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Posted in Life, Parenting around the planet | 10 comments

Parenting Around The Planet – An American in London

Parenting Around The Planet – An American in London

Parenting Around the Planet is a chance to step back from the day-to-day and take in another perspective. Parenting isn’t easy and we do the best we can with the resources we have. Raising our families in different ways, in different cities, in different countries. All going through the good and the bad and getting on with it. Getting through it. Sharing it. Let’s celebrate our differences as well as our similarities!

Today we have a twist on Parenting Around the Planet as it’s not a perspective from another country but from right here in the UK.  I’m delighted to welcome Shobha from NYLon Living – an American expat living in London with her English husband and twins aged 8. Shobha is an ex-corporate lawyer turned stay at home Mum and writes about homes, family and a life that straddles both sides of the pond. She has always enjoyed travelling and exploring new cultures and places and also blogs at Just Go Places about family travel. You can follow Shobha on Twitter as @ and  .

So grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy Shobha’s thought-provoking perspective on her children’s education…

Would you like to guest post for this series? Get in touch.


NYLon living

I always assumed the childhood I had was the best. To be fair, I don’t remember most of the details but just a general vague feeling of happiness. So when I had my own children, I thought I wanted a similar childhood for them. Raised by Indian-American immigrants, education was always an important part of my childhood. My parents made financial sacrifices so that I went to a small, private elementary school and high school in the suburbs of New York. If I weren’t living in London, I’m pretty sure my children would have the same experience.

Over the summer, one of my friends gave me a book, The Smartest Kids in the World; And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley, which made me really think about American education. In the book, Ripley writes about 3 American high school students who go abroad to study in Poland, South Korea and Finland, respectively. The comparison with the education they were getting in the USA is riveting reading.

Kindergarten, preschool classroom.

What are these countries doing right? In each of these countries, students are expected to meet high standards. There isn’t an everyone is special at something attitude. There are clear academic winners and losers. Moreover, the teachers are held to a high standard. They are academic high-achievers in a profession with is treated with respect.

Of course, Ripley isn’t sparing on the criticism either. For example, in South Korea, children go to school all day and then crammer schools in the evening. We are talking about 12 hours of school a day in addition to a schedule that amounted to an extra 2 months of school more than the average American student. The children were miserable and exhausted – losing their childhood in preparation for adulthood.

Raising children overseas has been a learning experience for me and has made me question long-standing cherished beliefs. For example, is it such a good idea for children to have 3 months off for the summer? I remember loving the long, lazy days of summer which seemed to stretch forever. Studies have shown though that having such a long extended summer vacation results in children forgetting a chunk of what they learned in school. Maybe those cherished hazy days of summer weren’t good for me!

School's out for summer on blackboard

Ironically, my friend who gave me the book is raising her three children in Westchester very close to where I myself grew up. Her description of the uber-competitive parents in her school district are really not that different from the parents I meet in North London. I may have moved across the pond geographically only to find myself in a similar situation. The main difference I can see is that the American schools have a huge emphasis on sports which my unsporty children would find difficult. Although my daughter is on the gymnastics squad, she has little interest in pursuing it with any degree of discipline. My son lacks both the interest and the coordination to play any sport.

The whole education process in London has thrown me for a loop. I assumed that my children would go to the American School in London. Unfortunately, they did not get accepted and we have started them in the British system. I always assumed we would try to get back into the American system but should we? Perhaps we should consider the International Baccalaureate which is known for its academic rigour. Having more options than the average American school district does not make the decision-making easier.

 Linking up with Brilliant Blog Posts at Honest MumThe Parenting Pin It Party at Kiddy Charts, Welcome to the Weekend at Claire Justine oxox, Post Comment Love at Verily Victoria Vocalises


  1. As a British Secondary school teacher, I have always been interested in the differences between our education system and that of the US. I find it unusual that so much emphasis is placed on sports over there and often wonder why that is.
    Carlyakamummy recently posted…Imagination Matters – In the Garden

  2. Hi! As a British Mum bringing up a boy in Spain, I totally sympathise with the struggles you go through as a Mum in a foreign schooling system, trying to work it all out and decide whether or not it´s the right decision. I have my son in an International school here now, but it is nothing like the education I would have wanted for him back home although he is supposedly following the same curriculum. Very difficult!

    • It is such a challenge isn’t it – all we want is the best education for our kids, but I also think that being in a foreign country is a wonderful experience for them too.Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. Really interesting read, to see the differences. The korean system is madness for a lot of children, family life and just generally creating people who can think their own way, and find their own strengths. I do like the idea of competition, and I’m relieved that the school that N is likely to go to, do have competitive sports competitions instead of purely celebrating everyone taking part. But it’s definitely a minefield getting it right for the individual child and tying that in with what’s available.

  4. I have read Shobha’s blog many times – hi! :) This is a really interesting post. I have always thought that other countries have a better education system than we do but I don’t think I would do as good a job as her teachers do! Much of it is down to the individual teacher I guess. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo :) x

  5. Hi there, Michelle. What a great series of posts to have and such an interesting read. I wonder if my kids would get distracted if they studied at home as much as I do when I work from home! 😉 Thanks for linking up to the Parenting Pin it Party this week, good to have you xx

  6. Interesting post Michelle, not sure my children would study at home, so much to distract them …

    Thanks for linknig up #weekendbloghop

  7. Love this series Michelle-and interesting Shobha that your children are going into the UK system.

    My Dad actually went to the prestigious American Academy boarding school in Cyprus before University in the UK and loved it, he said it was very competitive but that gave him a real edge throughout his life-he went into business and became an entrepreneur and now restaurant owner of a group of 4 award winning restaurants. I think his ethos of healthy competition and really going for opportunities has inspired me too.
    Education counts for a lot but I think your role in it all does too and be it British or American education in the UK or otherwise, is a part of it but not the whole of it. Sure they will thrive x

  8. Bonjour from a British expat with 2 boys in a French school! It’s difficult for me to compare school between the UK and France as my parents sent me to a private convent which I hated (although did academically well at) and vowed I would never send my children to a private school. So here in France they go the local school – the hours are longer than the UK, I suspect the staff may be more strict and there are certainly far more tests. There isn’t much sport but with Wednesday afternoons off, that is when children do sport with the many local clubs there are. There are certainly things I like about the French system and things I don’t … I think I need to collate them all into a blog post sometime! However I do believe that children should be given time to be children and the long hours the Korean children do robs them of this valuable time. Their country may be very successful but is the way this is achieved too great a price to pay?

  9. Can I confess that I really wanted my son to study home. I am not familiar with the system of education in the UK and Im thinking that would be a hindrance for my son to advance in his education if I dont know it. We stayed put and enrolled him and he is doing his foundation years here. I am taking it by the day. I love learning how things are here with my son. #pocolo


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