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Getting mentally ready for the school year

Routine, focus and goal-setting can help students prepare for success, education experts say.

August 23, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com

GLENDALE — Even with school beginning in less than two weeks, education experts say there's still time to prepare for the first day of class.

Establishing a routine in the coming days will give children the structure and discipline to succeed at their grade level, among their peers and as adults, experts said.

Setting the tone now will save time later, said Suzan Canizares, a K-12 education expert with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

"It can be just as simple as trying to find some time in the first month to meet the teacher, [or] if parents are both working, finding a place at home where it's an established place where the kids will go and do their homework," she said. "Those things, in the long run, can make life a little simpler … because you're preparing ahead rather than scrambling to deal with situations that come up."

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Reading to a child or waking them up earlier each morning is valuable quality time, but also sets the student on a pattern to carry into the school year, Canizares said.

Priming students for school is as easy as three deep breaths before setting out for school, said Kelly Wood, founder of the Los Angeles-based Hi Yoga, a yoga studio designed for children and parents.

It's a trick designed to help youngsters focus and learn how to concentrate on whatever the task — music, sports or art, she said.

"And plus every parent wants their child to … feel confident being themselves in the group," Wood said. "Focus is usually the first thing."

In many cases, the gap between summer's end and school's beginning is a time to learn how to learn, experts said. The characteristics behind yoga are inherently compatible with childhood and early education, Wood said.

"What we want to do is find that balance point physically, mentally and emotionally," she said. "There's so much information coming in from all sides of us, and we've got to learn how to manage the information."

Adolescents, in particular, have information overload internally and externally, said Anea Bogue, a Los Angeles-based self-esteem expert and writer.

At that age, boys and girls are exposed to new things, and their bodies are moving on their own schedules. It combines to create high levels of anxiety about going back to school, Bogue said.

"The No. 1 recommendation I've made is to try and help them make their heads clear about what goals they're setting," she said. "If they can reflect on what worked and what didn't work the previous year, what they were proud of and what they want to do better, and then set three very clear goals for what they want to do this coming year, that really helps them to focus their energy."

In addition to a rational routine, focus and goal-setting combine for a strong position when school ends, Bogue said.

"The unknown and the beginning also bring opportunity," she said. "Going back to school is that opportunity, and if it can be framed in that way by a parent … it's an important life lesson."

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