It’s back to school time, already?! Today on Enjoying Family Life, I’m sharing the annual Back to School Guide 2021. It’s filled with all the best items from clothes and shoes to books and hair gadgets.
Enjoying Family Life Back to School Guide 2021
Chalk markers, giant post-it notes, and big plan books used to excite me so much at this time of year when I was a classroom teacher in a brick and mortar school. Now that I stay home, I can fully focus on how to prepare my own children to have a successful year.
I used to wish I was one of those parents who had the time to plan personalized printed labels for their children’s supplies, and now I’m actually that organized! Don’t worry, I linked everything here so you can have a convenient and stress-free experience putting together your back-to-school shopping list too. It’s going to be an A+ school year!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking on this, I will receive a payment.
The Sammie and Georgie Show did an awesome job trying out everything in this guide and putting together a fun photo shoot with it all! The first half covers Sammie’s Picks, which are perfect for tween girls going into middle school, and the second half are Georgie’s picks for elementary school.
Moving up to middle school is a big change that requires new gear for the transition. Check out the items that Sammie selected as her top picks for the new school year.
Middle School Attire
Since tweens like to have their own unique sense of style, OTBT Court in Star Sneakers are a great pick for back-to-school shoes. This brand new style of sneakers also appeal to a sense of environmental stewardship.
Sammie always has a big heart and a meaningful cause to focus on, and she looks for ways to help the Earth. These Greener Sneakers are made with less water, and more natural and recycled materials. Every pair also helps preserve one acre of rainforest in Brazil.
Mightly Clothing sent all the clothing for our shoot. Clothes for middle school kids can be difficult to find. Some stores have too trendy of styles when the sizing gets to her age.
With Mightly Clothing, the simple, comfortable wardrobe essentials have an appropriate style for older girls. Even as she gets closer to being as tall as I am, the basic tee-shirts fit nicely, and they come in a 3-pack of various colors. Now that all the basic, essential items are in her closet, she can focus her styling ambitions on layering with jackets and sweaters as the weather gets cooler.
Since the leggings have reinforced knees to prevent holes, they are perfect for focusing on sports and athletics. She made it a goal to be more active this year, and with pants like this, she can always get in some more exercise.
This is also a good time to go through dressers and toss old underclothing and pajamas. Replace them with these comfortable, tagless underclothing, which have a bit of stretch. Also to update the pajama drawer, the geometric-shaped pajamas have a fun, energetic style.
Tween Beauty Essentials
Middle school means much earlier mornings for us. Although it is going to be a rush to get out the door, taking the time to be presentable matters. One solution to make the morning routine go more quickly is to prep hair the night before. Then, briefly using a hair dryer adds style to dry hair in the morning.
The Bombay Hair Dryer offers a salon-quality blow out experience with positive and negative ion settings. With two concentrators and one diffusor, hair is frizz-free whether it is styled with waves or straight.
It also matters to me that my daughter is learning healthy, natural ways to care for herself. Another gadget that makes hair care fun at this age is Robe Curls, a heat-free way to create curls or waves overnight. Robe Curls are comfortable to sleep on — I tried this tool out out myself — and they help show my daughter how simple it can be to not damage hair when styling it.
Relaxation matters after a long day at school! With the Amba Heated Towel Rack, heating a towel before using it is a simple way to make each shower feels like a spa experience. In winter, this will be used daily!
Must-Have Academic Items
School becomes much more rigorous in middle school with courses focused on preparing for high school as well as a career. These items help with preparing for academics.
Being able to sort through a backpack at the end of the day matters. With the Addio Design Co. Atlas Backpack Stand in Arctic White, it’s easy to make sure assignments get returned to school along with textbooks and other day-to-day essentials. The backpack stand also helps organize charging cables, and it has a place to hold headphones. Since devices will continue to be used in school next year, it is helpful that the top part works as a stand for tablets and phones.
The Fenrici Galaxy Backpack has a sharp look, and it is very spacious. Inside, there is room for a laptop, book, binder, and water bottle. It is also comfortable with a nice fit.
By sharing real-life connections, the math book makes it clear why learning the concepts taught in school matters. It shows how to calculate the value that a home project can add to a home sale, how much gasoline would cost on a road trip, and depreciation on a new automobile.
In the grammar book, all the essentials about academic writing are in one place making it simple to review key concepts when writing papers.
Trying to keep up with everything a teacher goes over can be a challenge. Having workbooks at home to refer to throughout the year helps. Brain Quest Grade 6 is Sammie’s pick because the activities are more fun than other workbooks, and the activities contain short explanations that are simple to understand.
As a previous 6th grade teacher, I like that the material is enriching, engaging, and academically challenging. The writing section is focused on preparing students to do formal writing and research, while the math sections are nicely divided into topics like Ratios and Proportions, Expressions and Equations, and Statistics and Probability.
Simply skimming through to see the names of all the different topics covered helps her feel more confident. It helps her become more familiar with the academic vocabulary that teachers would expect her to know.
Making a love of learning part of our family’s daily routine is simple with Brain Question 7th Grade Q&A Cards. These trivia cards come out at dinner and we all compete to see who can get the correct answer. It’s a fun way to cover topics that might have been skipped over in school and to boost confidence when these topics are introduced for the first time in the classroom. The questions cover all subjects, and they include fun facts.
Everything You Need to Ace World History provides a condensed overview for social studies beginning with the first humans in prehistory all the way up to post-WWII. Along the way, it also shares different ancient civilizations typically covered in 6th grade, such as Mesopotamia, Africa, India, China, Greece, and Rome. The information is organized with easy-to-read text features, color, graphics, and definitions that are large, bold, and highlighted.
Now, the Everything You Need series offers high school study guides like Everything You Need to Ace Geometry. I have been impressed with how challenging her school’s math program is, and before long, she’ll be ready to look at this for assistance. She has been learning about angles and shapes as she’s heading into 8th grade math this year, and looking at this book would give her an idea of what she will have to do with this information in the future.
To help with math, the Casio fx-9750GIII Calculator is a menu-driven graphing calculator with new functions, like eActivity and spreadsheets. It has the option to add-on Python, Geometry, Physium, and Probability apps. It’s a much more-powerful calculator with increased memory. For her level of math, some of the most helpful calculations it can do would be converting square roots from standard or simplified form to decimal form, the fraction template to help with order of operations, and easily showing scientific notation. Being able to set up the problem the way it is written in class can help with accuracy.
As an inspirational gift for students, the small book Mindful Thoughts for Students: Nurture Your Mind, Flourish in Life comes with big ideas! It focuses on mindfulness as a strategy to have a calm presence while going through the busy school year. One helpful tip the book shares is to actively connect with teachers because in building those relationships, an understanding of the material deepens as well.
Taking a break from a busy day of learning is rewarding when the lunch that is packed looks delicious. Learning to eat healthy matters at this age, and it is also a good time to encourage kids to learn how to pack their own nutritious lunch. She likes that her Fenrici Galaxy Lunchbox matches her backpack with its beautiful star-inspired design. Of course it’s important not to lose the lunchbox. Mabels Labels Middle School Label Pack in a Constellation design matches perfectly. These can be customized with first and last name with the option to choose a preferred font. Inside the lunchbox, the Washaway School Lunchbox Notes in Ice Cream Cone are a place for Mom to leave reminders and notes of encouragement.
In her Fenrici Bento Box, she plans to pack turkey wraps with lettuce and sliced carrots cut into sushi-style bites. Lunch dessert is a special treat. Veggie chocolate muffins made with real carrots and zucchini help make sure the dessert is another nutritious part of the meal. Since the bento box comes with its own utensils, coming to lunchtime prepared is simple.
During lunchtime or when my daughter is out playing lacrosse and tennis after school having to refill her water bottle on-the-go at unfiltered water fountains, I trust the Epic Water Filter in her high-quality sporty Nalgene water bottle to make sure the water safe to drink.
The filtration system begins with an activated coconut carbon fiber mesh surface areas that adsorbs contaminants such as cysts, heavy metals, chemicals & pharmaceuticals. Plus the depth filtration involves the removal of suspended waste products.
For myself when I’m rushing from drop-off and pick-up at two different schools, the 48-ounce Phil Lewis Special Edition water bottle helps me keep up with my health goals too. Since it has such a large size, I always can make sure to get close to the ideal goal of drinking around 74 ounces a day.
Organization is the key to getting through middle school with confidence. By this age, organization is expected in school, but not always taught. These tools can help.
Class Tracker has the Middle School Edition Planner that is perfectly designed for this age. It has a sturdy, poly protected cover that will last. Inside, each week is divided into subjects with two open areas to fill in with classes that aren’t listed, and there is a separate section for after-school reminders.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to keep track of a daily to-do list. There’s so much to remember in addition to school, like practicing music, getting 8-hours of sleep, using allowance wisely, and exercising. Class Tracker Be Your Best You Notebook Collection helps teach how to track these different things.
In the Habits notebook, she lists habits she needs to make sure she does daily, like taking vitamins and doing her chores, and she checks them off when she does them. The Passions notebook can help with keeping track of music practice and other hobbies. There are also Budget, Workouts, and Sleep notebooks. Visit the Class Tracker Store to see more items they have.
