How to Prepare for the Beginning of the School Year

These ideas will help your child get ready for a new school year. As the first day of school approaches, there are many things you can do to set your child on the path to school success.

Find out if the school that your child will attend has a registration deadline

Some schools have a limited number of slots for children. Start early to find out your school's policy and the procedures.

Learn as much as you can about the school your child will attend before the school year begins

The more you know, the easier your job as a parent will be. Ask for a school handbook. This will answer many questions that will arise over the year. If your school doesn't have a handbook, ask questions. Schools-even schools in the same district-can differ greatly. Don't rely only on information about kindergarten that you have received from other parents-their schools might have different requirements and expectations.

You will want to find out the following:

  • The principal's name
  • The name of your child's teacher
  • What forms you need to fill out
  • What immunizations are required before your child enters school
  • A description of the academic program
  • The yearly calendar and daily schedule for students
  • School rules and regulations
  • Procedures for transportation to and from school
  • Available food services
  • How you can become involved in your child's education and in the school

Some schools will send you this information. In addition, some schools will hold orientation meetings. They may be in the spring for parents who expect to enroll their children in kindergarten the following fall, or late summer or early fall for back-to-school night. If your school doesn't plan such a meeting, call the principal's office to ask for information and to arrange a visit, and check to see if the school has a website.

Find out in advance what the school expects from new students

If you know the school's expectations, you will be in a better position to prepare your child. Sometimes parents and caregivers don't think the school's expectations are right for their children. For example, they may think that the school doesn't adequately provide for differences in children's learning and development or that its academic program is not strong enough. If you don't agree with your school's expectations for your child, you may want to meet with the principal or teacher to talk about the expectations.

Visit the school with your child

Walk up and down the hallways to help her learn all the different rooms-her classroom, the library, the gym, the cafeteria. If you visit during the school year, let your child observe other children and their classrooms.

Talk with your child about school

During your visit, make positive comments about the school-your good attitude will rub off. ("Look at all the boys and girls painting in this classroom. Doesn't that look like fun!"). At home, show excitement about the big step in your child's life. Let him know that starting school is a very special event.

Talk with your child about the teachers he will have and how they will help her learn new things

Encourage your child to consider teachers to be wise friends to whom he should listen and show respect. Explain to your child how important it is to go to class each day. Explain how important and exciting the things that she will learn in school are-reading, writing, math, science, art and music.

Consider volunteering to help out in the school

Your child's teacher may appreciate having an extra adult to help do everything from passing out paper and pencils to supervising children on the playground. Volunteering is a good way to learn more about the school and to meet its staff and other parents. How to Get Involved in Your Child's School Activities offers some great ideas for getting started!

When the long-awaited first day of school arrive, go to school with your child, be patient, and don't stay too long

Many children are overwhelmed on the first day of school, especially if they are starting school for the first time or are entering a new school. They may not like the school immediately. Your child may cry or cling to you when you say goodbye each morning, but with support from you and his teacher, this can change rapidly. As your child leaves home for her first day of school, let him know how proud of him you are!


Adapted from the following U.S. Department of Education publications:
Helping Your Child Succeed in School: First published in June 1993. Revised 2002 and 2005.
Helping Your Preschool Child: First published in November 1992. Revised 2002 and 2005.


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Share My Lesson. For teachers, by teachers.

National Education Association. How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners.

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