Tag Archives: education

Everything you need to know about relocation, you learned in your first week of school

Everything you need to know about relocation, you learned in your first week of school..

Everything you need to know about relocation, you learned in your first week of schoolA conversation over coffee last week centered around how we all adapt to any new environment, and I offered up the Feisty One as an example of someone who had it figured out from birth. Watching her walk into every new school leaves me sitting in the school car park in tears, while she sets her shoulders, pastes a smile onto her face, and proceeds to network like a New York socialite.

Somehow, she has decoded the unspoken rules that guide social acceptance, and while her group of friends may change over time, within 15 minutes of setting foot somewhere new she’s worked out the social groups, the codes of behavior, and just who her new friends are going to be.

For the rest of us, here are the relocation lessons that we have learned, lived and long since forgotten..


Everyone is scared, but we all have different ways of showing it. Some get louder, some get quieter, some giggle, some snarl. Don’t let your fear define you, or how you judge others. A little patience goes a very long way.

The sooner you make a friend, the better it will be. Because two heads are better than one when it comes to figuring it all out, facing the world, and sharing the fun.

You’ll miss home and family, but you’ll learn to enjoy the time away and cherish the holidays spent together.

Some days are better than others. Some days, you just have to wait it out.

Some lessons you will love, some you will like, and some you will hate. Having favorites is good, but time and perspective will teach you that the ones you liked the least taught you the most.

People can be mean, but the earlier you learn how to deal with them, the easier your life will be.

Look after your lunch money. Mom won’t always be there to bail you out.

Your behavior affects the whole school, so choose your actions wisely.

Don’t believe all that you are told. Consider the source of your information carefully, and then decide the real story for yourself.

Being prepared feels a great deal better than arriving knowing that you didn’t do your homework.

Not doing your homework is the fastest way into trouble.

Being rude is the second fastest.

Breaking something once and you might be forgiven, break it twice and you’ve lost their trust forever.

You can do anything you set your mind to with practice, patience and help from others.


Redefining Relocation - Creating a Family TImeline - Education and the expat child

Redefining Relocation 3: Creating a Family Timeline – Education and the Expat Child

Redefining Relocation - Creating a Family TImeline - Education and the expat childThe issue of schooling is, for most expat families, one of the most important parts of the relocation plan. There is, however, a problem.

It is fairly easy to manage the education needs of younger children, especially for what we believe to be a short term transfer. What we don’t foresee is that many assignments are extended or new postings offered, and what was originally meant to be an interim plan is stretching out for far longer than is ideal. So while you may be only planning on a two year temporary assignment, we’re adopting a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, and looking into the future.

Critical areas of your education timeline will vary according to the age and needs of your children. The ideal strategy is to discuss them directly with the school Principal, Headteacher or counselor, to clarify which requirements are mandatory, and where there is flexibility.


4 – 11


For ages 4-11, the school calendar dates and entry requirements are critical to planning a smooth transition. They vary by country, state and district, and can involve everything from waiting lists, three day enrolments and considerable amount of documentation, to simply arriving at the school on the start date.

Usually, state schools will require proof of citizenship and local residence, a health record (including health and vaccination records in some areas), and an education history or school transcript from previous schools. Private schools are less focused on residence, but some have other entry criteria, including religion or spoken language.

Private schools are often a popular choice amongst expats for their entry flexibility, familiarity with international and expat children, and the use of internationally recognized assessment strategies, however you need to consider whether you can afford the fees long term, especially if the assignment policy moves to local payroll.

State schools have a greater variance in standards, curricula and assessment practices, but at the younger age, exploring a range of education strategies is not only possible, but often one of the cited benefits of expat life.


11- 17


At the middle / high school stage, the education becomes more focused on college entry, career progression and graduation assessments. There is still a great deal of variety in terms of curriculum, examination strategies and college admission requirements, but it becomes increasingly more difficult to move between them without losing ground.

In addition to the previous points about entry requirements, you need to consider:

  • Enrolment start date restrictions. At higher levels – usually involving continual or end point assessment –  students often are not admitted beyond a particular date or point in the course.
  • High School exit requirements. Depending on the curriculum your child follows, there may be specific academic courses, attainment levels, or additional extra-curricular requirements for graduation. A typical transcript might require evidence of study of maths, English, science and art, community service to be awarded the High School diploma. These vary between districts, states, countries and curricula, and will require clarification with the awarding body.
  • College entry. For the TCK, the academic pathway is often a mix of approaches and assessment strategies. After the age of 12, you need to start considering college location (whether home or host nation, or a third location) and the entry requirements. While many colleges accept a range of evidence of attainment / achievement, you need to know what is both accepted and expected before selecting subjects for study.The International Baccalaureate program is the recognized global study program for college, but UK and US curriculum are also widely accepted worldwide.
  • Methods, schedules and dates of assessment, grading and examination. Internationally,  the grade level at which assessment begins and ends, the combination of subject requirements and types of assessments for college entry, the dates of course selection and the importance of standardized national tests are very different. Most importantly for your timeline, you need to clarify in advance the dates or timeframes that they all occur. Getting it wrong can potentially mean your child repeating an academic year, having to take additional classes during the summer, or retaking tests at a later date.

