Are you ready for school?

I’m certainly not. But it’s coming again whether I like it or not. So with that in mind, I thought I’d post some back-to-school stuff.

First, Julie of the National PTA (Parent Teacher Association–this is what we call the groups of parents in each school that support the school here in the US) sent me this:

“Summer breakis here, but PTA is already preparing to help millions of families head
back-to-school this fall by conducting a special webcast event. They’re
going straight to the source and asking parents across the country how they can
help!  This year the PTA is offering a new swing on how parents can ask
their questions. Parents now have the unique opportunity of submitting video
questions through the PTA You Tube page!

should be kept simple and short.  Remember creativity is a plus!  Questions
can be submitted conventionally via e-mail to
OR can be posted as a video question on the PTA
channel (select “Send a Message” in the “Connect
with nationalpta” box.  You must have a YouTube
to send a video message). When submitting questions on e-mail
or YouTube, the following must be included:

  • Your name,
  • The ages of your children,
  • The name, town, and state of your school and/or
  • Your e-mail address and phone number, and
  • Subject line: “Back-to-School”

By sending an e-mail or posting a video, you’ll be
granting PTA the right to publish your response, which may be edited for
grammar, length, and/or clarity.

PTA wants to know your questions! Deadline for submissions are Friday, August 8, 2008.
Keep in mind, even if you do not submit a
question the PTA still encourages parents to watch the webcast to pick up handy
tips on preparing their children for back-to-school!
The webcast
will be available for viewing starting August

So feel free to submit questions, or just go back and watch other people’s questions.

Second, an idea I think could really have legs. Were any of you as pissed off as I was to have to run all over the globe looking for exactly the specified school supplies on the list that the teacher handed out the first day of school, especially since you were supposed to bring them in two days later? I don’t know how WOH parents were supposed to have the time hunt exactly the right glue sticks down, and I certainly don’t know when SAH parents were supposed to. Especially when you’re already dealing with all the the back-to-school stuff, from kid tension and fear to new routines.

I was more than annoyed about it, and made many statements to the effect of “We sent people to the Moon almost 40 years ago, so why exactly can’t we just order school supplies on the internet??” Well, someone else must have been annoyed by that, too, but they actually did something about it by starting an online store just for school supplies. The idea behind is that schools and teachers can register their supply lists, and then parents can just buy them on the site and have them sent. Plus, the site gives a rebate back to the school in the form of a check or more school supplies. Any public, private, or charter school can participate, as well as any group, organization, or team. (I’m immediately thinking about how this could be used to help underfunded schools in the US or organizations that could give supplies to underfunded groups in other countries..)

As I see it, the only problem with the site is that not enough schools are using it yet. I typed in my zip code, and there are no schools there yet. So I’m going to email the PTA and harass encourage them to use it. If you all can email or call your PTAs to let them know about it, it could end up saving a ton of gas, time, and headaches in school supply shopping, and potentially do some real good for kids. (You can also enter your kid’s favorite teacher into the contest to win $1000 in free school supplies on the site.)

What other school-related things are coming up on the horizon for you?

0 thoughts on “Are you ready for school?”

  1. cooool. Our school might well like it – they already do weekly class updates (homework, schedules, events, curriculum, successes, etc.) through, online newsletter (whole school info), and online grades (continuous, so you don’t have to wait for grades to know the scores), and online ordering of school uniforms…issues for back-to-school:
    1) uniforms are expensive, and both kids needed them.
    2) two different bus stops for kids going to the same school (one for elementary, one for middle school, two different times).
    3) general fretting over the transition for B from Montessori to ‘sit at your desk’ expectations.
    4) general stress over the brain loss from summer, especially on math stuff – but getting them to do workbooks is hell.
    5) general stress over what teachers they’re getting – I love the school, I respect their teachers, I just want a good ‘fit’.
    6) Anticipatory concern about homework load, which is high in middle school (and G takes forever with even a moderate load…).
    All in all, usual stuff, and nothing that is a true fear, just frets. The school is great, they are successful (superior scores/rankings without ‘teaching to the test’), the curriculum is engaging – even for the parents (woo! learning about 10th century Chinese painters and Hildegaard of Bingen in 4th grade), they’re really successful with their anti-bullying and decorum efforts… a few issues definitely exist, but they’re all things we can get around or work with or talk to them about.

  2. Oh, and the number one ‘things on the horizon’ for school…I have a kid in middle school. I have a kid in MIDDLE school. Like, fifth grade. How? How did that happen? When? Time needs to just slow it down, please. No more speeding up as we go.

