Making the Grade: Back to School Shopping with Your Grade School Child

Because you can never have too much back to school information, here’s another bit of advice when mapping out your march to victory….It’s that time of year! Your child needs school supplies and clothes. Where do you start? How do you pay for it all? Here are some tips for making the grade with your grade school kid this year.

Dressed for Success

Your grade school child may not have the picky tastes of a teenager, but he or she is going to need some new clothes this year. Go through last year’s clothing and find out what fits and what doesn’t. This includes shoes, socks, and underwear, too. Grade school kids can grow really fast! Here are some more ideas for clothes shopping with your grade school child.

* Plan your shopping trip for a day when you don’t have to rush, and when you don’t have anything planned the night before. Being rested and ready helps everyone’s mood, and so does being able to take your time.

* Call the school where your child will be attending and make sure there aren’t any changes to the dress code. If your child will be attending this school for the first time, then find out what the dress code is.

* Keeping it simple helps a lot. Depending on his (or her) age, he will be better able to dress himself as the year goes on. Having easy-to-fasten clothes can help a lot to facilitate this process. Tough buttons (or lots of buttons), lacings, belts, and small head-holes can make dressing a frustrating experience. Go for clothes with large head-holes, zippers, and easy (and few) buttons.

School Supplies

Moving on to school supplies – like the clothes, it’s a good idea to check with your school and teacher to find out what specifics might be required. Some teachers specify brands, colors, and so forth. Here are some other tips for shopping for school supplies with your grade school child.

* Go generic on writing items like pens and pencils. Getting fancy, unique writing implements only leads to competition in the classroom and the possibility that your child’s fancy pens will get stolen. Unless the teacher requires otherwise, go with standard #2 pencils.

Markers should be water-based, and crayons are usually needed in packs of 16. Consider a box to store and carry these small, easily-lost items.

* Erasers are always needed in grade school. A large, pink eraser like you had in school is a good purchase. Some erasers that fit on the ends of pencils are inexpensive additions, too.

* Your child’s school may not supply paper like they did in the old days. Find out from your teacher/school if you need to supply ruled (lined) paper, which will differ from teacher to teacher and grade to grade.

* Notebooks come in many forms. Your grade school child will probably need some spiral-bound ones as well as some binders. Think slim and trim so the notebooks fit in your child’s desk, no matter what type is required.

You also might want to purchase some dividers or pocket folders to help your child stay organized.

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Money-Saving Ideas for School Supply Shopping

A lot of time we talk about back to school shopping in the context of clothes, but haven’t you walked into the office supply store with that list of supplies from the teacher and walked out feeling a whole lot poorer?  Whether we like it or not, school supplies can get expensive. From clothes to pencils, it can cost a bundle to send your kids back to school. There are some things you can do, though, to make it less financially painful. Here are some money-saving ideas for school supply shopping.

What’s Shared and What’s Not

Back when you were in school, your school supplies were yours, and usually consisted of pencils, pens, notebooks and binders, and paper. The school provided things like dry erase markers, paper towels, and chalk. Schools are cutting their budgets these days, though, so you may find yourself buying supplies that will be shared. Check your local school system’s website or give them a call and find out what supplies will be pooled and which ones will belong to your student.

Save on the Shared Items

If you know an item is going to be shared with the whole class, such as binders or dry erase markers, skip the fancy ones. Go with the more generic, cheap types.

Speaking of Sharing…

Consider buying items in bulk with a group. Find other parents and families who can go in with you to purchase supplies. They tend to be much cheaper in bulk, and buying large amounts and dividing them up can help save some money.


Look for coupons on manufacturer’s and retailer’s websites, and check your local newspaper. Combine the coupons with existing sales, and be willing to move on to the next retailer for the next sale rather than buying all your items at one place.

No Sales Tax

Many areas have a “no sales tax” day when you can buy items without this added tax. This is a good time to buy anything big, such as a small fridge for your college student, or electronics. The bigger the item, the more you save on sales tax. (This is another good time to buy in bulk with friends and family.)

Don’t Forget the Dollar Store

Do you have a store where “everything’s a dollar”? If so, go there! You might be able to find a lot of school supplies for a fraction of what you’d pay at a major retailer.

