Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Back to School

A back-to-school list to live by.

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article

I started seeing them back in June. School supplies officially hit the stores.

I began to feel the uneasiness and anxiety that is back-to-school for a parent.

School had literally just ended and our summer had yet to begin. I hadn't even bought bathing suits for the kids.

My daughter didn't skip a beat. She immediately started making her list of "wants" for the next school year. She loves school. She was already dreaming of folders and stickers and notebooks and a new book bag and the smell of new crayons.

My son was excited to chime in with his "wants" as well. This will be his first year of school. That's right... My baby is starting kindergarten.

Over the last couple of months, each time I go shopping and see the aisles and aisles of school supplies, questions pop into my mind:

  • When will I get the school supply lists?
  • What will they need?
  • How much will everything cost?
  • Will the price go up before I get the list?
  • Will the store sell out before I get the list?
  • Will I find everything I need when I get the list?
  • Why haven't I gotten the list??
  • I need the list!!!

I know I can't be alone in this. In this world of extreme commercialism, the stores do a good job of inducing panic and reinforcing feelings of urgency.


So I made the decision recently to get over my need for the list.

I will get the list when I get the list.

I'm going to use the knowledge that I've gained over the last 4 years of school shopping, coupled with my experience as the daughter of a teacher, to go shopping anyway.

  • For my children.
  • For the teacher.
  • For others.

This is the time of year that school supplies are ridiculously cheap (well, cheaper than they are any other time of year). I'm not talking about the backpacks and lunch boxes here. I'm talking about basic supplies. Supplies are not only competitively priced in the big box stores, they are plentiful. Try finding glue sticks in January. Good luck. Now really is the time to buy.

For the teacher.

Some of you will roll your eyes at that one, but again, I'm the child of a teacher and I know what teachers invest into their classroom. Way above and beyond your tax dollars that go into the school system. Way above and beyond the supplies that are provided to them.

Heart and soul and personal dollars are poured into each teacher's classroom. Those cute posters and bulletin boards? Bought and paid for out of the teacher's pockets. Extra glue, art supplies, scissors, stickers, books, etc. All paid for by your child's teacher.

Teachers make the school supply lists each year with the hope that they won't have to keep coming back to you throughout the year asking for more.

Teachers also know that even the shortest list is a struggle for some families to fill. If you're able to do so, grab a few extra glue sticks, crayons, or pencils and send them to your child's teacher. Better yet, send them a gift card so that they can replenish supplies when they get low or buy a few extra fo the children in need.

For others.

I know that many have the "school list" stress because their pennies are already stretched too thin and it sure would be nice to have more time to buy supplies or at least know what to budget for.

I am thankful for community organizations that team up each year to buy school supplies for students and have backpack programs for those in need.

If your community has a backpack program, and you are able to do so, find out how you can help. Even if you don't have kids in school. A child shouldn't be limited by supplies that they don't have.

When our daughter started school, I started the practice of buying two of everything that I had to buy for her. Crayons, glue sticks, erasers, notepads - all are extremely inexpensive this time of year. My bill is usually no more than $10 or so more than it would be if I were just buying for my child. A little inconvenienced - but I can skip the coffee treat or latte' knowing that someone was helped out.

So, I've rambled on and I promised you a great back-to-school list.

Because like me, you NEED THE LIST NOW.

This list may not be what you were hoping to find. If you need a true back-to-school list, just go with the basics. If your child was in school last year, the list won't be that much different.

But here are some basics. Things that cost you nothing. A list to live by:

Back-to-School List

  • Kind words. I try to tell my children that they don't have to be everyone's friend, but they MUST be kind. Children need kind words from each other. They also need kind words from their teachers, parents, and those that care for them. When they hear kind words, they will use kind words.
  • Listening ears. This is a tough one for many children to grasp. This is about respect. This is about learning appropriateness. Putting another person ahead of themselves. In order for our children to learn how to listen, we must listen to them. Ask them about their day. Tell them about yours. Talk to their teacher. Listen.
  • Curiosity. The number of questions that I hear in any given day is astronomical and exhausting. But I love having children that ask questions. Because when they stop asking, they stop learning. They stop exploring. They stop discovering.
  • Respect. Respect for the teacher. Respect for other students. Respect for themselves. But especially respect for the teacher. By the child and by the parent.
  • Rest. I don't get enough rest. It's a struggle to make sure that my children get enough rest. I know that their teachers need rest. It's important for parents to do their part in making sure that their children have a place where the distractions stop and they are able to get enough sleep each and every day.

I asked my daughter what she would add...

  • Make friends. Be a friend. Everyone needs a friend. No elaboration needed.

My sweet and very wise mother also chimed in. She's a veteran teacher and a year or so from retirement. She's naturally taught me many lessons, but in her profession she is well-loved and highly respected by her colleagues and students. I think it is in part because of one of the amazing qualities that she has:

  • Patience. Patience with your child's teacher. Patience with your child, and with parents who need time to understand how their child learns.

What would you add to the list? What are your sage words of advice for back-to-school?

Add a comment below... or visit the Graceful Mess Facebook Page and join in the conversation.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.