Back-to-school checklist for 2021

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Back-to-school season is exciting, and it’s also riddled with shopping, anxiety, deadlines to remember, and a whirlwind of other to do's. 

Let us simplify the process with the ultimate back to school checklist!

Because let’s face it, heading back to school this year and into the classroom means an even more significant change than usual for many families. The excitement of meeting new teachers, reuniting with friends, and maybe a milestone like the first day of kindergarten or high school comes with some mixed emotions this year, right?

The truth is, kids deserve not to just go back, but to thrive, catch up, and have their best school year yet. In order to do that, it’ll take some extra adjusting, patience, and of course, making sure you’ve got all the back to school essentials ready to go. 

Challenge accepted.

First things first: you’re looking at lists of school supplies, doubtlessly a trip to Target (or two), and coordinating with family members and friends to make the transition as smooth as possible. 

Ultimate Back to School Checklist for a Great First Day

A little planning is key to kicking off the year right; this week-by-week guide will help you stay on top of things (without feeling overwhelmed) and set your child up for success in the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year. 

For ultimate organization and peace of mind, here’s a breakdown of academic considerations and “checkpoints,” if you will, to make sure your child starts off this year with their best foot forward. 

6 weeks before the first day of school

Now is the time for talking through big-picture decisions, checking in on any summer reading or other assignments, and other important things best not rushed.

Check in one-on-one with your child. Ask them how they’re feeling about heading back to school: what they’re looking forward to and where anxiety may be creeping in. That chat will help ease the transition and might guide the supports your child may need in the next few weeks. 

Decide whether full-time in-person learning, remote school, or a hybrid approach is right for your family. Then, double check your child is registered for the correct option. Odds are, this school year will look different than 2020, so now is a great time to read through the school website and any pertinent emails about what to expect inside and outside of the classroom. 

Check in on summer assignments (if your child has any). That math packet? Reading past chapter one of The Outsiders? Now is the time to get it done without a mad dash the night before the first day of school.

With your child, take a look around the house to see what school supplies you already have or could reuse. This will save time and money while shopping!

Consult the CDC back to school checklist for up-to-date expert safety tips. 

1 month before the first day of school 

A little closer to the big first day, it’s time to bust out the 2021-2022 calendar, keep an eye out for emails and school, and start penciling in some details.

Mark your family calendar with key dates like school vacations, half days, parent teacher conferences, and other important events.

Read over your child’s school shopping list carefully. Then, figure out what school supplies can be purchased online for home delivery/curbside pickup, handed down from an older sibling, and what classroom items need a trip to the store. Your list might just become a lot shorter, less stressful, and more manageable!

You’ll notice there are no markers, glue, or calculators on this list—that’s because every school and every child is different! If you aren’t sure what your student needs, now is the perfect time to reach out to their school and ask.

Is your child learning from home? Taking the bus? In a carpool? Getting those details in place now will make logistics much easier down the road (no pun intended).

Check out what after school enrichment activities are open for registration and talk with your child about what they’d like to do. By signing up for a club or team they’re excited to participate in, they’ll look forward to the start of school with more enthusiasm! 

Encourage your child to reach out to friends. Reconnecting with kids in the same boat might help boost their positivity and assuage any anxiety about heading back to school. 

1 week before the first day of school 

Complete any in-person shopping for school supplies, clothes, or groceries. Double check everything is good to go!

Determine kids’ meals schedule while at school. Whether packing a lunch or buying lunch at school (or maybe your teen is taking this responsibility on for themselves this year), talk through the plan with your child. 

Set up age-appropriate systems and organizational tools (labelling folders, designating a homework space, getting the backpack ready, etc.) 

Younger kids especially might benefit from getting back on “school time” in terms of bedtime and wake ups; the week before school is a reasonable time frame to make that adjustment.

If learning remotely or via a hybrid schedule, set up your child’s learning space with back-to-school flare! It’ll help kids stay organized and get excited for what’s to come.

Consider setting some SMART goals. Maybe your child wants to ace science or improve their homework turn-in rate—the start of a new school year is an excellent window of opportunity to dream big (and actually make it happen). 

The day of and before school starts

The beauty of a great back-to-school checklist lies in its power to reduce anxiety, stress, and pressure when it really counts, like the night before school starts! Thankfully, you’re well prepared by now and won’t need an emergency run to the store or a SparkNotes cram session.

Encourage your child to get plenty of sleep! Double check alarms are set just in case.

Help your child sort what needs to be with them day one vs. what can be phased in over the course of the week (or organized in a closet for when they eventually run out of highlighters). Your child probably won’t need to haul every single item on their school supplies list to school with them right away, and after all, they probably won’t run through all 3 glue sticks on their first day. 

Take a picture before they head to school! It might sound corny, but as any parent knows, time flies. Take some time to commemorate the moment; you’ll be glad you did 20 years from now!

Don’t just go back, go back better than ever!

We want to help students not just survive in the classroom, but THRIVE in 2021 and beyond. That’s precisely why we’re excited to offer top-notch after school programs, private tutoring, and more resources to make this year awesome for kids and stress free for parents. As you and your child prepare for the academic year, we’re here to help every step of the way.

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains.