Category Archives: School

The War on Girls: Education & Bloggers

I have two sons.  I am their biggest advocate when it comes to their education. As a nomadic family you have to be.  With moving frequently my eldest son at eight years old has been home educated and has gone to five different schools in three states in the US and two countries. For me as a mum the biggest challenge facing my kids and education is just making sure my kids are not being held back from their potential.  I look at the spelling lists, the math work, and the lack of homework my sons have in the UK and I see how behind it is from schools my son attended in the US. My eldest went to an accelerated learning school for first grade and was doing algebraic equations for his math level.  That school worked with kids with what level they were at individually and did not hold them back or push them forward for the group.  It opened my eyes to the potential kids at young ages have to learn.  My first grader here in England came home this week with spelling words that included: go, to, and we. I have my son reading chapter books at home and he helps in reading paragraphs aloud in Harry Potter with us as a family. Not to mention I am certain the spelling words I worked with him on in home education a year ago were much harder.  It can be really frustrating as a parent especially as in the expat life and dealing with cultural differences.  Our solution so far is to do as much home education as we can in our free time on top of everything they are learning at school.  We have talked about revisiting the plan of home education full time at home if things do not progress at school.  This is my personal story with education and raising boys. What does it mean for the girls of our world?

I am glad that we are highly involved in our boys’ education and that we did not let the in-laws hostility towards home education ruin our plans to continue with it.  However not all children all over the world even have the luxury of freedom to go to school.  There are people who think girls should not get an education. Those who say ‘what is the point when they are not going to get a job’. These girls face the challenges of distance, poverty, and child marriage.  Instead of families advocating for their daughters education, there are girls who are banned from going to school and beaten for attending. Girls can be harassed by the community on their way to school. Dreams of girls continuing their education become dashed when forced into child marriages where taking care of the family replace their role of a student.

There are people standing up for change.  Like Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who is an activist and blogger standing up for education and women’s rights. She was shot in the head and the neck a year ago ‘in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus’.  This past friday Malala was at Harvard to accept the 2013 Peter J Gomes humanitarian reward.  You can read Malala Yousafzai’s blog here.

There are also groups of people advocating for change for girls around the world. I recommend you watch the video below about Because I Am A Girl, an initiative formed by the international charity organization Plan International
In the end I believe it is all our responsibilities to make sure our younger generations get an education.  I am so inspired by all the young girls out there advocating for their peers all over the world. It truly fights against the Miss Representation post I shared last week.

To read Malala’s blog:

Ukulele in the Park

I first wanted to take the time to acknowledge all of my readers who took the time to comment, tweet, and email me after my Wednesday post: Marriage, In laws, and Cross Cultural.  I was surprised by how many people reached out to me after dealing with very similar cultural issues with family.  It is not something I would wish on anyone else but it comforting to know we are not alone.  It is just another facet in our life as expats and global nomads.  Thank you also for those who reminded me why I love blogging and that we should blog for ourselves.  Thank you for the lovely comments on how the subject matter was approached.  
The one word that came up most frequently since Wednesday was the word ‘honesty‘ and how you as readers love that aspect most about coming to the blog.  Thank you, I greatly appreciate that feedback.  With being a Third Culture Kid and having to fit into to so many different cultures, situations, countries, etc it is nice to have a place where I can be me.  I hope that you reading this blog know that you too can be you.  You do not have to be living in fear of the expectations of others.  Be proud of yourself, love life, and live your life remembering how precious and beautiful it is with you in it. 
This semester my son Ronan has been learning to play the Ukulele in school.  I was actually tickled when we first visited his classroom and realised this was the instrument his year was learning how to play.  My youngest son was born in Hawaii, where we lived for three years.  Being the longest place my sons have lived anywhere it was a nice ‘home’ comfort to have a bit of Hawaii here with us.  We were able to get Ronan his own Ukulele in his favourite colour shade black. For a kid who always has a song humming off his lips it has been a great next step putting a musical instrument in his hands.  He is always practicing his cords, asking me to teach him new songs, and waking us up in the morning with his songs of serenade.  He recently learned how to play the beginning part of Sunshine of Your Love by Cream and I may be biased, but it is so cute to watch him play it. 
Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch him play in a multi school wide concert at the Pavilion in Bath, England.  Unfortunately my husband was not able to get away from work so I was busy taking photos with the DSLR, with my iPhone, and recording video our video recorder.  Yes I am one of those parents in the crowd.  However they do not want any photographs or film footage to be put publicly. So just imagine how cute a class of year 3 look and sound in their british school uniforms playing Yellow Submarine by the Beatles.  
Afterwards I took both my sons to the nearby Parade Park for the first time.  It is usually never crowded despite all the tourists, since you have to pay a fee to get access.  However if you are a Bath resident like me with your Discovery card you can just walk right in. This made it perfect for capturing photos of my son while he played music in the park.  I love the photograph below because Ronan looks so much like my dad especially with my dad’s hair as he had it the same length (if not longer) in the last year of his life.  I know he would have been so proud to have seen him play yesterday and is smiling down on him.  Here are the rest of my favourites from our spontaneous photo session in the park: 

