Our day-by-day guide to get­ting kids ready

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando nvil­lal­pando@states­

This school thing is hap­pen­ing. Who’s ready to hop on the bus (or car or bike) and hit the books again?

Be­cause many school dis­tricts have dif­fer­ent start dates this year, we’ve given you a count­down to help you. You get to de­cide when to start the count­down, just don’t start it af­ter 10 days to go (or get ready to scram­ble).


Buy school sup­plies

If you have a kid in el­e­men­tary school, this is much eas­ier. Your child prob­a­bly has a list that they got last year. If not, go to your school web­site or phone a fri end to find it. Some H-E-B, Wal­mart and Tar­get stores near the school also might have it by the school sup­plies.

We did a test last year to see who had the least ex­pen­sive sup­plies by try­ing to fill the list of a third­grader and an eighth-grader. What we found:

We spent any­where from $61.15 at Wal­mart to $138.58 at Wal­greens for the third­grader. This year we looked on­line and would have spent $110.71 on Ama­zon.

For the eighth-grader, we spent $28.20 at H-E-B and $69.99 at Wal­greens, and we would have spent $85.04 on Ama­zon.

For mid­dle school­ers and high school­ers who don’t have a list, stock up on things you know they might need such as note­book pa­per, pen­cils, pens, printer pa­per, 1-inch binders, graph pa­per, com­po­si­tion books and col­ored pen­cils. Also ask a par­ent of a child one year older than yours what they needed last year.

Don’t for­get to buy sup­plies for home, too. There’s noth­ing worse than that 10 p.m. text from the teen that he is out of note­book pa­per at home.

Keep your re­ceipt. If it turns out your child doesn’t need as many binders or com­po­si­tion books, you can al­ways re­turn them.

Tax-free week­end is Aug. 11-13. See the list of things that are tax-free with this story, but re­mem­ber that some­times it’s not al­ways a good deal. If you had a reg­u­lar sale of 20 per­cent off, it’s bet­ter than an item that is only 8.25 per­cent off on tax-free week­end. Also con­sider if you want to deal with the crowds that week­end. If you do go, go early in the morn­ing or late at night when the rest of the world is asleep, and spread it out over the course of the three days.

Don’t wait too long. Last year, by the third day of school, Wal­mart and Tar­get had dis­man­tled their school sup­plies aisle and moved on to fall and Hal­loween. We couldn’t find any­thing. BY 9 DAYS TO GO

Buy school clothes

Be­fore you head out, ask this ques­tion: Do they even need new school clothes? If ev­ery­thing from last year still fits, you might want to wait un­til it doesn’t. There’s noth­ing that says you have to get all new clothes at the start of school. This is the time to clean out the closet and give away the clothes that no longer fit or have holes and stains.

If you do go shop­ping, make sure you know what the dress code is at your child’s school. Typ­i­cally it is no leg­gings or ath­letic shorts; skirts, shorts and dresses must be longer than the tips of their fin­gers when stand­ing up or a cer­tain inch count from the mid­dle of the knee; no spaghetti straps; no cloth­ing with vul­gar, sug­ges­tive or drug ref­er­ences.

Set the bud­get be­fore you go and make a list of what you need. Don’t for­get about shoes and gym clothes. This is also a great time to stock up on un­der­wear and socks. You al­ways need those.

Plan a sched­ule

Take out the old cal­en­dar or your phone and mark off th­ese days:

Meet the teacher for el­e­men­tary school, or ori­en­ta­tion or book pickup days for mid­dle school and high school. (It will vary by school; check your school’s web­site.)

First day of school. (This year, we have schools start­ing as early as Aug. 16, as late as Aug. 28. See the box with this story to find your dis­trict.)

Last day of the six weeks or nine weeks. (Know th­ese be­cause usu­ally a week or two be­fore, your chil­dren might have ma­jor as­sign­ments due.)

