Back-to-School Transition Tips

It’s hard to believe that back-to-school time is upon us! Starting the school year rested and ready-to-learn can set the tone for a student’s attitude and performance in class. Even students who are ready and excited to come back to school may need help adjusting to different levels of activity and daily structure.

The following are some tried and true tips which could help make the transition back to school a smooth one:

Review all of the materials and information sent by the school about your child’s teacher, room number, school calendar and more. Being familiar with key dates and information will help keep surprises at bay.

Mark your calendar. Make a note of important dates, especially back-to-school nights. This is especially important if you need to juggle obligations, or arrange for babysitters in advance.

Re-establish routines. Plan to re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines (especially breakfast) at least one week before school starts. Prepare your child for this change by talking with them about the benefits of school routines in terms of not becoming over tired or overwhelmed by school work and activities.

Visit school with your child. If your child is young or starting at a new school, visit the school with them prior to class starting. Meeting the teacher, locating their classroom, lockers, lunchroom and more will help ease anxieties and also allow your child to ask questions about the new environment. Call ahead and see if teachers will be available to introduce themselves.

Make room for schoolwork at home Designate and clear a place to do homework, whether it’s at a desk in a bedroom or at the kitchen table. Making space for schoolwork and designating places to store supplies will help facilitate a homework routine.

Leave plenty of extra time. A change in schedules can be challenging! Make sure both you and your children have plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school.

If the first few days back to school are a little rough, try not to overreact. Remember, the change back from summer to school could affect everyone differently – but we’re all in it together!

Here’s to a positive and productive school year!



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Teaching Students to Be Critical Thinkers

Studies about how children learn continue to underscore the importance of critical thinking.

At its recent annual conference, the Association for Psychological Science featured a symposium in which researchers presented findings and panelists discussed techniques for promoting learning in children. The symposium featured a discussion of how and when asking students to explain their answers can actually enhance their learning. Participating experts presented findings on how the practice of generating explanations and using multiple examples when framing questions can help children better understand underlying concepts.

These techniques, and other methods for teaching critical thinking, are key components of every class in Meritas schools and part of the Meritas Academic Plan (MAP). Meritas schools excel in teaching critical thinking, complex problem solving and high-order reasoning. Our teachers highlight foundational teaching protocols including essential questions, vocabulary and high order assessments to help students reach their fullest potential.

Meritas schools feel this approach, combined with small group instruction, personal teacher attention and customized classroom experiences provide a rich, effective educational experience for our students. And as a result of this outcome-oriented approach, students are prepared for acceptance into their top colleges or universities of their choice and equipped for success in the 21st century.

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Meritas Summer

While winter is still holding on to parts of the country, rest assured – summer will be here before you know it! The Meritas International Family of Schools offers unique summer programs, combining exceptional learning opportunities with well-rounded activities and excursions.

“The Meritas Summer programs offer students the chance to continue their elite studies throughout the summer, while seeing new parts of the world and creating lasting friendships with other students from our global network,” said Natalia Salvato, director, Summer Programs.

Students can choose from a wide variety of experiences that make a Meritas Summer unlike any other.

  • Take part in The Meritas Seminar and Visit Balliol College at Oxford University where students work with Oxford academics, scholars and experts to explore ideas of democracy.
  • Students can visit New York City and tour elite universities and colleges in the northeast U.S. by taking part in the Meritas Ivy Summer Tour
  • The Meritas Seminar at Pepperdine University gives students the chance to visit California’s Santa Monica Mountains to discuss environmental awareness, ecology, oceanography and much more.
  • Students taking part in the English PLUS+ program in Orlando, Florida will spend mornings devoted to studying English, then designing their own unique experiences in the afternoon.
  • English PLUS+ French PLUS+, set in Geneva, Switzerland, gives students the opportunity to learn English or French in the mornings, and then spend the afternoons taking part in activities like sailing, golf, horseback riding or more intensive language development programs.

Click here to download the Summer Programs brochure or email to learn how to register for one of these unique educational programs.

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Keep Students Motivated in School and Beat the Ho-Hum Winter Blues

It’s no secret – it can be really tough for students to stay motivated during the winter months.  Conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and distraction from the holiday season may make it hard for students to muster up motivation. According to, 10 to 20 percent of the population begins to suffer mild symptoms of SAD leading into the winter months. No matter what the situation, it is possible to keep children motivated this time of year!

As noted in this article by, there are many ways teachers can motivate students in the classroom, but it’s also important for parents to stay involved in their child’s education and activities to help foster excitement for learning. Here are some ways parents can boost motivation and make learning fun outside the school walls:

  • Work academics into home life in fun and creative ways: Practice fractions by doubling your favorite cookie recipes, or develop mental math skills by having students determine how much change they will get back after buying groceries with cash.
  • Get moving: A simple walk outside can boost endorphins and also be educational. Physical activity can also boost immune systems, lessening the likelihood that a child is sick and misses school. On walks, see if your child can identify birds, trees or famous landmarks.  If you live close to a library, bundle up and make a special trip to check out a new book . If you’re unable to get outside, you can still stay active indoors. Encourage children to put on a play or make a drawing of historical events they learned about in school.
  • Play an educational game: Challenge your child to Sudoku or word games and put those math and English skills to the test!  Puzzles are also a great way to keep the gears turning.