*photography belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography ©2007-2013 All Rights Reserved – 

Expat: Schools UK vs USA

In the early nineties I attended a local primary school in England in lieu of attending the American school on base. For two years I got to experience the British school system before going back to the American DODDS schools.  There are particular differences that I remember now between both education systems.  Having moved back to England in 2011 and putting my sons in the education system here I have realized there are way more differences than my expectations had led me to believe.  Especially as my sons get older and into the higher levels of schooling it gets a little more complicated.  To be fair I have had the school system in Britain explained to me many times and I still have questions about it.
The break down by years (UK/USA)
The school systems are not exact to be compared year by year.  For example children attend nursery and Reception before starting Year 1 which is the equivalent of Kindergarden in regards to age. The US high school years differ in the way the education is set up in the UK.  While students in the USA start Grade 11, students in the UK no longer have compulsory education.  They have the option at sixteen to continue their education into college for what would be Grade 11 and 12.  After those two years they would go on to attend university.  
Preschool = Nursery School
Primary School = Elementary School
Secondary School = Jr. High and High School
6th Form College = High School 
Broken down in Key Stages for the UK education system
Key Stage 1 =  5-7 yrs in Year 1-2 (1st-2nd form infants)
Key Stage 2 = 7-11 yrs in Year 3-6 (1st-4th form juniors)
Key Stage 3 = 11-14 yrs in Year 7-9 (1st-3rd form secondary)
Key Stage 4 = 14-16 yrs in Year 10-11 (4th-5th form secondary)
Key Stage 5 = 16-18 yrs in Year 12-13 (6th form secondary, also known as College)
Comparing UK vs USA Education by Year
3-4 yrs = Nursery / Preschool 
4-5 yrs = Reception / Preshool
5-6 yrs = Year 1 / Kindergarten
6-7 yrs = Year 2 (end of Key Stage 1) / 1st Grade
7-8 yrs = Year 3 (start of Key Stage 2) / 2nd Grade
8-9 yrs = Year 4 / 3rd Grade
9-10 yrs = Year 5 / 4th Grade
10-11 yrs = Year 6 (end of Key Stage 2 and final year of primary school) / 5th Grade
11-12 yrs = Year 7 (first year of secondary school, start of Key Stage 3)  / 6th Grade
12-13 yrs = Year 8 / 7th Grade
13-14 yrs = Year 9 / 8th Grade
14-15 yrs = Year 10 / 9th Grade Freshman Year
15-16 yrs = Year 11 (last year of compulsory schooling in UK) / 10th Grade Sophomore Year
16-17 yrs = Year 12 (first year of 6th Form College) / 11th Grade Junior Year
17-18 yrs = Year 13 (end of Key Stage 5 and final year of College) / 12th Grade Senior Year
School Testing
Students in the UK start studying in Year 10 for their GSCE exams which they take in various subjects at the end of Year 11.  GCSEs stand for General Certificate of Secondary Education.  After a successful completion of GCSE courses, students go on to take their A-Levels, which stand for Advanced Level, at college.  A-Levels are generally a two-year course, with AS levels begin obtained within the first year. Basically students can choose whether they continue their education after turning sixteen years of age by taking their A levels at 6th Form College, also known as a technical college. 
  • Final Exams for Key Stage 4 are GCSEs
  • Final Exams for Key Stage 5 are A-Levels, AS-Levels, NVQs, and National Diplomas

