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Friday, October 19, 2007

Rites of Passage- Starting School/ Adjusting to a New School

“It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought -- that is to be educated.” – Edith Hamilton
If Edith Hamilton is correct in her comments on education, and I believe she is, then starting off on the right foot, with a positive attitude toward school in general and learning in particular, is vital to “the pleasure” of becoming educated. The positive attitude toward school I am referring to is never more important than when a child is starting school for the first time, or going to a new school.
Whether your child is going to school for the first time or changing schools, some things to keep in mind are:
1. Everyone goes to school for the first time at some point and all of us survive the experience so share your experiences as a student, but emphasize the happy ending.
2. While it is true we all survive the experience, for most of us it is a very stressful time so try to ease their fears. This is a great time to begin to teach what a wonderful thing change and growth really are.
3. The attitude you show is very important to how your child reacts, so make sure you project a positive one. Your attitude is the biggest influence on their attitude, and their attitude is the biggest influence on their academic success.

Some things you can do to ease the transition are:

1. Communicate a positive attitude about starting school or the new school.
2. If you can, take your child by the new school to see the school and meet the teachers and staff. Your child may actually get to see the classroom they will be in.
3. Make it a time of celebration. Going to get pizza the night before going to the new school or letting your child know you will be going after their first day can give them something to look forward to.
4. Since we have already started school, celebrating the first report card is also a great idea. If things have gone well, celebrate them; if things have not gone as well as you hoped, use this as a time to discuss what went well and what hasn’t gone so well. Then just like in sports, have a “do over”. “Do overs” are a wonderful thing, and adults tend to forget about them; on an unrelated note, you should also allow yourself “do overs” when necessary.
5. Volunteering at the school is a great way to be connected at your child’s school. If you can help during the day, there are a myriad of things you can do to help, if work prevents you from helping during the school day, then volunteer to be in the PTA or other parental organizations.
Whether starting school for the first time, moving into a new school district, or just moving up to middle or high school, these changes can be very stressful for your student. Changing friends, teachers, surroundings and increased difficulty all conspire to make life difficult for your child. You can, and should, help them with this transition by being involved, directly and daily, in their lives. Your kids and their education will love you all the more for the hands on parenting.

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