With daughters in grade 8 and grade 10, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about elementary school requirements. Over the years I’ve learned to tone down the back-to-school shopping frenzy. I do an inventory of what’s on hand before breaking the bank on binders with the latest gizmos, backpacks that glow in the dark and everything else that my kids deem are “must-haves”.
Here’s what I’ve learned to keep on hand when September rolls around:
A place for putting important papers, such as field trip forms, meet the teacher nights, and monthly calendars. Even if this place is the refrigerator, develop a routine for where these papers go. Once the event has happened, recycle that piece of paper.
A place where you’ve written and posted your children’s health card numbers for easy access. You will need this every time your child’s class deigns to set foot outside it seems. Don’t they keep these numbers on file? My daughters actually have theirs on their phones and fill out the forms for me, mark the spots where I’m supposed to sign and show them to me like a lawyer.
School phone numbers, teacher names and email addresses in your phone and on your computer for easy access. Include the name and contact info of your parent council chairperson and resolve to volunteer at least once this year. Studies show the elementary school students whose parents volunteer do better in school.
A ready supply of Bristol board. It’s 10 p.m. and your child has just informed you that her report on the mating habits of toucans is due tomorrow and she needs a piece of cardboard. No need to dash out the store in your PJs if you have a few pieces stashed away.
Craft supplies: here’s what I’m always looking for at our house – glue sticks, scissors, tape. Get lots and put them in a communal craft area.
Yet another place is needed, for storing long-term important stuff: report cards and extra photos. Why do we get conned into buying the photo packages with enough wallet-sized photos to supply a family of 20? If you’re like me, you wouldn’t dare throw out a school photo of your fresh-faced child. Keep them in one place and vow to get the smaller package next year.
A place for doing homework. Not all kids will want to go to their room, even though you spent hundreds of dollars putting that awesome Ikea desk together. If they insist on doing it in the middle of the family room, you can insist that the TV stays off. Invest in folding tables or lap desks instead.
An agenda. If your child’s school doesn’t provide one, get one yourself. It’s a great way to teach your child about time management.
A stop watch/timer. Kids have no sense of time. Don’t use it to make them work faster, but rather, to help them track how long certain types of homework assignments take. This is something I wish I had done.
A portfolio for artwork worth keeping. What’s that? Not all artwork is worth keeping? Trust me, you’ll eventually pitch 90 percent of it. A glorified file folder encourages you and your child to keep what’s really special – even if it swells to epic proportions throughout the year.