Start Early

There are a couple of advantages to starting your back-to-school shopping early. For one thing, you are more likely to get the supplies you want and need while stock is still plentiful. Another advantage to starting early is the sale prices. May stores have school supplies discounted early, while it’s still in the middle of summer.

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Creative Clothes Shopping for Back to School

Back to School time always seems to me to be money out the wazoo time.  There are kids to outfit, mom to outfit.  From clothes to pencils, it shapes up to be a pretty expensive time of year – so what can a RichMama do? Are there any other options besides the traditional retail shops? Is there a way to go about this creatively?

The answer is yes. Here are some creative options for back-to-school clothes shopping.

Take Stock

Do your kids come to you complaining that they have “nothing to wear”? It’s pretty doubtful that they really have nothing; it just seems like nothing. Take some time to assess your kids’ wardrobes and really discern what they have. Chances are, you’re going to find some decent clothes that fit that can be worn again. They might even be clothes that have been so long forgotten that they will seem new again!

Break out the Needle and Thread

If you can sew, now is the time to get your sewing machine out. (And if you can’t sew, maybe now is a good time to learn!) You can recycle old clothes artfully with some well-places stitches. For example, let hems out or cut and hem worn-out pants to make shorts. If you can do some needlework, you can get creative and cover stains and small holes on clothes that otherwise fit fine.

Give Old Outfits a New Look

While you are going through the bureaus and closets of your kids, try to mix and match and put together new outfits. You can create a whole new look by mixing and matching, especially if your child has items in similar or neutral colors.

Shop for Used Clothes

Watch for consignment sales in your area, and since it’s the end of summer, keep an eye out for yard sales. It’s amazing what you can find at these second-hand options, sometimes even name-brand clothes that kids really like. While you’re shopping creatively for used clothes, don’t forget the internet. Yard sales are moving online these days, so take advantage of the local and larger groups selling used items online.

Watch for Sales

Of course, watching for sales keeps your clothing bill lower; but if you watch for sales creatively, you can combine these events with some of the above options to create a whole new wardrobe for the school year.

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How to Help Your Kids Get Better Grades

Do you want your kid to get better grades – of course, the answer for most of us is a resounding yes.  Well educator Gary Howard has just published a book, How to Help Your Kids Get Better Grades and he’s sharing some of his tips below:

Here are just some of the invaluable suggestions on how parents can help children improve their study habits and effectiveness:

Shop and let the student select the perfect pen. The right pen makes all the difference when taking notes or writing long essay answers on an exam. Parents may be surprised, but printing is easier for many students than writing script cursive.

Schedule Study Time and Stick with It. Set up a weekly schedule for study time with two forty-minute study times each day with a 20 minute break between. Pick the times and stick to the times.

Buy Study Guides for Your Student. For high school and college, these 5 to $9 guides of key subjects are the easiest and fastest way to get the bottom line necessary building blocks of information on a topic. In no way are they to be considered cheating. They are a wonderful way to get the outline and vital subjects identified.

Encourage Participation in Study Groups. After school, join a group, discuss ideas, ask each other questions and research the answers together. But focus on work, this is not a social gathering.

Get a Tutor. In sports you have a coach, at the health club there’s a trainer, so in classes, don’t hesitate, get a tutor. Use the Internet and search. It’s not as expensive as you may imagine. The help over the tough spots can be invaluable – the difference between getting it, and losing it.

Get a Good Backpack. The essential items include: notebooks, two favorite pens, two pencils, text books (for the day only), Kleenex, energy bars, medications, two dollars in change, and clothes for the weather. Parents – inspect weekly or anytime. Write your name address and phone number in indelible ink on the pack in case it gets lost.

Have Reading Skills Tested. Make sure your child is at the appropriate level for his or her age and does not have eye problems. See an eye doctor if you have any doubts or concerns.

Home Study Location, Chair and Lighting. Sufficient lighting, comfortable desk and chair, with little or no distractions! No TV, radio, music, or games during study time.

Reading Time and Practice. Get focused, brain on full alert, and cut out the daydreaming while reading textbooks. Full attention on the task at hand.

