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A parent's checklist for getting back to school

So maybe you're thinking you've got some time to dawdle — but it's only two weeks before the kids trek off for that first day of school. What to do? Where to begin?

Start here.

• Gather required documentation such as immunization records, Social Security numbers, report cards and the doctor's note for any prescribed medications your child will need to take during the school day. age 9.

• Schedule appointments for any immunizations, physicals, dental and eye exams your child needs.

• Check out the school calendar and note the important dates in your own calendar so you can be available to attend school orientation, meet the teacher day and open house.age .

• Make a list of contact and emergency phone numbers you will need to supply on orientation day. tips, Page

• Update the contact list in your cellphone to include your child's school, the after-school day care program, any carpool contacts and, if your child takes the bus, the district transportation number. If your child has a cellphone, make sure he or she is supplied with parent/guardian work numbers and any emergency contact numbers he or she might need if you cannot be reached.

• Take inventory of school supplies, books and clothes. See if last year's backpack still has some life left in it, along with a lunch box, a calculator and other leftover school supplies. Divide items into three categories: what stays, what can be passed on and what needs to be trashed. With clothing, consider hosting your own exchange with other parents. Take what's left to local thrift shops, organizations that serve the homeless or contact the ABC program coordinator at your child's school to see if it needs donations.

• Watch for sales, cut coupons and start purchasing items you know your child will need in the school year, such as filler paper, science backboards and folders. (Check your school's website to see if supplies are listed there.) Same goes for clothing, but be sure to check the school dress code first.

• Set up a study or homework spot in a quiet area in your home — preferably away from the TV. Stock it with supplies such as paper, pencils, pens and a dictionary.

• Create a "school stuff" place — a basket, shelf or hook — for backpacks, lunch box, sneakers and so on so those items will be easy to grab on hectic mornings.

• Purchase a file folder for important school papers: permission slips, report cards, school letters. Consider a separate folder for your child — particularly if he or she is in high school — to hold report cards, volunteer documentation, awards and any other information he or she will need for college applications or a resume.

• Consider hanging a calendar or a whiteboard in a prominent place so you can see at a glance when those after-school activities or doctor's appointments are scheduled.

• Set rules for when homework must be completed and turn-off times for the TV and computer.

• Get back onto a school-year bedtime and wakeup schedule. Studies have shown that children who get eight to 11 hours of sleep are more likely to earn higher grades. Do it gradually, moving bedtimes and wakeup times up 15 minutes every other day, until you are to the point where kids will be able to wake up in time once school starts.

• Soak up the last bit of summer. Outdoor exercise is one of the best ways to wear kids out during the day so they'll sleep better at night. Exercise also increases oxygen flow into the brain, and an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness, biologist John Medina notes in the bestseller Brain Rules.

• If he or she doesn't have one already, get your child a library card.

• Make sure your child is on track to complete any summer assignments that are due the first week of school.

• If your child is riding the bus, particularly for the first time, check out the bus route and go for a dry run. Point out any landmarks along the way so your child will be well aware of where they need to get off the bus.

• Consider doing less. Yes, you read that right. Do less. Teach the kids how to make their own lunch, do their own fundraisers, check their own school website to make sure the teacher has recorded their grade correctly.

Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne contributed to this report. For more parenting discussions and advice, visit our Whoa Momma parenting blog at tampabay.com/blogs/moms.

A parent's checklist for getting back to school 08/04/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 4, 2012 1:38pm]

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