  3. Our big school issue is we’re moving in 2 days and school starts August 7 (that’s what, 2 weeks later?). Luckily we got into the neighborhood school, which is 4 blocks away – they opened an additional kindergarten at exactly the right moment for us. But it’s a lot of change all at once, including a transition from Montessori Pre-K (public school) to traditional instruction K (public school) with a smart and easily bored kid who can get “creative” about trying to get out of doing things she doesn’t want to do. Also, WTF school starting August 7? In Georgia, where it’s 95 degrees?

  4. @Flea – historically our county in Florida started then – I can not imagine having PE in Orlando in early August. Even late August it still sucks. It took the state to legislate a later starting date – the week before Labor Day, I think. August 18 this year.We’ve got one starting Kindergarten and one starting High School. Everyone’s excited about it. The bus for high school comes at 6:30 and he is not a morning person. We need to figure out who’s doing what – who’s making sure the oldest gets up and otu the door. Who’s doing the various drop offs for the two younger (we live too close for a bus to elementary school and there are good sidewalks, but she’s too young to walk solo.) And who’s doing pickups of the baby and the kindergartener (daycare and extended day at Elem. schoo, resp.)
    Oh, and the back to school shopping for school clothes. It looks like it’s going to be the battle of the skinny jeans (for the 14 year old boy). But that one I’m thinking about ahead of time and trying to think of win-win solutions.

  5. @Flea – oh and you have to get all the Target/WalMart stuff done before the town gets flooded with 40,000 kids and their parents credit cards & anxiety.Good luck!

  6. @Moxie – Exactly. And last year, middle school started at 9:20. All sorts of culture shock for that one.I think it’s based on how to stagger the buses so that everyone can get to school on time. High school starts at 7:30, Elementary schools start around 8:30, and Middle schools (6-8 grade) starts at 9:20, with kids coming home in the same order.
    One of the counties near us moved the start times around for the various schools so that high school started an hour later (8:30?), but the argument against that is about high school kids having time for extra-curricular activities (band and football practice, etc.) and for after school jobs.

  7. I think that online school supply ordering site is PURE GENIUS. I immediately mailed it to our school administrators (pre school and grade school). Hopefully something like that will stick!No big worries about school here except that my January baby is too young to go. 🙂 What I’m going to do with her all day now that her sister is in pre-K until 2:45 I have no idea.
    Oh, and Hedra — when I was in high school my bus also came at 6:30 (we lived waaaay out in the country) … it was an awful 18 months until I got my driver’s license (16 back then) and could at last drive myself, leaving at the more humane hour of 7:15!!!

  8. I was going to ask when school starts for you guys there in the States. Wow August 7 seems so early, but then again if they started holidays in May, you’d be ready to send them back to school then. Here my 3.5 year old re-starts kindergarten on Sept 9 this year. Most schools start up then.Here from Kindergarten thru to Middle school kids wear these cute smocks, no uniform per se but at least they keep there ‘real clothes’ underneath clean. They are wanting to re-introduce uniforms here for middle and senior high school and I’d be all fro them. In Australia we have always had them and I hated the casual days where you could wear whatever you liked as I had never anything decent enough to wear. Oh, the trauma of finding something to wear that wasn’t too daggy (nerdy). I hate the idea of my kids having to go thru that everyday, especially my daughter. And oh yeah, here teenagers dress far too sexy for their own good, and the thought of my daughter wearing the future equivalent of hipsters and skinny leg jeans at 13 just sends shivers down my spine.

  9. Eldest got into the pre-k program which is fantastic and she’ll be bussed from her daycare, also fantastic but the bus ride home is all-school which means FIFTH GRADERS! Huge, looming fifth graders! I am SPAZZING. My baby! I am SO going to have a heart attack.

  10. Oh boy…I’m going back to my teaching job after 2 years on maternity leave and my sweet kids (read: teeny tiny babies) are going to daycare. They will be two on Nov 30 and they are being placed in the 2 year-old room. I guess that is what I want because they are far too old for the toddler room but boy does it scare me. Anyone else have experience with “on the fence” birthdays? I worry about them being way behind the other kids. The little logistical things scare me to death like the fact that they don’t want kids using sippy cups (!?) and DH will be getting them dressed and fed in the morning. (I work in one of those high schools that start at an ungodly hour so I’ll be long gone before the kids wake. Sniff, sniff…) Also, being a SAHM feels like it is two full time jobs. I am running to keep up. How the hell am I going to keep up with this job and do another? I know tons and tons of women do it every single day but I just don’t know how.And Moxie- in most districts the transportation companies have more of a say about start times than anyone else. It simply kills me that teenagers who need more sleep than middle schoolers or elementary students are the ones on the bus at 6:30 in the morning. Can you imagine trying to teach Calculus first period???

