Families with Children

If your visa allows it, you may be able to bring your spouse and children to live with you in the USA while you’re working hard on your degree. It’s a great opportunity, but what will your kids do all day while you’re attending classes?

If they’re old enough, they’ll be in school. Though the exact ages differ depending on the state, children in the USA are required by law to attend school from approximately the age of 6. There are three main types of schools: public, private, and charter. Public schools are run by the government and are free to attend, and the school itself is usually determined by your neighborhood. Private schools are private institutions and are known for high academic levels and more amenities, but also for extremely high tuition costs. Charter schools are a somewhat recent addition to school categories, and are a sort of combination of public and private schools – they often have specialized approaches and they’re free to attend, but are independently run and therefore have less accountability in terms of their academics, financial accounts, and facilities. Students in the USA can also be homeschooled, but that gives you less quiet time to study.

The school system is generally divided into three levels: elementary school (Kindergarten through 5th grade), middle school (6th through 8th grades), and high school (9th through 12th grades). The definitions shift a bit throughout the country, but this overall breakdown should be clear enough to understand that the grade number has nothing to do with a child’s age.

If your children are not old enough to be enrolled in Kindergarten or higher grades, they can attend nursery schools (also called pre-schools) starting from around age 2 or 3, where they will play but also have a bit of an educational curriculum. Babies or very young children can attend daycare in private homes or through various organizations or institutions. Keep in mind, however, that all the care options for young children charge tuition or fees, so make sure to include those costs when doing your budgeting.

How do you get your kids to school? That depends on the type of transportation available where you’re living. However, it’s really important to know that there are child safety laws regarding seatbelts and car seats while driving. The laws differ based on the age, height, and weight of each child, but not following them could result in fines and other consequences (not to mention putting your child at risk).