Living abroad with your family sure sounds exciting, doesn’t it? The very possibility of new adventures in a foreign land can feel almost impossible to resist. In fact, more and more American families are taking that leap abroad, and they’re doing so successfully.

So, how do they do it? How do families with school-age children make the transition overseas? Clearly, it is not a decision to be made lightly.

What kind of school will be the best fit for your children? Will their diploma be recognized in other places around the globe; how difficult will the transition be from their American education to one overseas; could your children receive a good education outside the United States, or would it be better for them to first complete their education in their homeland?

Thankfully, there are excellent educational opportunities out there for your children, so those dreams of living abroad really can be realized. Before you start packing those bags, though, it’s important to be thorough in your research. There might be plenty of educational options, but not all of them are created equal.


One of the most important factors to consider with your children’s education is a school’s qualifications and accreditations. If a school does not have the proper qualifications, your child could be left with a diploma that means virtually nothing to other schools and universities elsewhere in the world.

Be sure to enroll your children in a school where credits are transferrable, and diplomas are not only recognized but highly regarded. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a program that embodies these very needs and is well-accepted by schools across the world.

Educational options

There are three main educational options available overseas:

Local schools are a possible choice for families planning a long-term residency in one location. Placing your children in a local school, facilitates complete immersion within their local environment. Transitioning into the local school system can be difficult at first, as your children adjust to both a new language and culture, so it is not suitable for all children. If you do choose a local school, find out first whether the diploma earned there will be recognized elsewhere.

A very popular alternative that gets around the language barrier is to use an International school. They  give children some exposure to the culture of the country in which you are living, thus widening their experience and building their self-confidence. The transition from their previous school should be quite smooth, as these establishments strive to meet the educational needs of expat families and provide qualifications similar to those available in their native country. The IB is often offered through international schools, giving an added, well-regarded benefit to those who attend.

Abu Dhabi has a number of international schools that cater to expat families. These schools observe the IB and other curricula. If you are interested in their programs, it’s best to start the admission process early, as spaces are quickly taken.

Hong Kong international schools are another excellent option to consider for your children. These schools are aligned with the IB, provide two graduating paths (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, or American High School Diploma, or both), and a 90% acceptance rate to students’ first choice schools.

Homeschooling is another popular option among families living abroad. The beauty of this method of education is that you can literally travel anywhere without your children’s studies being interrupted.  If the IB program is a must for your children’s education, this may soon become an option for homeschooling families via online lessons. Be on the lookout for the change, as it is likely coming soon.

Study overseas can be a wonderfully enriching experience when prepared for and researched correctly. While there are certainly many educational choices to filter through, it is likely that only one or two will truly be a great match for your child. Whether it be the local, international or homeschool route, an adventure most certainly awaits.

A great deal is said these days about “charter schools” and whether they are a blessing or a bane. One major entity in the field is Rocketship Public Schools (started as “Rocketship Education” in 2006), which has expanded from an initial school in San Jose to a network of 20 schools in three states and the District of Columbia.

A detailed account of RSED’s rise is education writer Richard Whitmire’s On the Rocketship: A Tech Entrepreneur’s Journey to Re-Think Education Through Charter Schools. (Jossey-Bass 2014).
Rocketship says its approach has “three pillars”;

• ““Personalized Learning: Tailoring instruction, content, learning experience, and pace to unleash the potential of every student.”
• “Talent Development: Investing in the growth and development of every team member to unleash their full potential in the classroom and beyond.”
• “Parent Power: Unleashing the power of parents to champion their children’s education, hold leaders accountable, and enable high-quality public schools to thrive.”

Rocketship has been known as a major proponent of what is known as “blended learning”, which seeks to use the best advantages of computerized digital learning techniques and more traditional classroom settings. Its particular approach is the “Lab Rotation” system, which divides a school day into subject blocks in classrooms (in turn split between humanities and mathematical subjects , and the “Learning Lab”, where Rocketship’s tutors assist students in making use of computerized learning systems.. Teachers also make use of devices such as iPads and Chromebooks in the classroom setting.

Reports on newer adjustments in this have led people to claim RSED is “turning away from” the blended learning paradigm. But former CEO John Danner responds: “Only in public education would continuous evolution be seen as a negative. Rocketship is never satisfied with its program, technology, approach, because they can see clearly how much better they can do. “

The latest Year in Review report gives statistical data on success in “closing the achievement gap” with pupils previously in underperforming schools.
A teacher working at one of the Nashville schools writes: “A progressive place to work! This company values the opinions of their employees. Th e company provided continual training and appreciation days for their teachers. It was a diverse environment with mission-driven goals!

Another teacher success story is recounted by Jeremy Ault about his experience at Rocketship’s Southside Community Prep in Milwaukee. He gives a heartfelt account of his experiences drawing out an initially nonverbal student.

More information is available at RSED’s own site.