Getting ready for a new school in Silicon Valley

By Karina Rook

Once we picked a school we liked, and rented a house within the district boundaries, we needed to prove to the school that we lived within the boundary – the lease agreement was not enough. In addition to the lease agreement, we needed two of the following:

  • Cell phone bill showing address
  • Insurance policy (for car, health, etc) showing address
  • Water service connection bill
  • Gas service connection bill

I ended up asking my gas and water companies to issue a letter via email confirming our new home address, as their systems only issued bills monthly after the connection date.

I visited the school and collected all the paperwork needed to enroll the kids, and then made copies of previous school reports, immunization records, birth certificates and passports that I could include with the enrolment papers. I also made copies of my passport and ID (Victorian drivers license) for their records.

The letter of introduction I had organized for each child (written by their last teacher in Australia) was appreciated by their new teachers and got the kids off to a positive start.

I then had to deliver the paperwork back to the school and in the case of my eldest joining grade 6 in middle school, was told she could start the very next day. There was no tour of the school, no list of supplies, just a student handbook and student planner issued with a directive that she be at the school office by 8am to meet her buddy (another grade 6 student assigned to her for one day only) and be taken to her first class.

It was a similar experience for my son too, but being an elementary school they were kinder, gentler, and his class had been warned of his arrival and were excited to meet the Aussie kid. I even got a phone call from his new teacher the day before he started, just to say hello and ask some basic questions about him – a nice touch.

I sent each child off with some basic supplies and a brand new backpack, and the rest was up to them. They joined each school 2 months before the end of the school year, roughly Sept through to end of May the following year. We did this intentionally so they could meet friends before the Summer break, and we could get a sense of how they performed against the California standards and curriculum before they started a fresh year in September.

Interestingly both our kids are almost a year younger than their peers. They started an Australian school year in February, and completed about 2 months of work before we moved, then completed the last two months of the same grade level in California. They kind of skipped a year, and the first few weeks in the Silicon Valley schools were very tough for my 11 year old. As parents we felt terrible, and tried to let her express herself and process the emotions, acknowledging that it was tough for her.

Kids are resilient. Within a few weeks both had made friends and the workload was settling down. They had started to get feedback on their studies and were feeling more confident that things would turn out alright. And they did! Seven months later my kids are on top of the curriculum and have adapted to school life (they’ll never love it though).