National Vocational Qualifications are work based awards in the UK that are achieved through assessment and training. I have become more familiar with these having trained and licensed as a Cosmetologist in Hawaii and wanting to transfer that to be able to work in England.  In the USA your training and license is determined by the state where you work and each has its own regulations.  In England there is not an equivalent governing and licensing board for cosmetology.  You train and take exams for different NVQ levels depending on the field of study. My cosmology license in Hawaii is roughly a NVQ level III in Hairdressing and a NVQ level III in Beauty Therapy with one exception.  Beauty Therapists in this NVQ level would also be trained in body massage which in the USA would require going to massage school and getting a separate license.  So although I have most of the skills required of a NVQ level III I can only get a job who will except a Beauty Therapist with a NVQ level II until I obtain the massage training.  I have explained all that to further explain the difference in education from country to country.  
The School Calendar
The school year calendar varies between country in the UK but contain around 39 weeks of education with 13 weeks of break. The breaks include two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter, six weeks in the Summer, and then 3 one week half-term holidays. The school year in England is broken into three terms.  September to New Years holidays, January to Easter holidays, and Easter holidays to July. 
University Requirements
Every school may have its own requirements but there are general requirements that are looked at for admission into Universities in the UK. For the Universities I have looked into they expect applicants to have completed three A-Level exams in one sitting. If applicants re-sit or retake A Levels they may still be considered unless they are in the Medicine or Veterinary Medicine field.  Since many degree programs expect you to have studied specific subjects at GSCEs and A-Levels, students need to know early on which field they want to study.  In highly competitive subject areas this means the number of As achieved in GCSEs will be taken into account.  That means a 16 year old in the UK will need to already be focused to what job they will want to have as an adult, especially if they want to be in the field of medicine.  While in the US there are students in their twenties taking general education courses without a chosen major.  
What Expat parents should know about schools in England
These are the top three things we have experienced with having children in schools in the UK that I feel other expats would benefit from knowing before they move to the UK. 
1. Which School? 
The school your child/ren will attend is based off of many factors and can vary due to circumstances.  You can put them in the state schools (free), prep and public schools (cost fees and require entrance exams), or you can home educate.  To clarify public schools in England are what private schools are in the US. If you choose the free education, which school your child will go to is determined by the catchment area.  The closer you live to a school the better chances of getting into that school.  There are many different types of schools in this category which can be church schools, single sex or mixed schools.  However, the schools will have cap sizes on how many students they let in for certain years.  We live right next to the school in our town, but due to class sizes they were both accepted into different schools.  I have one son in a school in the next town over and my other son in a school much further away.  There are no school buses like there are in the USA.  As we do not have a car the school system was able to set up taxi services to get both my boys to their appointed schools and put them on waiting lists for the closer schools in the area.  You should also know that you have the right to appeal the school selection process.
2. Uniforms.
As far as I am aware, all schools have some sort of uniform required.  Depending on if you choose the state school or the prep school will determine how extensive their uniform needs will be per school. Typically for both schools there will be a Autumn/Winter uniform for the colder months and a Spring/Summer uniform for the warmer months.  For boys this may mean the difference of trousers and shorts and sleeve lengths in shirts.  For girls many schools require a summer dress that is usually in a gingham fabric.  The prep school my sons attended required specific hats for both seasons that were required to be worn to and from school along with their school blazer.  Extra items like these that may have only been worn for mere minutes before and after school ended up bringing the cost up when looking at the total items needed to stay in uniform regulations. They also required a sports kit for physical activities and sports, a book bag with the school crest, and specific items to which ‘house’ they belonged too.  If you are familiar with the Harry Potter series, this is equivalent to being sorted into a house and the same colours of red, blue, yellow, and green are normally used.  I will say that despite the cost I love uniforms.  It makes getting my kids ready for school in the morning that much easier and that it takes off the importance of what clothes a child wears to school in regard to their peers. 
3. Classwork and Homework.
I have experienced three different schools in the US with my boys and two different schools in the UK.  While my sons are still in primary school, I can say that so far the differences have really varied between schools and not so much between the USA and the UK.  My sons did extensive daily homework that included accelerated maths with their charter school in the US, nightly homework at their prep school in the UK, and weekly homework at their state school in the UK.  As far as I can tell so far there are minor differences like math in the US is called maths in the UK.  While you learn cursive in the USA, you learn joined up writing in the UK.  While it is similar, the two forms of writing are not exactly the same.  Of course while in the US your students will learn the pledge of allegiance an US History, in the UK they will learn the words to ‘God Save the Queen’ and the history of the United Kingdom.  I think the quality of the education can be found varying by school and by how involved the parents are with their children. The schools seem more competitive in regard to class system in the UK especially as students get into the secondary stage of their education. 
I know that I have a lot more to research and understand when it comes to the education of my sons.  If anything I am now more stressed out by my research than I was when I was ignorant to the complicated nature of education in England.  I hope this look into the education system in England is helpful and can help other parents when planing a move with their family to the UK.
This is a link up with Rachel & Chelsea

