Trouble-free transitions: How can you help ease the challenging transition to a new grade level, school
The key to getting off to a good start in elementary, middle and high school lies at home. Parents during the hot summer days can take several steps to prepare their children for back-to-school time. The two keys are to teach your children exactly what their instructors will expect of them in the coming school year, and to help them develop proper study habits even when the sun is burning brightly.
In some ways, making the move to elementary school is the most challenging one your children will make. Even the world of kindergarten is vastly different from what most children experience in preschool. It is during the elementary years, that children will learn the most, and do so at the quickest rate.
Starting with those kindergarten years, children will begin the exciting, but sometimes frustrating, journey of learning how to read. In kindergarten, this will start with sounding out the letters of the alphabet and practicing rhyming skills. By third grade, children will be reading on their own, tackling more challenging chapter books. By fourth and fifth grade, they’ll be writing book reports to make sure that they comprehend what they read. They’ll debate the meanings of the books they read, and these books will grow ever more complicated.
And that’s only reading. Children in elementary school also learn the basics of math, progressing rapidly from simple counting to addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. By the later elementary grades, they’ll be studying decimals and fractions.
Then there are the beginnings of scientific experiments, social studies and history.
Children in elementary school must also learn, often for the first time, how to work in groups and cooperate with others, whether in the classroom, the gym or the recess playground.
How can you help? Parents are key to helping their children navigate through these often challenging years. Parents must help their children develop good study and organizational skills. This means setting up regular times for homework, reminding children to pack the right books and notes for each school day and sending them to bed at a reasonable hour during the week. Parents should also look for potential problems:
• Is a child struggling to pick up the basics of reading?
• Is a child not fitting in with his or her classmates?
• Does math consistently frustrate the child?
Parents who identify these challenges should work with their children’s teachers and school counselors to solve these problems before they become larger issues.
Elementary school should be a time of both challenge and discovery. Parents who work closely with their children can help ensure that these beginning school years, which lay the foundation for the rest of a child’s school career, are positive ones.
The transition from elementary school to middle school can be challenging for many students. The switch usually involves children moving to a much larger school with more classmates, and teachers expect students to work more independently.
Middle school students often work with several different teachers during the day, and may, for the first time, change classrooms several times. Middle schools also offer a greater number of clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities for students. Middle schoolers may have their first opportunity to play on a school soccer team or learn a new instrument with the school band.
It might help for parents and their children to visit their new middle school before the academic year starts. This will help children become comfortable with their new school’s layout and size.
These changes can prove overwhelming. Parents, though, can make the transition easier. First, it’s important for parents to set up a quiet study area for students. Children will undoubtedly be tackling a larger amount of homework than they did at elementary school. They’ll also be working on more group projects and longer-term assignments.
Parents should help keep their children on track to finish these projects on time.
Children’s social world increases during middle school. They’ll be meeting more classmates, some of whom they’ll like and others they won’t.
How can I help? Parents should make sure their children understand that there will be occasional conflicts with their classmates, or even with their teachers. The key is for parents to be available for their children when they need to discuss these sometimes challenging issues.
Strong study habits, an ability to work independently and organizational skills are more important at the high-school level than at any other school.
High schools are often large, imposing buildings, dwarfing even the biggest of middle schools. Students change classrooms several times a day and deal with many different teachers from throughout the day. Each of these teachers doles out his or her own assignments, and expects a differing amount of work from students.
Students who aren’t organized, who can’t keep track of the different work expected from them, will struggle during their high-school years.
And that’s just on the academic side. Socially, high school presents a whole new world of challenges. Students meet classmates from a wider geographic range. They have the opportunity to participate in what may seem like an infinite number of clubs and sports teams. There are dances to navigate, pep rallies and weekend football games. Students must also begin preparing for college.
How can I help? A parents’ role during the high-school years is a complex one. Parents must be disciplinarians, and make sure that their children are completing their assignments on time and studying for their tests. But they must also act as sounding boards, listening and advising when their children come to them for advice.
SIDEBAR: Prepping for college life
For many young adults, college represents the beginning of adulthood. Consider that many will be moving away from home for the first time, while others will begin intense preparation for their future career.
Know the differences: As a parent, it’s important to discuss college life with your teenagers. They need to know the differences between four-year, technical and community colleges. Not every high-schooler wants to, or should, go to a traditional four-year college.
Take the right courses: Parents must also make sure their children take the appropriate high school course work for the type of college that interests them. For many students, it’s important to take high-level math and science courses while earning a broad-based high-school education.
On their own: Finally, if children are moving out of the home for the first time, parents should have frank discussions about budgeting, focusing on school work, finding part-time work and avoiding trouble.