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I feel like it was just yesterday that my son was still latched onto me breastfeeding and I researching on my phone looking into all the different schooling options he would have when he finally reached that age. In hindsight, this is comical because it seems like I blinked and then there we were last year sending him off on his very first day of preschool. And now, I have blinked again and here we are about to start his second year of school in a Junior Kindergarten program at a local private school.
I have spent much of the last year working on simplifying, minimizing, and organizing our lives and our home. About a year or so ago, I decided that I had had enough with all the extra stuff or “fluff” as I like to call it. I felt that we were consuming too much, purchasing too much, and holding onto things for no real reason. In an effort to find a bit more peace of mind for my family and to show my son what is truly important and worth valuing in this life, I have worked very hard to clear through the clutter and focus on the things we really need. Figuring out what we really need and what constitutes fluff for our family is an everyday learning process, and with back to school upon us it has given me a fantastic opportunity to re-evaluate what is REALLY essential for going into the new school year.
My name is Jessica and I am one of the editors here at Daily Mom. My son will be five this coming December, and he is going into his second year of school in a Pre-Kindergarten program at a local private school in Wheeling, West Virginia. From the moment you become a parent, you are bombarded with choices to make for your children. Bottle-feed or breastfeed, when to wean, when to start solids, what type of carseat is safest, what activities will enrich them from a young age, and working mom or stay at home mom, and these decisions are just the beginning and will continue for many years to come. I had no idea that one of my harder decisions would be where I would send my child for pre-school. The principals behind the Montessori method of learning had really stood out to me, but there were not many options for Montessori preschool in the area we live.
My son is very energetic and enthusiastic; he has a love of learning and a very empathetic side to him. I think that most days the best word to describe him is exuberant. Funny story, I have had three of his school teachers use that word to describe him on separate occasions, so clearly we are on the same page. But, as a typical worried mother I was concerned that pre-school could be a disaster. After all, some days I could barely get him to sit still for a quick TV show, and relaxing or quiet time has never been his specialty. Needless to say, I put a lot of energy into finding what I felt was the perfect program for him.
When I found Wheeling Country Day, I knew it was the perfect fit. It is a private school that really focuses on the learning style of each individual child. While they teach all of the traditional subject areas they also emphasize character development, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, and caring, and put a lot of energy into the fine arts. Even the youngest students are exposed to foreign language, physical education, fine arts, and technology. For us, this has been the perfect fit. When people think of private education they often just think of the expense of it, but last year the Head of School said something that has really stood out to me since. From the time many children are born we are saving for their college education. However, the formative years are truly the years where children build their foundation for learning and future success. Perhaps this is the time to truly invest in your child’s education. The smile on my son’s face everyday at pickup and the constant challenges he is faced with daily have reinforced that this rings true for our family.
My Minimalistic Back to School Approach
Often times the start of school seems to symbolize yet another shopping season. The back to school season can often bring to mind feelings of stress and pressure leaving parents feeling frantic and scattered. This year I have gone into back to school season knowing that I am trying to be conscious of what we truly need and what is unnecessary or frivolous. As someone who has always been a typical consumer, this is surprisingly hard for me. It makes sense to want to go out and buy all new clothes, shoes, and supplies for the upcoming school year. However, as someone who is really striving to only buy what we truly need and to reduce my carbon footprint and focus on a more minimal lifestyle, stocking up on brand new goods we may not even need doesn’t really fit the bill for me. I have let go of the expectations associated with back to school and back to school shopping and am focusing on what we really need to purchase.
Though back to school may seem like a good time to buy a new wardrobe, chances are it is still pretty hot where you live and your kids will not be wearing sweatshirts and heavy pants anytime soon. So for me, this was a good time to go through my son’s clothes and see what he really needs instead of just buying things without intent or because we like them. Once I went through his stuff and made a nice bag for donations, I could see that all he really needed was some t-shirts. His favorites have been worn to basically the watermelon stained point of no return and they are almost all a bit too snug. Rather than scouring busy stores, I set out to find brands who I feel good about supporting and quickly settled on shirts from Sawyer and Colored Organics.
I had a few set criteria in mind:
1. Will it last?
To some it may seem silly, but I have been striving to try to purchase from companies with quality products for my little guy, even if that means spending a bit more money. I want to feel good about where I am spending my money, and I want these shirts to last more than a couple of rounds in the washer and dryer.
2. Is it versatile?
Luckily, t-shirts are generally pretty versatile pieces of clothing. We picked shirts that look great by themselves or underneath jackets and sweaters (or my personal favorite, graphic tees layered under flannel shirts). When shopping, I urge you to try to pick staples, even for the kids.
3. Is it Kid Approved?
For me this is the toughest and most important. As a self proclaimed control and matching freak, I really want my son to be able to express himself through what he wears if he so chooses, and man is he opinionated! I always ask his opinion on the clothing I pick for him and often let him make the final decision. He loves selecting a t-shirt for the day that he picked himself. Allowing him to choose his own clothing has gone a long way in encouraging his independence. However, in full disclosure I must tell you he has been wearing one blue and one yellow shoe for about two weeks now. But, he dresses himself without help.
These were the two brands I settled on that perfectly fit all of my criteria.