Ex­ams and STAAR test­ing dates. Ex­ams vary by dis­trict and even by school some­times. The Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency has the 2018 STAAR test­ing dates on its cal­en­dar at

Back to School Night. (This varies by school or by grade, so check out your school’s web­site,)

Ma­jor hol­i­days that ev­ery­one has off like Labor Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Me­mo­rial Day.

At some dis­tricts, hol­i­days like Vet­er­ans Day, Colum­bus Day, Pres­i­dents Day and Good Fri­day also are stu­dent hol­i­days. There also might be other ran­dom stu­dent hol­i­days.

Late start days or early re­lease dates for high school­ers.

Thanks­giv­ing break. (This year, Austin In­de­pen­dent School Dis­trict has a full week of break. Does yours as well?)

Start and fin­ish of win­ter break.

Bad weather makeup days. (Th­ese are set hol­i­days that might be taken away if we have a day of ice or snow or flood­ing.) Spring break. Last day of classes. (Many schools do not go into June this year.)

If the kids don’t have school, what is go­ing to be your plan for them? Do you have a babysit­ter or rel­a­tive on hand? Call them now and se­cure their time. Will kids go to a one-day or week­long camp? Will you need to take off of work? Co­or­di­nate that with your boss now. BY 8 DAYS TO GO

Plan a daily/weekly sched­ule

Do you know when school starts and stops each day? Go on your school’s web­site to see. It varies by dis­trict and by grade level, as well as some­times by school.

De­cide now how many af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties you can rea­son­ably fit in each week. If you have three kids and they all have three ac­tiv­i­ties, you might not like each other by week three. Set the ex­pec­ta­tions early: Are there cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties that are non-ne­go­tiable such as re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties, scouts or some form of ex­er­cise?

How much are you will­ing to drive?

How much are you will­ing to pay for th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties?

What things must be done to par­tic­i­pate in th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties? Chores? Home­work? Main­tain­ing cer­tain grades?

Also con­sider which par­ent or adult will be re­spon­si­ble for pick­ing up or get­ting kids to an ac­tiv­ity. What is the backup plan if that adult is sick or un­avail­able?

Don’t for­get to sched­ule in fam­ily time. How many nights a week will you eat at home? Will you es­tab­lished some sa­cred time each week that is just for fam­ily fun? BY 7 DAYS TO GO

Be healthy for the school year

Did you re­mem­ber to get your sports phys­i­cal, your well-checks and your vac­ci­na­tions up to date for the new year? Find those forms so your child has them on the first day of school or first prac­tice if there is a ques­tion.

If you didn’t, you might still have time to do so. Some school dis­tricts have backto-school bashes where vac­ci­na­tions and sports phys­i­cals hap­pen. Also con­sider go­ing into a walk-in clinic if your reg­u­lar doc­tor can’t take you. (It’s not the best, which is why next year you’ll re­mem­ber to sched­ule a doc­tor’s visit in May or June.)

If you haven’t done the den­tist visit or eye exam, try to get it done be­fore school.

If your child has reg­u­lar med­i­ca­tions they need to take at school, get those ready, la­beled and with a doc­tor’s note to give to the school nurse. Work out with the nurse how your child will re­ceive those.

Fill any pre­scrip­tions that might be low to make the first weeks of school eas­ier.

This is also a great time to go through the medicine cab­i­net and get rid of ex­pired medicine and stock up on fever re­duc­ers, cough medicine and cough drops, stom­ach reme­dies, allergy medicines, ban­dages and other first-aid ma­te­ri­als. BY 6 DAYS TO GO

Fig­ure out trans­porta­tion to and from school

Rid­ing the bus? Find out what time and where the bus stops. Don’t rely on last year’s in­for­ma­tion. Even if it’s been the same for five years, this could be the year it’s not. (Usu­ally schools send out this in­for­ma­tion about a week be­fore. You also can look on­line at your dis­trict’s web­site). If your school dis­trict uses an app like “Where’s the Bus?” fig­ure out how to down­load and use it.

