Back to School Guide 2018

It’s hard to believe summer is coming to an end, and it’s time for the new school year to begin. Are you ready? To help you prepare we’re sharing some tips for the upcoming school year to make it the best year yet!

10 Tasty Lunchbox Ideas | Building Bridges | School Field Trips | 12 Money-Saving Tips for BTS Shopping

10 Tasty Lunchbox Alternatives to Sandwiches

By Rachael Moshman

I pack my own lunch while I prepare my daughter’s. Hers goes in a purple lunch sack with kittens on the front. Mine simply goes back into the fridge for me to eat later. I work from home, so having it ready to go saves me time and helps me stay focused. I was in a sandwich rut for a while, but now I have broken free! Here are some alternatives to packing a sandwich every day.

Make your own “lunchable”.

Slice your favorite deli meats and cheeses into cracker size pieces. Add crackers and a piece of fruit. I’ve used leftover slices of chicken, steak or kielbasa in place of the lunch meat.

Wrap it up.

Tortillas are a fun alternative to bread. You can fill them with whatever you’d put on a sandwich. Roll them up tightly and either leave them whole or cut them into spirals. My daughter loves peanut butter, honey and banana inside a whole wheat tortilla.

Homemade pizza.

Use a pita, pizza crust (either store-bought or homemade), tortilla or hamburger bun to make your own pizza. Top it with sauce, cheese and anything else you need to use up in your fridge. I love to make mine with pesto, feta and leftover

Dip it!

I always pack lots of extra napkins for this one! Put a hearty, protein filled dip in a container. Turkey chilli, hummus or black bean dip are good options. Throw in veggie slices and tortilla chips for dipping.

Make use of leftovers.

Some leftovers taste fine cold. Leftover slices of grilled chicken or steak are great lunch starters. Add yogurt, baby carrots and whole grain crackers to complete the meal.

Use the thermos.

In the age of reusable water bottles and juice boxes, most thermoses go unused. My daughter’s lunchbox didn’t even come with one, but it was inexpensive to purchase. I fill it with soup or macaroni and cheese. Having a hot lunch to look forward to is a treat for her.

Food on a stick.

Use a straw instead of wooden skewers for little ones. This is a fun way to use up leftovers. Put chunks of meat, cheese, veggies or bread cubes on the stick. I like to include honey mustard for dipping.

Use your fingers.

Kids love being encouraged to eat with their fingers-and I do, too! Fill individual baggies with rolled up ham slices, chunks of cheese, grapes, a hard-boiled egg, Teddy Grahams and celery sticks.

Pasta salad

This is another way I use up leftovers. I start with plain leftover pasta. Then I add in either leftover meat or slices of deli meat. I throw in whatever fruits, vegetables or cheese looks appealing, along with some salad dressing. Toss it together for a delicious meal.

Salad bar

Start with a container of lettuce or baby spinach. Add in baggies of other toppings, such as additional veggies, fruits, meats, cheeses or nuts. Include a small container of dressing. You or your child can add the other ingredients to the lettuce bowl at lunch time, put the lid back on and shake it all up to distribute the dressing.

My daughter’s friends are always jealous when she has something other than a sandwich in her lunchbox. There are still plenty of days I just throw in a PB&J sandwich, but mixing it up saves us from boredom. We’re also eating a great variety of foods, including vegetables.

Rachael Moshman is a mom, freelance writer, educator and family advocate. She loves joining her daughter for lunch at school at least once a week.

Building Bridges

Communicate and connect with your child’s teacher
By Janeen Lewis

Do you feel intimidated when you think of talking with your child’s teacher? What if your child complains about problems with his or her teacher? What do you do then?

I’m a parent and a teacher, so I’ve been on both sides of the teacher’s desk. Here are some tips to help you communicate and connect with your child’s teacher so that all involved can have a great year.

Meet and greet the teacher.

Teachers like to meet parents at the beginning of the school year so that if a problem does occur, a teacher’s first encounter with a parent isn’t a call about misbehavior or academic struggles. If your school hosts a Back-to-School Night before school starts, make it a priority to attend. Introduce yourself and show your support for the teacher. You may not be able to have a lengthy discussion, but making this initial contact helps break the ice.

Be involved.

One of the best ways to get to know your child’s teacher is to be involved in the school and classroom. Let the teacher know if you can volunteer. If you can’t volunteer during the day, offer to organize donations or supplies for projects or parties by setting up a parent sign-up list online. Ask if you can cut out items the teacher has laminated or track down supplies for a lesson. Come to after-school events, school productions and parent-teacher conferences. If your career is related to something your child’s class is studying, offer to come in and answer questions.

Keep communications open and positive.

Teachers welcome questions and concerns and prefer to know about problems early so they can deal with them in the best way. Your child’s teacher should be open to your questions and suggestions. Keep up with written teacher notes, field trip permission slips, report cards and any other written communications the teacher sends home.

Remember to keep communications positive.

If you have concerns or think the teacher has dealt unfairly with your child, don’t dash off a negative note and send it first thing in the morning. For sensitive conversations, call and set up a time to meet after school.

Try to understand both sides.

Teachers have a lot to manage in their classrooms, and with twenty-five or more students to supervise, sometimes they make mistakes or don’t see every problem. Your child may think something happened in class that wasn’t fair, and it’s easy as parents to react emotionally and blame the teacher. But support the teacher as much as possible while you gather information about what happened. Try to help your child see the teacher’s point of view, and talk about how people can have differences and still work together to succeed.pan-xiaozhen-423533-unsplash-Photo-by-pan-xiaozhen-on-Unsplash

Advocate for your child.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if a problem in your child’s class becomes pervasive. If your child’s grades start to slip, he or she is continually unhappy or you suspect your child is being bullied by a classmate, work with the teacher to devise a plan to help.
Make a change as a last resort.