Sawyer is a company that promotes one of my favorite things for children of all ages: the outdoors! When I discovered them this year I was instantly drawn in by the amazing designs of their graphic tees (a favorite for my little guy) and then further sold by their backstory and mission statement. This is a company that advertises themselves as a high-quality outdoor lifestyle brand for kids. For us, it was a match made in heaven. I love encouraging my son to get outside and enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer, so supporting a brand that encourages outdoor play was a no brainer in our house.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
If you like companies that sell great quality products and also give back, you will love Colored Organics. One of the best things about this company is that they give up to 50% of their profits from your purchases to help build orphanages for abandoned children in India. Since really trying to pay attention to my purchase and where my money is going, I strive to seek out companies that are focused on doing good for the world around us. This makes Colored Organics a great choice!
In addition to their admirable mission, Colored Organics produces adorable clothing that is made from only organic cotton which is grown naturally and sustainably, without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or harmful chemicals. These safer farming methods not only preserve the soil and conserve energy, but they also protect the health of the people in the community where the cotton is grown. The hypoallergenic fabrics that they use meet the highest global quality standards, are clearly produced with ethical practices, and are 100% sweatshop free. These clothes are made to look good, feel good, and get played in!
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
Recruit family members who are always asking what they can get for your kids to help with shopping for the things you NEED! We live far away from family, and I often have grandparents asking me if the little guy needs anything new, especially around birthdays and holidays. Rather than suggesting toys, I try to think if there is anything that we truly need. Although “needs” like shoes, socks, and underwear don’t seem fun, they are in fact necessities. Involving your little ones in the selection process will likely make them excited about their new goods. This year, the need for us was shoes. So when Grandma asked what we could use this year, I already knew exactly what to tell her. Summer shoes are often a bit beat up and potentially not appropriate for school, so getting a solid pair of shoes is important! Remember that kids need to be well supported when they walk and run, so focus on shoes with the right fit and best construction. Always look for best value instead of best price.
Reuse, Reuse, Reuse…
Is that backpack from last year still in good shape? Ours certainly was. So this summer I sent it for a bath in the washer. Last year when I was hunting for a backpack I wanted to make sure I found something that would last at least 2-3 years, so I did my research and settled on a Patagonia bag. You might end up shelling out more money upfront, but in the long run wouldn’t you rather have a backpack that lasts a few years instead of one with holes in it by Christmas break?
Tip: Many kids may love the idea of getting to pick a new and special backpack every year. This year to make his backpack a bit more exciting I allowed him to pick a few special iron on patches to make it new and unique!
If you like it, then you better put a LABEL on it…
During my son’s first year in school I learned a very important lesson; preschoolers can be rather forgetful! We had lunch boxes go missing on several occasions, and I am actually fairly certain one day he came home without a sock. Life with kids sure gets interesting. This year I made sure we were a bit more prepared with stick on labels that will really stand up to the wear and tear of his stuff. These labels by Name Bubbles are dishwasher safe, washer safe, microwave safe, and freezer safe, and all around just rough and tumble kid safe.
Name Bubbles has the School Package to make getting everything labeled for the year simple. Name Bubble’s labels are perfect for backpacks, lunch boxes, school supplies, water bottles, sneakers, jackets, and uniforms. Since they are waterproof you don’t have to worry! They will last the whole year through.
Thinking Beyond Typical Back to School Necessities…
When you think of back to school necessities, you often think of clothes, shoes, and gear. This year, consider adding something to the shopping list that will challenge your child and allow them to work on a variety of different skills from home. Kumon Publishing offers amazing (and fun!) workbooks for children of all ages. They use the same learning methods that have helped over 4.4 million children excel at Kumon Centers Worldwide. Their methods introduce basic learning skills to children ages 2 and up. Their books cover a wide variety of subjects from early learning to fine motor control and verbal and math skills. These books present and introduce concepts in a step-by-step manner, allowing children to master each without getting frustrated.
Oftentimes as a parent, I feel a bit lost as to how to best approach teaching my son at home. Kumon workbooks have completely solved this dilemma. I am able to guide my son through the workbooks, and he LOVES to do them! It is never a challenge or a chore. It is something we sit down and work on together when he is in the mood.
And for Mom…
As I have been simplifying my life around me and getting my home more organized, I have also learned the importance of organizing my personal and professional life by using a planner. I always thought that just putting things into my phone was good enough, but I often found myself forgetting things and forgetting to check the phone. The act of physically writing down my appointments, meetings, tasks, and making notes in my gorgeous Erin Condren planner has taken my productivity to a whole new level.
With a gorgeous selection of planners and new selections, there really has never been a better time to start getting organized than the start of a new school year. Using your child’s new beginning to kick off your organization is perfect. Before I know it there will be parent teacher meetings and a whole variety of other school related meetings that I need to be jotting down. Erin Condren makes it simple by offering a whole host of accessories to complement your journal. She has such a wide variety of options from smaller planners to different layouts including hourly or daily views, there will be something that works for everybody. There is everything from sticky notes and stickers to wellness trackers and more! A few of my current favorite obsessions are:
- Sticker Book
- Colorful Dual Tip Markers
- Snap in Notes
- Planny Pack
- Snap-in Wellness Dashboard
- Snap-in Travel Dashboard
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
Can you believe that back to school is already here? I definitely can’t. I am so grateful to be sending a beautiful and healthy boy off to a great school, and since we kept our back to school shopping simple it was entirely stress free. We are so excited to see what this new school year brings!
Check out our School section to stay up to date with the latest and greatest information for the upcoming school year.