New beginnings are exciting. A new school year can be thrilling for everyone involved. The night before a new school year starts is ranked second only to the night before Christmas.

By the middle of August, new school clothing has been purchased, school supplies are in the backpack, and the family knows who the child's homeroom teacher will be and where he should report on the first day.

The summer habit of staying up late and "sleeping in" should be phased out. No matter how old the child is, a good night's rest before a full day of school is a must. Otherwise, the child may be tired and listless and need a nap after lunch. That isn't going to please the teacher.

What are some important items for parents to remember for the beginning of a successful school year? Here are a few:

1. Get to know your child's teacher(s) quickly. Make it your business to visit the classroom during the weeks before school starts. If your school has a "Meet the Teachers" night, attend it and be sure to visit all the teachers your child will have. Some of those may be: art, music, gym, library, guidance, reading, and even the nurse. Ask to see the principal and also introduce yourself to any teacher's aide or cafeteria worker who may be in charge of your child.

2. Start a homework routine right away. Give your child a well-lit, quiet area in which to work. Designate a "drop-spot" near the front door where all completed homework and necessary school materials are easily available when the child leaves for school in the morning. The old excuse of "My homework is on the kitchen table" really gets teachers annoyed.

3. What does your child really carry in that book bag? Make it a routine that you and your child empty it out each week, throwing away any junk and filing old papers in a drawer set aside for that purpose. Some schools have begun to ban book bags to prevent weapons and/or drugs from entering the school. Check with the office about your school's policy.

4. Keep a record of your child's progress. Record test scores, keep all papers that are sent home, and then there should be no surprises when the report card arrives. If a parent is aware of the child's daily work, good things happen.

5. Join the PTA and become as active as your schedule allows. This is important, no matter what grade your child is in. Too many parents join the PTA when the child enters kindergarten, but lose interest when the kid reaches junior high. Believe it or not, the child needs the parent to be MORE involved when they hit secondary school. If you can't make the PTA meetings, ask to have the minutes sent to you so that you will know what's happening.

6. Remember your role as a concerned parent requires you to make sure that your child attends school every single day unless he is truly sick. When a student is absent, he misses important instruction. Children who are often absent usually do poorly in learning.

The start of a new school year can be a joy or a horror. Much depends on how well prepared the whole family is. If you follow these suggestions, your new school year should get off to a flying start.

IF YOU WANT TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.