"Back to School" is a phrase that encompasses many ages of students. The first group that comes to mind is K-12. Then there are older children who are going to college for the first time or returning for a new year.
Finally, it's back-to-school time for many non-traditional college students -- adults who are earning degrees later in life than usual.
Some households may include all three groups performing a complex juggling act of transitioning from summer work and play to a new school year of learning.
For anyone returning to the classroom -- from a household of one to many -- the first task in getting organized is to create a master calendar coordinating schedules for work, school, extra-curricular and social activities.
Oops! Add shopping to that list. Lots and lots of back-to-school shopping is among the many things to do in West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee and the entire nation in August.
The National Retail Federation reports that back-to-school and back-to-college spending are predicted to reach $83.6 billion this year in the U.S., which is 10 percent more than last year's figure.
Other getting-ready items include:
A master calendar of activities is especially necessary at times of transition, such as the beginning of the school year. For families, this involves collating everyone's schedules on a single calendar and making it easier to follow by color coding each person's activities.
College students can profit by organizing and color coding their own master calendars using a variety of highlighters to indicate class times, homework, work-study or jobs off campus and extracurricular events.
A master calendar should also contain:
It's wise to accomplish annual exams -- such as eye check-ups -- before school begins. This is especially true for college students who may be unfamiliar with medical facilities in their new communities.
Immunization records and proof of physicals often are required at college as well as the K-12 level. For example, some states require college students to prove initial or booster vaccination for meningitis.
In Des Moines public schools, students are expected to receive their initial meningitis shot after age 10 and before 7th grade. Then they need a booster shot by age 16. Without proof of these shots or a state waiver, they can't start 7th or 12th grade in the district.
Parents should gradually give elementary students responsibility for maintaining a well-organized backpack. Help your child select one with pockets for quick-grab items like pens, pencils, cell phones and calculators. Talk with them about timely removal of school permission slips, schoolwork and lunch bags.
By the beginning of college, students should make their own packing lists for life away from home. But ask to review the list with your college-bound young adult to minimize requests for emergency mailings and purchases.
Now we arrive back at that "lots and lots of shopping" item. Metro Des Moines offers a reliable array of stores for K-12 and college school suppies, including K-Mart, Target, Office Depot, Office Max and Staples.
Lists of necessities usually are available through K-12 schools and online from secondary school teachers. To minimize financial stress, discuss wants and needs with your students. And don't leave home to shop without your list.
Here's one more thing to remember: Take some time to relax by yourself or with family during the waning days of summer vacation.