Your Guide to the Best School Year Yet

. July 29, 2016.
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Ready or not, it’s time to trade in those beach bags for book bags and gear up for school.  With helpful tips from resourceful parents and local experts your back-to-school preparation is headed for success.  Start this year off on the right foot with these helpful tips addressing first day jitters, riding the bus, shopping for school supplies and more.

Saving on School Supplies

Back to school shopping can be fun, but it can also leave a dent in your wallet. The five tips below will help you save money on school supplies and clothes so that you don’t break the bank.

Shop online. Mary Bowman, homeschooling mom of three, buys curriculum online through social media. “I have found several groups on Facebook that are homeschool curriculum sales/swap pages that have great deals, specific to the main curriculum. I found most of my materials at less than half of the cost of new, but in like-new condition.” Facebook’s online garage sale sites, eBay and Amazon are great options.

Shop tax-free. Shop during Ohio’s sales tax holiday, August 5-7th, when eligible clothing and school supply items will be exempt from sales tax. For more information, go to tax.ohio.gov.

Shop gently used. Second-hand stores like Once Upon a Child are great for gently used and like-new clothing, shoes and accessories at up to 70% off.  

Shop around. Check store flyers (located online, too) at dollar stores, superstores and grocery stores then compare prices for the best deals on supplies. You may benefit from buying notebooks at one place and pens at another.

Shop ahead. Honestly, the best time to buy school supplies at a deep discount is after school starts. Keep that in mind and stock up for next year.

Riding the Bus for the First Time

Let’s hop on the bus, Gus! It may seem scary to put your precious kiddos on the bus and send them off to school, but with a little preparation they will become pros in no time. Don’t know where to start? We’ve got tips for you!

Practice 

  1. Findlay’s Safety Town program takes place in June each year and is a great way for 4 through 6 year olds to learn bus safety. Registration takes place each spring and information will be posted on the Findlay City Schools website: findlaycityschools.org
  2. Attend the Touch a Truck Event “The summer before Elyse rode the bus for the first time we attended the Children’s Museum of Findlay’s Touch a Truck Event. She was able to get on a school bus and the driver explained some of the safety rules. She was really excited,” explains Colleen Knapp, mother of two children attending Saint Michael School.

This year’s Touch a Truck event takes place on August 20th from 11am to 3pm. Go to cmfindlay.com for more information. 

Teach the safety rules

Teach your children basic safety rules such as waiting for the bus to stop before approaching, looking both ways before crossing the street, and sitting quietly in your seat while riding. 

Combating First Week Jitters

The beginning of the school year brings excitement and anticipation, along with nervousness and fear. This can make starting school tough for kids… and parents, too. Kristina Pritchard, Kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Primary School, gives advice and reassurance. “First week jitters are extremely normal. The best thing parents can do is love their child, give them a big squeeze and let them try it on their own. Teachers are ready and expecting first week jitters… I even get them as a teacher,” says Pritchard.

Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reminding your child that he or she is not alone and that many students will be feeling nervous. Parents can point out the fun and positive aspects of school such as seeing old friends and making new ones. If your child is entering a new school, visit the school, take a tour and attend any orientations that are offered.  

Parents are not alone in the process and the teacher is your ally when it comes to back-to-school fears. “I always have the child’s best interest at heart. If we are not making it through the day, we will call home. However, usually once the children start playing, making crafts and having a snack, all seems to fall into place,” says Pritchard.

Simple, Healthy and Kid-Friendly Lunches

Mornings can seem like a race against the clock and packing a nutritious lunch adds one more item to the check list. The tips below will help you put healthy options in your child’s lunch box while cutting down on time during the before-school rush.

1. Prep foods over the weekend or the night before.
“I do all the prep for veggies and fruit (cutting, cleaning, dicing) on the weekend and always prepare lunch the night before. Then in the morning I can just throw it in the lunch pail and go,” explains Marla Baughman, Findlay City Schools parent of three children. Her suggestions for weekend prep include washing all berries, cutting up carrots, cucumbers, pineapple, kiwi, and watermelon.  

2. Stock up on healthy, easy items to pack.
“I have found that the kids like cheese sticks and applesauce, so I stock up on those items as well as Clif bars,” says Jenny Hochstettler, Liberty-Benton mom of three. Other pre-packaged ideas include yogurt, fruit/veggie squeezes and single-serve guacamole or hummus cups.

3. Freeze individual portions of healthy baked goods.
This is my (Jessica Kempf’s) personal tip that I hope to do more of this year. I like to bake homemade granola bars and wheat banana muffins then individually bag and freeze them. In the morning, they can go straight from the freezer to the lunch box and will thaw out just in time for lunch!

Quality Family Time

Research shows the positive impact of quality family time in a child’s social and emotional development. But during a busy school year with sports and activities, family time is often overlooked. Stephanie and Scott Miller have four children, ages 15 through 24, who attend or have graduated from Liberty-Benton Schools. They prioritize family time while allowing children to explore interests and socialize with peers. Stephanie shares four guidelines that have worked for her family:

  • Limit off-season sports obligations
  • Balance social time with friends with family time  
  • Limit cell phone/social media
  • Balance privileges with responsibilities, such as chores around the house

If that seems overwhelming, start small by adding one extra family activity per month and build from there. Find some hobbies your family can enjoy together such as bike rides, movie nights or board games. Or simply begin enforcing a “no technology at the dinner table” rule. The focus is on being together. “Even when there are no specific activities being planned, we emphasize being home and being present. Our priorities and decisions have not always made us popular (with our kids and with others), but that is okay with us. We see, feel and live the benefits of those choices as we watch our kids interact,” says Stephanie.

Tackling Homework

Let’s face it. While homework provides an opportunity to build study skills and reinforce learning, it can also cause some after-school battles and tears. Some tips for parents to help make homework as pain-free and productive as possible:

  • Help your child with time management. Find what time works best for your family to complete homework and help your child stick with it. 
  • “I have my children do homework right after school. They have a snack and then we sit at the counter together and get it done first thing… I find, when/then, works great in general for my kiddos. WHEN you finish your homework, THEN you can go play,” explains Kristin Sharpe, mother of four children in Liberty-Benton school district.
  • Create an ideal environment and have all needed materials there. Involve your child in creating a fun space for them to work that is well-lit and free from distractions.
  • Stay positive. When your child gets frustrated, encourage them. Don’t talk negatively about homework or school.
  • Provide guidance, not answers. Give hints or reminders to get your child on the right track, but encourage them to try on their own.

Keeping your Child with Food Allergies Safe

Food allergies are scary enough to handle at home, but sending your food-allergic child to school can be even more worrisome. With preparation and communication you can ensure your child has all of the support they need. Amber Patterson, MD, allergist with Blanchard Valley Medical Associates, provides parents with safety tips for the school year in the four steps below.

Make sure your child can advocate for himself. Your child should understand what they are allergic to and what foods typically contain those ingredients.

  • Consider having your child wear a medical alert tag or bracelet to remind everyone of the allergy.
  • Meet with the teacher, school nurse and other school staff who will interact with your child to be sure they understand your child’s allergy.
  • Decide where the epi pen will be kept. Typical options include the nurse’s office or on your child, depending on age and maturity.  
  • Know what options are already in place at your school. “Most schools have an allergy-free lunch table where children can sit and know not to share food,” explains Dr. Patterson.  Work together with the staff and your child to come up with a plan that everyone feels comfortable with.