Tuesday Tips: Back to School

24 08 2010

Today, as we’re getting educated in getting ready to go back to school, we’ll look at tips on how to make the transition a little easier. Whether you have little ones in elementary school, or heading to the college dorms, we have a host of tips today on everything from school supplies to paying for tuition.

Supplies

  • If your little one brings home a stack of books to cover, use clear contact paper. This protects the cover, but still allows you to see which book is which. One roll should easily be able to cover all books, and it peels off easily at the end of the school year. If your tweenager wants a little more personal touch, contact paper now comes in all kinds of patterns — from lace to neon colors, flowers to faux wood. There’s something for everyone. (And you can use the rest to line those drawers you’ve been meaning to get to once they’re off on the school bus.)
  • Keep your eyes open at the office when colleagues are throwing away three-ring binders, pocket folders, or other supplies that are outdated there, but might be useful. Donate these much needed supplies to your local school. They can usually use anything they can get, or pass them along to underprivileged students. Extra credit if you donate a package of stickers or permanent markers to go along. Company logos can be covered up with a student’s own personal touch.
  • Keep those kids learning with a fun activity even on the weekend. Buy a map (your state, country, or world) and glue to a large poster board. Have the little ones cut out around border lines, and there you have it — a map puzzle, and a geography lesson in one!
  • Bringing a lunch is often much healthier than the ones they serve at school, but here’s a cool alternative to a lunch box, for your older ones who might find the pony/swan/robot/other cartoon character boxes a little too geeky for their taste.

Funding your Tuition

  • If you’re interested in sending your little ones to private school, or even if they are attending a university in town, look into a job at the educational institution. There are often discounts, or even free, tuition for employees.
  • If you must borrow, think of it as an investment into your future, but consider borrowing against your life insurance. Oftentimes, the interest rate is more reasonable than student loans from the bank.
  • When looking at houses, consider that you can live wherever you want in town. Rather than paying extra on your mortgage to live in the area with the good school, liver nearer to work, your favorite parts of town, or wherever. Then put that extra money you might have spent living in the “right” neighborhood into sending your children to a great private school. Never thought you could afford a private education, right?
  • When it’s time to look for scholarships to college, spend a Saturday at the library. Make a list of every social organization, religious group, and ethnic origins your family might have connections too. There are tons of books that offer smaller scholarships to different groups. Check out the Encyclopedia of Associations and then look up their website for the ones that might match your place in the world. I literally had a high school friend who got hundreds of the smaller scholarship just by writing a few essays, spending a small bit on a roll of stamps to send them in, and not only paid for college, books, and housing, but had enough to buy a brand new car. Those smaller amounts add up! If you check in the fine print, many of the scholarships don’t only have to be used for tuition, but for any expenses.
  • Have your little students enter essay contests all throughout their school career. They’re getting great writing practice, and can put any prize money they win into a college fund early. And remember, any scholarships are tax-free income, so it’s time well spent.
  • If you’re still working to pay off that student loan, look into becoming a teacher in a shortage area. Many states offer student loan pay-offs if you’ll give two or three years to the need. Or if you’re in the job market, look for companies that offer tuition reimbursement or assistance.

Learning Outside of School

We all want to be lifelong learners! You don’t have to enroll in years of study or dish out thousands of dollars to learn plenty. Here are a few ways:

  • Kids who are exposed to regular dinner table conversation do better on vocabulary and reading tests than those who aren’t. You don’t have to be “learning” to be learning. So turn off the t.v., stay home tonight, or cancel one of the too-many activities your family has and have dinner together. You’ll get closer by spending a little quality time together, and help your kids in school!
  • If you’re the average American driver, you spend about the equivalent of a college semester in your car per year. Listen to books on disk during your commute, and you’ve possibly spent 250 hours learning! You can often check out many titles from your local library, or download podcasts and lessons from iTunes U.
  • Consider auditing a class or two occasionally to learn about a particular subject. You can further your career, or just learn a new hobby if there’s a university in your area (and there probably is), by just paying a smaller fee, and you won’t even have to enroll if you only take two or three courses there.
  • Many colleges, such as MIT, are offering their courses online these days. You won’t get any credit, but you’ll probably get a better education if you’re learning for the pleasure of it, and taking enjoyment out of the subject. And, it’s free! Also, check out self-educating books such as The Well-Educated Mind, How to Read, and the “For Dummies” series.
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