It’s incredibly bewildering for anyone who hasn’t experienced the system firsthand. The most effective way of getting accurate information and a clear understanding is to contact the school, college or an international school advisory service directly. While many school district websites publish exam dates, they don’t necessarily include dates for course selection, exam fee due dates, and college application deadlines, so it’s worth explaining your situation to the school principal, college admissions, or student counselor especially when they are unfamiliar with the challenges of managing expatriate education.




You may be fooled into thinking that once your child is in college, you have nothing more to worry about, but there are potential residency issues that need to be considered.
The length of the assignment. How will the length of the assignment affect your residency rights in your home and host location?

Most home locations have rules of parental residence for a specific period prior to college admission to qualify for resident fees – falling outside these could mean you have to pay international student rates even in your home nations.

Similarly, if your assignment ends before your child finishes college in your host location, they will need to apply for an independent sudent visa, and again, international fees may apply.

Lastly, if your child reaches the legal adult age, they may no longer be considered a dependent, and again may need to apply for a student visa, and potentially incur different fees.

The other issue is that of employment authorization if your child does not want to attend college. There is no guarantee that they will be allowed to work, and may have to return to your home country to seek employment.

Shepherding children through school, college and beyond is a challenge at the best of times  (especially when they need help with their trigonometry homework), and there are always going to be obstacles to navigate. These are ones that I know of from my own experience, and those of people I know – all within the mainstream education system.

How do you all manage to meet the education needs of your children? What about the areas we haven’t discussed, like specialized learning needs, religious schools or boarding schools? What are your experiences?



How not to homeschool..

I’m feeling a little jealous. I have just found the most wonderful resource in the shape of mumsgone2aus.com, which has a downloadable checklist for navigating the new school minefield in Australia. Frankly, for those of you who are considering a move to Australia, Sarah Husselmann is spoiling you.

Whenever we relocate, schooling is one of our main priorities, but we have a nasty habit of getting snarled up in the inevitable red tape. Our worst moment was the move from Kenya to the US, where we failed to note that you had to be resident in very specific locations to qualify for each local public school, and the only temporary accommodation available was in the wrong city. This meant that we would be enrolling the kids in one school for 6 weeks until the house purchase went through, then moving them for a new school until the summer vacation, after which the Wiggy One would be graduating to Middle school. He was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of four schools in 6 months, so I took what at the time seemed like the kindest decision, to homeschool.

We knew many homeschooled children in Kenya, and all seemed like kind, considerate, well rounded and intelligent beings, with happy smiles, flexible schedules and an excellent relationship with their parents. We envisaged leisurely mornings with no school commute, family breakfast of eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice, happy hours spent poring over inspirational textbooks and wandering the museums and galleries, and evenings spent cooking healthy family meals before a quick sunset bike ride. I was an experienced teacher, after all.

I think it was the arrogant assumption of my own capabilities that turned around and bit me on the bum.

The reality was six weeks of sheer hell, culminating in all family members retreating to opposite corners of the apartment and watching marathon back to back episodes of Hannah Montana, The Simpsons, and Sheer Genius. Despite spending a small fortune on textbooks, how-to guides and varies educational sundries, it soon became apparent that my own algebra classes had been a very, very long time ago, and in a strange reversal of the traditional school stereotype,  most lessons were going to involve my children explaining the concepts while I grew steadily more irritable. The only activity that I was able to complete with any success was coloring in the various diagrams, and even then I was told off for my inability to share the red crayon.

If you assume, however, that this experience means I am no longer an advocate of homeschooling, think again ( I’m even putting together a checklist, so you too can gain the benefit of my homeschooling experience..). It has had a profoundly positive impact on both of my children’s attitude to schooling. They are now experts at self-directed study, they value excellent teaching, and they enter any new school with anticipation, safe in the knowledge that time at home with their mother is a far more unpleasant alternative.





Interfaith Calendar – Holy Days, Celebrations and Festivals in February 2012

Photo courtesy of morning_rumtea

February seems to be food month for many of the world’s religions – either as part of  the celebration of the transition from Winter to Spring, or the feasts marking beginning or end of a period of fasting. Here’s your interfaith calendar for February; dates are shown using the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Some dates may vary regionally because they are determined by the lunar calendar. Jewish festivals usually begin at sunset on the previous day.


Candlemass (Christian)

Also known as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, it marks the day that Mary took Jesus to the Temple to present him to God.

