things settle down. As we intend to do now in the new school year. We certainly got to know our children-what a blessing it has been.

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Hi,

 

We won the DV2013 lottery and will be moving to Houston, TX in January. I have the same concerns about the grades my two girls will go to. The oldest is currently in grade 7, and turned 13 in March 2013 already, so keeping her in the same grade for another 6 months will probably make her about 1 year older than the rest of her class mates. She will turn 14 in March 2014 and still be in grade 7. She's does well academically and is currently 2nd in her grade so i am holding thumbs that based on assessment tests she may go to grade 8, but from reading the comments here it looks like i shouldnt get my hopes up. My younger daughter is in grade 5, but her birthday is only in June so thats a bit less of a worry for me. She's also not as emotionally and physically advanced as her sister so she should be fine.

 

Does anyone here know of any online assesments i can try out to get an idea of where they fit into the American schoold grades? Then maybe i can put in some work with them for the next 3 months to get them up to speed. Thanks Treverly for your links higher up in this discussion. The k12 website is quite nice too.

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I have found an ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) school in Durban which follows and american curriculum My oldest daughter is in grade 11 and the youngest in grade 9. My oldest will write her SAT's end next year and have an american school diploma. My daughter's credits will be transferable to a new school in the USA. It has been a Godsend as my kids are able to have a transition period since their entire school career has been in Afrikaans. They have adjusted extremely well and we will certainly find an ACE school for the youngest one in the USA.

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Hi Atir

 

You are in a very fortunate position to have your daughters in an ACE school. Did you enroll them there specifically because you knew of your long term plans to relocate to the USA?

I am fortunate in the sense that I sent my girls to an English school, even though we are Afrikaans speaking at home, so at least they will not have to make the language adjustment, which may be a bit challenging. When are you moving to the USA. Are you DV Lottery winners?

 

I was reading up a lot about the schooling again today, and eventually decided to mail the headmistress at the one school which seems nice, so that she can answer some of my questions. Just holding thumbs that she wouldn't mind sharing her advice! One of the more daunting things are that your kids HAVE to attend a school in the district where you are located, so that limits both the schools and where you can live, as they are inter-dependant. But I'm sure we will find a way to make it work, just trying to make sure I do enough homework so that I can make informed decisions.

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Hi DJ70,

 

Yes we are DV winners. Activating our GC in Dec. No final plans to relocate as yet. My kids have only just moved to the ACE school in July this year. Like I said they follow an American curriculum. There are a number of ACE schools in the USA too where they originated from. You should interview the principal from the ACE school in Richards Bay. it's called the Rock of Christ.

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Thanks for the advice Atir, i didn't even know we had an ACE school here! I wouldn't move the kids now, it's too late as we are leaving for the USA in January. At least if I speak to the principal I can get an idea of where my kids are in comparison to the American curriculum, which would be a great help.

 

I realised this morning that all my research didnt help me much. I thought that i could choose any school within the independent school district (cypress-fairbanks) , but then I saw a map this morning where there is only one school per each residential area. We will initially reside with my brother until we have settled and found jobs, so looks like we will have no choice but to send them to the allocated schools where he lives. Looking at the ratings of those schools they aren't the top schools, but they will only have 4 months schooling left so maybe I must just stick it out. It will give me enough time to find the school we like and hopefully a home in the same residential area, and then we can start the new school year fresh. After living in a small town for so long, this is much more complicated than what i'm used to!

Still exciting though :)

 

Do you guys still need to make the final decision whether you will be relocating? Do you know yet where you will be going?

Edited by DJ70

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Goodday

 

Can someone please advise:

If moving to Atlanta and the children is grade 5 and 7 currently will it be best to start school in January or new school year? I do not want them to repeat a year.

 

Can anybody advise on good schools out of experience in the Alpharetta area?

 

How well do Afrikaans children that is currently in double medium school adapt academically.

 

Thank you

Susan

Edited by Susanm

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