Sometimes children have personality conflicts with their teachers. This actually offers an opportunity for growth if teachers and students can work together in a respectful and productive manner. After all, this is what children will need to be able to do when they grow up. But if problems persist, it may be time to request a change to another class. Discussing your options with a school counselor or administrator may help you navigate a tough year.

Understand that teachers are human.

Most of the teachers I know are caring individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. Often, they are parents too, and, at one time they were students who lived through awkward growth spurts, problems with peers, lost homework and braces. They understand what parents and kids are going through, and they strive to build a positive connection between school and home.

Making the Most of School Field Trips

Parents can make a difference
By Laura Lyles Reagan

Teachers affirm that a well-planned school field trip makes topics of study come alive by helping them associate concepts learned in the classroom with real world applications. Students retain information on the subject as a result of field trips and they demonstrate a greater interest in learning more in-depth study on their own.

There are good academic reasons to take field trips and important social ones also. Parents have a vital role to play. Parents can help enhance learning outcomes, address related safety issues and ensure the fun!renan-kamikoga-709781-unsplash_Photo-by-Renan-Kamikoga-on-Unsplash

Field Trip Fact Finding: Parents Can Boost Learning Outcomes

Ask your child the following:

Why are you going on this field trip?
What have you been studying in school that relates to the field trip?
What do you expect to see on the field trip?
I know you will have an assignment to do after the field trip. How will you remember what information you need for your report or project?

Field Trip Safety Issues: Parents Can Beef Up Security

Safety concerns may arise on field trips but preparation can minimize potential problems. Increased adult to child ratios can also minimize safety issues. Therefore, volunteer to chaperone for field trips! If you can’t volunteer there are some things you can do to help keep your child safe on field trips.

-Make sure your child knows their contact information, (phone numbers, addresses, where parents work). Emphasize to your child how important it is that they stay with their group.

-Wash their school shirt ahead of time so your child is wearing the same color as their group.

-In a calm manner, prepare your child for what to do if they are separated from their group. You may want to make several suggestions like return to the zoo entrance or ticket office and ask that an adult page your teacher over the loudspeaker or tell your child to look for a uniformed security guard or museum docent to ask for help in locating the class.

-Remind your child to go to the restroom with a buddy or small group.

-Play a brief reminder game about Stranger Danger and what to do. Praise your child for remembering.

-Carry a first aid kit.

Field Trip Fun: Parents Can Boost the Fun Factor as Cool Chaperones

The following are a few suggestions to help boost the fun factor on field trips and avoid behavior issues by keeping students engaged. Parents can also help create social learning opportunities.

-Use name tags so new parent chaperones learn students’ names quickly.
-Have the kids think up nicknames for the parents for their chaperone name tags.
-Chaperones can ask students what they think they will see when they arrive at their field trip location while students are riding on the bus.
-Sing songs on the bus drive to the field trip location.
-Talk to students throughout the field trip about what their favorite part is.
-On the bus drive back to school, play a sequence game about what students saw first, second, third and finally, last on the field trip.
-Remember to catch students being good and affirm random acts of kindness that you see.
-Be sure to pick up your child from school on time, especially on field trip day and get ready to hear all the good things they learned!

Laura Lyles Reagan, MS is a youth development sociologist and author of How to Raise Respectful Parents.

12 Money-Saving Tips for Back to School Shopping

By Katy M. Clark

The school year is just around the corner, meaning your kids will need plenty of supplies to start the year off right. So how can you make sure you get what they need, but don’t end up in the red? Use these 12 money-saving tips to save big on your back-to-school shopping.

1. Bring a list when shopping and buy what’s on it.
2. Check the school’s website for a list of suggested items for your child’s grade or bring the list sent directly from your child’s teacher. Without a list, you could fill your cart with things your kids MAY need vs. what they DO need.
3. Shop the store’s sales flyer. This is where you will find the best deals and deepest discounts. However, don’t forget to shop your home first.
4. Did you stock up on pens or notebooks last year? Find last year’s stash to use this year.
5. Don’t be afraid to go to more than one store to get the best deal. If you shop just one store, you’ll get a bargain on some things, but you may pay full price for other things just because you are already in the door.
6. Shop different types of stores. School supplies can be found at grocery stores, superstores, dollar stores, and office supply stores as well as online.
7. Stock up–but only if it’s something you will use. One year I found one-subject notebooks for 17 cents. You won’t find a better price and your kids will always need these.
8. Buy store brand vs. name brand. Last year my daughter needed four plastic folders with fasteners. The store brand was 50 cents while the name brand was $1.99. Buying generic was a no-brainer in that case. The same goes for licensed merchandise. A Taylor Swift notebook cost $1.99. Meanwhile, the store brand notebook with the same number of pages cost 17 cents. Can you guess which one I bought?
9. That said, a teacher once told me that when it comes to pencils, buy the name brand. The store brand pencils, she said, splinter and crack like crazy, never lasting the whole school year. Then you are stuck making another trip to the store mid-year.
10. If you can, try shopping without the kids. That way you’ll avoid the inevitable whining for something that is sparkly/hip/fringed/cool AND overpriced.
11. Check apps and follow stores on social media. You may find a digital or printable coupon or discount code that you can use at checkout.
12. Lastly, don’t shop hungry. Otherwise, all the effort you put into getting great deals will be blown on that bag of chips and candy bar that your kids (or you!) just have to have at checkout.

By utilizing these money-saving tips, you won’t get schooled by back to school shopping.

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