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Kick Off a Stress-Free School Year

(ARA) 'For many children, the first day of school doesn't just mean new teachers and new friends -- it can also be a source of anxiety with homework and tests just around the corner. Fortunately, starting the year off right can help minimize a child's stress levels throughout the year.
- Parents can ease back-to-school anxiety and make a smooth transition from summer to school by starting a routine with their child early in the year,' says Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., vice president of education for Sylvan Learning Center. "While all children experience first day jitters, parents should pay close attention to children in transition years -- kindergarten, first grade, and the start of middle school and high school. The first days of transition years are particularly difficult and come with new expectations and challenges.'
Sylvan Learning Center offers the following ideas to help children prepare for school and minimize academic stress. These tips include back-to-school suggestions and specific tips for the transition years:
Back-to-School Tips (for each new school year):
* Get back in the routine. Ease transition from lazy summer days to the structure of the school year by re-establishing bedtime, mealtime, reading and homework routines.
* Set education goals. Help your child set goals at the very beginning of the year. Whether it is striving for an 'A' in reading, handing in homework on time or preparing for tests well in advance, setting goals can help set the routine for the new year.
* Develop a relationship with your child's teacher. Take the time to meet your child's teacher at the beginning of the school year. She can be the best source for information about your child's scholastic performance.
* Homework routine and place. Designate a specific time for homework and help your child discover a regular, quiet place where he can study. Make sure that the area is free from distractions and that study tools are at your child's fingertips.
* Stay on schedule. Your child should keep a schedule of all classes, assignments and key dates, such as project deadlines and test dates. As part of that schedule, she should include specific times for studying, projects and extracurricular activities.
* Emphasize organization. For some students, having color-coded binders for each subject helps them stay on track throughout the school year. Keeping notes organized helps test preparation later in the year, so work with your child to determine the best method for him.
* Encourage learning at home. Promoting learning outside of the classroom helps children perform better in school. To nurture reading skills spend at least one hour per week -- 10 to 15 minutes a day -- reading with your child. To enhance math proficiency, try letting your child help plan the next family trip and encourage him to compute miles, cost of gas, expenses for food, hotel and entertainment.
Transition Year Back-to-School Tips (children starting kindergarten, first grade, middle school or high school):
* Visit the school. If your child is changing schools, make a special trip together to visit the school before the first day of classes. Checking out the new classroom and teacher before school starts will help ease feelings of anxiety and get your child into the academic routine.
* Discuss changes in routine. Talk with your child about how the routine for his new school year may differ from the previous year. It can be difficult for children to adjust to changes in schedules and workload. Will there be more homework assignments? Will he have more than one teacher this year?
* Provide extra support. When starting the new school year, especially if it's a transition year, a little extra support can't hurt. Talk with your child about her fears regarding school and maintain an open dialogue throughout the year. Discuss what subjects she's anticipating and any areas she finds particularly challenging.
* Transition into Kindergarten. Kindergarten is your child's introduction to elementary school and a first opportunity to learn basic math and reading skills, not to mention the routines and expectations of group learning. As a parent, you are your child's first teacher. The skills that he learns from you -- how to get along with others and follow and listen to directions -- will help him start the year off right.
* Transition into middle school and high school. Transitioning from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school brings many questions and concerns. Organization becomes even more important in middle and high school when your child must keep track of multiple subjects, homework, teachers, classrooms and books. You can help him to reduce stress by giving him a calendar/planner to help him organize these new items and encourage good study habits.
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