“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of  newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.” (Joe to Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail”) Folks, if I knew you, I would be tempted to do the same…that is how much I LOVE school and the year it encompasses!

Before we get started, let’s do a  little exercise. Let’s relax and take a deep breath.Yup, that’s it…inhale deeply…can’t you almost smell the crayons, construction paper, and glue? As a mother who home schools her children, Fall has always represented a time of fun, but always there are  a lot of ‘to-do’s” that make it onto my list and into my life. The list, for some, can be viewed as daunting, overwhelming. It looks something like this… Rush to Target, “shoot, what did we need?”…Rush to the grocery with not an inkling of what would be best to add to the lunch box, and let’s not even get started with the backpacks, bedrooms and clothing needs! The intentions of an organized approach were there, but not quite planned out and executed well.

I have known many a mother (and, sometimes, father) who have great intentions for overcoming the difficulties faced last year by beginning the new school year out on better footing. And, yet, Fall sneaks up like an unseen assailant and before you know it, “BAM!” the first day of school is Monday and you are scurrying the night before to get it all done. So, the school year begins as it had ended, with frazzled and tired parents and students.

But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way!

For me and my younger two children, school began last Monday. For the high school students I teach, it begins August 15th, and for my older children, their college start date is August 29th, whereas our local school district schools begin the 10th. No matter whether your start date is a few days away or a couple of weeks away, there are some things that we  can accomplish CALMLY and in an orderly fashion over the next few days or weeks.

There are a few areas which most every parent has to review before their children return to school. They are as follows: Supplies, schedules (both family and personal), clothing needs, bedrooms and study spaces.

First, let’s take inventory of what we have on hand for supplies. Very frequently, I will keep my eyes open for supplies as they go on sale or clearance throughout the year, but, of course, I have found the most cost efficient time to purchase school supplies is at the “Back to School” sales. I typically take advantage of the great prices, particularly with notebooks, ruled paper, pencils and pens at the beginning of the school year and stock up, but only if I foresee a need for them. To that end, the first place to begin is taking inventory. I have a supply closet that I have set up to keep all these items in and more. If you have a closet, shelf or other system available, begin to weed out those items that cannot be used any longer. Then, begin to assess the need items which are on the list provided by the school. Now, at this point, some of you will not have a list and that is okay. You will have enough of a list from experience to know the basics of what they will need. Begin with the basics: Paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, binders and loose leaf paper.

I have a note to share with you on the whole binder issue. A couple of years ago, I was about at my whits end with one of my children’s habits of NEVER using their binders to store their homework, assignment pages, etc. As a result, he would lose assignments, lose work he had completed or come to class without the proper necessities. I home educate, but I am not lax in these matters, nor am I a drill sergeant, but I do expect age appropriate responsibility. To this end, I HAD to get down to the underlying problem here. We would have what would seem to me like endless discussions as to his use of his binder and how important it was to utilize it as a tool and still, at the end of the day, we both would be very frustrated at his faithful insistence in not using it. Then, one day, as I was pondering the whole situation, I realized that it wasn’t that he necessarily did not want to be responsible or respectful of my wishes, but he was enough like me that when he greatly disliked something, there was a lot of resistance that came along with it. So, I asked him a simple question. “what is it about your binder that you cannot stand?” His eyes lit up as if to say, “EUREKA! She FINALLY sees!” and he told me that he cannot stand two things, one, the binders were cumbersome and two, his papers were often ripped when he was leafing through those few pages he did put in them. His solution…just don’t use it. It wasn’t effective in his life. The problem was, he needed at tool that was. Now equipped with understanding him better, I purchased an accordian file with twelve sections. He was able to use notebooks or loose leaf, assign a course name to the appropriate section, carry with him a planner where he recorded his assignments, as well, a supply pouch that housed his calculator, pencils and pens. Problem solved. It has been two years since we made the change and to date we have had very, very few hiccups to the system. He has a tool that doesn’t make him crazy and provides a solution to both of our needs…he turns his homework in on time.

Once you have the appropriate supplies, they can set up their backpacks (with assistance if the children are younger). If you have more than they need at the time, you can begin to set up your storage solution for the extra supplies.

Tomorrow, we will deal with how to tackle backpacks, storage areas and bedrooms in preparation for the school year.

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