Education & Activities

back to school scrabble tiles on lined paper with pencils

School Days, School Days

Back to school time can be some of the most exciting and stressful times of the year. From the kid side you get to see friends again, maybe start at a new and unknown place, new clothes and binders – oh my! From the parent side, it is the “return of the routine.”  Running with your kids (and breaking up fights) all summer is great but so is the reliability of bedtime and knowing how to schedule each day.  On the other side of that, now you have to prep to make sure backpacks are ready and lunches are made and kids are in bed on time.  So, as they said in the eighties, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have. The facts of life,…”  And, that’s it we’re all just aiming for that sweet spot of just enough and not too much.

In an effort to be a very useful website here is your 2017-2018 Guide for heading back to School in Houston!

When to Go – School Start Dates (for students):Houston School District Map

Registration & Immunizations

You will feel better having all of this done in advance, but not to worry your school district has to take your kiddo even if you roll in on the first day of school (or the 13th).  The benefits of early registration are many.  First, the school will be ready for your child.  Meaning they will have had time to get records in order and put them in the best environment for their success. When you show up after school has started your child will likely just be put in a class until all that is sorted out.  Which, means if many people are doing this (and they do) that the first week or so of school can see some bloated classes which leads to a downtime in teaching and activities and stressed teachers (you would be a little stressed too if your class kept getting interrupted and eventually you had more students than desks).

To enroll most schools will require you to bring:

  • Proof of your child’s age and identity (birth certificate & Social Security Card),
  • Proof of your identity and residential address (driver’s license and utility bill), and
  • A record of your child’s current immunizations signed by a doctor (many schools will let you enroll and give you a 30 day window to get these done).
  • If transferring a transcript or report card from last school attended.

Immunizations can be a bit of a hot topic but for most children this is the right thing to do. The perceived dangers of vaccines drop significantly past toddlerhood so once your child is school ready it’s a great time to get caught up if you’ve previously used a relaxed schedule.  We live in an International city there are people coming and going from all over the globe and who knows where your apple came from?  When you put people together they get sick and sickness spreads rapidly. Don’t rely on the health of other children to protect your child.  In many cases, the disease is much worse than the side effect.  And, many of those dangers are well past by the time your child reaches grade school.

If you are still on the fence know you don’t have to get all of the vaccines or get them all on the schedule provided. You can do one or two at a time or just get the Texas Minimum State Vaccine Requirements for Student K-12. If you are still not going to do it you must qualify for an Exemption.


School supply shopping can be easy – just pick up the package from your local store that has partnered with the school district.  However, this is one of those categories that the “I Wants” shine brightly because every store has new and colorful supplies on display and as far as things-our-kids-beg-for go, school supplies can be an affordable splurge.

Always get your list items first and follow those instructions to a ‘T’ – even if you think it stupid that Mrs. Smith only wants chartreuse folders just buy the chartreuse folder.  I guarantee you Mrs. Smith has a reason or a mandate and she’s a little stressed trying to put together a great year for your kids too.

If you find the most amazing chartreuse folder that will cause your child to bloom and grow then either write their name on it or just talk to Mrs. Smith and explain that when she gets a pile of chartreuse folders you would really appreciate it if your child could use the one you bought.  Teachers are people and most have children and will pick up what you are putting down.  And, I promise they will appreciate the talk over a steaming parent that they have to deal with for a year because they inadvertently angered them over a chartreuse folder.

  • Supply Resources: If you need a little help with school supplies this year, check out a couple of these options:
  • Texas Sales Tax Holiday is August 11-13th
    • The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced less than $100 from sales and use taxes.
  • Off the list – Fun & Useful Supplies: After you get those items if you have some room in the budget these were the most fun and/or useful and unique school supplies we found for this school year. Does anyone else like the smell of pencils in August? 
    • Decorative Correction Tape...white out is so boring these tapes are so cute!
    • Erasable Gel, really erasable and with a nice glide (you pen lovers know what I mean) and the eraser never runs out or leaves little squidgy eraser noodles all over your paper!
    • Fidget Ring  – far more inconspicuous than a spinner, just as satisfying (for girls too!)
    • Cocoon GRID-IT Organizer – this is super cool, originally designed to keep cords and whatnot it could be used for loads of things and it’s about the size of an iPad so you could carry it in a backpack or hang it in a locker easy peasy.
    • Customizable Allergy Wristband – better safe than relying on a page in a file!
    • No Tie Flat Shoelaces 
    • No-Iron Clothing Labels – these are great, they are washer and dryer safe and you can just write on them with a permanent marker and stick them on.
    • Nostalgia Breakfast Station – Okay, this one is for the families with someone going off to college, but it is so cool! Where was this thing when I was in school. It’s a coffee pot, griddle, toaster, and oven in one slick little package! (I’m too old to say jelly)

Return of the Routine

School start times can be as early as 7:15am. That, of course, excludes time for getting up, dressed, fed, packed, actually getting there, catching buses, or going in early for sports.  The routine is paramount.  This time of year can make kids anxious – schedules and expectations will reduce some of that anxiety.

