Back to School
Getting Ready For A Great Year
Feature by Deana Garrison and Cheryl Johnston| Photography by Anthony Sassano
Although summer is still in its prime, the beginning of a whole new school year is right around the corner. Our children face so many changes and challenges through the transitional phases of their education that it’s important for adults to offer solid support.
During the early elementary years, our children become accustomed to step-by-step instruction by a patient and guiding teacher. With each additional year and grade of school, the children assume a little more responsibility and adjust to even more challenging work.
These elementary school years establish the foundation for their first big transition – the one to middle school and changing classrooms and multiple teachers. Many parents fear this giant step for their children.
Students immediately notice fewer limitations to their freedom, while parents worry about the caliber of their child’s organizational skills. Both have concerns about the adjustment to “little frog in a big pond,” new friendships, and not being able to find their way around for classes.
The tasks of maintaining a locker, time management and agenda organization all come into play and can seem overwhelming to young teens.
And then, there’s the dreaded “peer pressure.”
What can you as a parent do to help your child? Several parents who have been in this situation offered some great advice.
Lisa Van Fossen, a parent of students in elementary and middle school, suggested this: “Encourage your child to take part in a club and surround themselves with children that carry common goals.” Students seem to thrive in the popular clubs that promote character values and good citizenship, such as Future Farmers of America, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Rachel’s Challenge / Chain Link Club. Many civic organizations have school clubs as well, for example, Key Club or Civinettes.
To encourage your child’s interest in music, art, agriculture and sports is an especially good strategy for helping them adjust to their expanding and more diverse world. Additionally, skills learned in these fields of interest can follow them on through secondary school, through college and into their own eventual family life. To help a student discover their special talents, gifts and passions is perhaps the greatest service any of us can do for the betterment of our community. Just like adults, children need to be valued and appreciated – they need to feel like their life matters and that someone cares and notices enough to encourage.
Van Fossen also commented, “The Edline system is a good resource for parents. It allows them to stay in frequent communication with their child’s teachers and to watch their child’s academic progress.” For those unfamiliar yet, Edline is a password-protected online assessment and monitoring tool used by teachers to keep both the students and their parents apprised of homework, upcoming assignments, special instructions, and grades. Parents who consistently check into Edline can determine where their student might need a little more help, suggest tutoring, inquire about specific assignments that might be due soon, download worksheets or handouts, and communicate with the teacher via e-mail through the system. Research has proven that students whose parents remain informed about their child’s progress generally strive to live up to the higher expectations.
It’s important that parents understand how each school’s system works and become familiar with the individual teacher preferences for reporting, in order to benefit most from this great tool.
Be sure to attend the school’s orientation with your student and discuss their schedule and plans for organizing themselves and their work.
One parent mentioned how her “straight-A student” lost interest in keeping up with the studying process and watched his grades slip as he entered middle school. Together, mom and dad devised a plan. They asked another student (one who studied to keep grades up) to have a scheduled study time with their son at a quiet place away from home after school several days a week. They decided Panera Bread would work well. After a few study sessions, their son’s grades started to improve. A solution can be as simple as partnering with a peer at a special place, and in this case, it did the trick.
A common suggestion from parents who can spare the time is to “volunteer at your child’s school.” Schools are always in need of volunteers and they appreciate them, too. But perhaps as important is the connection or “ear to the ground” so to speak that parents have when they are at the school more regularly. Involved parents tend to have great relationships with the school’s administrators and teachers, which in turn can benefit the student. And once again, students seem to try more to please those parents who care enough to make education a priority. If you can volunteer, do it. The more you are a part of your child’s education the better.
The transition to high school is huge for a teen, and for parents. Your family’s dream of having the children earn their diploma and launch into college or career is only four short years away once they enter ninth grade. Your interest and concern is probably needed more than ever in this phase of their education. Keep those communication lines open, with your students and with staff, by continuing to use the Edline system. Stay on top of their grades and encourage them to be active participants in extra curricular activities. Talk to your student, ask where they struggle, praise their successes, and find out how you can help them to be even more successful.
As your child is getting ready for the new school term, make sure you are getting yourself ready for big transitional changes. Converse with other parents and keep up with the school’s monthly newsletters, most of which are posted online at the school’s website.
Most importantly, allow your child opportunities to grow and assume more responsibility for school and social life on their own. This phase is simply called “growing up.” Stay in tune, share whenever possible, give them room to breathe (and even learn from their own mistakes) and then …… relax. With so many caring adults involved, they are bound to do just fine.