Take Advantage of Back-to-School Deals Even if You Don’t Have a Back-to-Schooler

I love the Back-to-School season.  Even though I’m not a student anymore it doesn’t mean I have no need for school supplies – and I’ll bet you and your family need some, too.

Year-round office supplies. Every year for as long as I can remember I’ve used the super sales to stock up on most of my office supplies for the year.   Pens, pencils, notebooks, paper – there are always a ton of great loss leaders.   And loss leaders – when retailers give ridiculously low prices in hopes that you’ll spend more money on high profit items while you’re there – are a frugal Mom’s friend.

Birthday Party Favors. Once  Son was born my Back-to-School shopping took on a new dimension.  Son sports a July birthday, so in addition to my own office supplies I’ve been taking advantage of the great deals as frugal party favors.  One year I got boxes of 25 crayons for a penny apiece!  You can bet I stocked up – I had enough for 3 years of parties!

Christmas Gifts and Stocking Stuffers. For the kids, for your spouse, to donate to a charity.  Shop early and save!

In my area I’m lucky enough to have Staples, Office Depot and Office Max all close by.  And then there’s Target, K-Mart and Walmart.  I can’t wait to see what deals I’ll get this year!

And speaking of this year – Son enters kindergarten next month.  I’m so very sad that his early childhood is nearly over.  I’m unhappy that Son will be in school all day (as opposed to the 1/2 day kindergartens in many other areas).  I’m going to miss him like crazy.  And for the first time since I graduated college I’m actually going to use Back-to-School sales for someone that is actually going to school.

I already have a lot of the things on the teachers’ supply list.  A few months ago I got a $10 off $10 purchase coupon in the mail from Office Max, so I’ve got a good head start.  But Son needs a backpack, and I’d like to get him a new lunchbox (though I may wait until after school starts and they go on clearance to replace it).

So I already took advantage of Staples’ super deals this week to get Son that backpack.  Staples was offering a box of pencils for a penny and a ream of copy paper for a penny after rebate, with a limit of 2 each.  Staples also offered a $5 off $20 purchase coupon.  So, here’s how it all shook out:

Pencils                       2 boxes @  $.01  = $     .02

Copy Paper               2 reams @$3.69 = $ 7.38

Backpack, 25% off                                     = $14.99

Subtotal:                                                        $22.39

Less $5 off coupon                                       -$ 5.00

Less paper rebate                                           $7.36

Total Cost:                                                    $10.03

So, for pennies over $10 I got the backpack, 2 reams of paper (and if you live in my house with Son’s love of drawing (mostly restrooms!) you go through a ton of paper!) and 24 pencils.  Woo hoo!

Important! I admit I’ve forgotten a time or two to submit the rebate.  Never again!   Send it it!!!!

I also picked up some 25-count boxes of crayons at Target for $.25 apiece.  Hey, those penny ones didn’t last forever!

So, this Sunday I’ll be sure to check out the paper, or perhaps just visit the stores’ websites, and see where the best deals are.  And I’ll plan my week to hit the sales – as long as it’s not out of my way.  But go early for those loss leaders – sometimes they’re gone by Monday!

One more thing – check to see if your state offers a sales tax holiday, and if they do wait to buy anything that isn’t usually on sale.  Florida used to do this, but I can’t find  any info on one this year.  I hope you’re luckier!

She did WHAT?????????????

After much thought about the events of the past few days Husband and I decided in the end that it wouldbe better for Son if we kept  him in his class until the end of  the year.

So, this morning I brought him to school. The administrator was not on site, so I walked Son directly to his class.    I asked his teacher if she’d heard what happened and she didn’t want to talk about it – referred me to the office.  That was fine because I didn’t want to talk about it with her, either.  I just wanted to make sure she knew so that when I told her what a good  teacher she is and  how much I appreciate her, and specifically the way she handles the difficult child in her own class, she wouldn’t just dismiss it as a platitude.

We both got tears in our eyes, and as I started to walk away another mother asked what I was referring to.  So I told her.  And she told me about other things she’s seen this offensive teacher and others at the school do that disturbed her, and we discussed how lucky that our kids had the great teacher they have.

We continued to talk in the parking lot when the offending teacher from Monday approached me and said, “Hey, you’ve caused me a LOT of trouble.”

Alarmed, I still could not stop myself from retorting, “I caused trouble?  No, YOU caused the trouble.”

She kept approaching, accusing me of  “spreading rumors” to the other parents and making her and the school look bad.  “I told what I saw.  That’s not spreading rumors.  And there were three other women who witnessed what I did.”

