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updated: 8/20/2013 5:32 AM

Suburban parents share back-to-school advice

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  • What do you need for school that's not on the supply list? Sunscreen, says Sidra Khan, of Glendale Heights.

       What do you need for school that's not on the supply list? Sunscreen, says Sidra Khan, of Glendale Heights.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Pre-order a school supply packet, says Melissa Carlson, of Naperville, and her fifth-grade daughter, Beth.

       Pre-order a school supply packet, says Melissa Carlson, of Naperville, and her fifth-grade daughter, Beth.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Thom Calvo, of Aurora, reads a lot of book with his son, Nathaniel, 6, and recommends parents keep track of their reading lists.

       Thom Calvo, of Aurora, reads a lot of book with his son, Nathaniel, 6, and recommends parents keep track of their reading lists.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Heather Michalides, of Schaumburg, talks about back-to-school shopping.

       Heather Michalides, of Schaumburg, talks about back-to-school shopping.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Put cleaning supplies on your college packing list, say Adrienne Braun of Palatine and her daughter, Zoe, a sophomore at University of Illinois.

       Put cleaning supplies on your college packing list, say Adrienne Braun of Palatine and her daughter, Zoe, a sophomore at University of Illinois.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Whether kids are moving into first grade or moving away to college, families face a lot of stress during back-to-school time.

And it's not only the students who have a lot of learning to do -- parents navigating the transition to a new school or grade level for the first time also benefit from a little educating.

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So, with many suburban students heading back to school this week, we surveyed local moms and dads and collected their tips on how to maneuver some of the hurdles.

Supply list and beyond

You'll buy hundreds of crayons and untold pairs of scissors (where do they all go?) during the school years. But that's not all you need.

Stock up on sunscreen. Recess and gym classes take place outside while the weather is nice, and you'll find good deals on sunscreen at the end of summer, points out parent Sidra Khan of Glendale Heights.

"Parents don't realize it," Khan said. "It's necessary."

Lay in a supply of poster board. One of the things students are supposed to learn is how to plan ahead. That doesn't mean they've learned it yet. Save yourself a last-minute trip to the store the day before the project is due.

Don't forget to budget for lunch items -- lunchboxes, water bottles, sandwich containers, Ziploc bags and snacks. They aren't listed on school supply lists, but they're important.

If your school still offers a prepaid supply kit, buy it, says Naperville mom Melissa Carlson. While some people view school supply shopping as a fun tradition, spending a few extra bucks on the pre-packed kits saves the hassle of crowded, picked-over back-to-school aisles, out-of-stock disappointments, and incorrect purchases.

"It's a lot easier than schlubbing around through stores," Carlson said.

What to wear

Stores are filled with fall fashions and back-to-school sales. But it's still 80 degrees out.

Buy summer clearance stuff now. That's what Mary Bradbury, of Mount Prospect, does for her first-grade twins. They'll be able to wear some of it for the next month or so. "We buy some for next summer, too," she said.

Stick to the really good deals, like the $10 Old Navy jeans that Kathy Szumaki of Arlington Heights was buying for her first-, fourth- and seventh-grade boys. "Every single store has a sale right now, so it's tempting," she said. But the stores will have sales in September and October, too. If you buy kids' entire fall wardrobes now, you'll spend a lot of money on clothes that will sit in the closet for a while. In that time, your child's size, or preferences, could change.

If there's a certain store you like, sign up for their emails. That'll often yield some type of "thanks for signing up" coupon.

Decide what you're buying before you go. That way, you won't spend two hours wandering the store aisles, wondering, "Maybe we should get this?" That was a mistake mom Tosha Young, of Chicago, made Monday while buying her 14-year-old daughter, Sherrell Staples, a cart full of items, including jeans, shirts and a flat iron, at TJ Maxx in Mount Prospect. "Know exactly what you're going to get, otherwise, you're going to spend a lot of time and money, like I just did," she said.

Moving up, moving out

Taking your child to college? Come with cleaning supplies, leave with phone numbers.

Palatine mom Adrienne Braun said electric fans (for dorm rooms without air conditioning), a microwave, and snacks such as ramen noodles are essential for college students like her daughter Zoe. Zoe, a second-year elementary education major at the University of Illinois, said cleaning supplies should also be on the list.

"We can't be trusted to get them on our own," she joked.

Ask for the cellphone number of your child's roommate. You'll feel secure that you have a contact person if your 18-year-old is incommunicado.

Back-to-school time is an adjustment for students and parents. If students are moving up to a new school, the key to managing this transition is preaching punctuality and organization, Khan said.

"If you're organized, you can accomplish a lot of stuff in life," she said. "So study hard!"

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