  11. We still have year-round preschool, so there isn’t a “back” to school…but this is the year we have to figure out what kindergarten Mouse will go to in 2009, which in SF is far from a simple process. That all starts when the big kids go back to school, so I’ve done some anticipatory research but I know that this fall/winter is going to be crazy.On the HS start time, I’ve read somewhere that vandalism and nuisance crime would be reduced by some enormous amount if high schools stayed in session until 5pm. It seems like it would make more sense to have the motivated kids get up early and do the “after” school activities early in the morning, then have everybody come later. (But that’s based on no actual knowledge of how high schools work in this day and age.)

  12. @wendy, this is totally anecdotal but my daughter has always done best when she is the youngest in a room. When she starts a program with bigger kids, she gets a big “bump” in learning and her behavior generally comes up to meet the standard set by the bigger ones. When she’s been the oldest, she gets bored with the classmates, focuses on the teachers, and imitates the behavior of the little ones. Move her into the next class up and bingo! she’s doing great again. I think for many kids, especially at this age, being the youngest is fantastic (very out-of-fashion view I realize, but there you are).On sippy cups, Mouse’s toddler daycare didn’t use them after 1 year and taught all the kids to drink from regular cups…and while I was initially apprehensive, they knew what they were doing and it worked great. I bet your kiddoes will be fine. 🙂

  13. Is it me or does back-to-school advertising keep getting pushed earlier into the summer? I don’t have kids yet, but it’s killing me to see the ad’s in July! Of course, my school system while growing up subscribed to the agricultural schedule so we never started until after Labor Day, but we also didn’t get out until early June, or later if we’d lost more than the number of snow days built into the calendar.Wendy-in our area the school districts own their buses, and they still have the HS pickup and start at an ungodly hour.

  14. My kids’ school uses got an order form in May for the next school year and all you have to do is check a box saying you want the supplies your childs teacher requested and pay at that time. And best of all -the box of supplies will be sitting on my daughters desk the first day of school! Absolutely no shopping for me. The prices were awesome – I think I figured out her supplies came out to less then $1 each. And they throw in note pads and envelopes, perfect for sending notes and $$ to school. Even the box everything came in was a useful for storing her stuff from that school year. Loved it!

  15. In our school district and several surrounding ones, you can order your school supplies through the local PTA, you give them a check for the supplies and when your kid gets to school on the first day, they’re sitting on his/her desk. The supplies are based on a list given by the teacher, so they are the right supplies. They cost a little more than doing it yourself, but the proceeds benefit the PTA. And also it’s easy. That’s only for elementary though – since in middle school they start branching out and it would be hard to do this.

  16. We moved, and LK is in a new school system. Not only that, but it is a magnet school with a different focus and different way of teaching (so they say). We are praying it is a good fit. School uniforms and riding the bus are also new for him.

  17. wendy – My kid is a May birthday and they switch rooms in September and January, so he’s always switched into the next room up in January (in the 3s room at just a hair over 2.5 yrs). It works well. He just clicks with the older kids and learns a ton from them (the good and the bad…”nanny nanny boo-boo” at 3).And at 2, they should be fine at school with open top cups. The rules are usually at the table only and sitting and so on. There really aren’t as many spills as you would imagine (and heck, you don’t have to clean them up). When it first started though, I was sure to offer plenty of drinks at home to make sure fluid intake was good. After a while, it all modulated.

  18. @Wendy – “How the hell am I going to keep up with this job and do another?”Answer: lower your standards and focus on what’s important.
    Seriously, one of the unsung benefits of being a WOHM is that you suddenly find out what is actually important to you (and not what you say is important to you), because the things that aren’t actually important don’t get done.
    Also, my Hubby does his fair share, and that is honestly what keeps me sane.
    Cut yourself some serious slack for the first month or so, then work with your Hubby to find a new routine that works for everyone in the family. Moxie had a post on splitting up chores a few weeks ago, and I thought there were some really good ideas in there.

  19. Here is what I don’t understand…..teachers (and I am one, btw) who specify the exact BRAND of product??? WTF? If there is something I want my students to have all the same of, or a specific type of notebook or whatever, I either order a class set with my supply money (if I have any, which often I don’t), buy it myself for my kids (I spend about $1000 per year out of pocket on my students just because it is easier for EVERYONE that way), or ask some willing parents WHO HAVE THE TIME AND THE INCLINATION to buy a class set for me….but certainly NOT by the 2nd day of school. All stuff students need to have the first/second day of school is provided by ME and is waiting for their cute little back-to-school faces on the first day of school.Rant over.

