ENGLAND v. AMERICA: Schools Days in England and the United States

Back to School First Day of School Kids Toddlers

Oldest Child and Middle Child Wait for the School Bus with Youngest Child on the First Day of School

My childhood was nomadic and chaotic. So was my educational journey.

Starting School in England

I started kindergarten in England. Prior to kindergarten, I attended a church preschool. It was September and I was 4 when I started kindergarten. Autumn term. School uniform with velour hat and buckled shoes. Full school day. Very academic. Learned to read early. Midway through the year we emigrated to the United States from England. I have always wondered why I started school if we were going to emigrate? Why? I don’t know the reason.

Emigrating to the United States

All I know is that we emigrated to the United States in January of the year I was 4. There was a phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s of British engineers being recruited to work for American, Canadian, or Saudi Arabian companies. My dad said that he worked with a number of people who he had worked with or known in England.

I don’t remember anything about my life in England before emigrating. I have no memories of school or homework or friends or my home or family interactions. Or flying to America or arriving in New York. After arriving at JFK Airport in New York City, my family spent 1 night at a hotel…funded by my dad’s job…maybe it was the Hilton?

Living in the United States

For the next month, we lived at a Holiday Inn motel in New Jersey. I have a vague recollection of watching kids’ TV shows…maybe Romper Room…in the motel room. Must have been bleak for my mother to manage children in a hotel room. Apparently, there was another family staying at a hotel who had a child who was my age. Another British family? I don’t remember. I’ve seen photos but don’t remember playing with this child.

Apparently, my mother tried to enroll me in kindergarten in a local elementary school in New Jersey. The principal said that I couldn’t enroll because I was too young. only 5-year-olds could enroll in kindergarten. My mother pleaded her case by sharing that I could already read. The principal wouldn’t budge. I have vague memories of my mother teaching me to read using the Dick and Jane reading series from Ladybird. I don’t recall being taught to read after we arrived in the United States. So I was enrolled in preschool.

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