Driv­ing the kids? Do you need to ar­range a car pool? Do you know how the school drop-off line flows at your school? Are your chil­dren pre­pared to go through that line, or do they need you to walk them in? Walk­ing or rid­ing a bike to school? Have you prac­ticed it? Do they know the route and what time they need to leave? Do they have a friend or two to join them? Will you be go­ing with them or meet­ing them halfway, or

will they be go­ing it alone? If so, do they have a key to the home? Fig­ure out al­ter­nate

plans. The bus is late, then what? They miss the bus, then what? The car pool falls apart, then what? You have one sick kid with bod­ily flu­ids pour­ing out of them, but the other one needs to get to school, or you’re sick … what hap­pens then? It’s rain­ing and they were sup­posed to walk, will you give them a ride? BY 5 DAYS TO GO

Start prac­tic­ing the morn­ing and evening rou­tine. Ex­perts will tell you to start get­ting kids back on a sched­ule a few weeks be­fore­hand by go­ing to bed a few min­utes ear­lier each night un­til you’re back on school hours. They’ll also tell you to avoid caf­feine af­ter lunch.

Kids do re­quire more sleep than adults. Think 10 to 11 hours for Ju­nior.

Get them in­volved in what the bed­time and morn­ing rou­tine will be. Will they shower in the morn­ing or at night? Will there be a story be­fore bed or just quiet time? Night light or no night light? Door open or shut? What time is lights out, and what hap­pens if they don’t abide by that?

And if they have a phone, start tak­ing it away at night. If not, their friends will be tex­ting them at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and ev­ery minute in be­tween.

In the morn­ing, how will they wake up and at what time? Will they set the alarm or will you? Do they want you to yell at them or gen­tly nudge them? Or do you need to phys­i­cally move them un­til they make it to the bath­room and into the shower? How long will they have in the bath­room be­fore some­one else needs it? BY 4 DAYS TO GO

Don’t for­get to have fun

Plan one fun thing to do the week or week­end be­fore school starts. This might be your last chance for fam­ily fun for a while. It could be see­ing a movie, go­ing out to lunch, plan­ning a pic­nic, try­ing a new play­ground, go­ing to a pool. It doesn’t mat­ter what, just do some­thing. This sum­mer is fad­ing fast! BY 3 DAYS TO GO

Es­tab­lish a place for home­work to be done.

Fig­ure out where is the best place in the house to do home­work. For younger kids, it might be the kitchen ta­ble or a space in a com­mon area. For older kids, they might need a space in their bed­rooms for max­i­mum con­cen­tra­tion. If they are in their room, let them know you might be check­ing on them (es­pe­cially if they are the kid who plays video games in­stead of do­ing home­work or day­dreams con­stantly).

Clear off a desk or ta­ble. Make sure there is good light there and a com­fort­able chair. Set up school sup­plies such as note­book pa­per, pen­cils, pens, col­ored pens and glue sticks. If the kids need a com­puter, is there one that can be used there?

Cre­ate an or­ga­ni­za­tion sys­tem for im­por­tant pa­pers that will be ref­er­enced through­out the school year, home­work that needs to be done and home­work that has been done and needs to be turned in, and pa­pers that need a par­ent sig­na­ture. BY 2 DAYS TO GO

Stock up the re­frig­er­a­tor and freezer

Fig­ure out what they will be eat­ing for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. Have some gra­band-go snacks on hand as well.

For break­fast, how can you get in pro­tein and fruit to give them more nutrition, more stay­ing power?

For lunch, will they pack a lunch or buy it? If they are go­ing to buy it, does their ac­count on­line have any money in it? If they switched schools, did it fol­low them, or do you need to start over? BY 1 DAY TO GO

Get ready for the first day of school

Is the back­pack ready to go? Do they have their sup­plies? Make sure they un­der­stand what goes in the back­pack and what doesn’t be­long there (toys or any­thing distracting).

