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April/May 2006

Education Insight
School's In For the Summer
by Wendy Hersh

You've researched schools, found your new home and are the kids have the summer off before beginning their new school. Everything's all set then, right?

Well, not quite.

Helping your child adjust to a new school is something that parents can actively initiate well in advance. And unlike mid-year transfers, summer moves afford plenty of time to prepare both socially and academically.

Do Your Research
Find out when new student registration and/or orientation takes place, whether the school hosts summer camps, and if there are posted summer workbook or reading requirements. What time does school begin in the morning? Is there a uniform, and if so, where can you purchase it? Where is the bus stop (or how does car pool work)? Don't forget to share what you find with your child! Also, find out which other families with children attending the school live nearby-contact them with your questions about carpooling, play dates and getting the scoop on the school and neighborhood.

Also, the Georgia Department of Education Web site for performance standards ( contains detailed descriptions of the state's expectations for math, language arts, social studies and science at each grade level. Advance knowledge may help with placement in middle and high school. Ask your child's current teachers to review the standards for specific course descriptions and then to prepare a letter of recommendation regarding placement.

Making Connections
Organize informal meetings with students from the new school, and make several trips to the school so your child can become familiar with the campus. Amy Glass, formerly a newcomer herself and currently the director of admissions at Greenfield Hebrew A cademy, volunteered at the school during the summer, enabling her to meet other parents. Perhaps more importantly, "It also helped me figure out where the school was so I was less nervous trying to find my way on the first day of school in a new city." Glass stresses that parents should meet as many families as possible. "You may not necessarily end up being involved with them socially, but it helps you begin to feel like you're connected to the school community."

At Mountain View Elementary School in East Cobb, K-2 counselor Samera Sheikh strongly recommends helping children to feel comfortable in their new environment by signing them up for local activities such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, sports, and classes at the Y or local community center. "This will not only build their confidence but keep them busy, which takes away time from missing their old environment and [dwelling on] insecurities about the new road ahead," Sheikh says. Local summer camps and neighborhood pools are also great for meeting schoolmates and neighbors.

Parents should also ask about school or PTA buddy programs. Mountain View, Shiekh notes, started a new program this year that pairs up new families with existing host families who help the newcomers out in any way possible.

The Tutoring Advantage
Academically, differences in curricula may exist. At The Westminster Schools for instance, summer school is available to new junior high and high school students for additional support. While private schools' entrance exams may point out areas of weakness, gaps in learning aren't always evident.

Tutoring centers can help. "Parents who have recently relocated often call us to get their child on level with the state's published education standards," says Dennis Freeman, director of In-Home Tutors of Atlanta (770-645-8750), which provides tutors in all subjects throughout metro Atlanta. "Fortunately, a few weeks of tutoring is usually all that is needed to bring a child up to speed. Our tutors are typically full-time teachers and so are completely familiar with Georgia's standards at each grade level."

Schools themselves may maintain lists of teachers who offer summer tutoring. The benefit is two-fold: not only will the teachers be familiar with the school's curriculum, the child will recognize a friendly adult face on his/her first day. Tutoring centers or academic camps may also be worth investigating. At Mathnasium Learning Center ( in Alpharetta, summer is considered a "transition season." In fact, says its director, Dhanu Krishnamurthy, that's when the center is "a fun ... environment. [It's] a great opportunity to wipe out a persistent problem and sail with confidence into the next school year."

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