Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homeschool to Public School #1 - School Shopping

This August is going to be different from all the other Augusts our family has experienced. For the first time, my 9yo and 7yo are going to school. After six years of homeschooling, our chickies are going to take their first test flight into a new way of life, and mom (that’s me – yippee) is going to get a sabbatical. Since there are so many things that I want to capture as we make this transition, I will capture many of my thoughts in a series of posts over the next couple of months.

Post #1 of HS to PS (homeschool to public school)

School shopping. That phrase conjures up a multitude of emotions and memories.

I love, love, love to shop for pens, pencils and notebooks to this day. The smell of Staples is one of my happiest smells. Organizing and gearing up. LOVE IT.

I also remember the agony of clothes shopping for school – wanting to get ‘it’ right, but also very constrained by my family’s very small budget. The number of ‘it will do’s’ often outweighed the ‘I love it’ pieces of clothing. And even then I knew it didn’t matter. But it did.

So as I began to think about school shopping with my own children for the first time, I realized I needed some help. I went to my list of friends on FB and selected six women for their help. All of these women are moms and two work in schools. Their information was so helpful and thoughtful, I’ve compiled it to share here.


We are so lucky to have a stream of hand me downs that usually account for about 80% of the kids wardrobes.

*buy 1-2 outfits (or supplements) to start school- typically the 1st couple weeks are still shorts weeks... so we are usually in ok shape based on the summer.

By the time the cooler weather rolls around the kids are usually in need of some warmer clothes because they've grown since the spring. So I shop then for the long sleeves and pants. By now a lot of the back to school clothes are on clearance which works for me because I am pretty frugal. Make that cheap.

*sneakers if needed- make sandals an exception because they need to be able to run far and fast at recess!

*sweatshirt or fleece for the cool mornings that still shift into hot afternoons.

I agree with buying 1 or 2 new outfits for the beginning of school as summer clothes usually work for the first few weeks (with sweatshirt/light jacket for chilly mornings) and sneakers for recess. I know at our school girls can't do certain things at recess if they are wearing dress shoes. I usually hold off on the long sleeve stuff until it starts to get colder. I don't know how your schools are, but ours are not air conditioned so the fall and spring tend to be very warm in the school. Even when the kids need a jacket outside, they want short sleeves inside.

I think the most important thing is for the kids to be comfortable in what they wear. Kid's clothing styles are a pet peeve of mine. Apparently what I think is appropriate for a 10 year old girl and what the clothing industry thinks is appropriate are on other ends of the spectrum :-) It's difficult to find fashionable, tasteful clothes for ******. (Wait a sec while I step off my soap box :-) We generally find things that ***** and I are both happy with at Target, Old Navy, Justice for Girls, and occasionally at Kohl's.

I buy a lot of LLBean stuff off-season from the outlet or from the sale section of their web site. I would say that anything clean, appropriate/in line with the school dress code, and comfortable for your child is OK for a public school setting. My son is extremely sensory, so he wears sweatpants and a rugby or polo shirt every day because he can't learn if he's uncomfortable.

As a teacher, I can tell you that it's frustrating for the kid and the adults if the kids wear clothes that they have to "manage" (they have fancy ribbons to tie/tricky belts to buckle/etc.). Also, make sure they can handle any snaps/buttons/etc. independently and easily. My thing is girls with long hair who come to school in the morning with a beautiful hairstyle/etc. that has no chance of holding up through recess/PhysEd/etc. My own girls have long hair, so I'm pretty fast at a French braid or ponytail, but it still takes time away from the rest of the class to have to redo hair, clothing, etc.

Rainjacket (or poncho which can cover up a backpack, too)!


I get a lot of **** clothes on clearance through websites (Gap, Old Navy, MiniBoden, JC Penney); even with the shipping costs, it can be cheaper than shopping in person.

Label everything. The lost and founds at schools are a great big black hole. :( I'll never forget the puzzled look on ****'s face when I asked him what happened to his blue sweater that went to school with him on his body and never came back. He tilted his head and said, "I have a blue sweater??" (NOT ANYMORE!!!!)

comfortable...things they can manage...all very good ideas. The things I am careful about are shoes (no dress shoes or skirts/dresses on PE days). As long as things fit (not too big/too small) aren't really faded , and they can snap/zip/fasten/unfasten, they're set. I try to buy things that can be easily mixed and matched with other things (avoids the "you're wearing a hot pink tshirt with rainbows on it and green plaid stretch pants. you know that doesn't match, right?" discussion five minutes before the bus comes. I tend to buy Old Navy on sale, Bearly Used, JCPenney (because it is convenient) and sometimes Walmart (their stuff tends to wear out quickly and their pants and jeans don't fit my girls - Kmart is like this too). They make great kids clothes. I look for Children's Place (love their jeans for girls - fashionable without being too trendy or revealing) and Gap and other brands I can't afford at second hand stores. I usually buy one fun back-to-school outfit, sneakers, and a jacket or sweater in the fall new and supplement as needed through the year. Be aware that you grew up in the 70s and 80s and anything you find secondhand that you say wow, that is a REALLY CUTE outfit is probably unwearable by today's standards. I can't really remember seeing your kids in anything that was too dated, though, so you probably don't have to worry about that.

As for my kids I usually buy a few summer outfits off the clearance racks to get them started. Mine are growing so quickly that I cannot keep them in clothes that fit them! Mostly t-shirts and capris or long shorts and light weight pants. Summer heat always happens as soon as school starts! I try to stay away from the obnoxious t-shirts with a lot of words and pictures. *** likes them but I always say no. I think they are distracting and can label kids in negative ways. I also strive for simple and comfortable, makes for better learning :)...always did for me anyways. Of course ***** would love to wear short skirts and tight shirts, but that will not happen. She at the age where she is overly concerned with how others view her. I like to let her pick her style as long as I see it as appropriate.

This year JcPenny was the best place for ***** and Target and Kohls for ***. I also like Burlington Coat, good selection, sales and kids fitting rooms!

Lastly, I hit up the New balance tent sale in Skowheagan each August for sneakers. They usually have some really good deals on kids sizes, plus I can find Wides for *** who needs them!

Taking one child at a time works best for me and gives them some nice one-on-one time. I try to make it special with a lunch out and as stress free as possible.

ps...the llbean backpacks are a good deal in my book. They are a bit expensive but hold up very well. Plus if they do break or wear out you can get them replaced :)


Thanks Ladies, for your help...
it is always good to have good ideas from good friends compiled in one place.

quotes from:
Megin - who is a new friend this summer. She has three kids and a camera.
Melissa - a friend from long ago
who is largely responsible for my international travel adventures, and who saved my spirit during freshmen year of college
Rebecca - who if a friend from 5th, 6th, 7th grade. She doesn't know it but I learned about the value of true friendship from her.

Sarah - who loves my family as much as she loves books. Her love has given us the courage to be rooted in the place we love.

Izzie - my kids don't know that our families aren't one and the same. We pride ourselves on unfinished crafts, and will someday be the next generation of Indigo Girls.
Jen - I will never understand her faithfulness in picking me up from school during our senior year in her Ford Escort. I can't imagine how much gas money I owe her.


sunshinewalks said...

Wow! I know I don't need to be but I'm so nervous for them! Eek! What spurred this decision? I'd love to hear more.

Rob said...

laugh laugh laugh, she has 3 kids and a camera... :-)

Love the way you gathered here.

Thinking about writing at GNMParents again?