Gift Ideas,  Random

Some ideas: Back to School!

The summer is slowly coming to an end and, for many of us, the new academic year is about to start, so,as usual, I’m super excited! For me, not only do weeks start on Sundays (what better way to start a week than with a well-deserved rest?) but my year starts every September. I think I couldn’t be more excited for the promise of meeting new people, having a new schedule and learning new things, just allowing the change to come and embrace it. But, one of the things that I loved the most was buying the books for the new year… and some school supplies! I’m crazy for colored paper, folders, pencil cases, weekly planners, clips, pens. Just everything!!

So, now that many of us as returning to school, looking for new jobs or experiencing a post-studies change in our lives, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things with you. I hope these little whims (for we do not really need these cute things, right?) help you make a better start.

I love the old-school Bic pens. There must be a reason why they are still around: they are cheap, write perfectly and their ink lasts a reasonable amount of time. Did you know the first Bic pen dates from 1950?

But, this year, the company has given their classic pen a twist with their Bic Fashion: a pack of four Bic pens in four new vibrant colors: green, pink, violet and blue. As usual, they are not expensive and the different colors can help us categorize our notes, create diagrams or simply make our writing more cheerful.

If you still want some touch of color but are not a fan of Bic or prefer something more sophisticated, I highly recommend Pilot. They have all kinds of pens, inks and models to choose from. They can be a little more expensive but they are completely worth it.

My favourites are the classic pink and violet cap models, but recently they have launched a more extended range of colors, at least in their basic  and more popular design (as shown in the picture).

 I love highlighters. Not only do they help you select the most important information, but they can also help to create a hierarchy: title, information, section, sub-section etc.

But, the problem with highlighters is that they are usually big and if you want to carry a few of them you will need a huge pencil-case. Recently, many brands, probably noticing that students carry more and more weight on their backpacks have launched mini-highlighters. Usually they are sold in packs of five colors (as in the picture) and, despite not being really cheap and obviously not as lasting as the big ones, they can fit into normal pencil-cases.

Notebooks are also key. You’ll use them every day and they can highly affect your studying. Over the years, I have given up classic notebooks for ring paper. As with the highlighters, weight and space was key: I could not carry six notebooks every day to class, so I decided to carry only the notes from the two or three last lessons. Ringer paper was key to help me carry less weight and, I must admit, even helpful when you forget your notes at home because it allows you to insert new paper wherever you want into your ring-binders.

But, what I have discovered is that I love Oxford paper. It is more expensive than common paper but it is also stronger so you can use highlighters and different types of ink without ruin the notes on the other side of the sheet.

 I always use planners for the academic year: they run from August to June and I’ve found them to be successful at organizing your life, in general. When the chaos of lessons, studying, reading and exams make other activities in your life impossible, a planner can really help. By planning, you organize your life and make time for other activities: when something is put down seems more doable and more obligatory than just thinking about it.

This year Moleskine has launched a Peanuts weekly planner. Could any planner get more adorable? They have different sizes (in very different prices) and they cover 18 months: July 2012 – December 2013.

Going back to organization, when buying a planner I have found a weekly one to be more helpful than a daily one. The main reason is that we cannot always make time for other activities on a daily basis (meeting friends, reading, going shopping etc), but we can surely do it weekly. For example, I always wrote all my homework on the Friday space and would get it cross as I made my way through it. By doing this, I had my weekends for myself and, at the same time, a sense of achievement made me feel better: you can see all you had to do, done.

If this year you are a looking for an original, new pencil-case I recommend you ro visit Etsy before your local store. Probably, you all know that Etsy is an online shop where almost everything is handmade or vintage. I recently bought a pencil-case there and everyone loves it, plus, I know it is like an artistic production and that it is not likely that a classmate has the same one as you do.

These are the little things that make my academic year even better. Some of them are more expensive than others, but some research can really help to improve our daily routine. I love buying pens, no matter their price, they do make me happy and help me study, as naïve as it may sound. It is within us to find what makes it easier to get through and enjoy our life!

Also, I would like remind everyone that due to the current economic crisis, there are NGOs that would gladly accept any donation, either monetary or material, of school supplies. Over the years, I have seen the local Red Cross provide the less favored groups with school supplies and books. If you have some extra-money that you wish to donate or, if doing the fall-cleaning you find extra-supplies or old books don’t hesitate to visit your favourite NGO, charity shop or church to contribute. I’m sure they’ll be super grateful for your help and desire to help others. After all, back to school means going back to a community and, it is our duty to contribute to and improve that community.



  • Rikki

    Great post, Elena. I am a huge stationary fan. BTW, Schwan Stabilo who produces the text markers you mention are a local company based where I live, so in buying a Stabilo you support my local industry. But then, a lot of great pencils and pens come from our area, e.g. Faber-Castell and Staedtler.

    • Elena

      That is great! Now that I know it’s your local industry, I’ll use it as an excuse every time I buy a pen 😀 I have lots of Stabilo pens (one of these 20 color boxes. I’m in love!) but when I’m a mood for something more elegant I always buy a Faber-Castell, their highlighters are fabulous. Not a big fan of Staendler though, I think in Spain they only sell products for architecture, design etc, all very plain.

      I used to love a Spanish brand called Inoxcrom, but apparently they filled for bankruptcy last year.

  • Leah

    Great post! It feels so weird that I won’t be going back to college in a few weeks; I’m going to miss all of the preparations for school, although finding a planner I liked was often a frustrating task. For my class notes, I always bought a Five-Star five-subject notebook with pocket dividers and dedicated one section to each of my five classes. It was easiest for me to keep all of my notes together, so I couldn’t accidentally grab the wrong notebook on my way out the door! That way, I always had the notes I needed and could keep handouts in the folders dividing the subjects.

    Good luck with your upcoming school year!

  • Sam (Tiny Library)

    Love this post! I am a teacher and the fresh start every September is one of the best parts of the job. I love going out and buying bits for my class, planners, notebooks etc. Like you I’m a fan of the Oxford notebooks 🙂

  • amanda

    The Peanuts Moleskine is so cute! It almost makes me want to return to school so I can use it. I have a bit of an association of the fall with the new year also–not only does school start up again (and I haven’t forgotten that yet…), but the temperatures start to fall and the air becomes crisper and it just seems easier to think again.

    By the way, you’ve reminded me that I need to get another of my favorite mechanical pencils… Thanks! 🙂

    • Elena

      Haha, it’s great to be a reminder!

      I can see you are also one of these anti-summer people. I seriously think high temperatures make me lose 50% of my capacity to do anything productive!

  • CFisher

    A timely reminder that I’ll soon be back in front of my new class. This year we’re making the change over to iPads for every child. So, it’ll be interesting to start the year without all the new pens, highlighters, planners etc lined up neatly on the the desks on the first day!

    • Elena

      Wow! I would hate to give up all my stationery stuff for an iPad (although I do love my iPad!). How old are the kids? I just can’t picture three-year olds using only iPads when coloring and getting dirty with the colors are such organic and manual experiences!

Don't forget to share what you think!