Yeah, this isn't my kids' school, it's St. Augustine's Flagler College!
Yeah, this isn't my kids' school, it's St. Augustine's Flagler College!

12 Things You Should Do Before School Starts

12 Things You Should Do Before School Starts

The beginning of a new school year rockets towards us like a speeding train. I’ve been trying my best to avoid it, by-passing those “Back to School” sale signs as best as possible, even if that means taking a wide detour through the fishing and hunting sections of the store in order to procure a gallon of milk. We headed to the mountains and tromped through the wilderness, far away from notebooks, pencils and shiny new folders. We floated down the rivers and out to sea in an obsessive quest to avoid the s-word. But then the principal called. You know that call, the automated one that everyone gets, usually telling us that there’s a half day of school (that we never planned for), this one was the dreaded back to school speech. Come meet the teachers! Sure he tried to sound upbeat, but I felt as if an axe had fallen. Our long days of summer would soon be replaced by  rushed mornings, frantic time schedules, and endless homework. Now is when I envy and admire those true nomadic families who traipse across the US (or world) in RVs or just with backpacks with the kids in tow. I would love to try that, but I don’t think my kids would be receptive to having mom try and teach them geometry (I wasn’t good with that in school myself!). So we will meet the teachers and get ready to return to the more scheduled portion of life again.

Here are some ideas we have used in the past and still do to prep for the  end of summer and the coming  new school term.

