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Transitioning to High School

Be involved. Most high schools offer Jumpstart for incoming freshmen. It’s a great idea to attend and learn as much as you can. Attend open house and find out information about the curriculum and assignments. Get registered for the parent portal of the student management system, and stay abreast of your child’s performance in each class. Contact teachers immediately when concerns arise by email or phone. Monitor your child to keep them on track and aware that you are checking! Join the parent association and learn what’s going on at school. Attend events or offer to volunteer for a committee.

• Course selection: listen to the experts. Successful course selection includes completing state or district’s graduation requirements and taking courses that match ability level. It’s critical to pay attention to any teacher and counselor recommendations for course levels. Teachers work with their students day in and day out and they know how that student learns, completes work, and performs on tests. Then choose courses that will stretch your child a bit, but remember to keep balance in their academic course load. We want kids to feel challenged, but not overwhelmed and drowning. We still want them to be kids!

• Help with the balancing act between academics, athletics, and social life. We want our children to be successful students, to feel connected to their school, and to have friends and activities for fun times, but it all has to be carefully balanced. First, school is their job and what should be a student’s priority. Class choice and grades will play a big part in determining post-secondary options. It’s even more critical to have a set time and non-distractible place to study and do homework. Let me say one thing about homework; some schools no longer count homework for a grade. Homework is practice of the skills and concepts taught during class. Whether it counts or not, insist that your child does the homework. After all, practice makes perfect.

If your child is involved in athletics, clubs, or other activities, seriously consider the time commitment required. It may be that you and your family may need to alter patterns to balance study time with the activity. Pay attention to those things up front, not when things have fallen into crisis mode.

High school comes with all kinds of social events; spectator games, dances, and proms. There will be parties, movies, and just hanging out. Set reasonable expectations regarding how many nights you want your child out and time of curfew. Monitor who they are with and where they are going, as well as what they are doing. You will be labeled “over-protective” but that’s ok. Be a parent, not a pal

• Seek knowledge, listen and learn about post-secondary planning. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of experts. The ultimate goal of parents is to launch their children into a career that will sustain them and keep them from moving back home. Seriously, we all want our kids to be successful, be in a career that they love, and earn enough money to be totally independent. There are many options for students after graduation. It’s important to be supportive of their dreams, but also realistic. Here are a few tips:

1. Have a “road map” can help your child be realistic about plans, and can also serve to motivate them to do well. It’s not set in stone; adjustments are expected every year as course offerings or goals change. But having that map ensures that requirements will be met, and planning is on course. It also serves as a valuable reality check as they evaluate courses, grades and goals.

2. Encourage your child to look for job shadowing opportunities in fields of interest. These opportunities offer students valuable connections to people in the field. Those professionals can talk about necessary coursework and training, grades needed for programs, characteristics for being successful on the job, what they like/dislike about their job, starting salary and working conditions. Plus, it very well could save your child’s college education from being the most expensive career exploration program you or s/he ever paid for!

3. Post-Secondary Planning: Learn the timelines, familiarize yourself with online programs that offer college and career searches, attend the meetings on financial aid. Don’t wait for your child to bring that information home; you go and do your own homework and get knowledgeable. Your school counselor can guide you on what programs might be best for your child’s dreams. They know which tests are required for entrance, and the best times to take them.

• If you discover that your child is struggling academically, socially, emotionally, or with substance abuse or other serious issues, get help fast. With increased independence comes temptations, and there are plenty out there. It’s critical to be observant of your child and of their friends. Keep track of academic progress. Notice changes in behavior. Don’t try to explain things away. Be honest. Collaborate with your school counselor; let them provide suggestions for assistance, run interference with the academic side of things, be an objective sounding board for both you and your child, be the link between outside professionals and the schools. At these times, parents need someone in their corner who can think objectively and unemotionally. School counselors are not there to judge; they are there to support you through a trying time.

"Guiding Our Children through High School Transitions." Ed. Sharon Sevier. Parent Toolkit, July-Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.

Organization and Schoolwork/Homework Tips

Use your agenda. An agenda is an indispensable tool for high school. Its pages can hold homework assignments, doctor's appointments, club meetings, sports practices, parties, and more. The agenda should be neat and organized, and gives you a quick and easy way to see your schedule and assignments for the day, week, and month.

Write things down so you don't forget them. Now that you have your agenda, use it!

Get organized! Your teacher will let you know the first day of school the supplies you will need for their class. There may well be no pre-made packages or lists such as in previous years. It's suggested that for the first day of school, you bring the materials that you want to put in your locker. It's also suggested to have a notebook to record what the teacher says that you will need for his or her class, and to jot down any notes. It is great to have a binder, folder, notebook and loose leaf paper for each major subject. It's also good to have a homework folder and a daily planner.

For your pencil case, include blue and black pens for writing, red pens for correcting, white out (liquid is better), highlighters in several colors, number two pencils, lead pencils (with number nine led), extra led, erasers, and colored pencils. Each of these items has a specific purpose.