  20. First, anyone seen that bumper sticker, “What if schools had all the money they needed, and the air force had to hold a bake sale?” Seriously, my only previous experience of kindergarten is from 30 years ago, and I was totally unprepared for this list of supplies. I have to buy soap and tissues for the classroom??In the end, I’m happy to help out, and as my husband says, better to pay $30 for supplies than pay $100 in taxes to get the same supplies, but it does seem weird to me.
    And to the extent that we need to shop, I’d love a centralized place where I knew exactly what to get. My kid’s teacher asked for a “zippered pocket,” and the first one I bought was rejected for being to small – well how about some more guidance for the non-psychic parents?

  21. @Paola — Julie’s not a saint (well, not for that, anyway — she may have other saintly qualities!) she’s the norm. I taught HS for 10 years and there isn’t a teacher I know who doesn’t do that. You can’t outfit a classroom responsibly without shelling out. Teachers are eligible for a $250 tax deduction at the end of the year, but that doesn’t begin to cover it.And I agree with you, Julie. The specific BRAND?!?! I would never have the nerve to ask parents to do that.

  22. @paola (and sideways to Julie?), almost every teacher I know who works in the public schools does this (and many in private, too). Our Montessori school adamantly refuses to allow it – buy stuff that wasn’t on the initial list, yes, but it comes from school budget or parent donations or somewhere but not from your after-tax money. Likewise, the charter prefers teachers not do this, too. It’s hard on the teachers, even if it is a freely given choice made with love and professionalism.I know many many teachers, and 90% of my friends-who-are-teachers simply MUST buy from their own pocket in order to provide the experience of education they feel will work for the kids in their class, this year. Some of it is basics, but sometimes it is something that adds flavor or texture or depth to a topic. It’s right back at the bumper sticker about the bake sale – though IMHO, the military is also crippled by how budgeting is done, as I’m CERTAIN they’d love to supply better/more complete/more in-depth benefits, pay, counseling (early, for family, PTSD, etc. – not saying they’re sucky at it, but the need is SO HUGE). It’d be nice if the budget money could feed less into capital equipment and more into ensuring the troops themselves are well tended to… body armor and pre-deployment counseling, high on my priority list… um, sorry, ranting, there.
    Julie, I’m glad you do, and wish you didn’t have to. I’m going back to the no f-ing soap thing again, here, but with a twist – I give cash to the school instead of (or sometimes in addition to, if there’s something I actually need) participating in the fundraisers. Any breathing room I can put into the budget is a good thing. I don’t need the pizza/cookie-dough/etc. as much as I need to know that ALL my available funds are there to be used. My extended family also sends checks directly. I’ve been told by other parents that this is a bad idea, since the ‘bonus payback’ from the fundraiser is based on total take – but I’ve only had a depth of gratitude from the school administration for the flat-out donation. If it in any way means the teachers are less likely to have to spend their salary on materials, I’m for it. Y’all deserve to keep every penny, and more. Even if you’re buying out of love.

  23. wow — it’s been so long, I’ve forgotten about back to school. (Mine graduated college 5 years ago)Here is Southern California, school typically starts the week after Labor Day — with a few (mostly private) schools starting just before.
    Imagine — add to the above supplies everybody mentioned the requirement to send an “earthquake emergency supply” package! Yeah, fun times!!!

  24. I do not have a school-aged child (she’s almost 2) but I taught HS for 8 years. The school where I taught had a system worked out with the PTA moms. They sold school supplies for parents and students to buy at registration. Teachers submitted supply lists at the end of the previous school year, PTA bought supplies over the summer and by registration, could offer them for sale to students based on the courses on his/her class schedule. Easy peasy! Also, the PTA made money directly.THe website also sounds cool, but I like that the PTA system eliminates the middle man. Whatever works, though!

  25. @JulieYou’re a saint. Spending $1000 of your hard earned cash just because it’s easier for everyone? Good for you.

  26. On my back-to-school shopping list is a $100 gift card to Wal-Mart for each teacher my son has (we’re at two different pre-schools – one Monday and Wednesday and one Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It’s complicated but it works), with instructions for her to buy things for herself OR the classroom, whichever she needs.Having said that, it’s the only back-to-school shopping I have to do, since the trend around here is a “supply fee” to cover whatever the kiddos need. I know we’ll have that at least through elementary school.