12 Things You Should Do Before School Starts:

  1. Reset their clocks. My kids are older now, but when they were younger, I would slowly reintroduce bedtime schedules back into their lives. We always stayed up late in the summers, so four days would be at 10, the next 4 at 9:30, the next four at 9 and so on until we reached the appropriate bedtimes. Wake-up times would correspond with the bedtimes, getting earlier and earlier. Very handy for elementary school aged kids (and beyond!).
  2. Clear out their wardrobes. Before rushing out to buy school clothes during all of the school sales (or even those tax-free days). I have the kids go through their clothes and we discard the beyond help threads, and pass the out-grown clothes to littler friends, family or local the thrift store. It’s easier to see exactly what the kids need with clean closets!
  3. Clothes shopping. Out with the old and in with the new. Our friends tend to do the same as us, and we do get handed clothes from other friends (thank you!). So we shop at home first, then check out what’s on sale before heading out for new clothes. Don’t let those tax-free sale days fool you though, as clothes tend to get marked down AFTER the tax free days (hmm). And if you are minding a tight budget, places like Ross, Bealls Outlet and TJ Maxx can offer some good clothes at cut rates. Thrift stores like Platos Closet (for teens) are great places to get gently used trendy-labels at lower prices. Other local thrift stores sometimes offer $2-$5 a bag deals. Worth a look!
  4. Take an inventory of school supplies. If your kids have been attending school for a while, you probably still have crayons, scissors and notebook paper from the previous year. Have a clean out and gather all of last year’s school supplies together to take an inventory of what you already have. Pick up one of those handy Back to School Supply Lists they have at your local Walmart or Target and with your child, pack a bag with the items they need on the list that you have from home, then make a list with the items you need to buy. Do this with each child to keep them involved. A note on those item lists though: before you run out an buy the rest of the things they need on that list, wait for the Meet the Teacher day at school. The teacher usually has a different list- sometimes longer, sometimes a whole lot shorter (bless you, guys!) and a lot more specific. So wait- (unless you see 10cent pencils, of course, then stock up on those!)
  5. Back to School Bash. This is held in your local community by charities. There they give away  backpacks stuffed with school supplies and offer FREE screenings- vision, hearing and sometimes even dental and free immunizations. The school supplies are all new, donated by the charity or community (usually both). If you need school supplies and are on a tight budget, check your local paper or online city resource for their Back to School Bash. If you have lots of school supplies, you can always donate some to them as well for other kids. Your child’s school will accept school supply donations too.
  6. Buy School Supplies. This time of year stores offer great discounts on school supplies, though I suspect those 20cent a box crayon days are long gone. Investing in a Sunday paper just to find the sales is a good idea when hunting for school supplies. Walgreens and CVS tend to offer some fabulous deals (like those 10cent pencils) that the bigger stores won’t. The Dollar Store is a surprisingly good place to pick up things like hand sanitizer and tissues.
  7. Find the Perfect Backpack. This is an age by age case. Those backpacks they sell by the school supplies are great for the Elementary school aged kids, but once your child reaches middle school, you need to leave the lightweight stuff behind! We learned the hard way, after going through 3 packs in a six week period, that it was time to think like an AT hiker and headed to the camping section of the store to find a heavy duty backpack. The packs’ weight loads are listed on their tag, and with trial an error, found that a pack that can hold up to 35 lbs was the best for middle schoolers. Yes, my children are weight lifters! I can’t wait for the day when they just issue a laptop or tablet with all of the books already loaded onto it! But for now, they have durable packs that can double up for any of our backpacking adventures. Before you decide to save your child’s back by purchasing a rolling bag/pack, check out the school guidelines, as many schools do not allow those.
  8. Consider a water bottle. A regular at our kids’ elementary school, I got to witness first hand the little kids and their water-fountain antics- from mouth over the water spout (metal part) to snot dripping into the fountain- yes, totally grossed me out, so I always told my kids: Don’t drink from the fountain! And sent them with water bottles to school. Some teachers allowed them, some did not. But buying a case of water every couple of weeks is not economical, and refilling that water bottle is probably not too hygienic either, so investing in a reusable water bottle might be a better option. Again, by-pass the school-supply section and head for the camping area in the store (or just a camping store) to find better quality, more durable water bottles. While I wouldn’t send a YETI with my kids (haven’t tried them yet and can’t afford them myself), the stainless steel waterbottles with screw on tops seem to work best for our kids. The ones with push down to side spouts tend to leak. And forget the ones with that chiller pack in the middle: they are just taking up space that could be filled with drinking water! Just put ice in the water bottle, top with water and that will keep it cold  all day. Also they are great for any travel adventures. I love multi-purposing things!
  9. Get a haircut. This time of year all of the hair places offer back-to-school haircuts. I saw a sign the other day that said JC Penny’s was giving $10 cuts to kids grades K-6th. And Great Clips sends out a flyer for $7 or $8 cuts (I’m waiting for one to come our way.) Ask about a Back to School or student special at your local favorite. And when getting your child a haircut, (from experience), don’t go for a drastic change. Not just before school.( This is from personal experience. I had very long hair and cut it completely short- 1st time ever. And I cried. For a week.) Especially not before entering a new school. Kids are stressed enough from the newness of everything, so stick to a trim. If they want to try out a drastic new style, tell them at Christmas/spring break or the beginning of summer even.
  10. Have a Pre-School Run. Yeah, I’m not talking about pre-school, but a before school trial drill. This is especially good when starting a new school and if you are driving your kids or car-pooling. It  enables you to gauge just how long it will take for you and your kids to get ready and to the school. When my son entered Kindergarten, it was on the Sunday before that I had a drill run. We all woke up, got dressed and ready, got into the car and drove to school. Then we went out to breakfast at IHop’s. Ironically, my son still remembers that IHop breakfast! (Having chickens and fresh eggs, we rarely do breakfast out locally).
  11. Have Your Own Back to School Bash. This is especially important if your kids have been away alot this summer, or not well connected with their friends. Have a party at your house or a local park or swimming hole and invite their friends- bring frisbees, waterguns, snorkels & masks, soccer or footballs and let them PLAY! It helps them re-connect with their school friends. Bring drinks, snack foods like chips and keep it casual.
  12. Take a Last-Day of Summer Photo. All of my friends always post those First Day of School photos on Facebook. Every year. Without fail.  The kids are beautiful. All dressed up and looking really nervous. Yeah, I confess, while I love their photos, we are usually too rushed on that first day that I tend to forget to take that first day pic.  How about a last day of summer photo instead? This year, right after school ended, I took my kids and their friends to a swimming hole and we all went swimming (and promptly caught colds lol), but I still have photos from that First Day of Summer. We’ve done some cool wilderness-culture experiences this summer, and  I have the niggling words of Tinkerbell from that movie Hook in the back of my mind, where she says she can “Smell Peter” because he still smelled of adventure. Do we have the lingering essence of adventure on us? The kayaking, the mountain hiking, the waterfalls and rivers crossed, the hidden springs uncovered, the salt air from the sea? Over the school year, yes the kids do grow, taught by one or many teachers and friends and by the end of the school year they are usually sick of school, but what about summer, when you are their sole teacher? Have they changed? I am curious on this and this year am implementing the End of Summer photo. I encourage all parents to take a snap of your kids at the end of summer and compare. And even ask them. How have they grown this summer? What was the best thing they did this summer? What would they have done differently? And then if you wish, go ahead and do that First Day of School photo.

If you have any other ideas that you and your kids use to prep for the coming school year and would like to share, please, go ahead and leave a comment in the comments section below. (Comments are moderated, so no SPAM please!)  Feel free to share this post and have a great weekend!


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