Hey, y'all! School is starting, supplies have been purchased, lunch boxes have been filled, but what does your child really need to start school. The list is simple and all things are free.

1. Your child needs to know how to tie their own shoes. In a world of Velcro and slip ons, we need to take the time to teach our children how to tie their own shoes. This is a step toward independence and your child's teacher will thank you for it. I assign this task for homework the first week of school. Those who already know how get a free week without homework. Those who don't, learn a meaningful skill.

2. Your child needs to be able to recognize and write his or her own name. And if your child goes by a nickname, they need to know what their real name is since that's what the teacher and school are going to recognize first. I was helping a kindergartener in the breakfast line one year on the first day of school. The students were to tell the cafeteria person their name to be charged for their breakfast. I asked one child what her name was and she responded, "Baby Girl." This baby had no idea what her real name was because her family had always called her "Baby Girl." Since she didn't know her name, she certainly couldn't write or recognize her name, and couldn't tell where her stuff was supposed to go in the classroom. It was a tough start to the year for her. So please, teach your child how to recognize and write their own name. Your child will thank you for it. (You know, when they're like 35 and taking their own kid to kindergarten!)

3. Your child needs to be able to read the words "the" and "said." In addition to having a firm foundation in letter sounds and identification, you child needs to learn these two sight words as soon as possible. This will make learning to read so much easier on him or her. I can't tell you how many times I've sat with a kiddo who's trying to sound out the word "the" and saying "tuh-huh-e." It's painful. Both of these words are in almost every picture book. Find the word together, say it together, spell it together. Do this repeatedly until your child starts finding them on their own. Your child's teacher will thank you for it.

4. Your child needs to know how include the lonely kid. There will always be a kid who's playing by alone. Teach your child how to include others in their play. I know some kids are more shy than others, and you may have to teach your child to accept the new kid rather than reach out to them. It's totally your call. But in a world full of exclusions and divisions, teach your child to be accepting of others and compassionate. Your child's teacher and classmates will thank you for it.

There are obviously many more skills that you can teach your child to set them up for success in school. Manners, using an inside voice, and following directions right away are also extremely important. I included the skills above because they are so often overlooked but so powerful in education. You don't have to have lots of money or a huge supply of books or pencils to teach these skills. You only have to care and that's the best support your child could ever have.

I hope your school year is off to a smooth start and you and your child have a wonderful year.