Transitioning To a New School: A Parent’s Perspective



We all recognize that Fairfield County has a very mobile population with corporate moves bringing new families to the area throughout each year.  Whether it’s a move of thousands of miles or the more typical transitions from elementary to middle school, and middle school to high school, any major change can create educational challenges for students and their families.   For example we recently spoke with the “Smith” family (not their real name) about their move from Arizona to Connecticut last August and how Sylvan Learning Darien is helping their son “Tyler” (also not his real name) succeed in his new school system.

In Arizona, Tyler attended a small, private, country day school from kindergarten through ninth grade. Like schools here in Fairfield County it provided a good education.   Unlike public schools, Tyler’s private school offered more personal attention with smaller classes (15-18 students).

The Smiths thought of their move to Connecticut as providing a good opportunity for Tyler to transition to ‘larger structured institutions’ as he prepared for college.  But they also wanted to insure the transition would be successful; they wanted to get him off to a good start in his new, larger school.  They researched their options for getting Tyler a little extra help to aid his transition.

We spoke with Mrs. Smith about their experience.

Question: So Why Sylvan?

The Smiths were originally introduced to Sylvan Learning in Arizona where Tyler’s older sister had had a positive experience with the local Sylvan Center in preparing for her SATs.  Knowing that each Sylvan Center is an independent franchise, they conducted a full review of other learning facilities operating in Connecticut.  Speaking with Gwynne Campbell made their decision easy; they decided Sylvan was right for Tyler.

Question: Where Was Your Focus?

A small, private, K-12 school by its nature is able to watch over each student with more attention than a larger high school.  Tyler had always been a good student, but they were concerned about his organizational skills.  There were situations in the past in which he would wait too late to start preparing for a big test, and others in which he would complete his homework on time but leave it at home.  These were the kinds of behaviors that lots of teenage boys experience and issues that were easily managed in a private school, but in a larger public school and in the future, could become more serious problems.

Question: How Did Sylvan Learning Darien Address Tyler’s Issues?

Tyler agreed that he could use a little help and started meeting on a weekly basis with Rene at Sylvan Learning Darien. She worked with him on his writing skills but probably more importantly got him using his calendar to prepare for upcoming events, tests, and projects.  Rene helped Tyler develop the habit of making lists, checking items off, prioritizing assignments, adding yellow sticky notes to his calendar, and more.  It probably wasn’t much more than what a hovering parent might do, but it was accepted much more easily coming from an outsider.

Question: What Were the Results?

Being better organized had a tremendous impact.  Tyler started realizing the difference it made.  It helped him build his confidence.  He realized that if he applied himself he could be much more than just an “OK” student.  He was invited to step up to several honors-level classes.  Rene soon suggested that his improved organizational skills warranted meeting less frequently and suggested that Tyler cut back his sessions to every other week (at the most or even discontinue them altogether).  At about that time some new material was introduced in the honors chemistry class for which Tyler (having not been part of the class from the outset) lacked the proper background.  Sylvan Learning was able to switch gears, bring in Jeremy, a content specialist in that subject, and help Tyler address his new need.

Question: What Happens When Tyler Finishes Chemistry?

The move has been a success and Tyler is enjoying the experience with Sylvan.  The transition to Fairfield County and life in a larger, public high school is going well.  Once chemistry is done for the year, Tyler is considering doing some additional work at Sylvan over the summer to get a head start for his junior year.

Gwynne Campbell and Sylvan are always ready to speak with parents and students who are making a transition or are taking on new subjects.  You can suggest to your friends facing such challenges that they reach out to Gwynne at 203-655-3276.

Interested in reading more?  Visit our Educational Tips blog on the Sylvan Darien website, or follow this link to archives of our most recent emails:


Why We Call Sylvan Darien a Learning Center


 Our local area boasts lots of weekend classes, tutoring programs, test prep courses, etc..  You hear about them all the time. But we at Sylvan of Darien call ourselves a “Learning Center”.  As a parent with a child who has participated in Sylvan programs you might someday be asked why we use such a descriptor.  Please allow us to explain.

