Schermerhorn: Three suggestions to help prepare for school year

With any new beginning, there are celebrations.

We clamor over the birth of a new baby, a new year, a new age, or a new home.

Likewise, the start of a new school year deserves being planned for and commemorated. This is one of the many ways parents can emphasize the value they place on education in their family.

A three-pronged approach will cover the necessary bases. One, tackle the school supply list. Two, assemble the school wardrobe and make the house school-morning friendly. Three, create individual goals for each child for the upcoming school year.

School supplies: Locate each child’s school supply list. If it’s not easily accessible, I bet you can find it as a tab on your school’s website, or ask the parents of a classmate.  Have your child choose a “theme” for the year (Aquaman, Scooby Doo, soccer, ballet, polka dots, etc.). This will help your children decide on backpacks, lunch boxes and folders. Determining the theme ahead of time will make shopping easier. If your child has a very specific want in terms of backpack and lunchbox that you cannot find at local stores, this is the one thing to splurge on. He/she uses these twice a day, and these items set the tone for his/her days.

Collect sales ads from stores and the weekend fliers. Have your children pour over the ads to determine where the best bargains are for their supplies. For example, if pencils are cheapest at a dollar store, they will write the name of the store next to the item and continue the process for all items on the list. Once all the best bargains are found, choose only two or three stores where there are the most bargains, and complete all the supply shopping there.

School morning-friendly household: Several items of organization need to be addressed so your children will not be rushed. A child should have a specific drawer for school outfits. Put some stickers on the drawer so there’s no confusion over which drawer it is.

In that drawer there needs to be six school-appropriate outfits. Yes, I said it, school-appropriate clothing. There are legal guidelines for clothing worn at school. The law says any clothing item that is disruptive to the educational process can be restricted. In my book, that includes T-shirts with crude sayings, blue jeans with holes in them, clothing that is too tight or reveals too much, and accessories, such as heavy chains, that pose a threat.

I am not advocating that any family invest in new wardrobes for their students. In fact, just the opposite, since most of the new clothes will be outgrown by Thanksgiving. Here’s a suggestion: Your child or you and your child, depending on age, empty his/her drawers and create three piles – too small or ugly to wear anymore, fits but for play only since a bit worn out, and fits and is appropriate for school. Spread the third pile of clothing on the bed, table, floor or couch. Together, decide what clothing items are needed to complete six school outfits.

The key is outfit. An outfit is a no-brainer early in the morning. In fact, you can number the pieces of each outfit so your son/daughter can put it together easily. Remember Geranimals? Make a list of what each outfit will need: a pair of pants, a sweatshirt, shorts, polo shirt, etc. Also assess the underwear and sock situation.

Since we spend so much money on the start of school, go to second-hand stores to complete the outfits. I often find clothing that looks new and some even still have tags on. Also, there is nothing wrong with waiting a month or two for the new gym shoes.

Put all dry breakfast and lunch supplies in a low kitchen cabinet. This includes baggies, peanut butter and jelly, packs of raisins, snack bars, etc.  Have a bin in the fridge with fresh fruits and veggies. This way, your children can create breakfast and lunch easily on their own. Put heavy-duty hooks by the door so backpacks and coats may be hung the night before. It’s the old K-I-S-S principle: keep it simple, sweetie.

Goals: Have a family meeting to establish the guidelines and goals for the school year. Make sure they get written down.

The guidelines are the behaviors that are expected in your home on school nights. When is homework done? When is dinner? How much TV or video time is allowed? How much reading time, chore time, or job time? When are lights out, and what does that mean? No cellphones, TVs or video games in the bedroom?  Let the every family member give their input, then decide what is best.

Each child needs to set individual goals: read more each day, join the swim team, get better in math, go to physics tutoring, play trumpet an hour a day, befriend one new student, etc.

As for grade improvement, the reward for that should come from within your child. Paying for grades is a shallow motivator. On your chart, there could be a special family-planned-activities list for when there are special achievements by family members. This includes accomplishments by parents as well. The real value is the family experience and memories.

The night before school starts, bake brownies or a cake. You might even write something corny such as “SUCCESS” on it and bring in the school year together.

Then get those scholars to bed.

• Leslie Schermerhorn is regional superintendent of McHenry County schools.

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