Monday, July 10, 2006

Back to School -- Time to Prepare

Back to School Preparation for All Ages

If you have children, late August and September represent more than summer ending, cooler weather and fall foliage. School begins once again for millions of kids across the country. Getting your child prepared, regardless of whether they are in Kindergarten or a senior in high school, is a must. Here are some tips to make the transition from several weeks of summer fun to school days and homework easier.

Children in Kindergarten – 5th grade

1) About a week before school starts, have your children go to bed at the time they will when school begins. Set their alarm or wake them up early. It’s difficult for some kids to adjust to going to bed and getting up earlier after having an entire summer of sleeping in or staying up late. Many young children need to be on a schedule and preparing a week or so earlier will pay off, especially if you have a night owl or late sleeper.

2) If you have a school supply list (many school districts post them on their website or hand them out the last day of school), buy them early. For the child who is not organized, this is a good way to begin the school year off on the right foot. Label everything and get the backpacks ready the night before school starts. Buy some extra supplies to keep at home if your child is one to lose or forget their pencils or markers at school. They will probably need some basic supplies for homework time. Nothing if more frustrating than sitting down to do homework and discovering the basics are missing.

3) If you have a Kindergartener, walk to school two or three days before school begins (or drive if they take a bus or you will be driving them). This helps acquaint them with what they will actually be doing that first day and can work wonders for alleviating the first-day jitters. If your child is especially anxious, ask if you can let them visit their new classroom for five or ten minutes the day before school starts. Many principals will let the Kindergartens come to the campus prior to school starring.

Middle School

1) Many sixth graders will be attending a new school for their middle school years. Oftentimes, the campus is much bigger and can be intimidating. Of course pre-teens may not admit they are nervous, but most parents are! Suggest a bike ride over to the school sometime during August just to look around. Many middle schools conduct orientation anyway a couple of days before school actually begins, but an extra trip without all of their peers might be worthwhile.
2) Just as in elementary school, it is important, if not more so in middle school, to have all the school supplies ready, especially an organizer. Some schools make it mandatory for the students to purchase an organizer directly from the school. Get in the habit from day one of checking it and being sure homework assignments are recorded. Visit the school website and see if homework and grades will be posted on the site. This is an excellent way to stay involved with your child’s progress throughout the year.

3) If your student struggles with the basics; math or language arts, consider hiring a tutor for some review sessions before and during the first semester. It is quite common in middle school for students who are excelling to be moved to Honors classes sometime during the year. Being in an accelerated class is a good way to prepare a student for Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school, which count as college credit.


1) Find out when the PSAT and SAT exams will take place. If your student is not a good test taker, consider enrolling them in a test prep class. As colleges become more and more competitive, test scores make a difference. One can take the exam more than once if they are not happy with the score, so plan ahead and register early.

2) Stay tuned in to your student’s school and social schedule. There is a tremendous amount of freedom in high school and even the most academically gifted students can be distracted by all of the things that are associated with the teenage years. Establish a curfew for school nights and limit the amount of time that is spent at a part-time job or involved n sports, especially if time management and study skills are not your child’s forte.

3) If your son or daughter is college-bound, start doing your research and be sure to attend the college nights many high schools sponsor. Know what is expected on college applications. It is no longer a simple process like it was for the baby boomer generation. Test scores, a formal essay, class selection in high school are all important factors. Take advantage of the many companies that exist today solely for the purpose of assisting you and your student select the right college for them.

Regardless of the age and grade of your children, stay involved! Volunteering on any level, whether it be reading stories to your elementary aged child’s second grade class, helping in the computer lab in middle school or being on a committee for peer counseling in high school, it is important to know what is happening at the place your children spend a large part of their week. With so many parents working, many Parent Teacher Associations have their meetings in the evening, so more parents can attend. There are activities that need volunteers that do not involved daytime hours such as calling parents in the evening for a fund raiser or helping with a weekend car wash at high school.

Laurie Hurley is an educational consultant and mentor to small business owners. She was recently featured in Woman’s World magazine as a successful mom who started her own company. She will be also be featured this month in Entrepreneur magazine and several other publications like Redbook and Family Circle this spring. Laurie can be reached at or 1.888.847.0033.

