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UK Children in the US

UK Children in the US

Old Jul 15th 2013, 11:26 am
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Default UK Children in the US

Hello- what sort of issues have you faced bringing your children to the US? What has been your experience, both positive and negative with especially pre-teens?
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Old Jul 15th 2013, 1:37 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

I moved from the UK to the US with 3 kids but they were very young (4, 3 and an infant). One advantage of their age was that they were not old enough to establish deep roots in the UK - including strong friendships. They also hadn't started school yet. From other people I know who have made the move, it definitely seems that, in general, the older the kids are, the more likely it is that there will be issues with the move e.g. homesickness, missing friends in the UK, having trouble settling in the US, etc. This is not true in every case but the probability of having issues seems to increase with age (or, probably more accurately, the amount of time spent in the UK especially in the same place). If you are considering a move with kids who are old enough to know what is happening, a recce trip might be a good investment.

With kids, you will definitely become familiar with the dreaded US health insurance concept. To me this has been the single biggest pain about living in the US. I have found the actual healthcare itself to be first class but much depends on where you live and the quality of your health insurance plan. Dealing with out of pocket costs and other health insurance issues (e.g. denied claims) really is a pain though. The other pain is the fact that employers are always shopping around for a better deal (not necessarily for you) so you could find that your health insurance may change periodically which might mean having to switch doctors to avoid "out of network" costs.

As for education, let's just say that the schools and the education system in general here bear no resemblance to what I experienced in Northern Ireland and England. I didn't realize at the time how good my schools and teachers were. I do now. There are good schools and teachers in the US but the standard is all over the map. The public schools your kids attend are usually determined by your address (note: the term "public school" here does not mean the same thing it means in the UK - in the UK, "public school" actually means "private school" - in the US, "public school" is your regular school). This can be a good and a bad thing. It's good if your designated schools are good because you have guaranteed entry. It's bad if the schools are bad because your only other options are to pay for a private school, move to a better public school district or try to gain entry to a select (e.g. "magnet" or "IB") program at a school that draws from outside its own school district.

University ("college") education is becoming increasingly expensive in the US with tuition hikes frequently outpacing inflation. With the recent tripling of UK tuition fees, the "in state" costs in the US are now probably comparable with the UK costs. However, if your children wish to attend an "out of state" college in the US, tuition fees can be astronomical unless they receive serious scholarship money or other financial aid. Basically, start saving for college as soon as possible. A good option which is becoming increasingly popular is to attend a "community college" for 2 years to obtain what is known as an Associate's Degree - and then transfer to a regular 4 year institution for years 3 and 4 to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. I've cautioned my kids about racking up too much debt for the first degree because, in today's competitive job market, it is often necessary to obtain a post-grad degree such as a Master's Degree or a PhD depending on the field.

The US is a huge country and a lot of the news here is about the US. I have found kids in the US to be much less globally aware than their UK counterparts. Like the UK, people here tend not to be good at learning multiple languages - unless they are the children of immigrants who speak a different language at home. I guess it's that feeling that if you speak English it's not so important to learn another language. However, I find their general knowledge of other parts of the world to be appallingly bad as well. The course offerings in the public school system are pretty poor IMO. For languages, Spanish is nearly always available and you might have access to French too but generally you won't have access to German or other languages until you get to college.

There is a feeling here that the US is the greatest country on earth. Personally I think this is nonsense. There are many great countries in the world in which to live and raise kids. If you look at rankings for health, life expectancy, education, crime, drugs, etc. then the US doesn't look as good in comparison as people think. I have encouraged my kids to travel and see different parts of the world for themselves. One advantage of living in the UK is the easy and cheap access to the rest of Europe. That and family are the things I miss the most about living in the UK.

Last edited by MarylandNed; Jul 15th 2013 at 1:50 pm.
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Old Jul 15th 2013, 2:29 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

We moved to Michigan last year with a 7 year boy and a 6 year old girl. They have both been brilliant about the move. Yes we had tears about leaving friends and family, but this is such a big adventure with new firends to make and new places to explore.

