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June/July 2005

Education Guide
First Day 101: Putting Summer Prep in Your Child's Step
by Amanda K. Brown

For many parents, preparing their child for the first day of school involves classroom tours, registration dates and shopping for back-to-school supplies. But when starting school in a new town, first-day jitters are often compounded with many questions and uncertainties. Never fear-Atlanta schools realize that families move into the area everyday. They take extra efforts to help new students deal with issues that go beyond fresh notebooks and school IDs.

Some, for example, hold orientations or social activities over the summer that serve as relaxed forums for parents, students and teachers to get to know one another. Eastside Christian School in Marietta throws a summer "Back-to-School Fiesta" for parents and teachers, and organizes other get-togethers for the children, by grade level, that allow them to socialize as well.

To familiarize new students at The Waldorf School of Atlanta, teachers conduct home visits where they ask to see the child's room and favorite toys. This is especially helpful to younger children, as it helps them understand that their new teacher will play a significant role in their life and has been welcomed by their parents into their home.

Many schools also distribute or sell textbooks before the first day to students who want to do a little more academic preparation over the summer. Brushing up on difficult subjects and becoming accustomed to the new texts will dispel some of the nervousness your child may be feeling. Also, talk to your student's new teacher about his or her particular teaching style. Knowing about this before joining the classroom may be helpful to both you and your child.

Furthermore, at both public and private schools, students-even new ones-are often required t o fulfill summer schoolwork requirements before the first day of the new session. Reading lists, book reports and math packets are common assignments. To make certain that your child is as properly prepared as the other children, be sure to discuss required summer school work with your child's new teacher. Schools such as North Cobb Christian post reading lists on their Web site.

Many reports have surfaced in the recent years showing that smaller is better when it comes to educating our children. Educators, in general, favor small settings and think that small classes improve student learning. This is especially true for small grades (Pre-K and Kindergarten) where students require more space and less crowded rooms. On average, a good ratio of student per teacher for elementary grades is 15 to 20 students per teacher and goes up to 25 and higher with secondary grades.

Preparing for attendance at a private institution usually requires the purchase of that school's standard uniform. Christina Couret, director of communications at St. Martin's Episcopal School suggests that parents not wait until the last minute to buy their child's outfit, since uniform stores are open all summer. That way, children can get used to wearing and moving around in the outfit, and parents don't have to worry about scrambling around for shoes the day before school starts.

Several private schools hold used uniform sales where parents can find great deals, especially if you have a child who always seems to be hitting a growth spurt, or if you're buying outfits for multiple children. While schools such as St. Martin's and Eastside Christian hold their sale in the spring, others, such as Hopewell Christian Academy, hold a used uniform sale during the summer as well.

Finally, an issue that newcomers to Atlanta are never truly prepared for: traffic. The typical Atlanta traffic jams and bottlenecks often compound the problem of coordinating morning and afternoon school pick-ups with busy job schedules. To learn more about transportation options, call your child's new school to find out where bus stops are located, if your stop can be added to the list and whether or not the school has an organized carpooling system. St. Martin's, for example, provides new students with a packet that includes contact information for families in their same zip code that also have children attending the school. These contacts provide another opportunity for parents to get to know their neighbors, formulate a mutually beneficial transportation system and help their children meet and make new friends, all before school begins.

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