When she  started to get in my face, talking about how I didn’t see what led up to what I saw and that I had no right to interfere or tell her what she did was “cruel,”  I  walked a few feet away and said, “I have nothing to say to you. ”

She then proceeded to tell her story to the three other parents standing with or near us.  About how she and the child’s mother were “like this” as she crossed her fingers, about how what she did “was cruel but his mother agrees about the way to handle him”.  About how everyone looked at the video and said she was justified.

Funny she never mentioned what the  administrator told me – that she admitted that she was wrong and was told never, ever to hold the door preventing a child from entering.

I stood there not saying much of anything – though doing a few eyerolls as she painted herself in the best possible light.  She said quite a bit, about how much she has studied and suffered and worked to become a teacher, and why would she do that if she didn’t care?  That is really a very good  question.

And about how she is a mother herself to a one year-old who acts out and she has to discipline him, and how she’s not putting up with anything like that.  Gee, that’s a big old surprise, isn’t it?

And what really got me was that two of the  parents thought I should not have intervened – that the teacher is the one trained and we should trust her judgment, and if  “people  thought they were perfect they can take their kids elsewhere”.

Yes, next time I see your child on fire I’ll go to the office first to have them determine whether or not it’s a justified fire…

I do support teachers.  Son has been disciplined  at school three times this year, and I completely supported the appropriate measures his teacher chose to take.

But there’s a difference.  A biiiiiiiiiiiiig difference.

I’m just disgusted.

So I called Husband and we agreed to remove Son from the school.   He’s very angry that I was confronted by this teacher and insists on accompanying me to complete the withdrawal, and despite his reluctance yesterday he wants to report the entire incident to the authorities.

I certainly don’t need teachers confronting me, and even if I am the only person in Florida that thinks this was inappropriate, cruel and uncalled for – no matter what the child did – then I’m really okay with that.  And it’s obviously not the place for Son.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Yesterday I saw a teacher at Son’s school do something I consider to be truly awful.  This teacher locked a three year-old child out of her class as a form of discipline, leaving the child sobbing and me livid.

I did speak to the administrator yesterday afternoon.  She agreed that the teacher made an error in judgment and told me the teacher promised not to do this again.  She then proceeded to explain to me that the teacher often had unruly children walk out of the room and come back in when they were ready to be “a new John”.

As if that’s appropriate either.

Perhaps it’s me that’s crazy.  Granted, I don’t know the first  thing about early childhood education.  But in my thinking you don’t ever have a child leave a schoolroom as a disciplinary measure, especially a pre-schooler.  How this could not be against the state rules is beyond me.  It’s one thing for a parent to have a child leave the  room within their own home.  School ain’t  home.

And to me the whole concept of asking a three year-old to come back as a “new” version of themselves is a very poor redirection indeed.  Three year-old children need specific instruction – “be a calm John”, or “be a listening Suzie”.  A three year-old cannot possibly fathom what it means to be a “new” them.

For some reason this administrator feels there is nothing wrong with the way this teacher handles this often-challenging child other than the fact that she locked the child out of the room.   I don’t profess to know the best way to handle a child with frequent behavior challenges, but there is such a child in Son’s class and Son’s teacher handles this child beautifully, always staying calm and giving the boy appropriate guidance.   And positive attention.

The administrator said the parent was going to be notified, but I’m completely positive that the whole incident will be whitewashed.  I’m fairly certain that the administrator didn’t tell the parents that their son was inconsolable, crying hysterically.  And honestly I’m more angry about the damage too the boy’s psyche.  I’d not be surprised if he remembers that incident for the rest of his life.  I know I will.

As you can imagine, this conversation with the administrator did not go well.  This isn’t  surprising, considering this is the woman who still thinks one child biting another is an “accident”.  Her defense of this poor excuse for a teacher (and the fact that this is a very …hormonal… time for me) had me absolutely incensed on the phone, talking about calling the state and considering pulling my son from the school.   I’d already planned to keep Son home today (we had a planned toured of the school where he will start kindergarten this August), and I have spent a lot of time today discussing this with Husband.

If this was Son’s teacher there is no doubt that I would have pulled him out of the school immediately.  No doubt.  At all.  Immediately.  Never to return.

However.

Son has a different teacher.  A good teacher.  He is thriving in her classroom and with less than three months to go he is learning so much.  His teacher – a first year teacher – is committed and excited and steady and thrilled to see the progress her students are making.  The children love her – and  they respect her.

Do I pull Son out of a great class because the school and it’s other teachers are lacking?

This is what I need to decide.  Soon.

Who’s Watching Your Children?

