The School Year is Coming…

And that means school supply lists and last minute shopping sprees.

I don’t even have kids, and I know that much. The terror of last year’s school supply lists is still fresh in my mind, and later on, I’m going spelunking to see if I can track down an old scientific calculator to loan a friend’s kid. I’m not sure it will be worth the trip. There’s a very specific model number they’re supposed to have, and I’m probably a model or two behind.

Not that math has changed all that much.

Last year’s list added up to a couple hundred dollars in things like a couple dozen red pens, crayons, pencils, and Kleenex, and included the admonition not to write the child’s name on anything, because… delicately worded, of course… we will share the supplies in the classroom hoard.

In other words, don’t get attached, ’cause you ain’t getting them back.

This year’s requests include the very same items the kids bought last year–many of which would still be perfectly good–and significantly angrier parents.

So, thoughts…

1.) The up front expenditure is memorable, and for a lot of families, a real blow to the budget. (Remember, this is one list for one child. Many families have more than one.) It’s ridiculous to have families buying an entire year of notebooks (or anything else) all at once, when the expense could be budgeted through the year.

2.) I’m a writer. I use a lot of red ink. I will not be exhausting twenty-four red pens this year. A ten-year-old certainly won’t. This massive over-supplying is a waste, and irritates the people paying for them.

3.) Not having personal supplies eliminates personal responsibility for those supplies, and also makes them a recurring, ridiculous expenditure.

4.) Not having personal supplies means the actual expense is double, because the children will still need the same supplies for homework. Children whose families don’t have money for this will be disadvantaged by the very system that was (presumably) intended to help them.

5.) It’s a lot easier to tell a parent “Billy” is out of red pens than to tell him that “the class” is out of red pens. (Particularly if they still remember spending money and buying twenty-four of them.)

6.) Teachers will not be able to figure out why they wind up buying supplies “out of their own pocket” when they run out of something halfway through the year. (It’s because kids didn’t take care of class supplies, and parents aren’t going to replace them.)



    • Reply

      I think part of it is trying to avoid having anyone look poor. We’re doing a lot of that over here right now. We like to pretend that it works. The other part is convenience, of course. If you have “classroom supplies” the kids don’t have to remember, and the teacher doesn’t have to deal with it, when they don’t.

  1. Reply

    Huh… Interesting… I grew up in a very small private school and that is the same school my daughter will be attending. Pretty much all the school supplies are common sense things, like pencils, erasers, crayons, etc. and each child has their own. Having also taught in that same school for 7 years, I know the teachers generally have a couple extras in case a kid is lacking. I spent $40 on new school supplies for my daughter, which included new socks and underwear, and a couple $5 shirts.

  2. Reply

    In my corner of the world, 15 years ago the supplies for our public school ran about $100 per student, NOT including underwear and shirts. Some of the supplies were intended to be communal (kleenex) others were personal. Some families could not afford this amount, some families just would not buy the supplies, because they knew someone else would cover it. Just a fact of human nature. Our teachers routinely put out a lot of their personal funds to keep everyone in supplies. Our school collected aluminum cans as a fundraiser – we delivered ours directly to the teacher to help offset the amount she paid out of pocket. And I do not weep in my wine wishing to return to those days. In retrospect, I wish I had home-schooled.

    • Reply

      Homeschooling works wonders for individual kids, but I worry about it taking the most educated and involved parents out of the system.
      And I still cringe at the communal kleenex! I can still name the girl who used the most (and littered the floor around her desk with it).

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