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Random Chick: Not Your Mama's School Backpack

Skinny jeans, '80s leggings, neon colors and preppy fashions are “in.” I hope my daughter doesn’t end up wearing Madonna circa 1982 lace gloves with the fingers cut off.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—well, almost. In a couple of weeks Castro Valley kids will be going back to school. With this wondrous event come preparations worthy of a full-scale sendoff to the moon. What am I talking about? Back-to-school shopping.

Time to get out my checkbook and credit cards because I'm going to be purchasing tons of stuff that my children will need to succeed. I can forget my school days as reference; this is the 2011-2012 school year and things have changed since I had to sharpen my No. 2 pencils. Here is a list of the big three items that kids need today to make the grade:

1. Classroom Items

Most schools in the Castro Valley Unified School District send parents a list of items needed for the school year. Some, like the school my kids go to, allow you to pre-order your kid’s supplies online so that their items will be sitting on his or her desk ready to go on the first day of school. Unfortunately, this list seems to grow year to year due to budget restraints. Gone are the days when teacher gave me my first notebook and pencil in kindergarten. Now, kids are even required to bring their own paper towels, Kleenex, wipes and anti-bacterial hand sanitizer! Germs abound, but somehow us older folks survived without Purell. More common items for K-grade 5 include:

  • Crayons
  • Glue
  • Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Notebook

Middle school and high school supplies tend focus less on crafts (which is a shame, really) and more on task-oriented supplies like highlighters, flash drives (to upload homework…this is the Internet age, folks) and calculators.

2. Backpacks

Books. Homework. Supplies. Folders. Papers. Computers. With all this stuff comes the need to transport it back and forth to school. Kids end up looking more like pack mules than students during the year. Enter the ever-present backpack.

Ongoing concern among parents and health professionals about how the weight of backpacks affects kids’ developing spines seems justified. The fact still remains that kids today need backpacks for school.

Rolling backpacks are a good idea for kids who have to cart tons of stuff around. There are so many varieties and styles out there, it will make your head spin. You’ve got to do your homework and find the backpack that will hold everything, will be easy for your child to transport, will be a design he or she likes, and will be affordable.

Not an easy task. For me, it’s been a hit-and-miss process. The design my daughter likes isn’t big enough, or we buy one that meets the capacity requirements but it falls apart in three months. (Both my kids are rough on their backpacks…whose kid isn’t, really?) A few places I suggest include:

LL Bean.com - Online is good for deals.

Target - A personal favorite store for everything under the sun, including back-to-school stuff.

Walmart - You can't beat some of the deals at this store for backpacks.

3. Clothes

I think almost every parent wishes that all schools across the nation would require uniforms only. No exceptions. It would solve so many problems. Unfortunately that’s not the case, so we're forced to figure out what clothes will be practical, durable, and fashionable within budget.

If you’re like me, you try to take advantage of sales early in summer, but you don’t stock up on too much because what was “cool” and “awesome” in June may not be so awesome in August or September, or your kid decides to grow three inches right before school starts. Also, the weather lately could mean that your kids are still wearing shorts until Halloween, yet everything in the stores is designed for a chilly fall.

Trendy back-to-school-clothes shopping could include Justice, Aeropostale, Old Navy or Gap. For my kids, it’s more likely Target or even Ross. I’m lucky since my kids are still relatively young and hot fashions aren’t on the radar yet.

This year it appears that skinny jeans, '80s leggings, neon colors and preppy fashions are the “in” thing. God, I hope my daughter doesn’t end up wearing Madonna circa 1982 lace gloves with the fingers cut off. Did my mother think the same thing?

Well, there you have it. The big three. If you make it through back-to-school shopping, your kid will not only be prepared and well-dressed, but he or she will also be out of the house for at least six hours!

Sam McCormick August 08, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Rolling backpacks sound like a good solution for kids having to carry too much weight. Unfortunately some schools don't allow them due to their size; they believe they take up too much room. In middle school (where they really need them due to many books) & high school it's just not "cool" to the kids, so they opt to sacrifice their back. Hopefully more textbooks will be available online.
Dana Leipold August 08, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Really? I did not know that some school don't allow rolling back packs...and it's not "cool." No wonder the whole weight thing is such a big problem! What do you do then? Do your kids have back problems or complain about heavy back packs?
mark martinez August 08, 2011 at 08:08 PM
<1> I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, TagCent.com
Sam McCormick August 09, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Try different things - be an advocate for kids & talk to schools about solutions. Sometimes you can check out an extra text book for home (one got lost & we had to pay $65 for, so be careful with it). 6th grade is especially "heavy", since kids change classrooms & don't want to leave books in locker by accident, so they carry a lot, and want to bring it all home. You can talk with them about their class schedule & help them come up with WHEN to go to locker, etc. Ultimately they learn to live with it (and their poor posture), and we pray for no long term damage, and more online books.
Dana Leipold August 09, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Thanks Sam for the advice!

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