I’ve had a few issues here and there with Son’s schools, but most of the issues have been dealt with and we’ve moved forward.   I very much like Son’s teacher, as she is committed and engaged with the children and just the perfect amount of strict to keep Son on task.

After all, having a good teacher can make up for lots of poor administration issues.  Heaven help us all if Son ever gets a poor teacher, no matter how good the school is rumored to be.  I’ve noticed a few other teachers at this school that I’d not be happy with, and it has made me wonder about the availability of good employees, the level of  supervision by the administration and the involvement of the parents.  Do they know ???

There is one teacher in particular who has always concerned me.  I walk by her class every day, as her class is the only one directly off the lobby.  She always looks bored, disinterested.  As if she’d much rather be watching Jerry Springer.   She either has the kids watching a DVD, or she’s just sitting there staring off into space while the children (three year-olds) play on the computer.  I shake my head and walk on,  and get involved with what’s going on in Son’s  class.

Today when I was dropping Son off at school there was a little boy clutching his mother and sobbing.  The mother was dressed for work, tears in her own eyes as she tried to calm her son.  He just didn’t want to be at school today.   We all threw sympathetic looks at her, and I did a silent prayer thanking G-d that I didn’t have to put Son in daycare – that school is a choice for us.  The mother led her son into that class – the only one right off the lobby – and I left before she came out.

I came to pick up Son three  hours later, Nana in tow.  I’d just picked her up from the airport and she got a welcome every Nana wishes for when Son raced into her arms.  We were on our way out when I saw a boy, alone and  sobbing, trying to open a classroom door from the outside while pleading, “Let me in!”  He was trying to turn the knob, but the teacher – the same teacher I said always looks bored and disinterested – had her back to him and was not letting the boy in.  I glanced at the other mothers in the area and they all looked disturbed, and I walked over to that boy and put my arm around him and knocked on the door.

She opened the door and said, “He’s okay.”  Furious, I said, “No, he’s not.  You can’t leave him out here! It’s  cruel!  Let.  Him. In.”   She pulled him into the room while trying to reassure me.

“It’s okay,” she said,  “We do this every day.”

I was apoplectic with fury and disbelief at this point.  Talk about inappropriate punishment!  He was ALONE outside the classroom!!! Being excluded.  Crying.  I know, I don’t have to explain it to YOU…

I walked (stalked, really) over to the reception area, where the attendant (the owner’s daughter) was trying to explain school enrollment to a woman who was considering enrolling her child.  I interrupted to tell the attendant what was happening, and she  excused herself from the prospective customer and immediately went to “handle it”.

I plan to talk to the owner about the incident tomorrow.  The more I think about it the angrier I become.  In my opinion this is cause for termination.  I certainly hope that they will notify the parent of this incident, and if they don’t I’m seriously considering telling the parent myself.

That woman should not be permitted to work with children.  She compromised that child’s physical safety, and his psyche.  Add that to her general attitude of disinterest, and I’m thinking that perhaps she should just get a job where she can do no harm.  Perhaps a cemetery groundskeeper.  Or a port-a-potty cleaner.

It didn’t occur to me until I got home that this could have been the same boy that was crying this  morning.   I was honestly so horrified that I can’t recall.  But no wonder that kid didn’t want to enter that classroom.

No wonder.

Accident Schmaccident

Son got bit at school on Friday.

This didn’t thrill me, but I wasn’t angry. Kids do these things, I understand. The boys were arguing over whose turn it was to use the bathroom (is anyone surprised this story is potty-centric?). I wanted to find out what happened, how it was handled and what, if anything, needed correction. I was not irate about it, I just was being a responsible, parent, following up on a incident at school.

This morning as I dropped Son at school I approached the teachers to talk about it. The head teacher proceeded to tell me what happened, emphasizing that she didn’t see the actual bite occur, as she was outside on the playground. She told me that Son had gone inside “without permission” and tried to enter a bathroom that another boy, who HAD gotten permission, had just entered (Son, obviously, should have waited his turn).

What I didn’t like was the teacher continually stressing that Son didn’t have permission while the other boy did. If she had mentioned it once it would not have risen my ire, but with every question I had she just kept hammering that point home, never really answering my questions. I maintained that if Son was inside without permission then:

A. Neither Son nor the other boy were being properly supervised, and

B. Whether or not he had permission to be inside was irrelevant to the other boy choosing to bite and the school’s subsequent handling of the incident.

I couldn’t get her to get past the permission issue to give me the details of what actually happened. I understand that she’s just trying to mitigate her own culpability (which the school director later dismissed as “human nature”) in this molehill incident, but her unwillingness to shift and discuss the actual incident was giving me a mountain of frustration and irkedness.

