To some people, the sounds of rustling backpacks and starched uniforms brings feelings of sweet relief; it’s the sound of children going back to school and the household returning to a normal schedule.
For working moms like myself, the sound brings feelings of dread. The school year will be beginning, necessitating extreme juggling skills to manage varying bus schedules, homework assignments, the unending list of supplies that are urgently needed, and the illogical school calendar which manages to give vacation to the children at least once a month, leaving parents scrambling for extra child-care.
The summer is a vacation from all that with late mornings when the kids can be packed off to camp wearing whatever they want without having to worry about dress codes, and just a quick glass of milk, knowing that breakfast will be served shortly, not to mention long relaxing afternoons, where every meal is alfresco (at least in our house) and the children are so wiped out from their exertions, their sleep is long and deep.
This year, we have three kids going to school for the first time. My oldest will be going to first grade, my middle child will be entering not just nursery but a brand new school system for both him and us, and my little toddler, only nineteen months, will be going to a small playgroup across the street with his bottle in his hand. Now before you exclaim at the pressure that parents are placing on their children to succeed academically, remember that I am not home during the day anyways, and I felt it would be good for my not-quite-a-baby-anymore to spend a few hours with other wobbly toddlers his own age instead of with the babysitter.
So with all these big milestones, each child in a different school and a different grade, we have been inundated with forms, letters, and supplies that are needed before the school year can begin. We would have been completely overwhelmed, if not for my secret weapon; my cell phone calendar. In there, I broke down all the major categories that we had to deal with: school supplies, forms, clothing, doctor visits, and preparing the children for their next big step in life.
School Supplies: I have been very blessed with a husband who loves shopping for deals. Because of that, we have a large closet filled with almost every type of school supply one might require from age 3 and up. For the small amount of things that we were missing, he kept track of the circulars being dropped off in the mail and went to Staples as needed. That’s his thing, and it definitely was a huge help, but unless Sunday-shopping-for-school-supplies is your thing, I wouldn’t recommend it, as it’s quite the time-waster.
Instead, schedule a day in your phone calendar, once you received all the school supply lists, and choose one store that has decent prices for most of the items you will need. Bang out the whole list and call it a day.
It is not reasonable to expect to get the best deals for everything, so whatever you end up spending a little extra on, chalk it up to time saved. In the future, remember to go shopping as early in the summer as possible, because the closer you get to September, the emptier the store shelves will be.
The Forms: The forms came in thick envelopes and contained such useful information as lunch forms, emergency forms, book forms, bus forms, school schedules, and family history. I took care of them as soon as they arrived, by filing the important forms I needed in the appropriate places and filling out the paperwork the school required, slipping them back into the manila envelope and into the children’s backpacks that were already waiting on their hooks at the front door.
Clothing and Uniform: Can I take a minute to say how much I love uniforms? What a pleasure to know exactly what to wear for the next day. No more giving choices, or explaining that we can’t wear Shabbos dresses to school. Thankfully, my daughter is very excited to wear her uniform, and she couldn’t wait to go shopping. We scheduled a day on my phone, and found a uniform store nearby that carried her school’s criteria.
About the Author: Pnina Baim’s newest novel, “A Life Worth Living”, about finding happiness and meaning in the land of Israel, is now available at all online retailers. Contact Pnina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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