Have a place to put papers for each class. Don't just stuff them in your textbook or backpack. You need to keep track of things so you can verify grades with teachers and ace those upcoming quizzes and tests. Options include, but are not limited to:

  • A plastic file organizer: Basically, all this is is a plastic file holder that expands in an accordion style to reveal multiple pockets with tabs on each section and that act as individual files for all of your papers. These organizers are lightweight and compact, and by putting the name of each of your classes on each tab, they keep papers for every class separate while still allowing you to keep them all in one place. That way, if you remember you had a worksheet for homework or are in a class and have time to kill, you won't realize that the papers you need are buried in a separate folder for that class in your locker.
  • Separate folders or binders for each class: This option allows for the most storage space, but it may be a hassle to have so many folders. Get a different, distinct design or color for each one and label them clearly. Avoid stuffing papers into the pockets of a binder; instead, carry around a simple three-hole puncher.
  • Notebook pockets: For classes with a lot of notes and not so many handouts this is a fairly good system. If you have a spiral-bound notebook you can keep papers from classes in the pockets. Having one extra folder for everything is also a good idea because chances are you'll outgrow the pockets.

Get a separate notebook for each individual class. Yeah, it seems like a good idea to have one huge five subject notebook for all your classes because there's less to forget, but honestly, do you really want to bring three classes worth of notes and homework home if you only need the things from one? And, do you want to have to tell your teacher you lost your homework when you've misplaced it within your gigantic notebook. No! It's by far the best option to have a separate notebook for each class. If you don't want to get separate notebooks, at least get two or three subject ones.

  • Color code your school materials for each class. It is very important to keep everything for the subject together.
  • Write your name, teacher and subject on each notebook. Use duct tape and a permanent marker for this. To make it appear cooler, you can add pictures, doodles, and stickers (as long as it doesn't get too messy).

Get your locker and backpack/tote in good shape. It's impossible to be organized if your locker is jammed with loose handouts, old folders, and broken pencils or when your backpack is filled with gum wrappers and scraps of paper. Clear everything out! Throw out all the stuff that's obviously garbage, and then sort through the rest.

  • Look for a book bag that is roomy where you can keep everything organized!

Establish a home study area. Nobody wants to spend longer than required on homework, but without realizing it, you'll take longer just looking for materials. Find a place in your home where you're comfortable and there are no distractions from family. Getting a desk and putting it in your room is a good idea, as long as you feel you won't be distracted by its contents. You could also get a lap desk and do your work on your bed--just make sure you don't fall asleep! Make sure there are shelves and drawers for all necessary school supplies. Keep it clean and neat so that it's an inviting place to work in, or a little messy if that gets the creative juices flowing for you.

  • Load this quiet space with a separate pencil case, calendar, computer, writing space and bookshelf for homework.
  • Have some snacks stored in this desk, because doing your homework may get you hungry. There should be no distractions and everything you need should be close in hand.

Develop good habits. Establish routines to maintain your set-up systems. Come up with a set time to do your homework every day, and put it back in your backpack when you're done. Put everything you'll need for the next day in your backpack the night before, and set out your clothing and any extras and things you'll need. Consult your planner often, and check on, maintain, and alter your organization system when needed. Organized people are constantly tweaking their systems to adapt to new situations, and you should do the same. Be on time to class, make sure you do not fall asleep in class, and make sure to take the time to put the correct books in your bag.

Have something to eat before you start any homework or assessment. This way you will have energy to keep you going. Bring a snack to school if you are late for breakfast. .Be efficient and punctual, and try not to waste time and then pay for it later. With a little practice, you'll be good to go!

Get a good night's sleep every night. Trying to take a test in the morning when you had five hours of sleep last night is not a good idea. Eating breakfast in the morning is a good idea too. If you're not a breakfast fan, take a small snack with you in your backpack to eat before class. Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast before school get better grades than students who don't eat breakfast.


  • Take five to ten minute breaks every hour or so to clear head and to remove the prospect of becoming stressed. If you are getting a head ache get a glass of water and take this break then.
  • Use a zippered pouch or pencil case to keep track of your smaller school supplies: calculator, writing utensils, eraser, lead, highlighters, etc. This should be organized too! it is important to keep things clean in order to find everything nicely.
  • If your folder/binder is getting full, buy an accordion folder and place all your old papers inside. It's best to do this since your final exam is most likely to be cumulative.
  • File away all your old papers, assignments, essays-you name it. Don't throw any notebooks away as you may need to refer to them in the future. Store them in a box or a filing cabinet that is easy to access.
  • If something you have, like a folder or notebook, is falling apart or is too overloaded, purge it first. Then see if you really need to invest in something new or just use a little duct tape.
  • Use whatever works for you. Everyone is different, and something that works for someone else may not be the best thing for you. However, change can be good, so try something new and you might be surprised on how it works out for you. Likewise, if something isn't working, don't totally scrap it right then and there. Tweak the system and see what you have to do to adapt it to your lifestyle.
  • Follow what your teachers recommend. As you know, classes are all different and a teacher will know their class the best. While you might not want a binder in each class if the teacher tells you to get one...just remember that it's for a good reason!
  • Have two large pockets and three small pockets for your backpack. The biggest pocket is for your books, the second is for your lunch box, and the other pockets can be used for lollipops, um, your phone, iPod, head phones, etc.
  • Carry around an umbrella if it might rain that day.
  • Although reinforced loose leaf paper is more expensive, it is often times well worth it when paper starts to rip.

"Guiding Our Children through High School Transitions." Ed. Sharon Sevier. Parent Toolkit, July-Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Aug. 2016.