Getting Proper Note-Taking Down. THE BEST MEMORY IN THE WORLD CANNOT REMEMBER WHAT IS LEARNED IN A CLASSROOM. Taking good notes is a learned skill. Use clean paper and favorite pens, three-ring binder with paper and separators, outline with notes and major points. Re-reading good notes is where learning really takes place. There are several types of note taking methods students should learn.

Develop Your Memory with Mnemonics. Using rhymes, telling stories or jokes, and memorizing four to five letter acronyms is a great way to remember lists of details or essential rules. Writing these 20 times engraves them on your brain.

The techniques in How to Help Your Kids Get Better Grades are best taught when children are in the seventh or eighth grade, but the checklist contained in this amazing book can be used to diagnose and remediate missing skills for anyone. The book provides excellent tips for high school and even for college students trying to raise mediocre scores to A’s and B’s.

About the Author
Gary E. Howard was a teacher and administrator at the high school and college level for thirty-five years. Although he turned down the appointment as President of one college, he served as the Dean of Instruction at two others. He lives in Moraga, California

How to Help Your Kids Get Better Grades
By Gary E. Howard

List $11.95
Cambridge Learning Skills Publishing
ISBN 978-0-9802091-1-2

Available on Amazon and other bookstores online.

For more information visit

Stay Sane – Make the Back to School Transistion Easy Peasy

Maisie Knowles, the founder of Kinoli Inc knows that back and school can be hard – for the kids – here is her advice for how to make that transition easier….

Summer is almost over! Though parents breathe a secret sigh of relief, most kids dread the thought of going back to school. Whether your child is just starting preschool or going into her senior year of high school, the transition from summer freedom to the structured classroom can be difficult for many reasons.

This year my daughter is starting pre-kindergarten at a new school. With that comes the anxiety of the unknown; she won’t know any of her classmates, there will be new teachers, new schedules and new things to learn. Though I’m hoping she’s grown out of her teary phase and can put on a brave face when she walks into that classroom, I really don’t know how she’ll do on her first day of school.

To prepare for the unknown — and help your kids transition from summer to school — consider spending the next couple weeks doing the following, as I plan to.

1. Attend the school’s open house.
Contact your child’s school and find out when their open house is, or opt to schedule a tour before class begins. Take your child with you so she knows what the building looks like and where her classroom is located. Once there, she can meet some teachers and maybe even a couple new friends. These steps will help ease your child’s nerves on the first day.

2. Save on back-to-school shopping.
Once your school has released the supply list, search online for coupons to score back-to-school savings from such sites as Armed with discounts, take your child shopping with you and give her the liberty to choose the pencils, notebooks, shoes and shirts she really loves. To save even more on back-to-school gear, check this list of sales tax-free holidays and plan your shopping trip accordingly.

3. Encourage self-sufficiency.
It’s important to show kids (especially young ones) they’re capable of doing things on their own, including walking into a new classroom bravely and confidently. On the first morning of school, let her pick out a new outfit to wear, help her pack her own lunch and let her pack her bag. Be enthusiastic about her choices and her ability to get ready in the morning. Keep up your enthusiasm as she gets on the school bus or as you walk her to the classroom.

4. Say goodbye calmly.
For the older kids a smile and wave goodbye from the car is borderline embarrassing. The younger kids, however, will appreciate your walking them to class and giving them a hug, kiss and reminder that you’ll be seeing them soon. Hold any of your tears until you’re out the door! If your child sees you crying, more than likely she’ll start crying as well.

5. Take it easy afterwards.
The first day of school is over, but there’s one more tip for surviving the first day. Plan on taking it easy for the rest of the evening. Start a tradition where the whole family goes out for dinner to celebrate back to school, and reference this list of restaurants where kids eat free to save on your kiddo’s meal. Encourage conversation over dinner and get her talking about her first day of school. Listen to what she tells you and talk about it; remember she’ll have many more school days when you’ll both want to share the experience.


Maisie Knowles is a working mother of two with three-year’s experience writing on parenting and partner issues. She received a B.A. in Communications from the University of Colorado and co-founded Kinoli Inc. with her husband. Maisie currently spends most of her time at home with her two young girls.

Find out more about Kinoli Inc at