How heavy is it? The Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics rec­om­mends that it should weigh no more than onethird of your child’s weight. Talk to them about clean­ing it out reg­u­larly dur­ing the school year, es­pe­cially for those mid­dle school­ers and high school­ers who don’t have lock­ers. Is their back­pack la­beled with a name and phone num­ber? What about that jacket, those binders and com­po­si­tion note­books, that lunch­box?

What are they wear­ing? Set out the clothes for the next day; bet­ter yet, set out a week’s worth of clothes each week in an or­ga­nized way so there is no guess­ing or think­ing about it. Some par­ents use an over-the-door shoe or­ga­nizer for this or a shelf with bins for each day of the week. Most im­por­tantly, where are your shoes? And where do they go each night so you can find them in the morn­ing?

Talk through the rou­tine of the first day. What time will you leave the house? (Al­low ex­tra time that first week, es­pe­cially if you’re driv­ing or walk­ing, to get through the herd of con­fused peo­ple.) Where will they go when you get there? Is there a buddy they can walk in with that first day?

Do they un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing at lunch? Is lunch packed and la­beled or money pro­vided or al­ready loaded up on their lunch ac­count?

What hap­pens af­ter school? Where do they go when the bell rings?

Go to bed! We dare you to try to sleep with all this ex­cite­ment. 0 DAYS TO GO Take the school photo.

In the hus­tle of that first day, don’t for­get to ac­tu­ally take a photo. Think about the back­ground and lo­ca­tion.

Make sure it doesn’t over­power the peo­ple in the photo. Worry about the light­ing.

You want to see their faces and what they are wear­ing, not the shad­ows on their face or be­hind them. Get a full-body shot if you can.

You want to be able to see how lit­tle they are com­pared with what’s around them.

Take it in an iden­ti­fy­ing place to help you re­mem­ber the year.

We love to do it in front of the class list or the teacher’s door. It usu­ally will say the grade and the teacher’s name. Take it in the same spot each year.

For years, we took our pho­tos in front of the crayons that said “Cowan” at Cowan El­e­men­tary. Now we tend to have to sneak a photo ses­sion in the car on the way to the high school bus stop or the mid­dle school drop-off line. The same back­ground helps us see their growth. Don’t worry about smiles.

They might not smile. That makes it all the more mem­o­rable of who they are at this age.

If you do re­mem­ber to take a photo, send it to read­er­pho­tos@states­ or tag it on Twit­ter or In­sta­gram #atx­first­day.


Arey­our eady to board the 2017-18 school year bus? Th­ese stu­dents are Austin Com­mu­nity Col­lege sopho­more Avery El­lis-By­erly, Mathews El­e­men­tary sec­ond-grader El­li­son Can­non-Pitts, Bara­noff El­e­men­tary fourth-grader Travis Bradley, Ne­g­ley El­e­men­tary first-grader Ju­lian Gon­za­lez, Bara­noff El­e­men­tary sec­ond-grader Ash­lynn Bradley, and Bailey Mid­dle School eighth-grader Anika El­lis-By­erly.

Re­ally, it’s time for school. El­li­son Can­non-Pitts wears jeans, $24.90, emoji uni­corn base­ball T-shirt, $19.90, black stud­ded shoes, $39.90, and a cat se­quined back­pack, $34.50, all at Jus­tice. Avery El­lisBy­erly wears a “Won­der Woman” shirt, $12.99 at Tar­get; Hy­draulic jeans, $34.99, and gla­di­a­tor shoes, $24.99, both at Kohl’s; Bee­line bracelet, $8.95 at Old Navy; and Su­garfix by Bauble­bar ear­rings, $9.99 at Tar­get. She car­ries a leather and can­vas tote, $49.99 at Tar­get.


