September is just one page-turn of the calendar away (how did that happen!), so many of us are thinking ahead to schedules, activities and sports. For some of us, summer was a chance to slow the pace of life for just a little while. No alarms, no school events, fewer meetings on the fridge calendar, and minimal organized activities. That tends to change in a hurry come September. Here are a few hints gleaned from the pages of mothers everywhere, in an attempt to lessen the stress associated with back-to-school blues.
First, and most important, plan ahead. You know your children better than anyone. What makes them tick? In what sort of environment do they thrive? Are they okay with change, or do they need some coaching and preparation for the adjustments that come in fall? It might be as simple as buying a calendar for the wall in their room, so they can see what’s ahead (many come with fun stickers to mark no school days, birthdays and other events). Maybe it means gradually altering bed times so that they are able to get a good night’s sleep before school starts. It could also involve researching available activities in your community, so that you know when various sports and clubs begin.
Don’t forget to talk to the other members of your family before signing everyone up for hot yoga! Seriously, communication is key to a healthy transition to fall schedules. Have a family meeting, and give each person an opportunity to share expectations and goals for the coming year. Use a family calendar (color-coded if you like), or if everyone is going digital, synch your events so that all of you understand the impact of each family member’s activities on one other’s days.
Finally, remember to consider what’s really important. Is the pace of life in your family building relationships, or is it amping up the stress? Some families limit each individual’s involvements to one per season per person, or even just one in total per season. So maybe Susie plays volleyball in the fall, Dad curls in the winter, Johnny plays baseball in the spring, and Mom golf in the summer. There are endless activities to sign up with, but only a few years that your children will be at home. There is a whole lot of value in eating family meals together, going for neighbourhood walks in the evening, and hosting impromptu community barbeques. Studies show that pre teens and teenagers who eat at home with the family eat healthier meals and have higher levels of satisfaction.
Back-to-school shopping rivals only the December holidays as the busiest and most lucrative period in retail. Avoid the lines and stress this September with these few tips. Oh, and save the planet while you’re at it!
Schools, especially in Manitoba, are emphasising the importance of sustainability. Recycling programs are a given on any campus, and composting projects, school gardens, Fair Trade initiatives, water bottle filling stations, and more are popping up throughout the province. Bring these lessons home by starting the school year off with these few tips:
- Use what you have. Do your first “shopping trip” around your own house. Odds are you have accumulated more pens, pencils and glue sticks over the years than can fit in your junk drawer. Many of these things are probably left over from school years past! Bonus: your house just lost some clutter.
- Buy what you need. Does “2 packages of 24 HB pencils” sound familiar? Will your child use or lose that many pencils in one year? To prevent wasting supplies or money, just buy supplies as you need them. When your child does run out of something, then you can get them some more. Bonus: supplies won’t feel disposable to your student, and you might just find they don’t get lost or broken as often because of that.
- Ask your friends (online and in real life). Some schools are asking for supplies like laptops, ipods, or specialty sports equipment. Check out garage sales or go online. Buy/Sell/Trade pages have become very popular on Facebook and can be especially useful when looking for second-hand tech gadgets or furniture for a dorm.
- Host a Backyard Boutique. Call your friends over for a barbeque and get them to bring a box of clothes their child has outgrown. Let the kids do the “shopping.” There are no prices here; just take what you like and whatever is left can be donated. When you hit the malls for brand new clothes, keep in mind where they are coming from and who made them. Check out The True Cost movie (on Netflix) before you go.
- Set the tone. Talk to your kids about why you are reducing, reusing, and recycling this back-to-school season. Start the year with a sustainable mindset: decide to walk or bike to school, swap out plastic baggies for reusable containers, bake homemade granola bars to skip the waste from packaging of store-bought, and make sure everyone in the family is set to go with a BPA-free water bottle.
Elyse Cook is a Family Social Science (Social Development) graduate completing the IPHE program. She works as the Public Engagement Coordinator for the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, raising awareness about social justice issues and promoting global citizenship. Don’t hesitate to contact Elyse about sustainability, international development or other global issues at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even for Middle and High School students, many parents will find their children’s teachers will have sent supply lists home with the June report card. Others might have to go to a school website to find those supply lists. Perhaps both options are available! Unfortunately, some necessary supplies could be missing, especially to those needed for Home Economics/Human Ecology classes!
If you are fortunate to be in a school that supplies everything for those classes, you can stop reading now. If you don’t know and it’s not clear on the supply list, it’s worth a call to the school in late August. You can take advantage of back-to-school sales or have your student look around your house because you might already have what is needed!
If your school cannot or will not supply your child with supplies, you may be asked for a small amount of money to help fund the course and/or to send supplies. After all, your child will either have food to eat, a sewing project to bring home and use, or both.
In my experience, most students do eat the food they prepare themselves and if they choose the project and fabric, they are excited to take those home and use them. If your family has a limited budget, please contact the school. I believe most schools will have a way to help.
A basic supply list for Home Economics:
- Hair restraint (clean cap, chef’s hat, hairnet, bandana)
- Straight pins (not a box of 300!)
- Stitch ripper
- Small box to carry it all
Other classrooms may require more but this is a good start. Best of all, dollar stores carry these basics at a reasonable cost. I can’t vouch for dollar store quality, however! Another source for inexpensive supplies can be a thrift store. You never know what you’ll find there!
Special fabric and matching thread will probably require a trip to a fabric store. Some fabric stores offer discounts to students, anywhere from 10-20% off. Usually the discount doesn’t apply to sale items, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Please make the discount request before the clerk begins to ring up the sale!
My last piece of advice on this topic is to take the student shopping! When you take your kids shopping, it can be an educational experience in itself when they see what things cost. I know it isn’t always convenient but if they can pick out their own supplies, they will enjoy the work more! Isn’t it wonderful when education is also fun?
A collaboration between the school and the family is beneficial to the student, the teacher and the rest of the family, even if its as simple as having your student well supplied. Please help the school to help your child!
Written by: Sheryl Berglund, DTM
Sheryl taught Home Economics (and other subjects) for 33 years, serving in Souris and Grunthal. She is now a leader in the local Toastmasters International District 64, voluntarily serving Manitoba, NW Ontario and N Minnesota. Her favourite education quote: It is not ignorance but knowledge which is the mother of wonder. (Joseph Wood Krutch)