Two area school teachers offer advice for parents who already are eyeing up the “Back To School” supply displays at local stores.

Kimberly Gavin teaches at William Cramp Elementary, in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and she does not want you to cave into the pressure to buy the 100 pack of crayons and spend more money then you expected or need to!

“We don’t need any more pressure. Life itself has enough pressure. So, take a deep breath. It’s okay if you don’t have 25 pens of various colors. You need one pen. You need a pencil and an eraser, loose leaf paper and maybe highlighters for reading assignments.”

Gavin says it’s more important to find the right kind of pen that will help those struggling to learn how to write.

“You know half the time you buy something, by October they are not using them. The fancy rulers, folders–they are not even using them because it’s not practical.”

And in the neighborhood she works in, parents have limited access to stores and transportation to get these supplies. Before you go shopping again, she advises you to look to see what you already have.

“I like to take out big tubs of things, and if I don’t use something from the year before, I put it in the tub, and it’s like Christmas in September: ‘Ohh, I didn’t know I had that!’ That’s the great thing about supplies. THEY DON’T EXPIRE. It’s not like a can of milk!”

Assistant Vice Principal at Nativity of Our Lord Grade School in Warminster Laura Clark agrees. She also teaches 6th grade math at the school.

“You just need your standard supplies…and I think it’s important to have the kids help pick them out. Getting their school supplies and actually giving them the list and personalizing the things they want, like their folder, will help them get motivated to go back. ”

Gavin also offers this observation:

“Talk to your children about what they might be concerned about. What are they looking forward to in the new year? Get them talking about all those exciting things…it gets them excited about wanting to go back.”

Clark thinks parents are putting the pressure on themselves.

“I think they want to compete with their neighbors and the other people around them.”

Clark says one thing should never be in short supply – communication with your child’s teacher.

“Let’s open that door and walk together. We are a team. I tell parents every year, ‘My door is always open. Please feel free to talk to me at any time, and let’s do what is best to help the student succeed.'”

What To Remember:

• Before you shop, check the remaining supplies you purchased last year and compare them to this year’s list.
• Simple is better! The more complicated the folder, the more expensive it tends to be, not to mention the fact that many of these items can’t fit in the student’s desk!
• The way to keep costs down at the point of purchase is to not buy the 100 pack of crayons or a large number of supplies in general. Buy just what is on the list..and the smaller quantities of crayons and markers!

When confronted with a rather large school supply list, staying on budget can become difficult, but one Northeast Philadelphia mother of five is in the land of no choice and offers some good advice. Gina Gorski’s children are 14, 10, 9, 5 and 3….How does she do it?

1. “Lots of hand-me-downs, and I buy previously the year before.”
2. “After school starts and Walmart and Target have their copybooks on sale for a quarter, I’ll go and buy $10 worth of copybooks. Because generally, each child needs between 5 and 6 copybooks per year.”

Some of her children are in parochial school, some in public school, pre-school and pre-K. So, she saves the lists. They don’t change very much from year to year, and she can prepare for the next school year.

3. “As for schoolbags, while you think you don’t want to spend $40 for a schoolbag, you could at least use it for two years. If you buy the cheaper schoolbag, then you are lucky to get through one year.”
4. And, she says, it pays to be prepared. “Always buy extra, because in the middle of the school year, you’re not going to be able to find that odd six-inch ruler. So I always buy two or three of everything, and this way, if they don’t use it, then I have it for the next year.”

If your child is beyond the primary and secondary school stage and is preparing to leave the nest for college, the list of what they will need probably surpasses anything you’ve ever purchased for them before. But they don’t need as much as you think! Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Temple University Michael Scales says communication is key.

1. “I think to reduce some of the clutter and the financial burden that starting college presents, I would recommend they talk to their roommate, come up with a list of items that they will think they need mutually…and then decide who is going to bring what.”
2. It’s important to read the list of what is allowed in the dorm and what is NOT allowed in the dorm BEFORE you purchase items.
3. So, what does he see going BACK to the car each year? “Sometimes it will be televisions. Quite often there are refrigerators and microwaves. Those tend to be the biggest items…or items that just couldn’t fit in the room based on the configuration…but it’s mostly appliances and forbidden items.”

And how can parents keep their blood pressure down during this move?

“Prepare early, get your game plan together about your arrival, make sure you understand the traffic patterns and where you need to go. Bring your own water, and I recommend they bring their own cart as well. Our carts are in high demand, and students generally bring more items than what can fit on one cart.”

Scales says that if you have any questions or doubts about what is allowed and what is not, a quick call to your child’s college or university will save you time, energy and money.

Reported by Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio

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