Back to School Basics

Vacation is over and it is time to face school again. Are you ready? I know, you don’t want to be but look at the bright side. All your friends are going to be there. Together you can survive another school year, can’t you? If the answer is yes, then you better hit school in style. Here are some essential things you must have to go back to school this year.

1. Notebooks: You cannot possibly go to school without notebooks. How else can you take notes or do assignments? While there are lots of plastic-coated, fancy notebooks available all over, why not up the ante and get some eco-friendly lokta notebooks. Remember, eco-friendly is the new cool. Color and pattern is not an issue, since these durable, hardcover notebooks come in endless color options. Stand out in the crowd of hundreds of schoolmates with these super-cool lokta books.

2. Pens and pencils: Again. You cannot go to school without the most important tool – writing instruments. This year, skip the fuss of sharpening the regular pencils and go with mechanicals. They come in an array of colors and look smart too. If you are already using pens by now, it is time you used something worthwhile. Shop for a classic Montblanc or Parker. They are a keeper and will last you longer than your school. Plus, a stunner pen as such will draw some attention: something you might enjoy.

3. Erasers: If you are learning something, you are bound to make mistakes. So, add a bunch of erasers to your shopping cart. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to keep it boring. You can find a variety of exciting erasers at stationary stores these days. I used to be a big cartoon fanatic, hence I always created an army of cartoon shaped erasers. Pick a bunch of variants of your own preference and have fun making mistakes. But do make sure, they do their work well.

4. Supply Pouch: Once you have all the essentials at hand, find a nice big pouch to keep them all safe. Of course, you can throw them all in the bag pack, but finding them later will be a much easier task if they are all in the pouch. This article here was always on the top of my back-to-school list, even before I picked up the other essentials.

5. Lunchbox: Who wants to eat cafeteria lunch? I don’t. One thing is for sure, nothing beats Mom’s cooking, no matter if it is a humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich, mac and cheese or something fancy like a club sandwich (that is the fanciest lunch I ever packed to school). So be prepared. Get yourself a nice, strong, not-to-forget cool lunch box and you are set to go.

6. Bag pack: I don’t see why it is necessary to buy a bag pack every year, since a good one lasts more than a year, at least two easily. But, in case you still want a new one, make sure they are comfortable, big enough to hold your textbooks, notebooks and other school supplies, and durable. Remember, that you will be carrying this every day to school so keep it simple.

7. Clothing and Shoes: Since, school starts in summer, get a couple of pair of shorts and nice airy tops. Focus on the fall and winter clothes and stack up on sweaters, denims, hoodies and caps. At least buy enough undergarments and socks to last you each week. Buy comfy shoes. You don’t want to be spending most of the school time in uncomfortable shoes that give you blisters. Girls, go with ballerina flats, easy strap on shoes, sneakers and warm boots. For boys, sneakers, sports shoes and strap on shoes look great all year around.

Cursive Handwriting Practice and Challenges

A few years back, I took up a teaching job in a neighborhood school. One of the subjects I taught grade three students there was English, which also included Cursive handwriting. I used to be guilt ridden to grade the small kids for their joined up writing, when in fact, my own handwriting was nowhere near as good as theirs. I had always struggled with creating pretty letters on paper, and although I need not write anything on paper, or in pretty alphabets, I decided to improve just for the sake of learning. Here is what I have learned so far:

  • The handwriting type: Everyone has a handwriting type. Some draw longer and stiffer letters, while others like me lean towards shorter and rounded alphabets. But this is not where the problem occurs. The handwriting begins to face problems when you cannot decide on what type you belong to. So, firstly be sure in yourself about what type you are or are comfortable with. Stop hopping between the two and be decisive. I know, the other one always looks better but that isn’t it.
  • Do you slant or not: Either you slant to the left or the right, or you don’t slant at all. A slight slant won’t do harm, but too much of leaning towards the lines under it will make reading difficult and give your handwriting a “bad” rating.
  • Consistency: It is important to keep the shape and size of the letters consistent. If you write the letter “A” in one way, don’t change it too often or at all. Each letter should be distinguishable and thus, readable. Consistency, also applies to the way you hold your pen or the position of your paper. Keep the same angle and position throughout your writing, so that there are not different types of handwriting in the same paper.
  • Spacing: Spacing plays a huge role in determining the goodness of your handwriting, whether it is written in cursive or not. A rule I learned in school was to leave enough space between two words to fit your index finger. Although it is just an idea, it does help to follow the rule to the “T” during the first few practice periods. The bottom line is to not cramp too many words in one line.
  • Pressure: The pressure you apply to write shows in the imprints it leaves on the back of the paper. So, keep it light. On the other hand, don’t draw lines so faint that it is difficult to read your work. Keep an even pressure all along.
  • Go first grade: Find cursive writing worksheets and start copying some artsy letters on your paper. Try both, capital and small letters, beginning from A, all the way to Z. Don’t jump on to sentences or even words on the first go. Keep it slow and go steady.
  • Don’t rush it: Cursive writing takes patience. Not just to master it but to keep it from becoming ugly too. So, write slow and allow your hands the needed time to coordinate between elegant strokes and consistent shapes and size.
  • Practice: When all is said and done, it comes down to practice. Whoever said, “Practice makes perfect,” was a genius. Spend a few hours a day to practice cursive writing. But don’t overdo it. As soon as you feel some sort of pain in your wrist and arms, it is time to take a break.
  • Use quality stationery: What kind of pen and paper you use plays a huge role in the quality of your handwriting. It’s similar to match-making. A fountain pen won’t give its best result on lokta paper. The result will be ink bleed and blotchy handwriting. Use a rollerball instead. Fountain pens work brilliantly on smoother, thicker papers such as a Photocopy paper. The idea is to not let the utensils come in the way of creating good handwriting. Be assertive of the stationery you use.

Over a period of time, I have realized that my decision to improve joined up handwriting wasn’t a waste after all. It is satisfying to see beautiful strokes of self-written words in birthday cards, invitations, letters and slam books. I don’t shy away from writing good words on paper for someone who is leaving for abroad. In fact, I find myself looking for excuses to flaunt my cursive work more often. Hopefully, you will be doing the same in near future. Till then, keep practicing and don’t let cursives defeat you.