Yikes! It’s Back to School Time

Some of our favorite school things

Today I realized school is on the horizon.  Not because of the usual signs.  One son is working all day and the other one comes and goes to work and various other activities  so the “end of summer” sibling fighting is, thankfully, not happening.  What did make me wake up to reality, was the fact the boys could get their parking permits for school today.  I know many of you are a long way off from high school, but these are the kind of details that come up when you get to this level.  At our school it involves a couple of forms, copies of their licenses and insurance, and of course, cash.  Oh, and their preference for where to park, west lot or parking garage.  Yes, I said parking garage.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I am pretty sure we might be the only public high school with a parking garage.  Anyway, that was our school task for today.

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After all these years of school children, our “back to school” shopping sprees are slowing down.  Now I usually purchase some of our favorite supplies ahead of time, and then (unfortunately) go with the mob to the local office supply store on the first night of school picking up all the things the teachers requested on their syllabi.  When you are in high school, you don’t get those nice little lists in advance.   After 23 consecutive years of sending children to school, 14 of those with high schoolers, I am getting fairly good at knowing what to have on hand.  On Friday I had to pick up a baby shower gift and since it was “tax free” weekend for school supplies, I stocked up on a few things.  I realized that with four, and sometimes six kids, we have had a bundle of back to school experiences.  Today I am listing some of our favorite supplies and systems.  It isn’t earth shattering or anything, just our favorites.

First let’s talk school supplies.  When the kids were little we did it all.  Some years we bought the pre-packaged fundraiser supplies.  Other years we went and made it an event of each child choosing their supplies.  What seemed to happen for us was the years we bought the pre-packaged supplies, the kids didn’t always like the brand of items purchased.  The scissors didn’t work well or the pencils broke easy, etc.  Then we had a time when we carefully chose our supplies to suit each child’s needs only to find out that they were required by the teacher to turn all supplies in to put in a communal bin.  That was a bummer, all that work…we should have bought the pre-packaged supplies those years.  Now we are in high school and the kids get what works for their work/learning style.

I want to start with suggesting you set up a school supply area and homework zone.  This may be in each child’s room or it may be at the dining table or other common area.  When we had the four boys all here I realized we needed a supply station and drop off for books, etc. DSC_0433 I finally figured out that there was just enough room in our entry closet for a bin style shelf.  I purchased a handled carry all and used paper cups as dividers to corral supplies.  There are also inexpensive pencil boxes that hold markers and additional colored pencils.  Each boy had a bin or shelf and they could keep reference books or extra items there.  Sometimes they became the forgotten junk bin, but they often were the first place I suggested looking for a missing item and low and behold the missing item was found!

I must begin with the best find I made when I set up this zone.  We have gone through many pencil sharpeners here at home.  Around 10 or 12 years ago we switched to electric and burned through several of those.  I knew there had to be a better way and was considering going back to the old school manual kind when I found a new and improved old school style that is highly recommended by school teachers.  Here it is and my kids and I love it.DSC_0440  It sharpens perfectly every time and with a perfect point.  It will not chew up your pencil, is quiet and quick, and is simple once you learn the proper way to load it.  I am not an associate and do not benefit from your purchase (schools in developing countries do) but seriously when is the last time you found an amazing product that didn’t require electricity!  Here is where you order yours: www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com   After you sharpen your first pencil on it, you can think me by subscribing to my newsletter.  You can also find demo videos on Youtube.

For class organization one of my daughters organized her classes by binders like these each with the subject on the spine.

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She decorated the cover by putting wrapping paper in the insert.  She even wrote the subjects by “code” using fruit names.  I think she used  “Cantaloupe” for “Calculus”.

Our last two have no lockers to use so they are required to carry everything all day in their backpacks.  They like a smaller folder (like the ones in the picture below) to organize each class.  I spend a little more to get the Mead Five Star because it is a tougher plastic and lasts the whole year usually.  It also has an insert on the front to slip a cover of some sort, a class syllabus or an assignment to turn in.

The folder has the ability to carry notebook paper securely in addition to the pockets for storage of handouts.  (click here for a similar one)DSC_0428 (1)

Our favorite wood pencils are Ticonderoga.  They are real wood and they sharpen well.  For mechanical pencils, my youngest son prefers the Bic Mechanical with grip .07 Mm Hb.   I bought an off brand box of 24 for $2.00 last week.  We will see how they hold up.  For pens we like the Pilot G2 .07.  They write smoothly and do not leave clumps of ink.  They are also retractable so no missing lids to leave a mess in your bag.  For erasers we love the Pentel polymer.  As a former accountant, I personally have long been a fan of the Pentel clic retractable grip eraser for quick corrections.  For larger areas or younger students, you will want the Pentel Hi-Polymer block eraser.

Next, I want to address lunches.  I still have struggles with this.  We have had to pack lunches for years due to one son having a soy allergy.  The other son just didn’t always eat his lunch so I had to make sure he was presented with food he would eat otherwise we had a very grumpy boy by afternoon.  When they were in late grade school years we used these lunch boxes:

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They are called laptop lunches and use the Japanese bento boxes as inspiration.  You can find them at their site, bentology.com (I am not an associate).  They are designed to be eco friendly.  I also liked the portion help and the inspiration.

I did set up a lunch supplies area in my pantry a few years ago when we added two boys to our home.  Fixing four lunches per day when all of them were playing sports required basically fixing a feast that would fit in a paper sack.  I just used simple containers like this to round up all the supplies.

 

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I am know to be somewhat comatose in the mornings so it really helped.  We often prepared a good portion of the lunches the night before too.  Using fridge bins helps keep all lunch items together so you don’t miss anything or spend time looking all over for them.

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Finally, let’s talk clothes.  If your kids have to wear uniforms, be sure and thank God in your prayers for this.  Three of our kids wore uniforms for part of their schooling and it made life so easy!  No big fuss over what to wear.  If you don’t have uniforms,  I highly recommend that your children choose their clothing the night before so no decisions have to made the next morning.  We even have done this with our high school boys.  A couple of our sons had to leave for early morning practices and clothing “issues” were making them late.  We started requiring them to choose clothing and make sure it was wear ready.  Our kids take over laundry responsibilities around age 10 to 12 so if something is not clean or wearable, it is their fault.

If you have younger children an organizer like these might be really helpful.  Especially if you have one of those children who likes to change her mind every three minutes.  Oh yeah, I had one too.

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I never had one of these organizers, but the idea is great.  There are alternatives like these:

 

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You can also devise your own system by hanging ribbons or plastic tags on hangers.  I like the box type because it holds clothes that are not hanger friendly.

Hey, we would all to hear of your favorite school supply or system.  Leave us a comment and we can all help each other.  I hope this post helped you a little and if you are a parent who has a situation where back to school shopping is difficult, you can link to all of these products and purchase them online.  Just click on the picture or the blue link and we can help each other out.

Well, I am down to my final two years of “Back to School” time.  It is hard to believe but I just want to encourage  you younger moms to make the best of this special time of year.  Be sure and remember the most important supplies to send with your child: your love, your support, and the love of Christ in their hearts.  Also, don’t forget this little challenge my husband gives our kids each morning:  “Have a good day and give them Jesus!”



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