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Are you ready to head back to class?

By: Leanne Italie Associated Press Writer and Julie Eng Journal Correspondent
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Yep, it’s summer, and as twisted as it sounds, that should mean back-to-school prep for parents to avoid the inevitable nervous breakdown that comes with waiting until the last minute on absolutely everything. Don’t spoil your family’s fun in the sun by stressing out on break, but give up the notion that you can tick off your long list of school lead-up chores the week before the start of a new academic year. “Parents enjoy the summer, too, and they don’t want to think about school,” said Stephanie Vozza, founder of Theorganizedparent.com and a mother of two school-age boys in Rochester, Mich. “Your head isn’t there yet, but so many little things over the summer can make a huge difference.” Here’s a checklist for tending to back-to-school tasks without summer buzzkill: FASHION & SCHOOL SUPPLIES Those who want to get a head start on their shopping should keep in mind that there is such a thing as being too prepared. Michelle Shuetz, superintendent of the Auburn Union Elementary School District, cautions parents against buying too much. She suggests getting basic school supplies like pens and notebooks before kids return to school, and waiting until teachers send home supply lists to do more extensive shopping. However, those looking to get ahead of the back-to-school rush should start their shopping now, said Jessica Leskauskas, manager of the Auburn Target. She advises parents avoid the weekends before and after school starts when the stores are packed and get shopping done early, as back-to-school clothes and school supplies have been on the shelves since July. For the best selection and deals, Lesauskas recommends hitting the stores now. Little fashionistas may be too busy showing off their new bathing suits and beach covers to focus on school clothes, but if they need to sign off on fall wear, shopping early makes sense for the best selection and helps to avoid sizes selling out. Clean out your child’s closets before you shop for back to school, or the old and beat up will be buried under the new and pristine. Begin sorting through closets well before school begins, and remember that the weather is usually still warm for a few weeks after classes start, Vozza said. “Have your child try things on if you can’t judge fit for yourself. Then put those things in a separate place so they don’t get stained up over the summer and pull them out when it’s time for school,” she said. Back-to-school clothes are available early online and off, selling fast and furious over the summer. But parents often wait until sales begin, which is closer to the start of school. That can be risky for style-conscious kids. If yours couldn’t care less what they wear, definitely wait, Vozza said. The same goes for school and gym shoes, lunch boxes, backpacks, messenger bags and popular classroom supplies like the latest decorated notebooks and folders. Grace Brooke, an organizing consultant in Sonoma County, suggests parents team up with other families to buy back-to-school supplies in bulk to save time and money. Vozza is a fan of reusing supplies like crayons and glue sticks, but that requires having an inventory. She also suggests waiting to contribute shared classroom supplies requested by teachers, such as tissues and antibacterial wipes. Teachers often wind up with way more than they can store at the beginning of a school year and don’t have enough later on. ACADEMICS & BRIDGE WORK As we head back into the school year, Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District superintendent, stresses the importance of sitting down with your child and setting up a specific study time in the evening. He also recommends parents attend back-to-school nights, especially if your children go to high school in the area. This year local high schools will be using a “parent portal” system, which will allow parents direct access to students’ grades and teacher syllabi via the internet. Orientations on using the program will be provided at back-to-school nights, as well as introductions to the individual teacher web pages, which will provide further class information for parents and an easy contact point with their child’s teacher. AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES & CHILD CARE As far as students themselves getting involved after school, Horsey recommends checking out your school’s Web site and contacting the athletic director for sports information. Once the school year has started he advises students to listen to the daily bulletin, where information on club meetings and sports tryouts is often listed. He says that many clubs meet during the school day at lunch, which gives those whose schedules are filled by sports practices and after-school jobs an opportunities to join. Students who are interested in playing a sport have to hurry to get their sports physicals and get their athletic clearance packets in, said Rob Hitchcock, Colfax High School sports director. “Just get involved,” Hitchcock said, “Even if it’s not athletics, getting involved is the key to high school.” Have you registered your child for fall sports and made enough copies of required documents to cover sports, school, afterschool obligations? Have you signed up for the onsite afterschool program? Buy new cleats, sports uniforms, helmets, karate, ballet or gymnastics clothes, ice skates, inline skates or other equipment they’ve outgrown or might need, like tennis rackets. Does anything need to be monogrammed? Confirm the sitter if that’s your after-school childcare plan. Confirm daycare and ask for a list of required items. Confirm bus routes. Angela Gifford at Mom4Life.com also suggests making carpool connections, something that shouldn’t wait until the last minute if you’re depending on sharing pickup and drop-off responsibilities with other families. DORM & COLLEGE GEAR Many stores have special back-to-school sections where dorm supplies are grouped together to make shopping easier, including the local Target location, where most of the essentials can be found. They also have an affordable and varied selection of harder to find items, like the extra-long sheets needed for most for dorm beds. CollegeView.com urges a check of the school’s Web site for what’s not allowed before shopping ensues (toasters, air conditioners and space heaters are often prohibited). Download the school’s checklist and make contact with roommates to divide up common appliances and decor, like rugs and coffee makers. Some useful items that might fly under your radar because you’re preoccupied with pricey computers and other high-tech gear: No stain, good-stick adhesive putty to hang posters, closet extenders like hanging shoe and sweater storage, reusable shopping bags, a hand vacuum, sewing kit, collapsible hamper, first aid kit, small tool kit, strong magnetic clips, clothesline or drying rack. Has your new college kid ever cleaned the bathroom? This might be a good time to introduce him to the cleaning supplies aisle. Does he know how to do laundry? Hit the bank for a few rolls of quarters if that’s what school machines take. On the computer front, consider signing him up for an offline data storage service for easy and safe backup as he takes on more work in college. SLEEP SCHEDULES & MORNING ROUTINES Horsey lists a solid sleep schedule at the top of his back-to-school preparation checklist. “Establishing a good night’s sleep routine is critical,” he said. The first thing blown to kingdom come when summer begins is a child’s sleep schedule and morning routine. While there’s no need to maintain those regimens over summer, rebuilding them in the fall takes time. Two or three weeks before school begins, start nibbling away at bedtimes and your back-to-school, out-the-door drills. “Make a list for kids to follow and tape it to their bedroom doors, so they know exactly what they have to do without you asking,” Vozza said. “Things like brush your teeth, make your bed.” The list can include lots of other things that don’t apply to the laid-back summer: Putting shoes and backpacks by the door, picking clothes out the night before. “Routines in the summer are extremely relaxed for everybody, so getting that going early works,” Vozza said.