Experts recommend school-aged children get 9-11 hours of sleep.  Teenagers need 8-10 hours.  And, everyone needs at least 7 hours.  Which means bedtime for the average elementary aged child should be around 8pm – which is hard when it’s still light out but better than a morning fusspot.  A couple of weeks is ideal to learn a new routine but even a few days will help out.  Get back in the habit of waking kids up, getting dressed (as opposed to lounging in jammies all morning), and eating a healthful breakfast.

And, remember, you don’t have to do it all by yourself.  Kids can be taught to get their backpacks ready, dress themselves, eat breakfast, and even fix their own lunches (yes, really).

If all this seems overwhelming and too much prep you can always homeschool!  (Spoiler alert: routines still help and there’s organization required there too!)

Have a Great Year!

Most of us are familiar with the expectations surrounded by the term: school.  We picture a brick and mortar building, children sorted by age, a fair amount of seat work, a thirty-minute recess, a thirty-minute lunch, and homework.  However, the landscape of education is changing and all of the major research supports anything but “regular” school.  If you are looking for something a little different here are some “off the beaten path” options.

1. Homeschooling:

Yep, I know – that’s not a school!  But, in Texas, it is. Each and everyone is its own private school. The knee-jerk response to homeschooling is generally somewhere between, “I can’t teach my kids!” to “How will those poor children ever make friends?”  Good news, Houston, you live not only in a homeschool-friendly state but in a homeschool-friendly city.  The opportunities for homeschoolers in Houston are bountiful.  In fact, the real problem may be opting out of activities.

Homeschooling is not one size fits all.  You can buy a complete box and follow scripted curriculum; you can pick and choose your own math, science, and arts. Additionally, classes, co-ops, and enrichment services are becoming available all over the city.

To get started homeschooling in Texas you merely need to send a letter to your school stating that you are doing so. That’s it!  Once you are a homeschooler join our closed facebook group to connect with other homeschoolers across the city or join our public group to dip your toes in the water.

2. Hybrid Programs:

So you like the idea of homeschooling but it seems daunting.  This is where the hybrid program comes into play.  Hybrid programs choose the curriculum and provide a combination of campus and home days.  These are much cheaper than full private schools and a bit more expensive than buying a boxed curriculum.

3. Acton Academy:

Have you heard of Elon Musk starting a school for his kids and some SpaceX employees’ children?  This is that kind of school.  Student-led is more than a philosophy at an Acton Academy.  The students are called Heroes and the idea is that they are on their own journey and should be the hero of their story.  The teachers are Guides. The guides are not there to teach the children but to facilitate their journey.  The day starts with Socratic discussion.  Then they use technology to spend time individually working on “core skills time” and every six weeks they focus on a project, concluding in an exhibition.

4. Waldorf

Have you heard of Steve Jobs? He and loads of Silicon Valley tech execs send their kids to low-tech/ no-tech schools like Waldorf.  Waldorf schools are inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophies.  They strive to bring students to education in a beautiful, gentle natural way that works in pace with child developmental stages.  Their methods include activity in learning, spending time outdoors, art, music, language, and movement as integral parts of education.  Houston is home to two full-time Waldorf schools and several Waldorf programs for younger children.

5. À La Carte Education

Imagine choosing the exact course load your kids are taking. That’s what these schools do. Some will utilize them for everything, but many might consider it as an accompaniment to homeschooling. So you cover the basics, they cover the electives or the courses you just don’t want to or feel qualified to teach.  These arrangements are great for those needing a very flexible schedule.

6. One on One Education

This differs from the pick and choose method above because the curriculum is set and students attend daily like a regular school.  The school day is a bit shorter, but otherwise a traditional set up. However, there is only one student for every single teacher.  Yep, 1:1.

*Fusion is included in this option as well because they offer a complete curriculum as well as individual classes

7. Montessori:

Montessori schools have become increasingly popular, particularly as an option for Pre-K and early elementary. From the American Montessori Society: “Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multiage groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity. In addition, a full complement of specially designed Montessori learning materials are meticulously arranged and available for use in an aesthetically pleasing environment.”

Houston is home to one Montessori school that follows children all the way through high-school. (HISD does have a Montessori magnet school that goes through 8th grade, but you will need to apply and live in HISD’s attendance area).

8. Sudbury

Sudbury schools leave the complete responsibility of a child’s education up to that child. The schools themselves are run by direct democracy.  There is no prescribed curriculum or instruction.  “Teachers” are brought in to teach what children are interested in learning.  The school relies on the inherent belief that people are naturally curious and the most profound learning comes from that which the learner seeks out.

9. Boarding School

Maybe they aren’t Hogwarts but Houston has two schools that are full boarding schools.  Typically, they serve international communities.  These are regular schools, not those that are meant to serve students with extreme disabilities or behavior problems.


“People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experience they want their children to have.”

― John Holt