Here are the Top Ten things I've learned make life with a school-age child much easier!
Don't get one from the dollar store, either - at least go to Walmart. Get a decent one. You'll need it to staple forms and checks together throughout the year, and it may come in handy for homework projects as well. This is one of the first items I felt a void for, so if you need somewhere to start - start here!
You'll probably have to send in a lot of order forms, permission slips, notes to the teacher, even receipts or boxtops for certain fundraisers your child's school may participate in. It's a good idea to have envelopes to send these things in, especially when there's money or checks involved. A long time ago, I ordered a BIG lot of plain white envelopes for paper crafting purposes, but I've used them for things like this, too, and they really come in handy. I bought mine from clearbags.com.
My checking account was created as an "online-only" account, and while I have a debit card for it, I never received checks. Because of the type of my account, I have to purchase them, so for many years I haven't used them at all. However, schools will require $5 here or $15 there for anything from PTA membership dues to field trip costs and even pre-paid lunch accounts. Most of the time, they'll only take checks, but even if they accept cash - I never have cash on me. So having checks is a huge help for last minute costs or sending money to school.
If you want to make sure your kid comes home with something, it better have his name on it! And better yet, his classroom number, too. I have written Lukas' name on SO many items the past couple weeks! I keep a sharpie in my purse in case I need to label something quickly on the way into school, and I have one in the kitchen to label food containers and thermoses as I pack them.
There is nothing more frustrating/embarrassing than needing to send a note into the teacher and only being able to find a stack of index cards or a wrinkled, coffee-stained pad of paper to write on. Our school has these really cute note pads with fill-in-the-blank style wording on it for absence and pick up notes and more. I have a couple of them, but they don't cover all of the bases, so having something clean (and maybe even cute?) to write my notes to the teacher on is helpful!
A School Basket
Luke comes home with 4-5 sheets of completed school work everyday, plus usually a couple things notifying parents of upcoming events and obligations, and even homework. Henry also comes home with artwork, scholastic book forms, and the occasional newsletter. There is an exponential growth of paperwork in our home everday, and it EASILY gets out of control! So I designated a basket in our dining room (where we sit to do work), and I store all of our school stuff there. In the basket are workbooks, stickers, pens and pencils, and everything the kids come home with. Things that need attention are put in front (with the most pressing first). At the end of the week, I go through it and decide what needs to be kept, and what can be let go. It's really a huge help to know where everything is (instead of constantly losing tuition bills and homework sheets!), and to have a system of dealing with the mass of papers coming home!
One of the first organizational things I've done at the start of the last three school years is sit down with the school calendar (that's either been sent home, or found on the school website), and put all of the kids vacations, days off, and classroom parties into my google calendar, and then copy them to our wall calendar. This year I've also added in PTA events, and there will surely be a list of classmate's birthday parties and field trips to make note of as well. It can become a full time job keeping up with all of these things, so having a designated space to keep track of them is essential!
An Address Book
I like to have a separate space for keeping track of my kid's school friends, and maybe that's odd or confusing? But I feel like it makes for easier referencing, and less time trying to find the contacts I need. Right now, I'm just using google docs (a spreadsheet, to be specific) with tabs for each child where I make note of their classmates and contact info. This has come in handy for me for birthdays, holidays, and playdates, and now that Lukas has moved into a new school but still wants to stay in touch with his preschool friends, I'm glad I have it!
Maybe you won't get a ton of use out of these, but the other day Luke's teacher asked me to pin his bus route card to his backpack in case he gets lost wandering in the hallways and staff will know where to send him. His card doesn't even have bus info on it (Matt and I drive him), but since it lists his teacher and classroom number, it helps keep track of him. I searched my house high and low for a couple safety pins, and couldn't come up with a single one! I'm not sure if there will be any use for a set of them in the future, but I imagine so? Maybe? Might not be a bad idea.
Spare Crayons & Markers
It's not a bad idea to scoop up some spare crayons and markers when the back to school sales are still happening (and even after, when they discount them a lot!). In talking to a parent that had a Kindergartner last year, it sounds like they are not the neatest or most careful creatures when it comes to their school supplies, and their teacher certainly can't monitor every child's use of every single item. So whenever this mom went into her son's class, she noticed that his crayons were all broken, and his markers had caps left off, and everything was covered in old glue and glitter. You may need to replace them 1-3 times during the school year, and it's not a bad idea to have a fresh set at home (to keep in your school basket!) for completing homework.
SO, those are my top ten school supplies that I think help us parents through the school year!
Other good items? A good travel coffee mug, a cork board for pinning up events and projects, and themed pencils for holidays that you can both use at home for homework and send into school for a little hint of celebration.
Do you have anything to add to the list?