Teacher Talk: Getting Kids Ready for School

b>Dear Parents: With school starting soon, there are several things that need to be done to make the school year start out smoothly for your child. Here are a few suggestions:

Preschool
1. Your child should be toilet-trained.
2. Your child will need to know how to sit quietly. Library story hours are a great way to practice this skill.

Kindergarten
1. Make sure your child visits the school he/she will be attending to become familiar with the physical layout.
2. Read books about going to school so that your child will know what to expect.

Elementary School
1. Be careful not to overschedule your child with numerous sports and enrichment classes in the fall. Make sure there is plenty of time left for play and homework.
2. Establish with your children what the morning routine at home will be.

Middle School
1. Agree to a homework contract that spells out all the details about doing homework.
2. Make sure your child takes courses that will lead to the future he/she wants.

Q: I am trying to obtain information regarding what my daughter will need to know for the kindergarten assessment this fall. When I asked her current preschool teacher, the answer was, “Don’t worry, she is ready.” I wasn’t satisfied with that answer so I went over to the local public elementary school where all the testing is done. The person I talked to said the only thing my daughter needed to do was to meet the age criteria.
I have also visited the school’s Web site, but it is very hard to understand. Do you have any ideas about how I can prepare my child for the upcoming assessment?
— Anxious

A: Relax! You have the reassurance of your daughter’s preschool teacher that your child is ready for kindergarten. This assessment is not to decide if your daughter can or cannot enter the public kindergarten. Meeting the age criteria seems to be all that is necessary.
The assessment test will give the educators a picture of what your daughter and the other entering students already know so the proper curriculum can be planned. More importantly, the assessment will discover if any of the students have significant weaknesses that need to be addressed right away so learning can occur.
What’s on the assessment test is not as important as having your child feel comfortable about the testing situation. This is not going to happen if you are continually trying to find out the specific test questions so you can drill your daughter on them. What would be nice to know is how the test will be administered so you can tell your child what to expect.

Q: I want to tell you how I handled a difficult situation last year. Our son was assigned to an unpopular teacher’s fourth-grade class. When his friends heard about it, they said, “She’s mean and yells a lot.” I had also heard that one parent had a bad run-in with her.
I told my son that I didn’t know much about this teacher, but if he did everything she asked, he shouldn’t have any problems. I also assured him that Mom would be in his corner.
He was apprehensive on his first day of school, but it went fine. He said that if you followed the rules, there should be no problems. He learned quite a bit from her and was challenged.
— Very Pleased

A: A truly mean teacher is not a good teacher. However, learning how to get along with different personalities is part of life. Your son has learned a valuable lesson.

Q: My children’s elementary school is not a winner. The classes are overcrowded, achievement scores are below the national average, and there are many discipline problems. I never thought that I’d do this, but I am thinking of transferring them to a private school. But I have heard that tuition is outrageously expensive. Is this true?
— Transferring

A: It can be almost as expensive to go to a private elementary school as an Ivy League college. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, the median tuition for their member schools three years ago was close to $14,000 for grades 1 to 3; $15,000 for grades 6 to 8; and $16,000 for grades 9 to 12. Fortunately, many private schools do offer financial help, available even to middle-class families.
You need to understand that not all private schools charge astronomical tuitions. Call several in your area to discover what you are likely to pay. Plus, 85 percent of all private schools are affiliated with religions. Their tuition is likely to be much lower than that of very exclusive private schools.
Also, check out free charter schools that offer alternatives to enrolling in the typical public school.

Editor’s Note: For a listing of area private schools and their tuition costs, visit www.charlotteparent.com/resources/directories. You’ll also find a list of local charter schools on our Web site as part of the Ultimate Family Resource Guide, listed under “Guides.”

Parents should send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of Charlotte Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395 or e-mail dearteacher@excite.com.