Friday, September 2, 2011

Back to School

It's Back to School time around here.  I know many of you this time has come and gone, but our kids start back in just 6 days so we are working to get everything ready for a great school year.

My boys attend a nature-based Montessori school that's just on the other side of our church from our house. We love to walk through the woods to school. They attend Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9-1pm. We love the school with its home-like atmosphere, Montessori program, organic garden, and farm animals. In return for a discount on our tuition, I watch a class during the lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays and my family takes care of the animals (3 goats, 1 sheep, and about a dozen chickens) on one weekend day and half of the holidays. It's a wonderful community of which we are glad to be a part.
Road and school grounds flooded during Hurricane Irene
Right now, that community is struggling as the school sustained a substantial amount of damage from Hurricane Irene with their lower classroom and basement storage areas being completely flooded. The community is rallying to get things repaired and ready for the start of the school, but it has been heart-breaking and stressful for the director and staff.

Beginning clean up - the process of removing everything from the flooded rooms
In the meantime, I am still working to get our boys ready for school. I have two main goals when it comes to Back to School shopping. First, buy as little as possible. Second, buy as safe as possible.

First on my list is always lunch gear. Another thing I love about our school is that they ask us to provide no-waste healthy lunches (including cloth napkins for cleaning up and for a place mat because they eat outside at picnic tables weather permitting) and even compost any food scraps. Last year we used Goodbyn lunch boxes, and they were cute and simple. I even got a great deal on them. I don't plan on switching out lunch boxes and backpacks every year as I think that is unneccesarily wasteful if they products are still in working condition, but I am continuing to minimize our family's exposure to plastic especially around our food, so the Goodbyns would have to go.

After some research, we decided to get SugarBooger Zippee! Lunch Totes. They fit my criteria of being BPA, Phthlalate, Lead, & PVC-free plus they were cute and not too pricey. We also invested in Kleen Kanteen water bottles for each boy's lunch so that we wouldn't always be searching for their other water bottles they use in the car and when out and about. They were a great price, too!
I also ordered bamboo sporks for each child's lunch box so utensils would be simple. We already have lots of cloth napkins, so I will designate and label two napkins for each child. For the rest of the food storage, we'll use some of the reusable storage bags, stainless steel or glass containers that we already have. Then we fill those lunch boxes with healthy, homemade food. We avoid processed and prepackaged snacks. We do yogurt, fresh fruit, veggies and dip, homemade crackers or granola bars, sandwiches when we have homemade bread, wraps, pasta dishes, or leftovers from meals.
A spork! Fun, right?
What else do they need for school? Well, our kids need slippers! When they get to school they take off their shoes and put on their slippers keeping the home-like classroom nice and clean and encouraging the children to comfortable. My little guy fits in some hand-me-down slippers, and my big guy fits in his slippers from last year. In the interest of buying as little as possible, they will use those until they grow out of them mid-year when I will replace them. This will mean the next pair will last longer than if I bought new automatically for the beginning of the school year. I love to buy my slippers on etsy supporting handmade artists. I got my first son's first pair that my second son will be wearing this year for $15 including shipping!

They are these except brown with green guitars  from Scire4's Etsy shop. (Photo credit).
As far as clothes, I'm waiting to go through the things that don't fit and take them to a resale shop near here,  then using the credit to fill in the gaps in their sizes and seasons. I try to be as frugal as possible, while buying earth and child-friendly. I'm looking to replace many of our fabrics with organics at the same time. I'll also be using the last of Mabel's Labels to help label all our gear. Luckily, we're good with backpacks this year, but I'll be doing my research this year for when we need to replace them.

So what am I missing? What are your favorite back-to-school buys or gear? What's important to you when it comes back-to-school shopping?

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