Zagazoo goes to High School (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post I discussed the issues around helping your child prepare for High School (see In this week’s post I’ll offer some tips and point you to some additional resources for when High School actually starts.

It should be noted that, for some students, these tips will be unnecessary.  Those lucky few will sail through High School with their time and work well-organised and with few academic or social barriers to overcome. I’m more concerned here with kids for whom this stuff doesn’t come naturally and/or who have other issues to contend with. I’m also not going to mention obvious things like packing your bag the night before or always putting your stuff in the same place (although, of course, I just did!)


I touched on anxiety and stress in last week’s article. Any transition creates anxiety and the change to High School is one of the biggest transitions faced by our kids. In the first few weeks at least they’re likely to be unusually tired and, at times, grumpy and uncommunicative;  don’t expect scintillating conversation on the way home. Hopefully school will not expect too much of them by way of homework for the first few weeks so I’m planning to provide a healthy snack when Zagazoo gets home and some decompression time before discussing his day.

For those who need a bit more help in managing their anxiety there are a wealth of resources available. A few of these are:

  • Information on the practice of mindfulness, which has been shown to be helpful in dealing with anxiety and depression, plus some guided meditations.
  • More information on mindfulness, and the Smiling Minds app so that they can have meditations available on their phones and Ipads.
  • An online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) programme for children of various ages, broken down into manageable chunks.

A lot of the things our kids may be anxious about can be easily solved from our adult perspective, for example helping them with some work they don’t understand. But while our kids are in the midst of an anxiety attack they won’t be able to recognise or verbalise what those worries are, so helping them to get calm enough to think rationally is important.

Time scheduling

The quantity of homework ramps up in Year 7 and will continue to do so in subsequent years. Study time in year 7 is therefore important to keep up with the work but also to lay down good habits for the future. I’d advise having a conversation with your child about whether they want to do more work on weekdays or weekends. However the study time is allocated, make sure they take regular breaks as their study will be less effective as time goes on.  Multiple short sessions are more effective than one long session.

Review work

Ideally a period of time should be spent each evening reviewing the work covered that day. This is to help put the work covered into its wider context, which will aid in its understanding. It will also help to identify things which have not been understood, so that help can be sought

It’s a good habit to start to produce study/revision notes of some description as each subject progresses. These notes would cover the key points of each lesson; the process of producing them helps in understanding subject content, and they’re useful at exam or assignment time. Tell your child to listen out for the introduction to each lesson or the wrap up, as this should give an overview of the main points.

Depending on your child’s preferred learning style, they could:

  • Write bullet point summaries on A4 paper. Encourage them to use colour to make definitions, examples etc. stand out.
  • Create flashcards by writing key points on a series of index cards, perhaps 5 or so per lesson.
  • Create mindmaps. These are diagrams with a central idea and branches and sub-branches coming out for different themes. You can draw these manually or using software. For example, my son has an app from school called Simple Mind + which is pretty easy to use. I generally do mind maps by hand but I had a quick go at using the app in order to write this article and it’s very intuitive. Here’s an example of a mind map I quickly created to map out the ideas in the article, just to give you an idea what one looks like.

For all of these methods, it’s good if they can look through their notes (or the relevant part of their notes) before their next lesson on the topic. It’ll really help with their understanding.


Does your child run eagerly to do their homework/study when he/she gets home after school? If so, lucky you. Much more likely is that they have to be persuaded/encouraged/nagged at/coerced (circle as appropriate). It’s hardly surprising that kids would rather relax or play Fortnite with their mates after school and could come up with lots of excuses, but procrastination can also be a by-product of anxiety. A child who is anxious about a task may use avoidance as a (faulty) coping mechanism, and procrastination by being tired, sick, argumentative, emotional is quite common.

Simple tricks such as setting up the workspace ready to start as soon as they get in from school, before having a snack etc., may help. Also, help them practise breaking down bigger tasks into smaller tasks and listing them, so they can tick them off as they go and see that they’re making progress.

For teens suffering with anxiety, this book is excellent

Asking for help

In my experience of teaching young adults, many of them don’t like to ask for help as they fear that they will look stupid. Encourage your child to seek help from you or relevant teachers and reassure them that everyone needs help sometimes and that their teachers will not think badly of them.

There may be occasions where you need to approach teachers for help on their behalf, but it’s best that your child learns to do that on their own where possible. Remind them that they’ll get much further by being polite and encourage them to be specific about what help they need; it’s not helpful when the teacher asks what they don’t understand and the answer is “everything”.

If emailing teachers, remind them of appropriate terminology; it’s better to be too formal rather than not formal enough. Something like “Dear Mrs Smith, (not “Yo”!). I am in your Year 7 maths class and I’m struggling with quadratic equations. (Note: I have no idea if they study quadratic  equations in Year 7!) Please could I make an appointment to come and see you to discuss it. Thank you. Zagazoo.”

And finally

I hope these two brief posts and the linked resources will be of some help to you. Good luck to all the young people starting High School this week, and let’s look forward to a few weeks’ time when they’ll hopefully be settled in and it’s all starting to feel rather routine.

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