Parents should maintain regular communication with their child’s teachers year-round. By doing this, parents can learn ways to help their child reach their maximum potential and keep growing each year.

Do you have interesting ways to capture your child’s interest and boost their motivation during the winter months?

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Global Arts Competition Showcases Young Artists’ Talent

It’s time to get creative!

The Meritas International Art Awards program is underway and student artists are in the midst of brushing, sketching and designing their best work for submission.

This annual competition is an opportunity for Meritas students from around the world to enjoy the arts and gain recognition for their creativity. The Meritas International Art Awards were organized by Shelley Weiss and Sue Greeley, visual arts teachers who wanted to bring all Meritas schools together through an annual, online competition. By holding the competition online, they believed students from various countries could easily showcase their work and become inspired by pieces from different cultures.

While the types of submissions vary by year, the Meritas International Art Awards are open to all types of visual arts. Recent submissions have included 2-D drawings, paintings and mixed-media, prints, as well as 3-D models and ceramics.

2012 winner of Best in Show (Grade 9-12): Tammy Qiu, North Broward Preparatory School

This year’s competition also brings an exciting new digital arts category. Some students at schools within the Meritas network take classes where they learn digital arts through programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. These classes also provide students with lessons on Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools, which are used to teach them about engineering and architecture. Meritas opened this new category to ensure that students’ interests in digital arts are represented in the competition.

Winners will be chosen from various categories based on the grade of the artist as well as the type of artwork. All submissions are judged by Meritas teachers and are evaluated based on the “Five C’s” of Content, Craftsmanship, Creativity, Communication and Composition.

Students, be sure to submit your creations by February 12, 2013. Winners will be announced on March 1, 2013. Remember to check back then to view the online gallery of all submissions and winners.

Good luck to all students! We’re excited to see all of your incredible artwork!

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Are YOU Game? The 2012 Meritas Games Kick Off

We’re so excited to see our family of schools come together for the 2012 Meritas Games! The Meritas Games have been played since November of 2006, when three of our schools and 52 students gathered for a friendly sporting competition. Since then, the event has grown in size and attendance. This year’s event is in full swing at Windermere Preparatory School where sports such as baseball, soccer and swimming are played by day and athletes enjoy fun nighttime trips.

From now through December 1, students will be able to form new friendships while also enjoying a bit of fun competition. Athletics aside, participants will also have a one of a kind global experience as the cultures of students from around the world are worked into the Games. Using a combination of American and International (Olympic) sports rules, Meritas ensures that all schools are represented and students are taught something new.

The combination of American and International rules allows Meritas to design events to keep a good pace of play as well as provide students the opportunity to participate in as many sports as they want. Over previous years, students have showcased their school pride and leadership during these events. It is this pride that has driven many of our students to continue to participate in sports teams throughout high school and into college!

While the Meritas Games are only open to middle school students, other members of the Meritas family are welcome to become involved. Windermere Prep’s High School and Elementary students attend the opening ceremonies and some students volunteer at the events. Regardless of age, the Games are a special and very unique event for every student in the Meritas Family of Schools.

Good luck, everyone! We are very proud of you!

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Taking on Technology: The Global Classroom of the Future

It’s no secret – the real and digital divide between classrooms is becoming blurred as more technology is increasingly used in education.   According to Edudemic and Open Colleges, the top three reasons teachers utilize technology in the classroom include:

  1.  76%: Adapt to diverse learning styles
  2. 76%: Enhance the material being taught
  3. 77%: Boost student motivation

At Meritas, the future is now. We take pride in empowering our students with the latest technology to enhance their learning experiences. Beyond that, technology helps students learn skills needed in the 21st century workforce and provides them with global connections to prepare them for the global workforce. Below, we’ve outlined some specifics of how some of our schools are utilizing technology in the classroom.

Touchpoints: This program brings the world to your child and helps them to develop critical thinking skills. Each of our 10 schools is equipped with video conference capabilities, and, every year, our teachers choose a major topic for discussion during what we call Meritas Touchpoints. Through these sessions, students are able to make rich connections and friendships around the world while also developing in-depth global perspectives. Across our 10 schools, we have approximately 200 teachers who participate in Touchpoints.  Some of those teachers instruct more than one class, so, in total, we have approximately 280 classes and about 4,800 – 5,000 students from around the world that participate in the program!

Wikis: Each class between grades 2 and 8 creates a wiki where they post information and chat with students at other schools in the Meritas family. Students talk about what they are studying, learn about other cultures and stay in touch with students they’ve met at other international events hosted by Meritas.

