Getting the gear, kick-starting the minds for school

August 03, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

Can you believe it's August already?

Where has the summer gone?

I was in the school supply aisle of a local store recently and heard another mother mumbling the same thing under her breath.

Then she turned to me and said, "Have you found any wide-ruled paper? There are boxes and boxes of college-ruled but nothing for the younger kids."

I told her I'd keep an eye out for it.

As we crossed off the items on our list and placed them in our carts, she expressed her frustration at finding the particular items teachers had requested.


"If I can't find it, then what I can find will just have to do," she said.

I nodded and told her I thought that her purchases would work just fine. I didn't tell her that I am a teacher because at that moment she was obviously not too fond of the profession.

I admit that there are a few things I put on my class supplies list this year that might cause parents to scratch their heads, but the sole purpose was to help ease my students' frustration.

For example, I requested that parents purchase a pencil bag and not a pencil box this year. Why? Because students became frustrated at trying to fit all their books, notebooks and the pencil box in their desks. A bag would be easier to fit between two stacks of books, I reasoned. Yet if parents buy a box, that's OK.

I also requested several bookmarks, which can be made by the student.

Why bookmarks? Because we basically cover things in order and it saves time if students can open their books to the right page. Some students don't catch the page number when I say, "Please turn to page ____." Even if I write the page number on the board, some of them don't think to look up. So, this also helps alleviate frustration. If they keep their bookmarks at the page we finished the day before, they'll be ready to go the next day.

Back at home as we were placing the new items in their bookbags, my children were giving a running commentary on last year's leftover supplies. Their glue sticks were used a lot. The watercolors weren't.

I took their comments as opportunities, encouraging them to use some of the leftover school supplies in projects they would like to do in their remaining free time this summer.

Judging from the number of watercolor pictures I now have for the refrigerator door, my suggestions were heeded.

There is still time for productive activities that will prepare children for school:

Finish up those last few spaces on the library reading program game board. (Haven't been to the library this summer? Don't feel guilty. Just plan a trip sometime next week. Write it on your calendar if that will help. Most library stops take less than 30 minutes.)

If you took a trip this summer, encourage your child to write about it. Your child can even make his own book about the trip, suggests Laura Roe Stevens, parenting editor for, an online women's network.

"You don't have to reinvent the wheel," Stevens says.

Your child can make a simple book from construction paper or you can get fancy by ordering one from a company such as I order classroom supplies from this company, and what I have received is of good quality. SmileMakers' white blank book with 32 pages is $9.99.

Check out the programs offered by area parks.

Join a park ranger for a battlefield talk at Antietam National Battlefield or buy a cassette or CD and take an auto tour. For information, go to

If you'd like to get out of town one more time before school starts but don't want to drive too far, try the programs at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa. We went there last Saturday. The children's program, "Join the Army!" was well worth the trip. Children "enlist" and learn what it meant to be a soldier in the Civil War in this one-hour program for ages 7 to 12. For information, go to

Make the most of these dog days of summer. You and your kids deserve it.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail. Send e-mail to her at

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