Virtual Assistants can Revolutionize Your Business

10 Ways a Virtual Assistant can REVOLUTIONIZE Your Business

For those of you who are still in the dark, a Virtual Assistant, or VA, is an executive level, administrative professional who works from his/her own office to support clients using some of the latest available technology. The Internet has brought many skilled professionals out of the corporate environment and back into their homes, enabling them to create a better work-life balance, while still performing in the roles they love. The VA is one such professional. Working from their home-based offices and making use of the Internet, telephone, fax and email, VAs are able to offer small and medium-sized businesses a quality of administrative support, previously only available to the corporate giants, in a cost-effective manner.

A Virtual Assistant’s service offering may vary, but you are guaranteed to find one out there who is able to perform the exact functions your business needs. You will find that hiring a VA will REVOLUTIONIZE your business.

A VA brings invaluable work experience and training to the table. You may even find that they will teach you a trick or two. Be it software, hardware or grammar, you can be sure that your VA knows his/her stuff!

2. Because VAs run a business themselves, they have a unique understanding of what your needs as a small business owner are. They will be able to assist and advise you on matters pertaining to Marketing, Branding, Web Design and e-Commerce. What avenues of advancement have you not yet explored with your business? Are you sure that you have all your bases covered? Your VA can help.

3. Get organized. If you attend conferences and AGMs I’ll bet you have a ton of business cards cluttering up your desk. Let your VA scan and enter them into a database for you. Future mail campaigns will be a breeze with a ready-made contact list all neatly stored on a CD.

4. Is there a special project boiling over on the back-burner that you’ve been wanting to do? Your VA can help with research, planning and coordination, leaving you free to continue your focus on your core-business function.

5. If you’re too busy to remember important dates, anniversaries and meetings, your VA, with a tailored reminder service, can assist. From ordering flowers for your mother, to sending a thank you note to a client and even arranging gift baskets for investor, they aim to please.

6. Conceptualizing marketing items can be agonizing if you don’t have the know-how, equipment or creative flair. Most VAs have a wide range of software packages at their finger-tips, as well as experience in creating flyers, brochures and business cards for their own company’s. Put your ideas to your VA, they will dazzle you with the results.

7. Planning a much-needed break with your family? Let your VA take care of the details; flights, car hire, accommodation, even a list of “must-see” places of interest. Your VA can handle it all, down to the very last detail.

8. If you’re on the road a lot, chances are your cell-phone is often out of signal range and there is no one in your office to take a message should that all-important client call. With the call answering service provided by many VAs, you can divert your calls and rest assured that your client will receive the personal touch rather than dealing with an annoying automated answering device. Your messages will be passed on to you in order of importance and you won’t need to sort through lengthy messages on voicemail.

9. Conferences and networking functions can take a lot out of a small business owner. It is imperative that you attend and make a dazzling show of it, but in order to do so, you have to neglect existing clients. This will no longer be a problem with a VA. They can handle all your conferencing arrangements; table-hire, banner design and creation, even gift bags for client samples. It’s that easy!

10. If you have a lot of correspondence, and you’re a bit of a “keyboard klutz”, your VA can help. Many VAs offer a fully digitized transcription service. Simply record your memos/letters onto your computer and email them to your VA, s/he will have it neatly typed and ready for mailing in no time! Other VAs may provide dictated typing as a service, so that urgent e-mail is just a phone-call away.

Now that you’ve heard all that a VA can do, where can you find one? That’s easy. VANetworking at is an invaluable resource when looking to partner with a VA. With over 2,300 professional VA members you are certain to find exactly the service you are looking for. According to Tawnya Sutherland, founder of VAN, and author of the Virtual Assistant Start-Up System states, “Our forum is leading the way in revolutionizing the VA Industry by offering expert advice to VAs on how to be the best VA they can be. That’s why partnering with one of our VAs can help your business grow and operate on a more proficient level.” And Diana Ennen, president of Virtual Word Publishing, and Publicist for the site states, “Our team of VAs are varied with different skill sets and different visions for their business. That’s why teaming up with a VAN VA can give your business all the support it needs.”

So if you’re looking for a Virtual Assistant or want to start a virtual assistant business, now is the time to stop by VANetworking and see everything they have to offer.
Tawnya Sutherland, founder of Virtual Assistant Networking (VAN) ( and author of The VAS System, a Virtual Assistant Startup System, is a Certified Internet Marketing Specialist sharing much of her online marketing experience at VAN to help aspiring and successful VAs turn clicks into cash at their websites. Contact her at or the Publicity Rep for VAN, Diana Ennen at