As the final month of summer has official begun, it’s time to start thinking of the upcoming school year. With back-to-school shopping, choosing extracurricular activities and attending parent/teacher orientation, it’s time to get organized and ready for the big transition from late summer nights to early school mornings.
Luckily, we have a few tips to help make the new school year less stressful. Check it out!
Get the Supply List Ahead of Time
It’s temping to start preparing right away, but before you jump in the car and head to your nearest school supply store, here are a few things you need to get together to make the shopping trip more cost- and time-effective.
If you haven’t already, Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix Operations at Freedom Financial Network, recommends securing a supply list from your child’s school.
Oftentimes, schools will post the lists online or send them out to each enrolled student through mail or email. If you haven’t received the list through any of these methods, you can also contact the school directly to request a supply list.
Gallegos also recommends securing the list for the following year’s grade, saying, “Supply lists remain about the same year-to-year, and if you purchase certain supplies on sale, you can come out ahead for the next year.”
Establish a Budget
Gallegos further suggested establishing a back-to-school budget, starting with setting goals for yourself and with your child.
Make sure to write down each goal and build your budget around your goals, whether based on supplies or clothing, and stick to them.
If you’re looking for more ways to save money, Gallegos advises against shopping early. It may sound counterintuitive, but if your child doesn’t need their supplies right away, Gallegos said to wait until clearance sales start (usually toward the beginning of the school year).
When the time does come, make sure you don’t accidently purchase supplies you might already have around your home. Take time and go through your home office, kitchen, kid’s room, etc., to determine what you already have and what you may need to buy.
Then, base your list on what you need to buy and what can wait. Be sure to carry the list with you when you go shopping so you don’t duplicate any items. This will also eliminate time wandering around the store, searching for things that might have slipped your mind.
Stock Up on Supplies
Now that you have your child’s school supply list in one hand, and your personal budget and shopping list in the other, you’re ready to take a trip to the store and knock out a few back-to-school purchases.
While your supply list may vary based on your child’s age and grade, there are a few items that are great for classroom use. Ana Homayoun, founder of Green Ivy Educational Consulting, recommends supplies that will consolidate and organize classroom materials so that your kids have everything they need for their class in one place.
“Simple supplies help make it easier for a student to create and maintain a workable organization system,” asserted Homayoun.
She recommends purchasing:
- Hardback binder that’s able to store all classroom assignments
- Binder dividers (Homayoun suggests five to seven) to create different sections for notes, homework, handouts, test and quizzes, and papers
- Reinforced binder paper because it’s easier than using spiral notebooks and can all kept in the same binde
- Written planner that allows the student to map out assignments, activities, appointments, homework and other tasks to keep organized
While your child’s school supply list may vary based on their school, age and grade, Homayoun swears by the above list as a great tool for optimal organization and time management.
Whether your child is going to a school with a uniform or a school that allows more casual day-to-day wear, you might need to plan on back-to-school clothes shopping.
There are a few ways you can approach the shopping trip, but family organization expert Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum, suggests delaying the bulk of your school clothes shopping until October, the time when retailers will offer deeper discounts.
For example, Kelly recommends purchasing winter clothes in April, as most stores are making room for their summer stock.
That being said, if you’re looking for more conservative methods of clothes shopping, Kelly suggested organizing a neighborhood clothing swap.
This is a great idea for parents looking to save a little money, while still getting their kids gently used clothing that other kids may have just outgrown. Invite other families from your neighborhoods, school, church, etc. for a wide variety of selection.
Packing lunches can be a stressful process, especially when you’re trying to pack healthy, tasty lunches and snacks. Nimali Fernando, pediatrician and author of “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater,” suggested creating a packing map for kids to pack their own lunch.
Fernando suggested a bento-type lunchbox, because parents can take a birds-eye view picture of the sections of the lunchbox and pack accordingly. He further suggests creating a poster board of meal options that is easy for all ages to follow.
For example, if one section includes vegetables, you can simply glue a photo of a few healthy options for your child to pack, like carrot sticks, snow peas, etc. Another example would be for a protein section to include photos for lunchmeat, almond butter, etc.
“The parent’s job is to make sure the easy-to-pack goods are available for the week and the child’s job is to pack their own lunch the night before or that morning,” said Fernando. “This method gives kids ownership of the process and they are more likely to eat what they packed.”
Now that you’ve got the supplies, it’s time to get prepared for the new school year by attending your child’s school orientation or “meet-the-teacher night.”
Nancy Gretzinger, a parent and retired educator, distinguished this as the time that you and your child can visit the classroom ahead of time, introduce your child to their teacher(s), and get familiar with the other kids and layout of their new environment.
Gretzinger asserts that attending orientation:
- Teaches your child that their education is important
- Shows the teacher that you value your child’s education
This night is also important to you, as a parent, because it gives you the chance to meet other parents in your child’s classroom and collect contact information for easy communication. Compile a list of people, addresses, phone numbers and backup phone numbers (if appropriate), and keep the list in your vehicle so you can easily add an address to your GPS or make a phone call.
This is also a good time to establish a carpool system, if necessary, between the parents in the classroom. This is a great tactic for the busy parent on the go, as it allows your child to get a ride to school from a parent you trust.
Kelly said to discuss your schedule upfront with all the parents involved so there isn’t confusion about who goes where, who picks up who on each day and so on. Create a printed schedule that can be shared between all the parents in your child’s class.
Establish a Routine
Speaking of schedules, the beginning of the school year is a great opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to establish a new day-to-day routine. The best way to do this is to create a family calendar.
According to Kelly, a monthly calendar that has family events, sporting events, teacher conferences and other extracurricular activities will help keep everything in the minds of the family and make sure everyone is aware of what’s going on. Kelly suggested reviewing the calendar every Sunday night so everyone has realistic expectations for the week ahead.
As part of the new routine, make sure you set expectations early with regard to homework.
Gretzinger suggests allowing children time to change out of their school clothes and enjoy a nutritious snack before they begin. She specifically mentioned 30 minutes of down time before they start on their homework – this gives the child time to prepare for the tasks ahead.
She also mentions having a designated place for homework, so that the child knows that when they’re in the designated place, it’s time to focus and get homework done.
Extracurricular activities can be a fun, after-school hobby for your child. From sports to theater to art, the possibilities are endless.
However, Gretzinger reminds parents that these activities should be limited and in no way interfere with school, homework or sleep. She suggested one to two activities per year at the most.
Try to keep sleeping schedules around the same approximate time every night, suggested Gretzinger. That way, the child has expectations for what time they need to be done with homework, extracurricular activities and any other social events.
Make sure that electronics, like TVs and phones, are turned off at a certain time and kept outside the bed or bedroom. Electronics can act as a distraction and keep a child up late. This is just one of the many ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Gretzinger further emphasized having the child’s clothes picked out and ready for the next morning, basing their outfit decisions on what their next day entails (sports, gym class, extracurricular activities, etc.).
School Is Back in Session
While it’s tempting to push back planning for the upcoming academic year, taking the time to get organized ahead of time will make for an easier, and less stressful, transition back to school.
How do you prepare for a new school year? Share your tips in the comments below!
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