Another organizational tool is bullet journaling. Since bullet journaling offers flexibility in how you set it up, it has a creative aspect that can be intriguing at this age to kids who enjoy using color and adding charts.
Study with Me: Effective Bullet Journaling explains in detail the benefits of writing plans in various ways, such as a yearly plan, monthly plan, weekly plan, daily plan, as well as making a plan for studying. It even shows how to set up journal pages to learn from mistakes in Algebra, how to create a reference guide for Geometry & Trigonometry, how to set up a vocabulary guide for Foreign Languages, and how to manage large projects in Language Arts. Creating a bullet journal following these methods can allow students to feel more empowered as learners.
Although this might not be a big milestone year as it is for her sister, returning to in-person school is a big deal for Georgie. She can’t wait to be in a classroom making friends and getting to know the teacher. Check out the things that will make this a smooth transition.
Keeping track of reading logs and permission slips is simple using the Addio Design Collective Golden Hour Backpack Stand to have convenient access to the take-home folder.
She also uses the stand to attach her phone tripod to when she has virtual music lessons. Previously, the tripod was attached directly to the piano. Every time she went to adjust the tripod so her teacher could see where her fingers were on the piano, it would fall. However, the small ledge on the backpack stand holds the phone tripod up sturdily so she can focus on learning and not become distracted by the technology.
On the backpack stand, she has her new Fenrici Mermaid Kids’ Backpack. This company’s designs are cute and fun.
On gym days and for tennis and lacrosse, Bellefixe Sport Hair Accessories help hold hair back. They have many different styles too, including scrunchies, small handbands, and hair ties, all of which have sweat-wicking material with stretch and a snug fit.
For a preppy schoolgirl-style, the BelleFixe Cottage Collection has a pretty look that goes great with a jean jacket and a basic shirt. The headbands help keep hair out of her eyes when writing in class, and it create a nice put-together look to impress the teachers. This collection comes in a variety of plaid and blue stripes, which come as headbands, headwraps, hair scarfs, and scrunchies.
Inside the lunchbox, the Bento Box has compartments to help keep all her food separated. While at home this year, she enjoyed snacking throughout the day on snack trays that had a cute presentation. Some days, I carved watermelon, and everything was always cut into adorable shapes or wearing edible eyeballs to make the food come to life. Although I will miss our snack time together, being able to open up the lunchbox to see a reminder of our time together will be a nice moment in the day.
Another way to remind her that my thoughts are always with her during the school day is Mabel’s Labels Washaway School Lunchbox Notes. Each day, I can write a new message, and wipe it away to create a new one.
To keep track of her lunchbox and make sure it doesn’t get lost, she will use the Stylish School Label Pack in the matching French Bulldog style. These labels work on everything, including water bottles, jackets, and even shoes.
I didn’t think I would need shoe labels until a recent playdate when she had the exact same sandals in the same size as another child, they both kicked their sandals off to swing, and now we’ll never know for sure if they’re the same ones. Things like that can happen at school too without anyone necessarily knowing. Labels are essential this year, especially since we’re trying to avoid bringing germs home.
Switching from virtual schooling to homeschooling mid-year made me wonder if I was covering everything that her school teacher would have. Brushing up on some concepts over the summer can help ensure that she’s on the right track academically.
Looking towards the year ahead of her, the BrainQuest Grade 4 workbook contains an overview of all the main concepts she’ll need to know. This past year, I used the Grade 3 workbook in homeschooling, and it helped make sure we covered all the sub-topics within different subjects.
There are also fun activities, like a non-fiction reading assignment based on following a recipe for Apple Butter and Potato Chip Sandwiches. Making such an interesting recipe caught her attention and kept her engaged in writing out the answers to the questions.
It’s always helpful to have a spare book to read in school. One interesting pick is Kid Innovators: True Tales of Childhood from Inventors and Trailblazers. This book covers what childhood was like for innovators who include Grace Hopper, Elon Musk, Alan Turing, Maria Montessori, and more. Reading about how these incredible people became inspired and acted on that inspiration shows that anything is possible.
The Wild World Handbook: Habitats is another engaging read. Different sections focus on issues, such as The Incredible Shrinking Ozone Hole as well as short biographical sections, such as The Creative Conservationist Ansel Adams. It also includes ways to make a difference in the world, suggested field trip ideas, and DIY activities.
What are your back-to-school recommendations?
Having much of our shopping list done helps us feel more organized and ready to take on the new school year. What would you recommend? Share suggestions in the comments!