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10 Things to do to Get Ready for Back to School

A couple of weeks ago I saw school supplies in local Orange County stores.  My first thought was, “Arrghh!  It’s only July!”  But then I started thinking about some of the things I want to get for the kids, and some of them take a little lead time.

So here’s my list of 10 things to get ready for Back to School.

1. How many times have you sent your child to school with ten freshly sharpened pencils, and then a week later they can’t find a pencil? Customized pencils are available at a pretty reasonable price. You could get a set of pencils with your child’s name. Those should be less likely to end up in someone else’s desk. Or what about a nickname, favorite quote or inside joke that will make your child smile? There are also fun pencils like scented Smencils or Swarovski Crystal pencils. Speaking of pencils, how about a fun pencil sharpener like these noses?

2. If your child uses the computer for reports or projects at school and at home, a thumb drive can help them carry their work in progress with them. They even make some that look like monsters, robots or animals.

3. Get a globe and a map of the United States for your house. I’m amazed how often my kids refer to these. It’s not just at homework time, either. A question will come up on a game show and the kids will run to the map to find the answer. It also helps kids put things together. They can tough a globe and see how a flat map of the U.S. fits in with it. You might even go so far as to get a map of your community so they can see their home, the school, the grocery store and other places they visit frequently.

4. Get a wall calendar for your house and mark important dates on it for everyone to see. My favorite is Boynton’s Mom’s Calendar. Start out with the school calendar. Mark down the first day of school, holidays and minimum days. Add sports schedules and play dates. When the teacher asks your child to bring something to school on a certain date, have them mark it on the calendar. When your child asks you if they can make plans for Tuesday after school, send them to the calendar to check if they’re free. This is the start of them managing their time, instead of you.

5. A planner. Schools are using planners for younger and younger kids, and it’s a great idea. Long before they have to manage homework from six different classes, they get used to writing their homework in their planner each day. If your school sells planners at orientation or in the classroom, get that one. It’s easier to use the same planner that everyone else is using. If your school doesn’t do planners in an organized way, you might want to think about getting a planner for your child anyway.

6. Lunch supplies. Start thinking about what you’re going to do for lunches. Are you going to send them to school with their lunch, give them money each day, or buy lunch tickets? Start stocking up on lunchbags and ziplocs. What kind of things will you need for lunches? Make a grocery list (or better yet, have you kids make a grocery list) for the week before school starts. If your child is just getting used to being away at lunchtime, maybe you could get a cute notepad to write a little note to put in your child’s lunch each day.

7. Set up a homework place. Kids need a homework routine including a quiet place to do homework. Give this some thought before school starts. Is it easier to do homework at the kitchen table where you can supervise? Or do younger kids who have already finished their homework distract kids who still have work to do? Can you set up a desk in their room? If they do homework at after-school care, set up a routine for kids to show you what they’ve done. You can check it off against the planner and see if there’s anything they need help with.

8. Establish a routine for papers that need to go to you. My least favorite part of school is when I’m getting everybody ready and one of them announces that they need to bring (fill in the blank) to school today. Of course it’s usually something I need to go to the store for and somehow the notice never got to me. So as part of homework, your child should put anything that’s supposed to go to you in a specified place.

9. Novels and textbooks. Younger kids are often expected to read for a certain number of minutes each evening as part of their homework. For kids in the upper grades, sometimes the teachers will give you a reading list at the beginning of the year. If you are the first on your block to act, you might be able to find these novels at a used bookstore. Another option is to order them online. If you order a certain dollar amount’s worth of books, sometimes you can get free shipping. If you’re almost at that magical number, consider ordering another copy of something for the teacher to have as a spare.

Middle and high schoolers often have to lug heavy textbooks back and forth every day. If you can get the ISBN number of a textbook, you can buy a copy to keep at home. If you can get it used, the cost can be very reasonable. Start with the math book, because there’s math homework almost every night. This also avoids the ever-popular, “I can’t do my homework because I didn’t bring my book home.”

10. Transportation plan. How are the kids going to get to and from school? If they’re old enough to ride their bike this year, it’s time to make sure the tires and air and you have a bike lock and a helmet that fits.  Do a couple of test runs before school starts so they’ll get used to the route. If you’re going to carpool, start calling other parents to work out a schedule.

The teachers always have lists of required school supplies. You may be able to get most of the information early on your school’s website or in their office. The afternoon of the first day of school is a terrible time to shop. The stores are running out of things and the lines are long. If you can, pick up the essentials starting now, while they’re on sale. When you see markers for 19 cents or folders for a dime, get 3 times what your child will need. They’ll need to replenish their supplies around winter break and spring break, and the prices won’t be so low then. You might also think about getting some extras to give to the teacher when you see a deal that’s too good to pass up.