Maddox gets his Cast Off.

The boys got their very own library cards this week and we checked out quite a number of books.  It is really convenient being a short walk away and we will probably go at least once a week.  The boys found out about a new book series called ‘My Weird School’.  We are going to see how far we can get into the series because the library is having a party based on it.  Next month they will have a Scooby Doo party.  Its nice having things for the boys to look forward too while we are here.  One thing we have been looking forward to is having Maddox’s cast taken off.  Maddox got to keep his cast and we celebrated by having celebratory pancakes for breakfast afterwards.

Maddox before getting his cast taken off. 
At the Doctor’s after getting his cast off. 
Library finds!
Movie Date! 

Back to School

The boys went back to school this week and started our new journey: The Adventures of Home Education.  We are not sure when we are going back to England, so being able to home school will help keep us going through out this transition period.  The boys and I have already had a lot of fun and I look forward to the rest of the school year.  We started the week with taking our ‘Back to School’ photographs. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Marilyn Monroe

June has finally arrived and the boys got to celebrate the first of the month by having a non uniform day at school. In honour of the Jubilee weekend and for a £1 donation both boys got to come dressed in Red, White, and Blue and sport the Union Jack on their clothes.  Maddox was quite proud of his outfit because I let him borrow my head band and we took the bow part off and used it as a matching pocket square.  The boys had a really fun day at school and it looks to be a really great Jubilee weekend.  More on that in the next blog post, so stay tuned!  In other news it is June first which means that…

…Today would be Marilyn Monroe’s birthday.  A big happy birthday to someone who has left quite an impression and legacy on the world in her short 36 years alive.
It is Red, white, and blue day at school and yes those sparkle.
‘Morning': Listening to my summer mix #photoadayjune #photoadaychallenge


Day 1 of Live Fashion photography workshop with @LindsayAdler with @creativeLIVE So inspired and motivated!
Just saw a vintage belair state patrol car in England.

Last Day of May

Getting over this sick bug has not been fun, but I am hoping that June will be a great month for heath and for some summer weather.  We will see how this English summer plays out. Going to start blogging once a week and compiling my favourite Instagram photos in one post.  A little overwhelmed with posting every day.  Perhaps some weeks there will be special posts for key highlights in our life. Thank you for keeping up with our journey! xx

‘Flowers': Some of the flowers blooming around England right now. #maycreative #flowers #photoadaychallenge

Sewing buttons on @ryana_official shirt before his NATO trip to Brussels tomorrow.

‘My Personality': A free spirit. @ryana_official gave me the suggestion. Quote by #princessdiana #maycreative #photoadaychallenge

‘Beautiful': Something so sad but beautiful was seeing this bird just now. It did not make a noise not acknowledge my presence. Just looked out as if it was waiting for death. #photoadaymay #photoadaychallenge

‘Goal': When my son finished reading this one, he is allowed to finally see the film. He fell asleep reading tonight. #maycreative #harrypotter


My kids are like Fort Knox “How was school?” “Good.” “What did you do?” “I dont remember” “What did you have for lunch?” “I dont remember.”

My boys are at the 100 Aker Wood for the 75th Anniversary year of the Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh stories. So exciting.