The hardest thing for us was the difference in the schooling. My son started 3rd Grade and has coped really well as he is quite good at Maths and has a passion for reading. He went from one of the oldest (September birthday), to one of the youngest - but he hasn't had any problems.
My Daugther was slightly different. Her birthday is 30th Novmeber - which is the last cut off day for enrollment in Michigan. I was told by both the classroom teacher and the principle she had been placed in the wrong class - as most parents would have held her back and put her in the year below. I stuck firm and pursuaded the school to give her 6 weeks to prove herself - which she did. Her biggest problem was reading, as kids are expected to read a lot earlier in the US. With a bit of help from the school with extra reading lessons, she surprised them all!
The school day is longer and much busier than in the UK - they cram so much in and the periods between a school holidays are longer, which took a bit of getting used to.

If your kids are school age, it might be a bit of a bumpy start, but always remember - with the 'cute' English accent - it's never hard to make friends!!
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Old Jul 15th 2013, 8:19 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

My son was 12 and he found the transition harder than my daughter, who was 9. It depends on age and personality.

Something I hadn't thought about was my own reactions to them turning into Americans.
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Old Jul 15th 2013, 8:30 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

Originally Posted by MarylandNed View Post
The US is a huge country and a lot of the news here is about the US. I have found kids in the US to be much less globally aware than their UK counterparts. Like the UK, people here tend not to be good at learning multiple languages - unless they are the children of immigrants who speak a different language at home. I guess it's that feeling that if you speak English it's not so important to learn another language. However, I find their general knowledge of other parts of the world to be appallingly bad as well. The course offerings in the public school system are pretty poor IMO. For languages, Spanish is nearly always available and you might have access to French too but generally you won't have access to German or other languages until you get to college.

There is a feeling here that the US is the greatest country on earth. Personally I think this is nonsense. There are many great countries in the world in which to live and raise kids. If you look at rankings for health, life expectancy, education, crime, drugs, etc. then the US doesn't look as good in comparison as people think. I have encouraged my kids to travel and see different parts of the world for themselves. One advantage of living in the UK is the easy and cheap access to the rest of Europe. That and family are the things I miss the most about living in the UK.
Excellent post.

Honestly this is my primary concern for my (future) children. They may hate me for it but we have already talked about home schooling in Geography and exposing them to world affairs, not to mention taking them back to the UK as often as possible.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 3:26 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

There's a bit of info in the wiki up top that covers schools and then quite a few threads worth searching about which will cover that aspect of kids lives.

Really though, a lot of it will depend on age and where you're moving from/to.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 3:37 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

Thank you all- I think this question arose from a discussion with a parent of my son's friend, that they think they molly coddle their children in the UK
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 3:41 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

We moved here with my stepdaughter when she was nearly 10. She came from an excellent UK primary school, but we were absolutely blown away by the quality of her public school here in Michigan. I can't say enough good things about the teachers, learning support and extra curricular activities.

The cutoff dates are slightly different here so my stepdaughter went from being one of the oldest in her UK class to the youngest in her US one. They had wanted to hold her back a year but in the end they realized it was best to put her forward. A bit annoying as the decision was made at the last minute but I think it was for the best. There were some gaps in her knowledge as she hadn't learnt anything about American history or done social studies classes before, but she caught up quickly.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 5:02 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

I took my two boys to the States ages 3 and 5. The youngest did extremely well in the school system, the eldest needed more structure. The area we lived in was a great place to have children and they had a lot of freedom. Great outdoor lifestyle.

The youngest did extremely well in school but even from a very young age said he wanted to live in the UK. As soon as he graduated High School, he moved back to the UK. Unlikely to move back to the US.

The eldest did not do so well. He needed a lot more structure, but he adapted completely to life in the US. Unlikely to move to the UK.

