Back to school" is a beloved term that can mean a wide range of experiences: the first fearful steps into kindergarten; having Mom drop off a middle school pre-teen around the block; sauntering out of one's first late-model sports car onto the sacred grounds of high school; the late night studying, and partying, of college life. Back to school is like New Year's, but with an academic spin.
I love the smell of a box of new crayons in the morning! Everyone from Wal-Mart to Target to Walgreens has kid-friendly scissors, composition books, crayons, markers and all manner of academic necessities on sale. Remember too that most stores price match, so it pays to do a bit of research online before purchasing.
The first days of elementary school can be hard on kids and parents alike. That treasured activity of laying things out the night before is a time saver. Perhaps your little ones will like making a game of it: Can they lay out their belongings faster than their siblings? The winner gets to pick the bedtime story.
Kids love those Lunchables pizza kits, but they can be pricey. Why not try making the ingredients one Saturday afternoon. To assemble, one would need either pizza dough made from scratch and baked into small circles, or whole wheat round bread servings might also be just as tasty. For the sauce, pile on the veggies with the tomatoes and a few herbs from your garden, then wiz it up in the blender. Dole out the sauce into sandwich-size plastic baggies. Add another baggy full of a three cheese blend. Combine the entire set in a cheap and easy plastic container with a plastic spoon and Voila! All the pizza goodness for a fraction of the cost and far better nutritional value. Be sure to add a little note about how proud you are of them and a dessert. They won't even think of trading their special pizza lunch made with love by you.
The hormones will be raging! Middle school can mean the onset of oily skin, oily hair, bad hygiene, and let's not even discuss the amount of "used tissue" in your son's trash can by the computer.
Rather than have to face an uncomfortable conversation about zit-control, why not surprise your blossoming teenager with his or her own luxury face and body kit? It can be anything from a matching sunrise face wash with zit cream, to a "super-secret" trip to the dermatologist to get checked out for breakouts before they start.
If one cannot spring for a trip to the dermatologist, there are usually coupons online or in the paper for a variety of face products, from Clearasil to Clean and Clear.
One might want to treat a Middle Schooler with a cool new wardrobe. Keep it simple by adding a few jeans in the rock star colors of red or purple, maybe let them go nuts on the t-shirts at Hot Topic, along with a new pair of cool kicks.
If the school requires uniforms, perhaps an appropriate backpack of their choice will take the sting out of wearing the same blue pants and white shirt every day. Maybe some wacky socks, or any number of self-expression buttons purchased with an online coupon or gift certificate, will teach your budding teenager that a small amount of self-expression feels even better through thrifty spending. If all else fails: Remember those Sharpie markers will find their way to doodle on most things, including sneakers. Is it really the end of the world if they draw a dragon on their new Chucks?
Some parents may feel that their contributions to success are falling on deaf ears. Not so, says Union 8th Grade Choir Director and 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year, Jeremy Stevens.
"It's extremely important," Stevens said. "Having a parent who is invested in their child's success automatically means that that child is destined for success."
Stevens is quick to point out that most teachers, who love what they do, will bend over backwards for their students, especially for those whose parents are stretched thin due to time, or those who might not be as fortunate as others. Parental involvement is paramount to any child's success, no matter what the circumstances.
"Having focused parents helps a lot!" Stevens said.
Nothing speaks more about a high school student than his electronica. Maybe the budget this year does not include the purchase of a brand new iPhone, but a new cover of their choice might just keep the eye rolling to a minimum. Sure, it can be kept secret from their new crush that the family data plan doesn't include unlimited texting. Parents, if it doesn't, you might want to go ahead and sign up for that now!
Without sounding paranoid, parents can sign up to track any number of activities from emails, to texts, to where their teenagers are going with their iPhones. Simply googling "Track iPhones" will submit a number of options, as will a search through the app store.
Whether parents buy cars for their teens or make them earn it through employment, turning sixteen is an amazing rite of passage and should include a conversation about car maintenance, maintaining insurance, and the dangers of texting while driving.
After-school activities for high school students can range from band to theater to sports to any number of character-inducing activities and will look great on a college admission application. Volunteering in any number of ways will also up the chances of better college admission and will yield great sources of letters of reference. Volunteerspot.com can help obtain a great place to volunteer and offers help coordinating efforts with things such as soccer teams.
'The Freshman 15' isn't a myth. It's a reality. That shiny new meal plan comes with a trip to a smorgasbord of what might be greasy pizza every day and will kill that six-pack earned in high school athletics. Remember: those calories will catch up to you eventually, so keep those plates full with greens, lean protein and good grains.
Low on cash, but have style to spare? Take that tight tushy to a thrift store or consignment store. Last year's jeans and fashions will look tres chic thrown together in just the right way. Plato's Closet strives to serve the young-and-fabulous, but a Saturday afternoon thrifting through Goodwill and Salvation Army might mean the score of some serious style for very little cash.
Just moving into your first apartment? Check out the cleaning supplies at any dollar store. Stocking up on $20 worth of cleaning supplies that last the whole semester means more money for beer, and more importantly, food and supplies for that last chemistry class before graduation. No one wants to have to ask Mom and Dad for cash when attempting to maintain the persona of adult living.
Here's to a great school year of new learning experiences.
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