The new school year is upon us, but before the first day of school even hits us we must conquer registration, orientation, meet-the-teacher night, and endless amounts of paperwork . . . in triplicate form. And if you have multiple children like I do, get ready to experience writer’s cramp. If back-to-school and the preparations that come with it feel daunting, take a deep breath and read on for your ultimate back-to-school guide.
Free yourself from back-to-school shopping. Media, retail, and even our children want us to believe it’s mandatory because it’s good for business and for their reputations. It is not, however, good for our budgets.
Therefore, before school starts, force your kids to participate in the dreaded task of trying on their current clothes to see what fits. This produces groans and eye rolls, but it saves you lots of money. Then make a list of what your kids need so when you go shopping you don’t get sidetracked by the deals and steals.
The same applies to school supplies. My daughter has used the same backpack for two years and it is still is good condition. However, she is trying to convince me that she “needs” a new one. This mama knows better. Needs and wants are two different things. With five kids in our family, she’s gonna don that backpack until the straps break.
Take advantage of tax-free weekend. School supplies, clothes, shoes, sports uniforms and equipment, backpacks, and lunchboxes all priced less than $100 will be tax-free this year from Aug 11-13. And if you’re like me and raising a pre-teen, a baby, and everything in-between, did you know that tax-free also applies to diapers? Cha-ching!
Shop smart when it comes to school supplies.
- Check your school’s website for school supply list. I recommend you download and print it before shopping.
- Some stores, such as Target and Walmart, have public school supply lists available but I wouldn’t rely on that, as they tend to run out.
- Purchase your school supplies as soon as possible because stores sell out quickly. One year I waited until two weeks before school started to purchase supplies. I dragged my (then only four) children to four different stores and still couldn’t find all the items we needed. It was a beat-down of a day.
- If your school offers the option to purchase school supplies through the P.T.A., I highly recommend this option. It saves you time, money, and sanity. My kids resisted this for years because they wanted to choose a One Direction folder and MineCraft spiral, but our school’s requirements only allow kids to bring a red folder, a blue spiral, etc. So there is no point in me running to every big box store in town to buy everything on the list. I now write one check to the P.T.A. and the supplies are waiting on my children’s desk at meet-the-teacher night. Brilliant!
Create a back-to-school count-down. At the beginning of the summer the kids and I create a summer bucket list of all the games we want to play, the places we want to go, the sweat treats we want to eat, and the adventures we want to have. Two weeks before school starts we look at our list, the things we haven’t accomplished, and—as the Trolls say—we make it “the biggest, loudest, craziest party ever!” (No bergens allowed.)
Help your kids brush up on their reading, writing, and arithmetic. (Does anyone still call it arithmetic?) If you’ve read anything from me before, you know I’m a sucker for organization and routine. So it’s no surprise that even in the summer my kids have daily routines that include reading and worksheets. (I know, lame mom). One of my kids needs a little help in math and the other needs handwriting practice. The other just needs help staying occupied so that one gets whatever worksheets hold their attention. Meanwhile my toddler colors and the baby plays . . . twenty minutes of worksheet practice and I feel like a real homeschool mom (insert pat on the back).
If you’ve given your kids a brain break this summer, I recommend flexing their mental muscles a few weeks before school starts. You can buy inexpensive workbooks at Walmart, Mardel, Target, or download free worksheets from Pinterest.
Plan your first-day (or first week) -of-school clothes before the big day. I have one friend who went a step further and created a “look book” for her preteen girls. She took pictures of them wearing all their favorite outfit combinations. She printed the pictures and let them create a cute little book to pull out on days when they felt like they had “nothing to wear.” Genius!
Remember your teachers. Whether you are jumping for joy or choking back tears as you kiss your babies goodbye, remember that your children’s teachers are dealing with their own emotions as they transition into a new school year. Let them know how much you value them and the time they will spend with your child. Write them a heartfelt note, buy them a small gift card, bring them a sweet treat to meet-the-teacher night, or just offer them grace and understanding during those first few weeks back to school.
Plan a first-day-of-school tradition for your kids. We let our kids make ice cream sundaes when they get home after the first day of school so they can tell me all about the exciting things that happened that day. Whether you write them a note and slip it in their lunchbox, cook them a pancake breakfast, or take them to their favorite restaurant for dinner, make the first day of school special for your kids by establishing a simple, yet memorable tradition.
Back-to-school doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just a little organization, a lot of preparation, and all the quality time you can squeeze in with the kids will have be ready to send them off for another great year!