I think, growing up, they had the best of both worlds, but now I have one in each country which was something I didn't consider when we moved.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 5:06 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

Originally Posted by Cardienscarf View Post
I think, growing up, they had the best of both worlds, but now I have one in each country which was something I didn't consider when we moved.
None of us can see that far ahead, can we? I think we will also end up in this position.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 5:19 pm
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Only issue was for my 6 year old who had a few difficulties with being laughed at for her accent and for not knowing that when you live anywhere Boston or north you must not never ever wear a Yankees hat.

Schools are spectacular, healthcare has been excellent, quality of life is amazing, they are surrounded by kids who travel a lot so they aren't particularly blinkered.

It really does depend on where you move from and to.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 8:27 pm
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We moved with a 9-year old boy to Silicon Valley. He took it very, very well - as an only child, he mixed straight in and was fine from day 1.

But, there are 101 reasons why we'll be heading back to the UK at the end of Middle School (that is 8th grade):

- Healthcare. It is awful. Yes, I am sure those that get it (and that is us included) get great healthcare, but it is an abomination to see fellow residents go without the most basic healthcare, and then to see that glibly brushed aside with charitable "giving" (which is only actually done to make rich Americans feel good about themselves). It pervades every aspect of life, from pointless forms that have to be filled in for EVERY event through to an attitude that prevents people from rocking the boat at work. If there was one thing I could change about the US that would change the country, it would be healthcare.

- Attitude to "children." It's bizarre. Americans seem to have larger families than we are used to, and much life is centred around "the family" rather than friends. Staying away for kids seems really rare with some bizarre rules about child protection (although for children, it is a generally safe place). For example, the residential 6th grade Science Camp; only two other people in my son's class of 28 had been away from home for a night before !!!! Plus the over-abundance of child-friendly food in restaurants - I'd quite like my son to have a smaller portion of exactly what I'm eating, not reconstituted chicken in the shape of a dead pigeon and chips.... (We do a lot of buffets with salads).

- Schools. Very, very patchy. If you can, follow the Asian kids. Indians especially push the school scores up, but BE CAREFUL - Asians in general are obsessed with education and their kids do little else. We had a petition in 6th Grade to increase the amount of homework per night to 4 hours, and 9 at weekends as the Asian Tigers felt their kids weren't being "pushed" enough. Forget after school "fun" - this is serious chess, maths, piano, violin, karate, and they're in it to win it. Many of them will go to Korean, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese school for one or two days of the weekend as well as after-school maths, science or atom-splitting classes.

- High School. Not there yet, but what we see we don't like. High schooling in general seems to teach more of "how things are" rather than the "question everything" that I went through in the UK (that was a state Grammar school, so I can't say that I had a vanilla experience). We are concerned that instead of coming out as questioning, challenging individuals, American kids come out as people that exist to hit targets and "tick-the-box." There is an awful lot here that is done not because it is right, but because it is "box-checking."

- Cub Scouts. We did this for two years, and it is a lot more "earnest" than UK Cubs which is basically kids pi**ing around and having a larf. Not here - it's all about "the program..."

- Boy Scouts. Much better. More like UK Scouts. Except the religious overtones.... (Don't Ask, Don't Tell...)

- Advertising. Unless you take action (as we have done), your kids will be exposed to a LOT more advertising than is typical in Europe, especially on kids TV. And some of it may not be "age appropriate." There isn't the public outcry here that there has been across Europe to remove advertising from kids TV. And most of the TV for kids is just terrible - total junk.

Overall, the quality of life is not as good as in the UK - yes, some things are cheaper, but that is not quality of life.

Simple things, like the ability to take a half day to look after a sick child which is a right in the UK is a privilege here, and you could end up loosing half a days' pay or sending your child back to school when really they need to be at home. Or the lack of a decent holiday allowance; or the lack of provision of child-care in schools for after hours - really not very good at all compared to the step-changes there have been in the UK over the last 10 years.
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Old Jul 16th 2013, 11:54 pm
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
We moved with a 9-year old boy to Silicon Valley. He took it very, very well - as an only child, he mixed straight in and was fine from day 1.

