One of the most important decisions you make when relocating is the school you choose for your child.   The structure of the United States school system can be different from other countries so Hibernian Financial Planning thought it would be helpful to provide this brief primer.

Schools in the United States are divided up into four segments: Grammar school/Elementary school, Middle School, Junior High, and High School.

  • Grammar School/Elementary School starts in Kindergarten and ends in the 3rd grade (ages 5-8)
  • Middle School typically runs from 4th grade through 6th grade (ages 9-11)
  • Junior High consists of the 7th and 8th grades. Typically, Junior High is not a stand-alone school and is physically incorporated either into Middle School or High School.  (ages 12-13)
  • High School contains grades 9-12. These grades are then defined more and are called Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years.  Graduation occurs after completion of Senior year.  For some, college is the next step in their education, others will join the military or enter the workforce.  (ages 14 – 17)

Types of Schools
There are four main types of schools in the US: Public, Charter, Private, and Home. 

  • Public Schools offer free education to the public. These school are run by local school boards.  The school your child attends will depend upon where you live.
  • Charter Schools are for either high-performing students, or as alternatives to lower performing public schools.  The class sizes are smaller, and curriculum can be more challenging.   Admittance can be based on past academic record and entrance exams, or on a lottery system.  Charter Schools can be funded by communities and/or corporations, or they can be for profit and charge tuition.
  • Private Schools have specific admission requirements, charge tuition (sometimes more than college tuition), and are very competitive. Private schools often are referred to as Prep Schools as they have an intense curriculum and focus on getting students prepared for, and admitted into, college.  Unlike Public Schools, they can focus on religion and religion education.  Private Schools also can be international schools, such as French, Chinese, etc.  Some offer single-sex education.  It isn’t uncommon for students to have to buy uniforms and their own textbooks.   Private Schools can be either boarding schools or day schools, or both. 
  • Home Schools provide an education at home, not in a school. Home School can be taught by parents, a group of parents, or hired tutors.  Some states now offer online Home School classes with live teachers.  Each state has specific educational requirements, so if this option is of interest for your child, you should check with your state’s Board of Education.

Deciding they type of education your child receives is one of the most important decisions you will make during your relocation.  Remember there are not “right” schools or “wrong” schools, it is what is best for your child at this particular time in their lives.  Hopefully this primer will help you in making that decision.

Financial Planning for Americans in the UK book cover

Financial Planning for Americans in the United Kingdom

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