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Stay informed of the latest company news, product releases, and musings on education policy and technology by subscribing to the MyloWrites blog.

 

Filtering by Category: Advice

Preparing Children for Middle and High School

Bill McCarthy

“Who will be in my class?“

“I hope I don’t have that teacher.”

“Is this year going to be as hard as last year?”

“I hear there is so much homework next year."

Anticipating the start to any school year provokes a sense of wonder, excitement, anxiety and uncertainty for most children. Can you relate to any of the questions and statements listed above?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  While graduating to the next level of education is a symbol of achievement and success for children, these events are often met with mixed emotions.  

When children enter middle and high school, the perceived stakes tend to be much greater, and children may react with heightened responses that had not been previously recognized.  Parents are often left wondering - How do I best prepare my child for this new chapter in life?  There is no easy answer to this question, and the most effective response can vary from family to family.  Parents often reflect back on their own experience entering middle and high school and can appreciate the emotions that children experience.  However, as adults, we sometimes forget or underestimate how impactful these hallmark moments were in our lives.  

As families approach these important transition points in a child’s education, it may be helpful  for parents to consider a few important points:

  • Create the space to talk about these experiences.  Schools will often provide families with a wonderful field guide about how to logistically navigate the first few weeks of school.  While it is important to be informed about dismissal protocols and homework policies, these “how to” manuals don’t offer much in terms of how to support children socially and emotionally.  Many parents pepper children with a series of questions after the first day of school and are disappointed when they receive little (if any) feedback from their children. Parents should demonstrate authentic interest in their child’s experiences during the first few days of school and be clear that they are there to listen whenever a child wants to discuss his or her experiences. Parents should never underestimate the power of listening to their children as this is the most effective tool in creating warm, supportive conversational spaces.

  • Reflect back what you think your child may be feeling about this experience.  Many children struggle with identifying their feelings while going through such experiences.  I consider parents to be experts on their child’s feelings, and it is important for parents to help children put words to what they may be experiencing.  Feelings, such as being excited, nervous, frustrated, and happy (yes, happy), are common while children are adjusting to the start to middle school or high school.  By actively listening to your child’s experience, you become better attuned to what he or she may be experiencing and can support your child in making deeper connections with the experience.

  • Be honest about your own feelings (without making this experience all about you). Children are not the only ones experiencing emotions during these moments. You are are allowed to have feelings too - as long as they don’t overshadow your child’s experience.  Watching children enter middle and high school can certainly provoke a number of emotions for parents, such as feeling great pride in this accomplishment to a sense of loss at your child becoming increasingly more independent.  It is important to be honest with yourself as you walk through these experiences.

  • Validate the wonderful and challenging parts of a new experience.  When people try something for the first time, they often bring to the experience a certain level of curiosity and apprehension.  It can be difficult to try something new, especially when it involves so many moving parts as middle and high school education does.  Parents should be mindful of how impactful the new experience of being a middle or high school student is and reflect this back to their children in a meaningful and constructive way.

  • Be patient.  All children make it through the first few weeks of middle and high school.  What may have seemed like an impossible challenge for your child two weeks ago has magically become something of the past.  As with listening, patience can not be underestimated as you support your child in these important transition points in school.  Living in the present and showing appreciation for this new experience are great ways to model patience for your child.

As we approach another beginning of the school year, I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful, exciting and inspiring year ahead of you.  

Bill McCarthy is the Head of Pre and Lower School and former Director of Learning Support for grades K-12 at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  

 

5 Tricks for Easy Back-To-School

Rose Howell and Alexandra Mayzler

It’s hard to believe that August is almost over! Before you know it, the back-to-school rush will be upon us, and it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are five simple ways to ease back into school mode.

1. Gradually adjust bedtimes

It is unlikely that your kids will be able to shift from a late summer bedtime to an 8:30pm bedtime right away. About two weeks before school, begin making bedtime about 15 minutes earlier so that they grow accustomed to the new schedule. Explain to your child that sleep is crucial for her health and should not be seen as a bummer, but a welcome relief. If parents begin to wind down at the same time, this will also help send the message that everyone is heading to bed, and they aren’t missing out on the action.