Imbolc / Oimelc / Candlemass (Pagan)

Celebration of the changing of the seasons and the growing strength of the sun


Rissun / Setsuban (Shinto)

The Festival of the change of the season from Winter to Spring, celebrated by the scattering of beans in the home and the temple.


Milad un Nabi / Mawlid an Nabi (Muslim)

The birth of the Prophet Muhammed is celebrated today by large numbers of Sunni Muslims. Because it is also the date of his death, it is considered a quiet holiday, and is marked by the retelling of stories about the Prophet Muhammed’s life by parents to their children.


Magha Puja (Buddhist)

Also known as Fourfold assembly day.


Parinirvana – Nirvana Day (Buddhist)

Marks the anniversary of Buddha’s death and his achievement of nirvana (enlightenment) at the age of 80.

Tu B’Sherat (Jewish)

The Jewish celebration of Spring, the ‘New Year for Trees’, and a day when ‘fruits’ associated with the Torah often eaten, namely wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.


Milad un Nabi / Mawlid (Muslim)

The marking of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed for Shia Muslims.


Our Lady of Lourdes (Christian)

Marks the first time the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St Bernadette in a vision (1858).


St Valentine’s Day (Christian, Secular)

First celebrated in 496, this festival is historically associated with fertility, and is now seen worldwide as a day to celebrate love. It is often marked by the sending of anonymous cards and gifts to loved ones.


Nirvana Day  (Buddhist)

Alternate date to the 8th February.


Mahashivrati (Hindu)

The festival honoring Shiva, one of the Deities of the Hindu Trinity. It is traditionally celebrated by overnight fasting, and the dedication of food prepared from seasonal fruits and vegetable, which are then eaten for ‘break fast’ the next morning.


Shrove Tuesday / Pancake Day / Mardi Gras (Christian / Secular)

Marks the day before Lent begins, and is derived from the ancient ritual of ‘shriving’ – confession sins. The practice of eating pancakes comes from the need to use up perishable foods before the 40 days of Lenten fasting begins. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) has the same origins.


Ash Wednesday (Christian)

The first day of Lent, traditionally marked by fasting to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.


Clean Monday (Christian Orthodox)

The beginning of Great Lent in the Christian Orthodox calendar.

The F Bomb – Expat Education Challenge Update

Update – He has just received his PSAT results (yet another test of which we have very little knowledge) and apparently his results were considerably better than his grades predicted. He is now avidly consulting college resources to explore his career options, with the current frontrunner being anesthesiologist. The reason for this? “It’s well paid, and you get to sit down and read magazines”. I can sense a visit to the career counselor coming on, lest he be unleashed on the health service..

We had a particularly interesting moment with the Wiggy One this week. Normally very mellow, he occasionally explodes into a seething mass of hormones, hair, uncoordinated limbs and spectacular examples of poorly thought out accusations.

The latest detonator was the high school ‘Grade Point Average’ system. For the non-US expats amongst us, college entry in the US is based on academic scores over the high school period across the classes. An A requires an above 90% score for the class, and gives you a 4.0 GPA; a B is 80 – 90% and scores a 3.0, and so on. Sadly for all concerned, this level of academic scrutiny is carried out for the next three years, during which they are going through puberty, growth spurts, acne and obsession with all things Xbox, so the potential for disaster is huge.

Needless to say, the grades that prompted the explosion were not A’s. Nor were they B’s. They appear somewhat later in the alphabet, and are usually associated with profanity. Which is exactly the unguarded response that they triggered in the Other Half at the dinner table when we finally learned of their existence.

Parentline, an excellent British parenting resource (which sadly does not have a toll free number for expatriates, but really should have) recommends staying calm in these moments, and maintaining channels of communication with the Tasmanian Devil formerly known as Tom. (They also don’t specifically refer to him by name, but I’m thinking of suggesting it for future advisory publications.) So I took a deep breath, washed it down with a large amount of gin, and reminded him that the longer he took to inform us of these small hiccups in his school transcript, the less able we were to help him resolve the issue, and the fewer choices he would have down the line when he was applying to college. (Excellent Mother Moment, even if I do say so myself).

His response showed the maturity, wisdom and critical thinking skills that can only be gained by an expensive, global, carefully chosen and often privately funded education, which has been our highest priority throughout our expatriate journey. It showed passion, attention to detail and considerable volume. And it took us a little by surprise.

“I don’t even want to go to college – it’s just four more years of work!”

Quite what he felt would happen to those ‘college years’ should he chose not to attend is a mystery. Maybe they give out scholarships for excessive hair growth or ability to sleep for extended periods, without the necessity of attending an institute of Higher Learning? He appears to be under the impression that work and/or college are optional extras only to be attempted as a last resort between editions of Call of Duty, and that living with your parents is a long term life plan.

So I’m off to see the school Career Counselor today. We obviously need to start with the basics. Like ‘Where do  Mummy and Daddy go when they leave for the day?’ and ‘How does money work?’

Wish me luck. I may be some time..