Expat Kids: Finding a School with an American Curriculum

If you have young children who are attending, or are about to attend, school, the decision to move abroad is more complex than it would be if your children were adults who’d already graduated. With young children, some consistency in their education is important in preventing information gaps, boredom from relearning things they already know, and maintaining their likelihood of being accepted to the college of their choice.


While not every school in every U.S. state has the exact same curriculum, there are some overarching themes in style, content and testing that many parents appreciate and want to maintain when they move abroad. But not every school around the globe has the same curriculum or focus as American schools do. If you want to ensure that your child’s new school has a U.S. curriculum—even when it’s halfway across the globe—try these tips.

  • Choose one of the 197 American schools located overseas. According to The International Educator, there are American schools located in many of the world’s capital cities. These schools are there to educate embassy officials’ children and other American students with parents who are employed abroad. The schools not only have an U.S.-based curriculum, they also have many American teachers educating students. The U.S. State Department is directly involved with the schools, lending them some credibility and consistency. Even better, almost 33 percent of the enrolled students in 2011 were U.S. citizens. This lessens the potential for an in-school language barrier in a non-English speaking country and means there will be a built-in support system for your child that can make the adjustment to overseas living that much easier.
  • Home schooling. For ultimate control over your child’s curriculum and adherence to the American standard, you can try home schooling. While this will take more time and effort on the part of the parents, home schooling a child after moving abroad doesn’t necessarily mean hours spent on developing a curriculum and entire days spent teaching it. There are many companies and virtual schools, such as Ablaze Academy and The Keystone School that have teacher-supported online courses with flexible schedules, student guidance and mentoring, live tutors and more.  With these programs, you don’t have to be a teacher or instruct your child on subjects that aren’t your specialty. You can leave all or part of their education in the hands of online teachers as long as you stay involved in the process and help ensure that the coursework is getting done.
  • Private schools. You may be able to find a local private school that focuses on an American curriculum even if it isn’t assisted or endorsed by the State Department. Finding one with American-trained teachers on board or one that is accredited by a U.S. agency is a great way to narrow down your choices and get the most accurate curriculum.
  • Look for an American Association of Schools. Many cities and areas such as Mexico, South America, and Central America have location-wide associations for American schools. To find out whether your proposed relocation area or country has one of these, try an Internet search.
  • Look for online reviews. Sites like ExpatExchange.com provide online reviews of international schools. One of the things their reviews identify is the style of the school, which can include American, British, Canadian and so on.  In addition, you can find out about the personal experiences of many parents and children who attended the school. This gives much more inside information than a regular brochure or school-generated website does.
  • Check the school’s accreditation. If your child will be attending college back in the States, InternationalLiving.com suggests that you select a high school abroad that’s been accredited by an institution recognized in the U.S. The curriculum style may not be an issue in this case, but the accreditation will.

Finding the right international school for your child isn’t the last difficult decision you’ll have to make when you move abroad. From finding the right global medical insurance to picking the perfect location and living arrangement, you will be inundated with choices and research to do. Hopefully, the set of tips above will give you some options you hadn’t realized were there and some guidance about finding possible schools and narrowing down your choices.


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