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    Newcomers' Back to School Checklist

    Depending if you ask the kids or the parents, the summer days are either creeping by or moving at light speed toward the pending first days of school. Long gone are the simple back-to-school shopping trips that meant one store visit for a new lunch box and Trapper Keeper. Now, schools regularly send out detailed supply lists the week after class ends for parents to shop throughout the break.

    In addition to school supplies, military families have many more boxes to check (especially if you had a PCS this summer) before preparations for another academic year begins. Although these points are geared for elementary aged children, using this checklist to prepare for a successful start to the next school year is adaptable for the older kids too.

    School Related Activities

    For new families, after registering the kids, the school should have added your email and phone numbers to their parents' list. Read everything they send you to make sure your kids are prepared to arrive the first day. Small mishaps like forgetting to load lunch money will seem like a big deal to a kid, especially in a new school.

    • Start early when assembling important information such as medical and special education documents.
    • Check in with your closest base’s School Liaison Officer and Youth Sponsorship Program. Both are designed to educate and support transitioning families. They provide resources that will direct education related questions and emphasize connecting kids with other children in similar situations.
    • Your new school’s website and PTA or PTO website will have many useful dates and contact numbers. Schools near military installations will often have a committee dedicated to welcoming new military families.
    • Mark the calendar to attend Back to School Night or other orientations designed for new families. Walking the halls of school before the first day will be comforting for the kids... and parents, too!
    • Similarly, exploring the route to school by either walking or riding will remove an element of scariness.


    Google Trends reports that, in June 2015, the term “back to school” had already been searched 12% more than the previous year. They also say we are comparison shopping sporadically on our phones when we can fit it in, whether sitting on the couch or waiting for the train. It’s easier than ever to round up pink erasers and rulers.

    • Check for doubles of cheap items you might have stashed from last year’s round-up of supplies.
    • When picking up the $.50 packs of crayons or other items, buy a couple more than your grade list suggests for donations to the classroom or for school drives.
    • Compare sales at the major retailers for the best discounts. Staples is offering to beat any documented competitor’s sale with a 110 percent price match guarantee.
    • Many schools make selling school supplies a fundraiser. Orders are made before school starts and are delivered near the first day of class.
    • Be aware of your school’s dress code and the particulars of the uniform, if designated, before school shopping.

    Bonus Suggestions

    The lack of routine during summer often breeds forgetfulness. Time catches up with you! Put these points on the calendar well in advance to maximize your free days of vacation.

    • Students starting new school districts often require dental and medical exams. Make these appointments early for best scheduling. Remember to bring previous records, especially those documenting mandatory shots.
    • Stay current on local happenings by using social media to introduce your family. Neighbors will probably issue invites to drop by and meet their families.
    • Work on reestablishing bedtimes about four weeks out from the first day. Moving bed times back in 10-minute increments will help with achieving routine.
    • Research simple to prepare and healthy lunch and breakfast recipes. Consider making large batches of easily frozen items in advance to serve as needed. New food ideas will make the first days festive.
    • Don’t forget haircuts! Go about two weeks out from the first day of school to mitigate any mistakes.

    Good Luck for another happy and healthy school year!

    Friends at a new PCS move? Click here for tips

    Photo credit: Flickr user Herval

    Dawn M. Smith


    Dawn M. Smith

    Dawn is a real estate and military life writer who has a serious HGTV habit. When she is not writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and golden retriever keep her busy through chauffeur duties, travel planning, and long dog walks. Dawn is pleased to share her experiences with MilitaryByOwner readers who are hoping to simplify military family journeys of all kinds. Follow Dawn on Pinterest for more ideas and resources and visit her site at Dawn M. Smith Custom Content Creation.

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