How to make back-to-school prep less stressful

"I definitely think it's a chaotic time for parents."

Freeport, ME, United States  -- A detail of an upcoming print design on a kid's book bag in a design workroom at L.L. Bean in Freeport, ME on Monday, August 29, 2016. (Yoon S. Byun for the Boston Globe) Slug: 31backpacks Reporter: Megan Woolhouse LOID: 8.2.4107535225
An L.L. Bean backpack. –Yoon S. Byun for The Boston Globe

We’re more than halfway through August, and that means parents across New England are preparing their children for a new school year.

“I definitely think it’s a chaotic time for parents,” said Yeshi Lamour, principal of Holmes Elementary School, a K-5 school in Dorchester. “Everyone is kind of doing ‘the dance’ right now.”

‘The dance,’ as Lamour puts it, means parents are scrambling to buy all the necessary supplies — the folders, pencils, backpacks, and clothes. Lamour was a teacher for seven years before becoming a principal six years ago. She gave the following advice for parents looking to take some of the stress out of this busy time of year.

1. A back-to-school supply list will help keep you within your budget

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It seems that everywhere you look right now, you’ll find a dizzying array of school supplies at local stores — bins full of colorful markers, pencils, erasers, and folders. It’s easy to buy more than you need, Lamour said, so it’s best to stick to a list.

“Less is more,” she said. “The first day, [your child should take] maybe one notebook and a couple of pencils and then wait to see what you should be required to purchase. Don’t go out and exhaust your budget with unnecessary materials.”

Also take note of a supply list if your child receives one from his or her teacher prior to the first day of school.

“As a teacher, I would create a back to school letter for my parents that I would mail,” Lamour said. “I would generally say, ‘Here are some of the basic needs your child should have.’ I generally didn’t want my parents to go and spend like $100 on materials that we weren’t going to use.”

If your teacher doesn’t send a list, Lamour suggested asking your school secretary.

“A lot of our secretaries are back at this point, so secretaries should have some good information,” she said.

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She also noted that Staples has lists of suggested materials your child may need based on grade level. Just ask a store manager for help if you don’t print one out before you head to the store.

2. Know that school clothes shopping can wait

If your schedule is filling up quickly, you can finish shopping for school clothes after classes begin, Lamour said. With warm weather typical of the first weeks of school, kids still will be wearing summer clothes anyway.

The 370 students at Lamour’s school wear uniforms and have items to match the seasons, such as short- and long-sleeved shirts, she said. If your school requires uniforms and you aren’t sure where to shop, once again, your school secretary is a great resource, Lamour said.

“She’ll be able to direct you where to go, the phone number, and even how to get to the uniform store,” she said.

3. Make sure the lines of communication are open with your school

In order to receive the aforementioned mailed supply letter from your child’s teacher, you need to make sure the school has your most up-to-date contact information, Lamour said. If your house address, email address, or phone number has changed, call the school and let the secretary know.

You should also stay on top of school news. Lamour recommended getting familiar with your school’s website, and following its Facebook page and Twitter account, if it has them. Lamour’s school sends automated phone calls to remind parents of important information, she said, which is another reason why up-to-date contact information is so important.

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“Having a two-way partnership in terms of communication is essential,” Lamour said.

4. Learn your school’s policy on electronic devices

Before you get into a back-and-forth with your child about whether or not he or she can bring an electronic device to school this year, check with your school to determine its policy, Lamour said. You may be surprised to learn that devices are not only allowed, but welcome.

“It’s definitely a call-your-school-ahead-of-time thing,” Lamour said.

At Holmes Elementary, Lamour has what she calls a “BYOD” policy, which stands for “Bring Your Own Device.”

“We are beginning to encourage students to bring their own devices,” she said. “That could mean a tablet or a phone, depending on how the teacher integrates technology into her instruction.”

She said devices in her school are seen as ways to enhance a child’s ability to learn and do research.

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