The other thing that kept me from just letting it go was that they kept calling it “an accident”. I immediately took issue with that characterization. It was most decidedly NOT an accident. Dropping a book on one’s toe is an accident. This was a deliberate act; an incident; the result of a poor choice. This is not an indictment of nor judgment about the child, but he – and Son – and the other children – need to understand that it was a poor choice to bite. NOT an accident. I don’t believe it serves Son or the other boy to whitewash what happened, or give them a way to dismiss poor behavior by shifting the accountability from themselves to whatever nebulous being in the karmic universe causes accidents.

Completely unsatisfied by the conversation with his teacher, and given that the teacher was unable to give me any more information, she suggested I speak with the school director. She wasn’t there yet, so I arrived before the normal pickup time to meet with her.

It was equally unsatisfying, for more reasons than I’ll talk about here. First, her story about what happened was very different from the teacher’s. I pointed out to the director this was not the first time I’d seen children slip unnoticed from the playground into the building, and have in fact stopped a few myself. This she dismissed with excuses that the children see their mother is coming (sometimes, but often I am the only parent approaching), and that the teachers are busy trying to ensure that each child leaves with the correct parent (a very important task).

I’m sorry, but if your system isn’t working develop a new one.

In my meeting with the director I also learned why the word “accident” is used so liberally, and incorrectly. When something like this happens each child gets a report in their file. The “offender” gets an “Incident Report”; the “offendee” an “Accident Report”. It’s so very ingrained in their vernacular to use the word “accident” that getting the school to use a more fitting word just is not going to happen. These are government forms. A very poor choice of words, likely designed to discourage litigation. Anyone think I can get the state to change the name of the forms? Me neither.

I’m a pretty good communicator, at least most of the time. I know and understand that often these things happen so quickly they’re over before even the most attentive parent or teacher can react. I did not enter Son’s school today planning to make a big fuss about the incident. Just find out what happened, have them tell me, have them assure me that if there was anything they could do better, they would, and if there was anything I could do better, they’d tell me that, too. Then move on.

Apparently that’s too much to expect.

Should it be?

Lessons in Patience

My son started school last week, and already they are giving homework. It’s just writing letters, but since Son has always exhibited a huge lack of interest in writing he’s just not that good at it.

I was so proud when he started to write his name, and he seemed to pick it up quickly. As soon as he did it he immediately lost interest in letters, preferring numbers instead. The interest in numbers waned quickly too, and for the past several months the only thing he’s written or drawn are toilets and urinals.

Yes, I said toilets and urinals. And those not that often. I kept offering coloring and writing, but didn’t push it since I knew I’d have him in school 5 days a week this fall. And I didn’t want to turn him off to writing by demanding that he do so…

So here we are, and he can make all of the letters, just not well. So he’s gotten homework, and as we sat down to do it last night I was willing and eager to assist him in writing better.

What I didn’t count on was his complete lack of interest and attention, and his utter lack of understanding that it was time to be serious. I also didn’t count on the effect my raging hormones would have on the entire process.

It was not pretty. Suffice to say that we both ended up in time out.

Sigh.

So tonight Husband – the same Husband that when G-d was handing out patience thought He said “syphilis” and ran in the other direction – took it upon him self to print up some handwriting practice sheets. He sat down with Son and practiced writing for quite some time, showing enthusiasm and great interaction and patience, none of which I had when I sat down with Son.

I learned several things from this wonderful event. First, I think homeschooling is definitely OUT, at least with me as the educator. Second, I really should do as the ancients did and go live in a cave when I’m menstruating. Society would be safer. Seriously.

Third, my Husband, whom I have known for twenty-three years, does indeed have patience. And, three to five days a month, he has more than I have.

Who woulda thunk?

What I’m Doing Today

First let me tell you what I’m not doing.

I’m not decluttering.

I’m not running errands.

I’m not cleaning.

I’m not shopping.

I’m not meeting with realtors.

I’m not going to the library.

I’m not cleaning out any closets.

I’m also not curing cancer, worrying about Obama or McCain, or getting a pedicure.

What I’m doing today, my dear friends, is spending the day completely focused on Son. Monday Son starts going to preschool 5 days a week, so today is the end of…something. The end of lazy days cuddling in bed after Daddy goes to work, the true end of his babyhood, the end of overseeing every aspect of his life. The end of our special time together that has been more precious to me than anything.

But it’s also the beginning. The beginning of organized learning, of new people and new places and new worlds. The beginning of life not always safe in my arms. The beginning of independence and self-reliance and the dawn of a new confidence.

How utterly craptastic.

