How to Be Sure Your Child is Ready for Back to School

By Kaye Robinson

“Spring has sprung. Fall has fell. Summer is here and it’s hotter than usual.”

When my friends and I started reciting that little piece of “poetry” it was usually around the end of June in Phoenix. It signaled summer vacation was half over. It also signaled back to school was just around the corner.

At my house it meant back to school shopping was just around the corner. For me, there was both excitement and dread. The excitement came from going to downtown Phoenix and having lunch at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. After lunch we’d shop downtown stores for shoes and dresses (girls weren’t allowed to wear pants or shorts to school in those days). The dreaded part was my mother was going to make me try on winter coats. Who wants to try on coats when it is 115 degrees outside? Getting a new lunch box, notebook and some pencils was also part of the ritual. From my perspective, the routine of getting my brother and me ready to go back to school didn’t seem to be a big deal. For my parents it was more complicated.

Today, getting kids ready to go back to school is definitely more complicated and expensive. Just the classroom supply list alone is enough to fill a shopping cart. Add shoes, clothing, backpacks, immunizations, haircuts, eye exams, dentist visits and technology to the list and the cost grows. However, all of these things are important for student achievement, self-confidence, and their health and well-being.

It can be overwhelming, but resources are available.

ADHS, Arizona Department of Health Services, is a good resource for immunization requirements and where to find free or low cost immunization clinics. Keeping up with good dental care is also important to a child’s health. ADHS can provide information on reduced fee and sliding fee scale dental clinics and their locations.

The Back-to-School Clothing Drive partners with a variety of business, organizations and individuals to help meet the basics for children with needs. Children are given backpacks with school supplies and new school clothes/uniforms, shoes and personal items; toothbrush and toothpaste. This organization can always use your help as a volunteer or through your donations.

Another challenge for families can be technology. Classrooms and learning are dependent on technology. Children without access to the internet or a computer at home are truly at a disadvantage. The Cox Connect2Compete program is making a difference for qualifying low-income students and their families by providing affordable internet and devices.

And here’s some helpful back-to-school info if you have a teenager:

The community and local school can be a helpful resource. Check with them about back to school fairs and special back to school events. Some events offer free or low cost services; haircuts, dental and health checks, vision screenings and immunizations at one location. Events like these are convenient and save time.

Getting students ready to go back to school can present challenges for all families and their children. But, having a plan; budgeting time and money, shopping wisely and looking for helpful resources and programs can ease the transition. All in all, it should be exciting and not dreaded – unless your mother makes you try on a winter coat when it’s hotter than usual.

Watch the full episode here: