23 Aug 2016

Back to School

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I know, just the phrase makes kids cry and parents anxious.

Many schools in this area offer pre-purchase kits of school supplies. We took advantage of that for a while and then I realized that I was wasting money and adding to my frustration. My son is 20 now and I am still trying to use up supplies we bought for him in Elementary School.

One of the biggest frustrations I had was that teachers would request supplies that were not in the package and so we still had to go to the store and shop for these exact products. There was one teacher that required a notebook with a specific number of pages. We couldn’t find that one so we bought one with more than the requirement and we were told that it was unacceptable. We wound up counting the pages and removing the extras. I checked at the end of the year and less than 10% of it had been used. By the end of Elementary School I had changed my system and things worked out just fine.

We no longer bought supplies before school started other than items you would use in any office. For example, when mechanical pencils are on sale we will buy them because we will all use them all year. For the specific supplies we wait until after all of the teachers have met with the kids and have given them their particular supply lists. THEN we shop. One trip, all done, no complaints from the school. There were a couple of teachers that weren’t happy that our son didn’t have every supply on day 1 but since they weren’t going to use them that day anyway it didn’t make a difference.

Twice every year we had our son try on every stitch of clothing. We did it in August, about 2 weeks before school and then again during Spring Break. If he had grown a lot we would do it during the Christmas Holidays and End of school instead of Spring Break. This included checking that he was wearing the right size of underwear. It amazes me how often, when we work with kids, that they are wearing small clothes that are several sizes too small because they don’t want to tell Mom and Dad that they need new ones. We worked with a boy 5’4” who was wearing briefs that he got in 2nd grade. This is a health concern as well as a comfort one so please have one parent check at least once a year.

Keep an eye out for Tax Amnesty dates. There are often one or two dates in August where clothing and school supplies are tax free. It may only be a few percent but it all adds up. Also, unless your State only exempts child size clothes, this is a great time for you to cull your wardrobe and get any replacements you need as well.

Many schools give kids a planner or require every child have one. There are many types of planners out there. I recommend that unless the one they give you works well for your child and they use it consistently, I suggest you try another one. When your child goes to college they will have to have a system that works for THEM, not what the school system likes. When you find a system that works, stick to it. Our son used an accordion file with a slot for every class. His notes went into the right slot and the finish homework went back into the same spot. This way, when he needed to produce it, he always had it with him. Once a quarter he would transfer the contents of full sections to another notebook but he kept the accordion with him at all times. This wouldn’t work for every kid but it worked for him – and really, isn’t that all that counts?

If you are having trouble with organizing your student there are Professional Organizers that specialize in helping children with study habits, project planning etc. If you would like a referral to one, let me know and I’ll connect you. It’s very important that the person you choose loves working with kids and can keep them interested in the organizing process, if the kids are unmotivated no number of tools will help.

Good luck this year, may all your report cards read A’s!!

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is an author, a speaker and the founder of Conquer the Clutter.

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