Category Archives: school

More Questions Than Answers

“Do you like this one?” I hold up a t-shirt with a pug sitting on a couch surrounded by chips, soda, and a game console that says ‘Couch Pugtato.’ We’re in the boys’ department at Kohl’s, the last stop for the day on our back to school shopping expedition.

“I need that,” he says.

Of course he does. My firstborn son is eleven years old and loves pugs, screaming goats, blue hair, Fortnite, and Mountain Dew. If it’s irreverent, asinine, sugary, or all of the above, he’s all in. He’s a few weeks away from starting the sixth grade.

I hold up medium and a large sized t-shirts to his slim frame. Soon he’ll be as tall as me, which isn’t much of a feat as I’m a whopping five feet and three quarter inches tall, but it will be astounding nonetheless considering I once held him in one hand under my arm like a football.

The medium looks plenty big. As we walk to the front of the store to pay for the t-shirt, an unsolicited question floats through my mind.

Is it okay to wear a pug t-shirt to middle school?

Every year around this time, I field a lot of familiar questions.

Can I get a camouflage lunchbox? Can I get the binder with sharks on it? Can I get the bike helmet that looks like a watermelon? Can I get an iPhone? Can I be a Fortnite character for the Halloween Parade?

The answers come easy. Yes. Sure. I suppose. No. Of course.

From bottle flipping to flossing, I know what’s hot and what’s not in elementary school. But, as my soon-to-be 6th grader scans the store shelves filled with backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, pencil cases, and notebooks, I realize the only thing I know for sure about middle school is that I don’t know anything at all.

My tween son is perfectly ridiculous and ridiculously perfect, but will middle school eat him up (like me) or chew him up and spit him out?

You do you. I repeat this mantra often. It is how I’m tackling my forties and raising my boys. If I’ve learned anything over the last decade as a mom, it’s that every mistake I’ve made and regret I’ve had has been a consequence of unrealistic expectations. My kids are mine to guide but not goad. My job isn’t to make them who I want them to be. Rather, it’s to help them figure out who they are.

In the long run my ‘Couch Pugtato’ connoisseur will find his way and I’ll find mine. In the meantime, I’m leaning into the discomfort of having more questions than answers, which, I suppose, is what middle school is all about. Thankfully, there’s at least one question I can answer.

“Can I get Snapchat?” my son asks in the car on the way home.

“Absolutely not,” I say with all the confidence in the world.

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7 School Supply Shopping Tips For Messy Kids

I know what you’re thinking. All kids are messy. Indeed, they are. I’m talking about kids who swim in the deep end of messy—kids who, despite their best efforts, are disorganized, sloppy, forgetful, oblivious of systems, and generally unaware of and uninterested in the condition of their stuff. I’m the parent of such a child, and I can tell you from experience, school is a stumbling block.

Whether your kid has an underlying learning or attention issue (mine does!) or he comes by his penchant for chaos honestly, an especially messy kid will struggle without the proper equipment. Here are seven school supply shopping tips to give your messy kid a tidy start to the school year.

1. Don’t be swayed by the 3 for $1 notebook sale. Those notebooks have flimsy paper covers that bend and rip easily. Buy notebooks with a plastic cover. They’ll cost more, but they’ll last. The same goes for folders and divider tabs. Make sure they’re plastic or laminated.

2. If your child is old enough to require a binder, buy reinforced filler paper. It has a strong, clear tape along the left edge to support the holes and resist tearing.

3. Speaking of binders, size up. It’s amazing how much stuff kids can cram inside a binder, and if you have a child who rarely never sorts through papers, a 1-inch binder will burst at the seams quickly. Go for the 1 ½- or 2-inch size.

4. There’s no correlation between using college ruled paper and future success. If your kid has messy handwriting and would benefit from having more space between lines, buy wide ruled paper and notebooks.

5. If your kid makes careless mistakes in math due to messy handwriting, buy ½-inch ruled graph paper. Lining up numbers on graph paper lessens the chance of errors due to disarray.

6. Get a zipper pocket or pouch that can be inserted in a binder or placed in a backpack. This is a clean, safe place for index cards, flash cards, and other small but important papers that would otherwise end up crumpled or lost.

7. Purchase or give your kid access to an e-reader so you can download ebooks when he conveniently forgets to bring his reading assignments home from school. Plus, you can adjust the font size and style and enable audio features, which is helpful for kids with reading challenges.

These shopping tips aren’t going to magically transform your kid from messy to neat overnight, but they’ll give your kid a clean, organized start to the new school year.

What school supply shopping tips for messy kids would you add to this list?

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