  27. @Wendy- I worked in a daycare in the 2 year old room (my favorite age group!!), and speaking from my experience, the new little ones in the room were always coddled a little (okay, a lot), by the teachers AND the other kids. Not saying you won’t run into any problem kids, which there always are (and you should probably expect), but as long as the teachers are good, they will be well cared for.My mom is an early intervention teacher, and spends a LOT of money on her kids and her classroom, out of pocket.
    I really like shopping for school supplies. I take my kids, let them pick out certain things, i.e. what color pencil box, etc., and it helps gear them up for school starting, gives them time to ask questions about anything they might be feeling anxious about, etc… I use it as a kind of teachable moment, I guess. And they’re all excited cause they get all this great new stuff.
    I’m dreading the Screaming Match that is the daily combing of my daughter’s thick curly mass of hair first thing in the AM, however… anyone got any suggestions about that?

  28. @paola….haha. No, not a saint. Yes, this is what most of my colleagues do as well. Granted it’s not $1000K all at once, but throughout the year. It doesn’t hurt as much as it sounds like, and imo, it’s soooooo worth it. For many years I taught at a Title I school, where over 60% of our students qualified for free/reduced lunch, and I’m sorry, but many of these families not only could not afford to outfit their kids for school with the basics without forfeiting necessities like food, but they worked 2 jobs and simply had NO TIME to do so. I also had many kids who not only could afford the supplies, but they would buy the fancy supplies. No 16 box of crayons for them…..they splurged on the 64 box (these families have an opportunity to contribute to the whole class in different ways in the form of paying for pizza parties, special photography projects etc. rather than something for their kid specifically….and most are thrilled to do so). So buying supplies out of my pocket at the beginning of the year was a way for me to even the playing field a bit so that all my kids had the same stuff, there was no obvious sign of “haves” and “have nots” in what tools the kids used to learn.I’d imagine the situations Hedra is talking about (with some schools who don’t allow their teachers to do this) arises in an environment where parents are paying tuition to attend that school, so there are slightly different expectations of family responsibility, and these expectations are easier to uphold/enforce. In the public schools, we take anyone and everyone – for a day, a week, or the entire 6 years of elementary school….no questions asked, no money required. So asking parents to buy specific things from a specific list in order to be able to participate in my program sits wrong with me (and still shocks me that this is happening in NYC public schools!!!!) I really don’t mind spending the money…..and I really don’t know any teacher who begrudges the kids or the families. Sure we wish we didn’t have to, but year after year we do it anyways because it’s just better that way.

  29. And Hedra….the no f-ing soap thing was one of the highlights of my teaching career so far……and proof that the $$ I spend and the time I spend get repaid in many different ways….sometimes years after they leave my room. Just had a letter from a student who is off this fall to University of Chicago. They never really stop being my kids, so spending $$ on them doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice to me. Doubly so when I can buy them a .39 cent pencil box and it’s the best thing they’ve gotten all year.

  30. @Joy, I have thick, curly hair and have since childhood. The key thing is to comb it out thoroughly when wet and then never brush it when dry, unless you need to section it for a hairstyle. Definitely use a conditioner when you shampoo, and let it sit for a few minutes, then comb it through. If you do need to get a comb through dry hair, use a detangler–they’re not cheap, but a little goes a long way (I find a bottle lasts about 8-9 mos so it works out). Also, some girls with long hair get braided at bedtime so the pillowhead doesn’t create too many tangles. For the morning routine, I would dampen and finger-comb it with some gentle product and then style it or let be.I think Parent Hacks had a great post on girls’ hair battles a couple months ago, too.

  31. @Wendy about kids on the age fence:My DD is a Nov baby as well (2004). I find that all of her closest friends are several months older than she is so she does great when she’s the youngest. At 2 I think (and thought) this was great. It helps that she has always been extremely verbal and extroverted.
    The problem now is that her friends will all be going to kindergarten the year before she does. This year at preschool/daycare they will be in different class. She will be among the oldest in her class–w/o her best friends as they will be in the next room in a pre-K class. She isn’t very happy about it.
    I’m nervous about this too. I don’t think she is quite developed enough to match up with the January 04 kids but the April 05 kids seem awfully young. we’ll see how it goes.

  32. I always LOVED shopping for school supplies as a kid. Thought I’d love doing it for mine.Then I found out that the stuff she picked out all excitedly went into a “communal supply pile” WTF !!! I’m all for sharing and even would be happy to buy multiple things for kids who can’t, but community property takes all the fun out of it.

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