So today it’s me and him, and some pool time, and some bounce houses, and some playing with his friend A. And I’ll do my best to be in the moment with him, enjoying him.

That’s what I’m doing today.

Where’s my Dadgum Sales Tax Holiday?

I ran across this article listing tax holidays state by state. Our ten-day tax holiday gives us a break on clothing, school supplies, backpacks and other items, and is always in August (at least since Jeb! was in office). I wanted to confirm the dates, and I was puzzled when I didn’t see Florida’s holiday listed.
The tax holiday must be approved each year, and this year the politicians do all the usual posturing, using three million words to say nothing at all. Florida politicians were so scared about losing revenue they were reluctant to approve any loss of income, and consumers are once again paying the price.

First, there was one. Then, there wasn’t to be one. Then, maybe there would be a shortened one. Then, there was confusion. The dadgum politicians dragged their asses until it was too late.

What’s so ridiculous is how short-sighted this indecision was. This tax break is real economic stimulus. Consumers feel good getting a little break, and it gets them into the stores. Many are likely spend more than they would have otherwise. Frugal shoppers like me are in heaven when they can take advantage ofgreat deals and save another 6-8% on tax. Every year I buy school supplies to use as stocking stuffers and gift bag items at great savings.

Retailers win, consumers win, and the state wins because they will get tax money on non-exempt items. The tax holiday saved Floridians anywhere between $41 and $46 million last year. They also jettisoned a similar tax holiday on hurricane supplies. That $12 million break, in place since the devastating hurricane seasons of 2004-2005, was removed from the budget in May.

I know balancing the state budget is a very difficult process. And I really appreciate that we still have no state income tax.

But really, come on. What’s $46 million between friends?

I WANT MY SALES TAX HOLIDAY! Ahem.

You Know What I Did This Summer – Save Money!

The Life Network is running a Summer Savings Series with articles on how to save this summer. Here’s my entry!

Summer provides its own unique opportunities to save money. This summer is no exception, so I’m hot on the trail of ways to keep cool, and save money.

  1. Taking Son out of Preschool. I’ve been paying $50 per week for a year and a half to send Son to school two mornings per week. Since we’ll spend about a month on vacation this summer we decided to pull Son out of school. We’d already decided to switch him to a new school this August anyway (and under our state’s free Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program it will be free!), and since we would have had to pay for the four weeks he wasn’t there we thought we’d give him a true summer off.
  2. Planning our vacations to stay with family. Both of the vacations we planned this summer are to visit family. This is a win for us in many ways because we love to visit and spend time with our families, we love the areas where they live (New England and the mountains of North Carolina), and we save by not having to pay for our accommodations. That said, we try to be good guests by paying for meals for everyone, pitching in with chores and projects, and cleaning up after ourselves.
  3. Taking outgrown clothing to consignment. Now that I’m sure we won’t be having any more children (sniff) I finally found a couple of local consignment stores specializing in children’s clothing. I’ve already consigned a large amount of Son’s clothing, and plan to do more. The money we raise will go into our long-term savings, and we get the added bonus of less clutter!
  4. Driving less. Except for our one driving vacation, I’m doing a lot less driving this summer. I’m taking advantage of our community pool, and trying to cut down on my errands. I’m also following my own advice on how to save money on gas.
  5. More cold or barbecued dinners. Salads, sandwiches, corn on the grill. That’s what summer cuisine is all about. If it weren’t for the occasional trips to the ice cream store we’d save even more (Yes, I know we could buy or make it at home, but there’s just something about going to an ice cream parlor and sharing a summer evening in coned camaraderie with fellow connoisseurs…)!

What are you doing to save money this summer?

Frugal and Heartwarming … Perfect for Dad

Father’s Day crafts are in the curriculum for, I’m guessing, every preschool in the country this week. Son’s school is no exception.

When I picked him up from school yesterday the teacher handed me their chosen craft, and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it. It also made me wonder why they used a foot stand-in because feet so large certainly do not belong to my little boy!

But indeed they do. They had to talk Son into taking off his socks, as he thought it would be a great idea to leave his socks on.

Click on the photo to see it larger – and be able to read it without granny glasses. It’s easy enough to make at home, so I encourage you all to steal this idea. We’re going to frame it.

And no, I didn’t miss the numerous punctuation errors and misspelling. Just another little thing that shouldn’t happen coming out of a school, and another reason I’m happy I decided that enough is enough. Son’s last day is Tuesday, and he will be going to another school this fall.

Still, this school has been a good experience for Son. It’s funny how well this project represents our experience of this school: sloppy and fuzzy, but its heart is in the right place.

%d bloggers like this: