- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yep, it’s summer, and as twisted as it sounds, that should mean back-to-school prep for parents to avoid the inevitable nervous breakdown that comes with waiting until the last minute on absolutely everything.

Don’t spoil your family’s fun in the sun by stressing out on break, but give up the notion that you can tick off your long list of school lead-up chores the week before the start of a new academic year.

“Parents enjoy the summer, too, and they don’t want to think about school,” said Stephanie Vozza, founder of Theorganizedparent.com and a mother of two school-age boys in Rochester, Mich. “Your head isn’t there yet, but so many little things over the summer can make a huge difference.”

A checklist for tending to back-to-school tasks:

Paperwork and appointments

Make a well-visit appointment with your child’s pediatrician if summer camp paperwork didn’t require an up-to-date health and immunization record and one is needed for school. Schedule eye exams and dental appointments. Everybody’s trying for the same appointment times, so planning ahead pays off. Bring along necessary forms for the doctor’s signature.

Athletics programs may require a physical on a short cycle, say only six months old, and many doctors will do a special “sports physical” covering less ground if it’s not time for an annual, Ms. Vozza said.

If your child is entering a new school, you still may be recovering from the admissions and registration process, but you need to watch your pile of summer mail for any back-to-school correspondence from the PTA or teachers. Also, make sure you’ve notified the people you’ve listed as emergency contacts.

Make haircut appointments early, for a couple of weeks before school starts.

For the college-bound, grill your freshman on what paperwork is needed and when, from checkups to dorm assignments, then make sure deadlines are met.

Leanna Hamill, an attorney in Hingham, Mass., said parents of children over 18 should make sure their newly minted adult signs a health care proxy and a durable power of attorney for finances. The documents allow parents (or someone else the teen chooses) to have access to medical information or make medical decisions if the child can’t. Once a child is 18, none of his medical information can be given to a parent without permission.

Fashion and school supplies

Little fashionistas may be too busy showing off their new bathing suits and beach covers to focus on school clothes, but if they need to sign off on fall wear, shopping early makes sense for the best selection and helps to avoid sizes selling out.

Clean out your child’s closets before you shop for back-to-school clothes, or the old and beat-up will be buried under the new and pristine. Begin sorting through closets about a month before school begins, and remember that the weather is usually still warm for a few weeks after classes start, Ms. Vozza said.

“Have your child try things on if you can’t judge fit for yourself. Then put those things in a separate place so they don’t get stained up over the summer and pull them out when it’s time for school,” she said.

Back-to-school clothes are available early online and off, selling fast and furious over the summer. But parents often wait until sales begin, which is closer to the start of school. That can be risky for style-conscious kids. If yours couldn’t care less what they wear, definitely wait, Ms. Vozza said.

The same goes for school and gym shoes, lunch boxes, backpacks, messenger bags and popular classroom supplies such as the latest decorated notebooks and folders.

Grace Brooke, an organizing consultant in Sonoma County, Calif., suggests parents team up with other families to buy back-to-school supplies in bulk to save time and money. Ms. Vozza is a fan of reusing supplies such as crayons and glue sticks, but that requires having an inventory.

She also suggests waiting to contribute shared classroom supplies requested by teachers, such as tissues and antibacterial wipes. Teachers often wind up with more than they can store at the beginning of a school year and don’t have enough later on.

Academics and bridge work

Summer’s a great time for your high school junior or senior to get a jump on the SAT or ACT. The scholarship and career site FastWeb.com suggests working a related math problem, using vocabulary flash cards and reading every day on summer break to build skills slowly rather than cramming, especially if your child plans to take the test in October. Test prep books are plentiful, but try this one to keep things light: “The Laugh Out Loud Guide: Ace the SAT Exam Without Boring Yourself to Sleep” by “Robot Chicken” writer Charles Horn, who also has as Ph.D.

Before you head out on vacation, let younger kids carry their new reading lists to the bookstore to take advantage of the freshness factor and stock up for use through the summer. Let them pick out a bridge book, a workbook that includes skills from the previous grade and upcoming grade, or an educational game or puzzle.

After-school activities and child care

Have you registered your child for fall sports and made enough copies of required documents to cover sports, school and after-school obligations? Have you signed up for the onsite after-school program?

Buy new cleats, sports uniforms, helmets, karate uniforms, ballet or gymnastics clothes, ice skates, inline skates or other equipment they’ve outgrown or might need, such as tennis rackets. Does anything need to be monogrammed?

Confirm the sitter if that’s your after-school child-care plan. Confirm daycare and ask for a list of required items. Confirm bus routes. Angela Gifford at Mom4Life.com also suggests making carpool connections, something that shouldn’t wait until the last minute if you’re depending on sharing pickup and drop-off responsibilities with other families.

Dorm and college gear

Any idea how to outfit a dorm room these days? CollegeView.com urges a check of the school’s Web site for what’s not allowed before shopping ensues (toasters, air conditioners and space heaters are often prohibited). Download the school’s checklist and make contact with roommates to divide up common appliances and decor, such as rugs and coffee makers.

Some useful items that might fly under your radar because you’re preoccupied with pricey computers and other high-tech gear: no-stain, good-stick tack to hang posters; closet extenders, such as hanging shoe and sweater storage; reusable shopping bags; a hand vacuum; a sewing kit; a collapsible hamper; a first-aid kit; a small tool kit; strong magnetic clips; and a clothesline or drying rack.

Has your new college kid ever cleaned the bathroom? This might be a good time to introduce him to the cleaning supplies aisle. Does he know how to do laundry? Hit the bank for a few rolls of quarters if that’s what school machines take.

On the computer front, consider signing him up for an offline data storage service for easy and safe backup as he takes on more work in college.

Sleep schedules and morning routines

The first thing blown to kingdom come when summer begins is a child’s sleep schedule and morning routine. While there’s no need to maintain those regimens over summer, rebuilding them in the fall takes time.

Two or three weeks before school begins, start nibbling away at bedtimes and your back-to-school, out-the-door drills.

“Make a list for kids to follow and tape it to their bedroom doors so they know exactly what they have to do without you asking,” Ms. Vozza said. “Things like brush your teeth, make your bed.”

The list can include lots of other things that don’t apply to the laid-back summer: putting shoes and backpacks by the door, picking clothes out the night before.

“Routines in the summer are extremely relaxed for everybody, so getting that going early works,” Ms. Vozza said.

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