School for Kids while Living Abroad

Parent Q&A

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  • My husband and I are considering going abroad during his next sabbatical, when our son will be a sophomore in high school. Our daughter will have just graduated. We are considering Spain, Mexico, Australia, the UK, or maybe Germany. Has anyone done this? Are there ways to make the schooling transferable? Or do they have to do an independent study? I’d be very interested in advice from anyone who has done this with a high school student. 

    Hi, we are doing this right now. We moved abroad in December and my daughter is a sophomore. We were supposed to only be here (South Africa) for 6 months, but are extending for at least another year. It's been amazing for our children. They are attending an American school so the schedule stayed the same, so she won't have any issue with transferring credits, but mostly I found international schools are very well versed on students that are coming from other countries and other curriculums. There are kids who move every few years for various reasons so international schools are prepared to make sure their schooling keeps up. 


    My daughter spent a semester abroad in junior year ( pretty difficult but totally worth it)

    I guess it depends on the school he is currently enroll in. In our case, my daughter went to Bishop O'Dowd and we made an agreement. There are some requirements for graduation and maybe to completed junior year, so she took extra classes here via K-12 online school. You will need to translate and certificate all his grades but it is not a big issue. The big issue was how they account for his grades here and the fact that evaluation in the US tends to be easier, so many kids have A's....that is not that common in other countries, therefore his gpa maybe compromise to enter in college, if he lower his grades...

    We would not had done it in any other way, she had a great experience even though her grades did not allow her to get into the UC system...She graduated with honors from USF :)

    I wish I would had taken that time as well to go with her.

    Good luck!!

    Your best bet is to go somewhere with an American high school. The curriculum in other countries is likely different enough that otherwise there might be problems getting credit. For example in Germany high school is less of a course system. You have more subjects per school year but fewer time with each. But you have each subject over several years. So your child would likely end up with lots of partial credits which are of no real use.

    I spent a year abroad in Brazil as a high school sophomore and it was a wonderful and formative experience. Highly recommend it for anyone considering. I attended the local school and completed a few courses (by mail!)  through independent study.  I think most of the foreign courses didn’t count toward graduation. But I did become fluent in Portuguese. I made up the rest by enrolling in summer school the year I came back. If your child attends an American school abroad she may lose out on some of the language learning and cultural immersion. 

  • does anyone know if Berkeley allows children to return to the same school after a year away living abroad?

    As long as you live in Berkeley your child can attend Berkeley public schools. You will need to re-admit your student(s) at the District offices. However, you will have go through the lottery again, so there is no guarantee your child will be placed in the same school. 

    You might speak with the principal at your child's school and get their take on it. Definitely your kids can attend Berkeley schools if you are returning to live in Berkeley, but whether they can return to the same school, I don't know.

    I don't live in Berkeley, but I believe it may be similar to other public schools. I don't think that any school will "hold their place" for a year. If the school is impacted, they will let someone in who will take the place of the child who left. If there is space when you return, you'll be able to re-join the same school. If not, you may be redirected to another school. I'm in Lamorinda, and this was one of my biggest concerns. When we left for a family sabbatical in January, there was literally a kid who took my son's seat the next day. We immediately put ourselves on the waiting list to get back into the school and we felt lucky to have received a spot at the same school the following school year. He was, in fact, I think the only "new kid" who entered at that grade level when we returned to the USA in August.

    We took a sabbatical year from summer 2012 to summer 2013, so I have personal experience with this.  Unless they have changed the rules, you have to do the whole enrollment thing again, which seems utterly stupid to me, but it's the way it is.  I had to get a friend to take original birth certificates, etc. in to the office by the enrollment deadline; I couldn't even do it by mail.  And in fact, my elementary school child initially got assigned to a different school for 4th grade, even though he had been at his original school since kindergarten and we had only missed his 3rd grade.  Because I knew he would never forgive me for taking him from his friends at that school, I begged and pleaded and lobbied and negotiated (maybe even cried?  -- cannot remember) until I finally got him back into his original school.  It's ridiculous.  On my mental to-do list in my abundant spare time is to write to the District and politely suggest that they come up with a policy for sabbatical families, since they are not too uncommon in Berkeley, that would allow you to return to the same school if you arrange it in advance and are only gone one year.  It would make so much sense.  But until then . .. be prepared, plan ahead, have the necessary documents, and make arrangements with a friend to do the process for you while you away.