How to Organize Your Middle Schooler for Back to School

How to organize your middle schooler for back to school

I just did an informal survey of the back to school supply lists on the local middle schools I’m familiar with. I’m hoping the twitch in my eye goes away soon. Every year, teachers put together careful, extremely detailed lists of items their students need to succeed in the classroom. And every year, parents stand, baffled, in the middle of office supply stores, surrounded by folders, binders, notebooks and children who would rather be done shopping and enjoying their last days of summer. I hate to add another back to school supply shopping post to the stress, but if I can lend some purpose and order to the disconnected lists you’ve been staring at, I think I should!

As I looked over the supply lists for a few different public middle schools, it was clear that the teachers put a lot of thought into what they requested. Some teams specify the colors of binders or folders, others specify the thickness of binders or ask for “heavy duty” styles. But others just ask for more generic supplies, like “one-subject notebooks.” 

If your child is lucky enough to attend a school that already has a color-coded system in place, great! Head to Target and get yourself a coffee while you’re at it!

But if your child’s supply list doesn’t give you a clear idea of what the whole system will look like when it’s put together, hang out with me for a minute and let’s make a plan.

How many classes?

First, how many core academic classes will your child be taking? It’s usually English language arts, math, science, social studies, and maybe a foreign language. So pick 5 different colors to start with. Scroll to the end to download my free worksheet to list the colors for each class so you can keep it all straight while you’re shopping.

What tools fit best?

Second, what kind of stuff does your child need/use? For some students, one large binder with a divider tab and a folder for each class works. For others, a separate 3-ring binder (durable or heavy duty) for each class is better. Then decide on either loose leaf paper for taking notes or wire-bound notebooks for each class. 

Know thy child

Third, how detail-oriented is your child? A fussy child with time on their hands might reinforce their notebook pages with those goofy little circle stickers. (That would have been me.) A less fussy child might toss the papers in and not care if the rings get ripped. They make reinforced looseleaf paper if you want to spend a little more to have the pages stay in the notebook. 

Hit the stores

Think quality if you don’t want to replace all this stuff (at full price) by Halloween. I like the dull, cheap, pocket folders better the ones that are shiny outside. They don’t seem to rip as easily. The plastic ones are durable, but the papers slide right out! Name-brand pencils and pens are one place I’m willing to spend a dollar or two more. I think the wirebound notebooks are all the same, but they do make some with plastic covers instead of paper, and they seem to last longer.

Now is also the time to buy an extra set of folders and an extra set of one-subject notebooks. If your child doesn’t use up (or lose!) the ones they start the year with, you can bet that the colors will be the same next year and you’ll have a head start!

But what about the cute stuff?

Some kids (and parents) have a terrible time passing up all the adorable printed folders and binders and notebooks that are available this time of year. If you’re willing to buy them for your child, maybe they can use them for a journal, crafts, homework folder, or an oddball class like band or gym where the color won’t be as big a deal. 

You can also add a fun accessory like stickers, a pencil case, duct tape, or washi tape so your child can personalize his or her new stuff.

I know the back to school shopping lists drive parents crazy. But having the right tools really does make your child’s day go more smoothly and help them stay organized when they go back to school!

For more ideas about back to school organization, check out these posts on color-coding a binder system, using Google Calendar as a homework planner, and setting up a homework space at home.

Need even more? Contact me today for a free 30-minute consultation to see how online tutoring can help your child stay on track this school year!



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