Tag Archives: United States

Starting School the American Way

schoolMy 8-year-old started 3rd Grade this week.  She would have been starting Year 4 in the UK but they start school a year later here.  Finding a school place was simple as schools are allocated according to where you live, if you live within the school bus route you automatically get a place.

Preparation for school in the UK usually meant buying uniform and new shoes, labelling P.E kits and backpacks and organising dinner money.  Here it is different.  There is no school uniform. Children arrive at school on the first day in their new ‘school clothes’, a concept I don’t really understand. My children have clothes; they may wear them to school, to play in the garden or to go out at the weekend, they are not categorised into school and non-school. We don’t need to provide anything for P.E apart from a pair of ‘sneakers’.  Life should be easy, with very little to prepare but ……..

  • There is a huge list of school supplies to buy. Each year is given a list of stationery items to provide including ring binders, pens, pencils, glue and notebooks. Each item needs to be labelled and taken to school on the first day.
  •  When registering at school parents have to complete a form to prove that their children have received all the required vaccinations.  This meant that my daughter had to have a Hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the UK and another on arrival.  We also have to provide a letter from the doctor to prove she has had chickenpox or she will need the vaccine.
  • We attended an information meeting where the children were photographed for their records and we were given copious amounts of forms, signing us up for things I didn’t understand.

We visited school to meet the teacher the day before it started.  It was highly structured and organised. The teacher presented us with a list to follow, including finding a library book, completing an ‘about me’ form, reading through the rules together and finding various things in the classroom. As the meeting time came to an end a tannoy announcement told parents that it was time to leave the building.

On the first day my daughter came home with a folder inside which any correspondence is placed. It also contains her homework diary and reading record, a behaviour chart and a calendar that is completed each day at school showing both homework and things the parents need to do that evening.  I’m hoping this will help us both be a little more organised.

At curriculum evening the teacher outlined all the things they would be doing this year.  The teacher gave all the parents her email address and encouraged them to share any information about their child by email.  There is a website you can sign into as parent to check on your child’s progress and all work comes home at the end of each week marked with grades.  This open communication between parent and school is a very welcome change for me, I can’t imagine any school in the UK being quite that open.

I feel a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights as I begin to understand a system that is alien to me but we have had a good first week.  My daughter loves her teacher and gave school a 10.5 out of ten.