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Passing by the aisle of school supplies, I inhale a whiff of new pencils and feel a tingle of anticipation for the new school year. Classes begin in Napa, Yountville and American Canyon on Aug. 13, in Calistoga on Aug. 14, and in St. Helena on Aug. 19. That’s just around the corner. Don’t wait until the week before opening day to prepare your children for a new school year. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

1. Check your school’s starting and ending times. In Napa Valley Unified, the first days, students are let out early.

2. I bet your children have been staying up later and sleeping late during the summer months. It’s easy to do when there’s plenty of daylight for evening play. Start them to bed earlier and get them up earlier on a gradual schedule, so that when that first week comes they won’t be exhausted when they must get up early.

3. Do they need new clothes? A shopping trip, even if it’s just for a few basics, will help them get into the mood. They’ll be eager to wear those new duds.

4. What about school supplies? Some schools prefer you to wait until after the first day, when the teacher will suggest what to bring. Again, a few new things will make your child excited. So get a few pencils, a new pencil case, some cute erasers, a backpack.

5. Set up your child’s work space at home. Whether he has his own desk or uses the kitchen table to read and do homework, get organized. Fill a shoebox with sharpened pencils, pens, markers, a ruler, dictionarywhatever he needs to settle in to his “home office.”

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6. Your kids will have some anxiety about who will be in their classes and which classes and teachers they will have. You can ease the tension by listening to their wishes and concerns and assuring them that they’ll do fine however it turns out. If they’re assigned to a classroom without pals, it’s an opportunity to make new friends. If they have heard negative things about a certain teacher, encourage them to have open minds.

7. Is your child transitioning to kindergarten, middle school or high school? If he is worried about managing a new school, take a walk around the campus in the week before school starts. Together, check the location of the cafeteria, office, gym, restrooms, classroom wings. You may even meet a few staff members who are there setting up. Some schools have new student orientations for just this purpose; check the school’s website or call the office prior to the first day to find out if an orientation is offered.

8. If you are new in town and haven’t registered yet, please don’t wait until the first day. Give your child every opportunity to begin the year with a calm, positive attitude. Call the school office. They will tell you what to bring to complete the registration process.

Enjoy your last homework-free days. Another exciting year of learning, growing, and making friends is about to begin.

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Lenore Hirsch is a retired school principal living in Napa. Send questions to lenorehirsch@att.net. Please include your child’s age or grade.

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