Back to School Shopping: The Teenage Years

Back to school shopping – yay or nay? It’s mostly a yay from me. When my kids were in elementary school, my excitement level for back to school shopping was on one hundred from kindergarten through second grade. Personalized pencils and pencil cases, color coordinated lunch boxes and backpacks – I was in it to win it. Third grade was kind of a turning point for me, mostly because my kids were like, do we have to be so extra? It was crushing because I am the very definition of extra, at least where unnecessary over the top school supplies are concerned.  Then I decided I would order the school supply kits through our school PTA to presumably save some money and time. Everything was delivered directly to their classroom and I never had to engage the crowd of parents in the school supply section of my local store. However, the personalized backpack stayed. 

Back to School Shopping:: The Teenage YearsTimes have changed. When my older daughter started her first year of junior high I bought everything on the supply list provided by the school. EVERYTHING! You know what I found out? A lot of it she didn’t need. Some supplies went completely unused and even worse, during the year some teachers requested additional supplies that were not on the list in the first place. Since then, we have revised our approach to make sure we get all of the supplies we definitely need without the waste, and include a few of the extra items that make it a little more fun.

Welcome to the (Technology) Jungle

When back to school shopping, a lot of parents nowadays purchase technology for their children in elementary school, and while we did get iPads for our girls, I never felt it was a necessity for them to complete work in school. That all changes in junior and senior high school.  A lot of schools rely heavily on apps to record grades, hand out and turn in homework assignments and even take quizzes. Teachers also use educational apps to communicate with their students. Not to mention, their world is getting bigger. They are making new friends and gaining more independence. A cell phone is a good way to make sure you can stay in touch as they navigate this new space. 

*Side note: A lot of the school required apps have parent portals where you can see all communication between your child and their teacher. 

While we found that a smart phone was sufficient to navigate junior high, we needed to add a laptop when entering high school.  All of the same issues apply as with junior high, but word processing capabilities become more prevalent and tests are often administered and proctored through the computer. If your school has laptops for rent, jump on it! If not, your child does not necessarily need a high powered processor on his or her laptop, so you don’t have to break the bank to find something reliable. 

One more thing (and this one caught us completely off guard):: a calculator.  Not just any calculator, but a graphing calculator.  Your child’s math teacher will let you know when it becomes necessary to purchase one and the model they prefer (ours is a Texas Instruments IT-Nspire CX). If at all possible, rent it from your school because they are very costly. You can also find used models at discounted prices.  Here’s a piece of advice – if you think your child is going to be in need of a graphing calculator this year, confirm with their teacher as soon as school starts and get one as soon as possible.  They go fast!

Back to School Shopping:: Keep it Simple!

Really, when it comes to paper, pencils and notebooks, start with basics when back to school shopping because you can always add on later.  I have two school aged kids and our approach is mostly a shared experience, meaning I buy a core supply and they take what they need. 

Generally it goes like this:: 1 large package of pencils and pens to split; 4 binders (2, 3 inch and 2, 1.5 inch); 2 packages of dividers; 4 folders with pockets, 2 packages of notebook paper; 2, 5 subject notebooks and 4 composition notebooks.  

That’s it.  If there are any other specific needs (think art supplies or Spanish dictionary), teachers let them know, but for the most part, this just about covers it. Obviously there are things that my daughters are particular about, like one of them likes to carry a mini stapler and both usually have scissors, but both of those are examples of items that tend to carry over from year to year.  No need to buy brand new if the old one works. 

The Fun Stuff

Of course, my back to school shopping includes fun stuff because I already told you that I’m extra. Admittedly, I’ve toned it down since elementary school but, there are a couple of small things that the girls really like. One is monogramed backpacks, because we live in the South and it’s my understanding that if it doesn’t move, monogram it. It’s a rule. 

Then there’s the lanyard. In recent years, more and more schools are requiring students to wear their student I.D. where it can be seen.  Most schools provide (or sell at low cost) a lanyard attached to a plastic sleeve for kids to wear the I.D. around their neck. This is also an item that can be used for more than one year, particularly as your child gets older. It’s practical and low cost, but not cute. Several companies sell colorful, stylish lanyards and I.D holders to mix and match. My girls prefer an extra pocket in the holder to stash things for easy access and, bonus, it’s washable.  

It doesn’t have to be a big thing to be special or indulgent, just something that your kids particularly enjoy. Also, in the spirit of transparency, this year my girls have decided that all of their school supplies (with the exception of paper) must be in a shade of pink. I have no idea what precipitated this except, maybe, some late night texting after watching the movie “Mean Girls” for the umpteenth time but, yeah, this is happening. 

One last thing…

Keep in mind when back to school shopping that, for whatever reason, these kids tend to carry their entire life around the entire day. Either there aren’t enough lockers to go around or they have developed a repulsion to using their locker. They arrive at school carrying loaded backpacks, their lunch box and, sometimes an extra tote full of stuff.  So, any help we can give them by streamlining the process is beneficial whether they know it or not. 

So, in summary, keep back to school shopping simple, stick to your plan and find something fun!  Oh, and remember, on Wednesdays we wear pink!


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