2. Decide on a morning routine and stick to it

Make a plan for showers, packing lunch, sports bags & homework, and eating breakfast. Have a chalkboard or whiteboard for your kids so they can make checklists about what they need to accomplish each morning. Make sure they know it’s important to come to breakfast right when it’s ready so they are not late. Having a set routine is the best way to combat the grogginess of early mornings.

3. Start the year with clear expectations

Sit down with your kids and lay out the rules for the coming school year when it comes to electronic usage, playdates or junk food. Make sure they have an understanding of what you expect of them.

4. Become acquainted with teachers and parents

You’ll feel more at ease sending your child off every day if you know the teacher and the class environment that he or she creates. It’s also nice to know a few parents who you can rely on in case of an emergency or for more convenient carpooling. Developing this familiarity with the school community is a great way to start the year, even if you don’t have time to attend as many events as you’d like.

5. Set up a clean, quiet workspace

Having a dedicated workspace gives students a sense of purpose and consistency when it’s time to do homework. Make sure they have a space just for them with the proper materials and supplies. If your child has ADHD and/or is especially distracted by noise and movement, ensure that his homework space is removed from any commotion.

Rose Howell is an Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps Group, a unique tutoring company that takes an individualized approach to creating independent learners.

Alexandra Mayzler is the founder of Thinking Caps Group. She is also the author of several books including ACT Demystified (McGraw-Hill 2013).

 

Tips for Keeping Your Child’s Writing Sharp This Summer

Stacy Rosenblum

Here we are again—the happy, hot days of summer.  Each day seems to get longer, yet the weeks fly by, and before we know it, school will be back in session.  So, how to make the most of all this time?  Glad you asked!  We’ve got some tips to embed writing practice into your child’s summer plans, painlessly and with minimal effort.

1. Rediscover the postcard.

Postcards have very limited space in which to write, so by nature, they are a quick and easy writing project.  And who doesn’t love to receive a postcard?  Encourage your kids to collect postcards from your summer travels and adventures, then address and write a few sentences to a relative or friend.  Don’t forget to ask that person to write back!

2. Photo Journals

Creating a photojournal of summer adventures is a fun and engaging way to keep your kids writing this summer.  Give your child a camera (or smartphone) to document any summer event in which they participate.  Then upload the photos to any of a number of web tools to create a photo journal—either online or in print.  I like Google Slides as an easy and cost free option, but if you want to take this project to the print level, there are many sites on which to do so: Blurb, Shutterfly, Mixbook, Snapfish, etc.

3. #TBT: Go to the library!

There is no activity that gets my own kids reading more easily than visiting our local public library.  This suggestion may seem a little “throwback,” but just being in the presence of so many books motivates kids and adults to read.  Your child can explore a personal interest, discover something new, and as the librarian for suggestions.  Furthermore, public libraries are most often air conditioned, which make them a lovely place to spend a sweltering afternoon!

4. Make a list.

The humble act of writing a list is a totally underrated, yet wonderful writing activity.  When my children whine to me that they are bored, the first thing I ask them to do is make a list of all the activities that they could be doing at that moment, as well as all of the things they wish they could do.  Lists are boundless—make a list of absolutely anything you can think of!  Lists are also great starting points for longer pieces of writing, as they help kids to generate ideas on a single topic.  Making lists is great practice for taking notes and organizing ideas in school.

5.  Write a collaborative story.

Get everyone in on the action!  Begin a family story that each member gets to contribute to.  One person gets to write the first few sentences, and set the stage.  Then the next person chimes in, introduces a new character or event, then the next person writes more, changing the story and adding plot twists and turns.  This is a great activity in so many ways.  It uses adult modeling of writing for kids, demands great creativity, and is highly engaging for kids.  We write a collaborative story every summer in my house and this year’s has been going on for about 3 weeks!  There are dragons, aliens, princesses and lots of action.  We leave it on the kitchen counter and whoever gets home from camp or work first gets to add their ideas.  See what comes from your family’s collaborative story and don’t forget to put it away as a great keepsake when the story is complete.


So there you go—5 ways to keep your kids practicing their writing this summer that they will not only be willing to do, but will enjoy!  Have a great summer!