Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It’s hard to believe, but the summer is just about over and school is around the corner. In fact, I just received the school calendar and school starts September 5.

Because children, at least the ones in New York, have such an extensive vacation, many of them experience a summer slide, i.e. a loss of educational gains made over the year. This is why it is critical to keep up with the summer homework. Of course, this is easier said than done. In these last few weeks, focus on the subject most crucial for your child or the area in which there was great progress that you don’t want to lose. By picking only the most important subject, you will avoid overwhelming your child.

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Once you have picked the subject to focus on, make it into a game. My youngest son has just obtained fluency in reading English by the end of first grade after a lot of hard work. I definitely don’t want him to experience a summer slide in that area. So, we make sure to go to the library often, where he can take out as many books as he’d like. Then, whenever he is willing to read, I let him come into my bed, somewhere that is generally off-limits. If that doesn’t work for you, you can do an exchange – as much time as your child spends on math, lets say, he gets to spend on screen time or outdoor play. Ten to fifteen minutes a day should be enough. Having a tough time coming up with an incentive – ask your child for suggestions; you will be surprised at what he will come up with.

Once you have summer homework taken care of, it’s time for the supplies. In general, we buy good backpacks that we expect our children to have for at least two years. After dumping out the debris from last year, most backpacks can be washed in a washing machine and will be as good as new.

We like to stock up on other supplies as soon as possible, as the major office supplies stores have massive deals on different supplies every week to get shoppers into the stores. By dropping in, you can pick up scissors, rulers, and notebooks amongst others for pennies on the dollar. If you are the organized type that can stock, store and, most importantly, use supplies from year to year, than by all means, buy the maximum you can. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of money.

School supply lists usually come in the mail, but I don’t bother getting anything too specific that isn’t on sale until the first day of school, when children usually come home with yet another must have list. This way, I avoid buying supplies that aren’t needed, although there are always those few items that teachers request and are only used once or twice. You can add those extra few dollars to your tuition bill.

When school supply shopping I love buying cute items my children don’t need, but would like to have: cute post-its, funky folders, and silly pens. Then, when I go to the school for PTA conferences, I leave the item in my children’s desk with a note from mom. It always makes my children’s day when they find the note and prize the next day.

Another thing that you can get during the sales are cute water bottles. It is so important for children to drink water during the day, but it is hard to drink enough water out of water fountains. Taking plastic water bottles every day is expensive and not good for the environment. Instead, have different cute water bottles for each child, and get them in the habit of rinsing out the water bottle as soon as they come home and refilling it for the next day. Then, they can keep the water bottle on their desk and drink as needed, instead of asking the teacher to leave the room and miss class time.

Finally, we come to clothes. Obviously, our children want the trendiest shoes, but, at the risk of sounding like a grandma, comfort is the most important thing, especially with growing children who need strong support in the soles. You don’t want your children to avoid playing during recess because their feet hurt. I don’t want to promote any brands, but check online for the brands that offer the most support, and let your children pick from within those categories. This way, everyone will be happy.

If your children wear uniforms to school, I’d like to say you will save a lot of money, but not necessarily. Uniforms are expensive! I like to buy my daughter skirts a little bigger, hoping that they will last two years. I take the skirts to the cleaners where they iron the pleats back and sew whatever seams came out over the year. The skirts look as good as new, and my wallet breathes a sign of relief.

Don’t forget socks! You will need lots.

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Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, Choices, A Life Worth Living (featured on Dansdeals and Jew In The City) and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, Sing While You Work. The books are available at amazon.com. Pnina is available for speaking engagements and personal consulting. Contact her at pninabaim@gmail.com.
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