But, there are 101 reasons why we'll be heading back to the UK at the end of Middle School (that is 8th grade):

- Healthcare. It is awful. Yes, I am sure those that get it (and that is us included) get great healthcare, but it is an abomination to see fellow residents go without the most basic healthcare, and then to see that glibly brushed aside with charitable "giving" (which is only actually done to make rich Americans feel good about themselves). It pervades every aspect of life, from pointless forms that have to be filled in for EVERY event through to an attitude that prevents people from rocking the boat at work. If there was one thing I could change about the US that would change the country, it would be healthcare.

- Attitude to "children." It's bizarre. Americans seem to have larger families than we are used to, and much life is centred around "the family" rather than friends. Staying away for kids seems really rare with some bizarre rules about child protection (although for children, it is a generally safe place). For example, the residential 6th grade Science Camp; only two other people in my son's class of 28 had been away from home for a night before !!!! Plus the over-abundance of child-friendly food in restaurants - I'd quite like my son to have a smaller portion of exactly what I'm eating, not reconstituted chicken in the shape of a dead pigeon and chips.... (We do a lot of buffets with salads).

- Schools. Very, very patchy. If you can, follow the Asian kids. Indians especially push the school scores up, but BE CAREFUL - Asians in general are obsessed with education and their kids do little else. We had a petition in 6th Grade to increase the amount of homework per night to 4 hours, and 9 at weekends as the Asian Tigers felt their kids weren't being "pushed" enough. Forget after school "fun" - this is serious chess, maths, piano, violin, karate, and they're in it to win it. Many of them will go to Korean, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese school for one or two days of the weekend as well as after-school maths, science or atom-splitting classes.

- High School. Not there yet, but what we see we don't like. High schooling in general seems to teach more of "how things are" rather than the "question everything" that I went through in the UK (that was a state Grammar school, so I can't say that I had a vanilla experience). We are concerned that instead of coming out as questioning, challenging individuals, American kids come out as people that exist to hit targets and "tick-the-box." There is an awful lot here that is done not because it is right, but because it is "box-checking."

- Cub Scouts. We did this for two years, and it is a lot more "earnest" than UK Cubs which is basically kids pi**ing around and having a larf. Not here - it's all about "the program..."

- Boy Scouts. Much better. More like UK Scouts. Except the religious overtones.... (Don't Ask, Don't Tell...)

- Advertising. Unless you take action (as we have done), your kids will be exposed to a LOT more advertising than is typical in Europe, especially on kids TV. And some of it may not be "age appropriate." There isn't the public outcry here that there has been across Europe to remove advertising from kids TV. And most of the TV for kids is just terrible - total junk.

Overall, the quality of life is not as good as in the UK - yes, some things are cheaper, but that is not quality of life.

Simple things, like the ability to take a half day to look after a sick child which is a right in the UK is a privilege here, and you could end up loosing half a days' pay or sending your child back to school when really they need to be at home. Or the lack of a decent holiday allowance; or the lack of provision of child-care in schools for after hours - really not very good at all compared to the step-changes there have been in the UK over the last 10 years.
Amazing how different everyone's experiences are. Mine are the polar opposite of almost everything you've said here...
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Old Jul 17th 2013, 2:31 am
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

Originally Posted by kins View Post
Amazing how different everyone's experiences are. Mine are the polar opposite of almost everything you've said here...
Not surprised.... You're on the East Coast. I am (very quickly) learning that this is NOT one country. My boss (East Coaster from Maryland) is constantly telling me how (a) Lazy (b) Arrogant and (c) unfriendly West Coasters are.

I tend to agree with him....
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Old Jul 17th 2013, 3:15 am
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Default Re: UK Children in the US

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
Not surprised.... You're on the East Coast. I am (very quickly) learning that this is NOT one country. My boss (East Coaster from Maryland) is constantly telling me how (a) Lazy (b) Arrogant and (c) unfriendly West Coasters are.

I tend to agree with him....
... and you are constantly telling us how much you hate it here ...

Honestly I simply don't recognize most of the things that you are complaining about and I probably only live about 30 miles away from you.
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