At our Collège du Léman School (Geneva Switzerland):  At Collège du Léman, iPads are used across the curricula, from language and math to music and science. iPads allow for addressing multiple intelligences (visual, hearing, kinesthetic, etc.). The devices also offer teachers immediate and easy ways to teach differently and evolve lessons so they are most effective for students. By using polling apps, students can provide immediate feedback from a lesson. This helps teachers to react and adapt more quickly. School staff has also noticed students making progress in conceptual thinking by using mind maps, in critical thinking by using annotating tools, and improvement of expressing ideas in front groups by using podcasting apps.



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The College Essay – How do I choose a topic? What if writing is not my strength?

Q&A with Debra Santostefano, MA, MBA
Director of Guidance and College Planning, Windermere Preparatory School

Q: How do I choose a topic that will be eye-catching?
A: Pick a topic that is personal to you. Colleges want you to share something specific and different that they wouldn’t find in the application. Once you have done this, dive right into it! You only have a few minutes to catch the eye of the reader. Choose a hook or a story. Share positive messages and powerful outcomes.

Q: Are there any topics I should stay away from?
A: Yes, you do not want to tackle a subject that cannot be answered in a short essay. Stay away from “downer” topics such as death and dying. These cannot usually be addressed in 250 words or less. Very controversial topics (politics and religion) are also risky.

Q: I’m not a strong writer. What should I do?
A: Begin by reading successful sample essays and remember colleges want to hear from you. Your essay is a way for them to get to know you. They want to hear your voice and express who you are. It should be personal. Develop an overall strategic essay writing plan. Make an outline. An essay should take several drafts, so ask someone to read and proof your essay throughout the process (your English teacher, your counselor, someone you trust.). Your college planning office and/or the book store will have great samples of writing essays for you to begin to get an idea of how to start.

Q: How many sources (i.e. quotes, research, etc.) should I use to strengthen my college essay without going overboard?
A: Use them only if it is who you are. They are not needed and if forced, will look manufactured. If you use quotes, make sure they are relevant and well-integrated.

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2012 Election: Are Your Kids in the Know?

Did you watch the very first debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? It’s no surprise that education was a featured issue in last week’s debate and will continue to be for years to come. While the November 6th elections will come and go, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continually educate your children about the government and elections.

While schools focus on teaching lessons about different governments and offer opportunities to provide students with real-world experiences, such as student governments or visits from local politicians, it’s important to bring the ideas home and allow your children to absorb all they can. We’ve provide some ideas below that will help make the election learning process fun and effective for children of all ages.

If you have any fun ideas that you’ve used at home with your children, be sure to share in the comments section.

For more resources, check out:
Kids Voting USA
The New York Times Learning Network
PBS Kids Democracy Project

Before   & After Elections

  • Kids are visual, so use YouTube or campaign sites to watch appropriate promotional ads or debates.
  • Get them involved with a campaign. Younger kids can help out with putting candidate signs up or handing out materials. As they get older, they can become more involved in events and other campaign projects.
  • Let them cast votes in fun ways. For example, gather your family together and vote on what to eat for a dinner, where to go on a day trip or favorite flavors of ice cream.
  • The campaign trail is a continuous – be sure to keep your family involved. If a politician will be visiting your state or town, make an effort to take your family and allow them to meet those we elect into office.

Election   Day

  • Take your children to the polls. This is the best way to allow them to experience voting at a young age.
  • Provide a history lesson on voting rights. Use a marker board or corkboard to make a historic timeline of the history behind voting.
  • Throw a party! Even if your candidate doesn’t win, it’s important to celebrate your right to vote.
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Boarding school life: A Parent & Student Perspective

Q&A with Dominique Haegel, parent, and Lothaire Kubel, boarding student, North Broward Preparatory School

Q: How did you determine that boarding school was the right choice for your child?

Dominique: Our son Lothaire was struggling with the French education system. We chose a boarding school to help him with his organization, make him more confident, and give him more independence. Being far away from the family has helped Lothaire become more mature and responsible.

 Q: How did you prepare for boarding school?

 Lothaire: The decision was made quickly, so I had no time to prepare, but in my head, I was ready to go. The decision to go to boarding school was my choice – I wanted to go.

Q: What, from your point of view, has been the most rewarding part of your child’s experience as a boarding student?

Dominique: My son has really changed since beginning boarding school. He is very happy, pleased to learn and feels comfortable with his teachers and the other students. Lothaire is also much stronger, morally and physically. He is now able to work by himself and even though it’s not always easy, even if he struggles at times, Lothaire has learned how to fight his struggles and win.

Q: What do you feel you’ve gained through your time at boarding school?

 Lothaire: Confidence in myself!

 Q: What tips or advice do you have for other boarding school parents?

 Dominique: I would recommend visiting your child as much as you can and to stay in constant contact. If a problem arises, talk to your child about it right away – also, do not hesitate to ask the boarding school for help. There is always a solution!

Q: What advice do you have for other students who are attending boarding school in the upcoming year?

Lothaire: Join a supportive team, ask questions about life on the campus, understand how your school works, tell someone when something is wrong, return home for the holidays, and keep in touch with family and friends!



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