Actually, the term learning center well reflects our mission statement at Sylvan Learning of Darien.  Our instruction is always tailored to meet each individual’s needs.  We have no ‘cookie-cutter’ approaches. Our ultimate goal is to help students of all ages fundamentally change how they think, how they study, and how they learn.  In doing so they realize their full potential.
We address different students’ needs with appropriately different objectives.  In some cases the program we offer may be remedial, in other cases it may be enrichment (for students who are ready to handle studies well beyond their current grade level).  Some students come to the Sylvan Learning Center for help in achieving grade-level reading or math.  Others may come seeking a better understanding of some particularly tough concept(s) related to AP courses.  Still, for others, learning is about getting help in structuring an important paper or preparing for SAT, SSAT, ISEE or HSPT tests.   Continue reading


A Sylvan Darien “Graduate” Reflects on his Experience


Reflections & Comments

During his middle school years and then again in high school Matt (an alias) spent time working with teachers at the Sylvan Learning Center in Darien.  In 7th grade his goal involved keeping up with new math concepts and working constructively through homework assignments.  In high school Sylvan helped Matt prepare for his SATs, and on occasion temporarily switched focus to help him master a particularly tough new subject when it arose in one of his classes. How did he feel about it then and how does he view his Sylvan experiences now?  To find out we spoke with Matt by phone from his dorm at an Ivy League University where he is in his freshman year.  We asked:
  • Question: What was your reaction when you first came to the Sylvan Learning Center in Darien?
  • Matt: “In the beginning my parents pushed me into going.  I really didn’t want to be taking another class after the regular school day.  Further, I really didn’t like the intensity of the sessions. Fortunately the teachers were nice and helpful.  I adjusted.”
  • Question: How did you feel about returning to Sylvan in Darien when you were in high school?
  • Matt: “In my sophomore year in high school I took the PSATs. I did great on the verbal score, but I got I think a 52 in math (translates to a 520/800). I knew I needed to improve that score.  My first response was to look at the SAT practice guides on my own.  But I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the material. I knew I needed to get some help.” Continue reading



Sylvan Learning Center Supports “Feed My Starving Children” Campaign


Sylvan Learning Center Supports “Feed My Starving Children” Campaign

Preparations are underway for Darien’s 5th annual Feed My Starving children (FMSC) Mobile Pack Event, to be held on October 19th and 20th, 2013 at Middlesex Middle School.  The event is hosted by Darien’s 11 local churches and co-sponsored by the council for DarienSchool Parents, and last year over 1,000 Darien children and adults gathered at the middle school to pack 240,000 meals!   Local Sylvan students and their families are invited to participate in this unique weekend program, the goal of which is to package 2400,000 meals, nutritionally designed for optimum health, that will be delivered to thousands of starving children across the globe.  Each sponsoring community underwrites the cost of the program (this year $44,000) through various town-based fundraising events.  FMSC and Sylvan will be handing out FREE tubes of M & Ms, which, when empty, can be filled with quarters and returned to the Center. Each tube holds 56 quarters ($14.00) enough to create 73 Manna-Pack rice meals.  Proceeds from the M & M fundraiser will go directly to the support the October Mobile pack Event. Continue reading






Turn a Summer Vacation into a Great School Year!


Tuesday, July 2nd – Saturday, August 24th


       For most children, summer is a time to leave classes and homework behind.  However, when they return to school in the fall after the long summer break, students can find themselves struggling to catch up.

       Skills and knowledge gained throughout the school year fade during the summer months.  Experienced educators all agree that loss of retention begins within a few days of the end of school unless the new information is reinforced for applied within a reasonable amount of time.  After a month without some form of reinforcement, a significant percentage of what students learned during the year can be lost.

A break from school is great for recharging your children’s batteries, but if they are not using some of the skills and knowledge that were learned in the classroom, they could find themselves lagging behind when the school year starts up again.

       Sylvan’s eight-week summer program begins on Tuesday, July 2nd with individualized classes in most academic subjects and test prep. Classes are offered Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons Additional days/hours are available by special appointment.  Before enrolling in a Sylvan Summer Program, students are given an individualized assessment to determine academic strengths and weaknesses so that a personalized learning profile and program can be developed for each student. 

       For additional information about how Sylvan can give your child a head-start on the next school year, please contact Gwynne or Kathy weekdays between 9 am and 3 pm.or log on to the Center website at