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Back-to-School: It's More Than Shopping

A new GreatSchools survey finds that most parents consider shopping to be their number-one back-to-school activity.

By GreatSchools Staff

To learn what parents across the country are doing to get their children ready for going back to school, GreatSchools conducted the Back-to-School Benchmark Survey in July 2008. The findings revealed that while most parents are engaged in back-to-school shopping, they may be overlooking other important ways they can help their children prepare for a new school year.

According to the survey, parents are more than twice as likely to shop for supplies and clothes for their children as to:

  • Find out what their children will be learning in the new school year
  • Meet the new teachers
  • Adjust their children's sleep schedule
  • Get their children on a nutritional breakfast schedule
  • Increase their children's reading time
  • Reduce their children's video/computer game playing time

"Shopping has become synonymous with back to school, but parents are searching for more meaningful guidance about preparing their children to transition back to the classroom," noted Bill Jackson, GreatSchools' founder and CEO. "GreatSchools is having that conversation with parents, by connecting them with practical advice on how to effectively prepare their children."

Shopping Gets All the Attention

Parents are spending more time and money on back-to-school shopping than on fundraising or volunteering for their children's schools, according to the survey. In fact, they are more than three times as likely to plan out their back-to-school shopping as they are to know how much time they will volunteer at their children's school.

Where Do Parents Get Their Back-to-School Information?

Most parents rely primarily on schools and teachers for information about back-to-school preparation. A small minority turn to other parents, their school district or the Internet for advice. Seventeen percent of parents in the survey do not seek out or have information about back-to-school preparation.

"Schools are simply too over-taxed and under-resourced to provide everything to every parent, so the Web is a natural resource," said Jackson. "GreatSchools is serving as a partner to parents by providing them with easy, low-cost ways to help their children prepare mentally and physically for back to school and return to the classroom with a positive attitude."

The Right Kind of Back-to-School Preparation

While 71% of parents try to get their children back on their school-night sleep schedules, only a minority take the additional steps that education experts recommend, such as increasing reading time and reducing TV/video time.

Adjusting sleep schedules: What the experts say

Children naturally resist giving up their summer freedoms - staying up late and sleeping in being two of the most prized. But parents who are firm and enforce a return to the school sleep schedule a few weeks before school starts will reap the benefits in less cranky, more alert children for the first week of school.

Comments from readers

"This article is very interesting. Please provide back-to-school tips for parents of students with learning disabilities, or who may have other special circumstances, virtual schooling, distance learning, etc."
"This was a great link to look over, very interesting! And the fact that it is so helpful! It's always tough to get back into the swing of things after a very busy summer and late night up with the kids!!! Thank-you! "