Back to School Lists Rant

You know those commercials from Staples about “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? The ones with dads and moms gleefully piling supplies into their carts, dancing down the aisles while dumb-founded children can only hang their heads in dismay?  Well, the only thing that really rings true in those commercials is the part about being happy to see routine return to our homes.  I used to love shopping for crayons and notebooks and so on.  But I have come to loathe this ritual.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m counting my pennies once again, or maybe it’s just the over-commercialization of yet another sacred institution.

There once was a time~ a long time ago~ when a school list was memorized by parents.  Memorized because it was the same every year: pencils, pens, erasers, “scribblers” (as they were called) and a pencil case.  Geometry sets came later in higher grades but other than that, you could pretty much get the entire contents of one child’s school needs for under $20, maybe even under$10.  Sadly, those days are long over.  I just counted how many back to school lists I’ve had to check off, review, stew over and argue about.  41.  Yes, FORTY-ONE!  I have 4 kids  and counting out every year from kindergarten through grade 12, this is what I have come to.

I have met all manner of teachers~ the ones who could care less about the list set out by the school and the ones who have their own list to ADD to “the list”.  And those teachers are the worst perpetrators of parent stress in September.   They are the ones who send home notes the first 3 days of class outlining exactly what colour, type, brand and quantity of each item they expect…in no uncertain terms.  They send out reminders and reminders about the reminders.  They call, they e-mail and they write notes.  “Lauryn seems to be missing one of her required 12 notebooks, could you please forward that with her tomorrow so that I can clear her off the delinquent list?” ………..uhhh….ya….it has happened. I am so sick of these lists.  First of all, WHY do they need 5 red pens the first day?  Why do they need them the first month?? Who cares if their thesaurus is a Collins instead of a Websters!  Why do you need 3 boxes of Kleenex sent to school right away?  And what of those 12 notebooks that barely got used and thrown into a box at the end of June?? Why? I’m so done with these lists!!

One year, not that long ago, I spent nearly $1000 on school supplies for my 4 kids.   There were scientific calculators needed, non-marking white soled runners, new backpacks, zip up binders, lunch bags, locker accessories and more…..what a rip off! What a joke!! What a WASTE of money! This year I had a chat with my kids.  “Do you have binders left over from last year? If you do and they are not completely broken and falling apart, you will use them again.”

“Do you realize that stores market to children?” I asked my kids why they picked out certain backpacks and binders.  With the girls, it’s always about the design, logo, colour and pictures.  Of course it is! We picked up one of these very colourful binders.  I showed them the quality of it compared to a plain one.  Then I showed them the price difference~ double the difference. Ouch.  I asked what would happen come November when the pretty one was broken and in need of replacement. Well, it didn’t take long for all of them to realize that they were being duped. In fact, the light bulbs came on about all sorts of supplies from pencil cases and lunch bags to markers and looseleaf.  Do I really care if the looseleaf is recycled paper? Do I?? NO!!!!!!!!

3 weeks ago, Walmart had 150 packs of looseleaf for $.25/pack.  The exact same packages were over $3 each on Friday. The EXACT same ones.  We went to Superstore and got them for $.15 each….na na-na-na na WALMART! Take that!

“Jr. Kleenex” boxes with all of 67 tissues are being sold at Walmart for $1.77 each. They have cute cartoon characters and fun colours.  Parents will buy them. In fact ,the shelf they were on was nearly empty.  Right beside them were the Scotties brand with 127 tissues for $1.33.  Right below that was the store brand for $.98 each.  My friends; mothers, parents~  we are being hosed. And we’re falling for it year after year.

Your child does NOT need a new backpack every year if you will buy on sale at the end of September , the really good quality black ones that are regularly $60.  Wait, buy on sale and keep them for 3-5 years.  Your kids do NOT need 30 sharpened HB pencils the first day of school, 5 packs of looseleaf and most of the other 20 things on your list.  If you would just stand up to the teachers and the school and say , “my child will have what he/she needs to get started and we will have the rest by October”.  Stand up for yourself and your kids.  This back-to-school market is absolutely robbing us blind and they don’t even need most of it!

I decided several weeks ago that we would only buy the necessities.  My kids have paper and pens, pencils and erasers~ the binders are going to come from our collection at home~ pretty or not.  No new backpacks or lunch bags. New gym shoes but no new outfits(we’ll wait for the sales too).  I spent $150 and even that seemed too much.   Maybe I should have learned this a long time ago, maybe I just got smart, or maybe I’m just tired after 37 previous lists, but I’m saying “no” this year.  “No” to the 12 duo-tangs, 40 blue pens, 10 erasers , 50 sheet protectors, rulers, scissors, glue sticks and safety glasses.  Until my kid comes home and says “I need _____ for tomorrow”, the answer is “no”. I’ve seen too many supplies go unused or sent back for being the “wrong kind” or the “wrong size” or the “wrong brand”…like give me a break already.

My kids are starting at 3 different schools this fall.  Each one has their own version of what is needed for each grade. I find it rather interesting that one school’s list for grade 6 is half the size of the other school’s.  It makes you wonder what is being taught to our kids about conserving, sharing, being responsible for something that their parents have paid for.  Unfortunately I have seen our hard earned dollars go towards paying for someone else’s supplies.  I have no problem helping out families in need~ but I would like to know ahead of time instead of checking off what I think is my ONE child’s supply list only to find out that it is partly to “beef up ” the classroom stash.  Sorry teachers, I don’t have that kind of cash on me this year~ you’ll have to find another well to draw from~ this tank has run dry.


Incidentally~ every time I go by the aisle with the pencil crayon packs for $1.25 and the “scribblers” for $.88 each……….I really want to buy them. 🙂

One thought on “Back to School Lists Rant

  1. I agree. In our school some teachers freak if they don’t have their stuff before but most are okay with it. My daughter has had the same backpack since … kindergarten and she is in grade 12. I bought her a new one one year because I thought it looked ratty but she went back to her favorite one. However one son is hard on everything – clothes, shoes, backpacks, binders … Other than new shoes if they need them, I recycle everything and those scribblers that have been used for 3 pages – well rip them out and give it back to them (seriously, do the teachers count if they are 80 pages or 77). I haven’t bought pencil crayons for years and tell my kids to look in the pencil crayon box and get what colors you need. The hype for back to school stuff is ridiculous and there have been years I have waited until after the long weekend to get the things they need.

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