Tips and Hints for a Successful New School Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Sharpened pencils, school bells ringing, and school buses clogging up our streets mean it is time for us to embark on a brand new academic year. As summer comes to an end, we must switch gears and prepare everyone for the upcoming new school year.

There are the usual standards for ramping up your kiddos to go back to school. Start up the bedtime routine a few days in advance and increase the screen time breaks and summer reading. While we prepare for this day every year for every child going back to school, we could always implement some helpful tips to make a new school year a little bit easier.

School Supplies

buckets full of pencils, colored pencils, and scissorsElementary and middle school supply lists for each grade level can be obtained from their respective school websites. I was always a fan of the pre-packaged school supply bundle that can be purchased usually in June. While this option is more expensive than buying the supplies myself, I pay for the convenience. The school supplies are delivered directly to my child’s clsssroom (elementary school only), unpacked, and ready for the new school year. As we are in August, the deadline for pre-packaged easiness has come and gone. Fortunately, you and everyone else in Houston can typically find everything on the school supply list at your local dollar store, Walmart, Target, or Amazon (listed in order from cheap to expensive). However, if you are in a bind and it is 11:59 pm on August 15th, send your child to school with a notebook and pencil and they will be fine. They are not going to use the ziplock bags, paint, construction paper, and plastic folder with brads all on the first day of school. Your child can borrow from a friend and the teacher usually has extra supplies.

I was extremely disappointed when I purchased the pre-packaged school supply bundle for my middle schooler and he only used about half of the supplies. The school supply list for middle school is more of a guide. For middle and high school, a pencil and notebook is sufficient for the first day of school. It is best to wait to hear from the instructors that request their own personal list of school supplies.

  • Pre-packaged school supply bundle, easy but pricey
  • Dollar Store, Walmart, Target, Amazon, join the crowd
  • Notebook and a Pencil, bare minimum
  • Middle and High School, wait to hear from the teacher

School Clothes

jeans hanging in storeA good closet clean out is the first step in clothes shopping for a new school year. This usually prevents me from overbuying and falling victim to buying one pair of pants and five hoodies. After taking a closet inventory, I am now armed with the knowledge of what my kids REALLY need!

For my elementary school kids, I utilized consignment stores as much as possible. Consignment stores like Once Upon a Child are a great place to start since they have everything from jeans to socks, and all for a low price. I would buy as many items from consignment first and then hit up Walmart, Target, and department stores like JC Penny and Kohl’s, then the mall and Amazon for anything else.

When it comes to picky teenagers, they do like to flex and wear the latest and greatest which is usually the most expensive. I will indulge and buy a couple of high-end pieces and mix it with lower-priced everyday must-have clothes.

  • Closet clean out, creates purposeful shopping
  • Consignment shops, it’s all good when it is gently used
  • High-Low Dressing, buy the Lululemon top that goes with EVERYTHING


school bus driving down the roadWhile dismissal procedures at all schools are efficient and work with established systems in place to make sure your sweet child arrives home safe, mistakes can still happen. Children are sent home on the wrong bus, decide to go home with a friend, or think they are walking home while you wait for them in the car line.

In the event that your child goes home on the wrong bus, tell them to STAY ON THE BUS! The last thing anyone wants is for a child to get off the bus in a strange neighborhood, stranded. If they stay on the bus, the bus driver will return to the school where Mom or Dad can pick them up.

In middle school, remind your child of their bus number because the hand holding won’t be there. Middle schools dismiss the kids. They don’t release them according to car tags (there are no car tags) or if they are a walker, biker, or bus rider. In middle school, it is understood that your child knows how they are going home and that is good enough.

If your child rides their bike, invest in a good bike lock. No one wants to give anything away for free.

Know the car rider drop off route for your school. Car rider drop off and pick up is specific to expedite the car line, alleviate local traffic conditions, and make it easy for parents to drop off/pick up their student. Trying to make that forbidden left turn will disrupt the traffic flow and it is extremely irritating.

  • Wrong bus home, stay and enjoy the ride all the way back to school
  • Know your bus number, no more red, pink, and orange stickers with bus numbers
  • Lock up your bike, so it will be there when you get back
  • Follow the appropriate car route, don’t be THAT guy

Middle and High School Dress Codes

middle school girl in cute outfit leans against wallMoving from elementary to middle school is a major transition. Besides adapting to PE classes everyday, no recess, and a different teacher for every subject, the dress code is strictly enforced. I found that the dress code had more of an impact on girls than boys.

  • Short/skirts cannot be shorter than the mid-thigh
  • No exposed midriff
  • Cannot wear the hoods (over their heads) on their hoodies
  • No shirts with inappropriate language or depictions

When a child is called out for breaking the dress code, they will have to wear an alternate clothing choice provided by the school.

You can find the Katy ISD Dress Code here.

Ask Questions and Stay Quiet

mother and daughter embraceThe start of the school year is a great time to listen to your kids. School is a big part of your child’s life and as they begin to start a new school year, they will have many feelings about it. Excitement, anxiety, apprehension, and dread are probably just some of their feelings. So how do they really feel? Just ask and be quiet.

  • Ask and listen
  • Nod your head, smile, be in the moment, and fully engage
  • Share a personal experience that they can relate to

Relax and Reflect on a New School Year

woman floating in poolAfter the first day of school pictures are taken, the lunches are packed and the buses rumble off down the road, it is time to relax and reflect. Enjoy the quiet in the house after a summer of vacations and enriching your child’s young lives with snacks, playdates, and summer camps. I like to do something just for me such as spending some time poolside in the silent solace of my backyard or going on a day date with my husband.

Please share any other back-to-school tips and hints for an easy back to school transition from the summer chaos.

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Monica Bell
Monica was born and raised in New Jersey. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Penn State University and a master’s degree in civil engineering from Cal State Fullerton. She spent several years working, living, and playing in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Virginia, Philadelphia, and back to New Jersey again before settling down in Katy in 2009. She has been married for over 24 years to her soulmate Atiba and together they have three children and a dog that help her stay young, strong, and active. She has been on both sides of the fence as a full-time working Mama and stay-at-home Mama and everything else in between. When she isn’t carting her kids around all over Katy, she works part-time as an engineering consultant. She is a staunch supporter of chocolate and coffee any time of day and binge-watching trashy reality TV shows. Some of her favorite things include cooking up new recipes, writing, Penn State Football, and anything satirical. Monica believes that motherhood continues to lead her through a challenging journey of personal growth, gratitude, and constant chaos.


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