A Back-to-School Guide | The BridgeMaker

A Back-to-School Guide (tips & more)

By on Aug 12, 2010

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you. – B.B. King

In less than two weeks big changes are in store for my family. Mary Beth and I take our younger son, Andrew, to college and then a few days later our younger daughter, Emily, begins middle school. In four days, one child begins learning how to live on his own while another child begins learning how to expand her world a little at a time.

Preparing for these back-to-school dates has required careful planning and a flexible budget. Even more challenging, Andrew and Emily’s shopping lists couldn’t be more different. Our son needs big-ticket electronics and dorm room furnishings. Emily is required to have more “sophisticated” school supplies (the days of Disney character notebooks and crayons are over).

To make certain my wife and I were buying the right items we visited the college and middle school websites to download the supply lists. Most schools have a link to this information on their home page. Next, we searched the internet to find the best prices and shipping options. Our search took us to Amazon.com.

Knowing we had little time to get these items, we decided to do most of our shopping (with one exception noted below) online. Amazon.com is currently having some great back-to-school sales, including free shipping.

We traded the department stores for our home and started filling the virtual shopping cart with the needed supplies. The extra time, and money, saved will be used to enjoy the remaining summer days with our children.

Emily’s middle school supply list

Each subject area has its own requirements. Here’s what we purchased for Emily:

  • She needs a three-five subject spiral notebook for Communication Arts.
  • Her math teacher is requesting a three-ring binder, three-hole punched quad-rule graph paper, and a one-subject notebook.
  • Two packages of 50 count 4 x 6 lined note cards is required for social studies.
  • Emily is about to experience the joy of her first P.E. class. Her school is providing the t-shirt, but we had to order gym shorts to complete the uniform.

The middle school’s website also provided a general supply list all sixth graders will need:

  • Accordion binder with 8 pockets
  • 200 sheets of college-ruled notebook paper
  • Plenty of #2 pencils
  • Medium ball point pens – blue or black
  • Colored pens (for correcting work)
  • Book covers (whatever happened to using brown paper bags?)

One item not on the supply list, but considered a back-to-school necessity by our daughter was a school locker accessories kit. This kit has all the popular locker bling. From stickers to mirrors, Emily’s locker will have a unique style and personality – a great confidence booster as she moves from the security of elementary school and to the uncertainly of middle school.

Andrew’s college supply list

Andrew’s list was certainly more expensive than it was during his high school years. In those days, a new book bag, some new clothes and a school parking decal was all he needed. But sending a child to college is like setting up a “mini house.” Since the comforts of home don’t leave, new comforts have to be bought.

The first item on Andrew’s list was a laptop computer. His instructors require students to bring laptops to class. Even though Amazon.com has affordable computer prices, Mary Beth and I made the decision to purchase one during a recent Tax Free weekend.

We live on the Kansas side of Kansas City, but beginning this past weekend the other side of the state line offered its annual Tax Free weekend. Missouri, like other states, offered this promotion as a stimulus program for the merchants and to help families with the cost of sending children to school.

The best news was Kansas residents were invited, too. Missouri offered tax free purchases on clothing, school supplies, computer software, and personal computers. Your state may offer a tax free weekend as well. Click here to see a complete listing of states that participate in the Tax Free program

With a laptop computer purchase strategy in place, we turned our attention back to Amazon.com. Other items we purchased:

  • The college does not provide an Ethernet cable, but one is required for internet access.
  • Regarding the comforts of home, Andrew needed bed linens for a twin size bed. We found the perfect item with the bed-in-a-bag – everything he needs in one convenient, portable bag.
  • Our son is a snacker . We found him a perfectly-sized dorm fridge to hold his favorite snacks and sodas and with plenty of space leftover to share with his roommate.

It’s the small things that can make us feel the most comfortable. I typed “dorm room stuff” in Amazon’s search bar and found several items Andrew will appreciate having in his new home. On the page I found:

  • A bedside caddy
  • A dorm caddy shower tote
  • An underbed storage chest
  • A pop-up hamper
  • A multipurpose storage cart
  • A “Room Rules” metal sign
  • plus more; click here to see these items

No doubt the next two weeks will go in a blink. Soon Andrew will be adjusting to his new home and Emily will be making new friends. Mary Beth and I will have the chance to stop, catch our breath, and start getting use to the idea we only have one child remaining at home.

It is our hope the next seven years crawl by slowly so they can savored. But when the day comes for Emily to go to college, my wife and I will know what to do. We will check the college’s website, shop for the best prices and then order what our daughter needs.

It will be the day after that will catch us by surprise. Our back-to-school years will be over, but knowing we gave our children what they needed, plus a little more, will make the emptiness a little more bearable.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on The Daily Brainstorm as part of their Back-to-School series. It’s my pleasure to re-publish this for the readers of this blog.

The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

  • @ Alex – Personaly, I am all for year round schooling

    Overall, I think the US is falling behind the rest of the world in regards to education. Other countries go year round and when it comes to getting jobs in a global economy they are going to have a step (or 2 or 3) up.

    Also, with so many 2 income/single parent families, providing day care during the summer can put a big burden on families.

    Lastly, once kids return, the first quarter of the year is spent reviewing what they forgot over the summer.

  • @ Katie: I don’t know Katie, I guess I’m old school but I like the transitional reset summer provides. It gives our children, and us, a chance to rest and recover before the new school year begins. What does everyone else think?

  • Ahh yes, the good old days of back to school shopping. I was at Target yesterday and ran into a mass of parents and kids. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on year round school for kids.


  • @ Joy: Your list is the most-treasured one by far!

    @ Farouk: Just wait, when you do have kids you will be just as excited as they are when it’s time to head back to school.