Sit down, kids. Hang­ing out on the bus are El­li­son Can­non-Pitts (“Love Who You Are” T-shirt, $7, chee­tah jeg­gings, $24.94, slip-on patches shoes, $16.06, all at Old Navy; flamingo lunch­box, $7.99 at Tar­get); Ash­lynn Bradley (Old Navy tu­nic, $16.99, flo­ral jeg­gings, $16.99, glit­ter slip-on shoes, $16.06, all at Old Navy; “To­day Will Be Awe­some” back­pack, $34.50 at Jus­tice); Avery El­lis-By­erly (cro­chet tu­nic, $22.94, pixie pant, $34.94, both at Old Navy; bird cage neck­lace, $11.20, Con­verse sneak­ers, $49.99, both at Kohl’s; drop ear­rings, $7.99 at Tar­get; lunch tote, $12 at Old Navy); Ju­lian Gon­za­lez (Cat & Jack space shirt, $14.99 at Tar­get; flat-front surf shorts, $10 at Carter’s; shark shoes, $13.96 at Old Navy; shark lunch­box, $12.99 at Tar­get); Anika El­lis-By­erly (Mos­simo Sup­ply Co. “My Own Kind of Happy” T-shirt, $12.99, Merona jean jacket, $29.99, Mos­simo white jeans, $29.99, blue stone ear­rings $12.99, beaded neck­lace $16.99, Mad Love flo­ral shoes, $22.99, all at Tar­get; Candies leather back­pack, $29.99, at Kohl’s); and Travis Bradley (Old Navy Ac­tive base­ball T-shirt, $14.94, cargo jog­ger shorts, $12, both at Old Navy; Con­verse shoes, $34.99 at Kohl’s; neon cam­ou­flage lunch­box, $9.99 at Tar­get).

Don’t miss the bus. Travis Bradley runs in a “Bat­man” but­ton-down shirt, $14.99, “Bat­man” graphic T-shirt, $9.99, Ur­ban Pipe­line jeans, $40, Con­verse shoes, $34.99, all at Kohl’s; and a Bat­man back­pack, $29.99 at Tar­get. Ne­g­ley El­e­men­tary first-grader Ju­lian Gon­za­lez runs in a pizza shirt, $8, cargo jog­ger shorts, $19.94, lace-up or­ange shoes, $5.99, all at Old Navy; Wild One leop­ard shirt, $5.59, at Carter’s; and a shark back­pack, $16.99 at Tar­get.

Let’s do this. Avery El­lis-By­erly wears a cro­chet tu­nic, $22.94, pixie pant, $34.94, both at Old Navy; bird cage neck­lace, $11.20, and Con­verse sneak­ers, $49.99, both at Kohl’s; and drop ear­rings, $7.99 at Tar­get; and car­ries a lunch tote, $12 at Old Navy. Travis Bradley sports an Old Navy Ac­tive base­ball T-shirt, $14.94, and cargo jog­ger shorts, $12, both at Old Navy; and Con­verse shoes, $34.99 at Kohl’s; and holds a neon cam­ou­flage lunch box, $9.99 at Tar­get.

It’s hard be­ing cute for the first-day pic­ture. Ash­lynn Bradley wears an Old Navy tu­nic, $16.99, flo­ral jeg­gings, $16.99, glit­ter slip-on shoes, $16.06, all at Old Navy; and holds a “To­day Will Be Awe­some” back­pack, $34.50 at Jus­tice. Ju­lian Gon­za­lez wears Cat & Jack space shirt, $14.99 at Tar­get; flat-front surf shorts, $10 at Carter’s; and shark shoes, $13.96 at Old Navy; and holds a shark lunch­box, $12.99 at Tar­get.


Find your seat. Anika El­lis-By­erly wears a knit T-shirt dress, $10.99, printed leg­gings, $9.06, zip-back gla­di­a­tor shoes, $23.95, Bee­line bracelet, $2.99, Bee­line ear­rings, $8.95, all at Old Navy; and a Mudd beaded neck­lace, $15.40 at Kohl’s; and car­ries a Toca Boca lunch­box, $9.99 at Tar­get. Ash­lynn Bradley wears a striped dress, $19.06, leg­gings, $2.39, wink­ing shoes, $22.80, all at Carter’s; with a Shop­kins lunch­box, $14.99 at Tar­get.

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