Raising Children in England
My daughter was born in America, and lived there for an entire month before we moved to Europe. She has spent more time in the place of her birth on vacation then she ever did actually living there. Her connection with The Netherlands, where she also has birthright citizenship, is much stronger due to our location but it still is only an aspect of who she is.
She has grown up in a home eating Southern food and listening to Dutch bedtime stories, but if you ask her where she is from- she will tell you England in a heartbeat. My little English daughter, whose British accent grows stronger by the week, is an anomaly in a home where my Texas twang occasionally still makes an appearance and her father sits catching up on the latest local news in Holland.
Our home is a multi-cultural oasis, celebrating holidays from three nations, while embracing and living in one that we have no connections to. Needless to say, we have learned a lot raising The Kid in England. If you are planning a move to our sunny shores, or you are an expat already living here with small children, here is some helpful info I have learned along the way on raising kids in England.
Schooling in England
The British education system can feel a little overwhelming at first. You’ll hear people talking about their child being in 3rd year or studying for their GCSE’s; the terminology is entirely different than we use in America. Children can start full-time education at age four or five depending on their birthdate, though they are able to attend preschool (nursery) for 15 hours a week for free from age three.
[quote type=”center”] The UK was ranked 16th out of 29 developed countries for child well-being in a UNICEF study. In education, it ranked a shocking 24th out of 29. UNICEF[/quote]
Public schools in the UK are surprisingly religious. At Christmas they learn songs about baby Jesus, perform Nativity plays (ala Love Actually) and even have prayer walks. It isn’t the same type of religious fervor you would find in Texas schools, but it is still odd when the classes are filled with students of every background and religion.
At most schools in the UK, uniforms are required. I personally love them, and even though it seems a little pricey at the beginning of the school year, it ends up saving a lot of time and money later on.
Applying to your school of choice isn’t always easy. Each school has a catchment system which chooses students based on a number of criteria such as distance to the school, siblings who already attend, and special circumstances. We were lucky to get the school we wanted, but keep this in mind when you choose a place to live if you have a preference on the school your child will attend.
Key Words to Know
- Primary School– Elementary School
- Middle School– Secondary School (This lasts until age 15/16.)
- High School– Complicated. Students in the UK are only required to go to school until they are sixteen. If the student plans on attending University they will stay in school and concentrate on a couple of subjects relevant to the degree they plan on studying. They will then take A-levels for those subjects, which are kind of a more specialized version of the American SAT and ACT before heading off to college.
The longer my daughter attends school, the more she thinks everything I do and say is wrong. This could be an issue only I deal with, but I assume many expat families deal with similar problems. My kid thinks that her teacher knows everything. When she is corrected on her pronunciation or incorrect sentences (oops) she comes home to correct me. The older she gets, the more she sees that I am not English.
In a way, I think it bothers her that I don’t talk like everyone else and that I never say ‘Pardon?’ when I misunderstand. I say ‘trash can’ instead of the ‘bin’ and I eat ‘chips’ instead of ‘crisps’. Although she can go back and forth between American and British English, there are days that I can tell it really bothers her. I assume that this will be something she outgrows, but I do think it is worth mentioning.
Just as you will have to find your way in a new country with new customs, your child will be faced with balancing the differences in their home and school life while trying to find a middle ground. I can only hope that one day she is comfortable embracing every part of who she is, I am sure it isn’t easy to figure out who you are when you have so many different things thrown at you.
Are you raising children in the UK or moving here soon? I would love to hear your tips or concerns!