The School Supply List: Your Worst Back-to-School Nightmare

  1. Virtually Paula says:

    For 4th grade, my daughter had to bring in 5 dozen sharpened pencils. They didn’t specify a brand we had to buy, but did specify NOT Ticonderoga. I was able to find some already sharpened at least, but bristled at sending in that many pencils. In previous years, I’d send in six or so with her at a time and replenish as needed. My daughter has never used more than 10-20 pencils in a school year. I spent an evening writing her name on every one of those 60 pencils. When she brought them into school, everyone’s pencils were all tossed together in one bin for anyone to take when they needed one. I don’t think my daughter used on of the pencils I bought once. And I did not get the unused ones back at the end of the year. If I’d sent them in only as needed, those 60 pencils would have lasted her at least 3 years.

    But it’s not just the regular school supplies either. It’s all the boxes of tissues, rolls of paper towels and hand sanitizer I have to send in, too. I just saw on a FB group that the supply list for one area school’s first grade supply list included flannel fabric cut into 8 squares, apparently to be placed under the legs of the chairs and desks to minimize sound. Instead of a one-time expense of putting noise-reducing covers on the bottoms of the legs, they can just have parents bring in fabric year after year. Because it’s not enough to go to 2 or 3 different stores to find all of the very specific items they include on the list, why not make a stop at the fabric store also?

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      I read that in at least one school district, out there the school supply list includes 12 rolls of toilet paper!

      • Virtually Paula says:

        LOL! In my daughter’s school in addition to their regular class supplies, they also get a list from the “specials” teachers – art, music, etc. Last year the new music teacher had 12 boxes of tissues on her list. Which would have been a LOT of tissues, since she gets every class in the school coming to her, not just one classroom. We joked that we should all actually send in 12 boxes even though it was ridiculous, just so she’d have to figure out how to store all those tissue boxes. Turned out it was a typo and was supposed to be just 1.

  2. wisconsinmommy says:

    And then there’s the fun day in June when they come home with the pile of supplies you spent days hunting down and they have never even been used. But, don’t worry, the next year’s list will be completely different so you can’t even reuse them. *headdesk*

    • Suebob says:

      I don’t even have kids and this makes me yelly. ONE CHILD DOES NOT USE FIVE DOZEN PENCILS IN A YEAR.

      And as far as bringing them home, I keep hearing about schools “pooling” the resources, so you never see any of it again.

      • Pat says:

        One child may not USE five dozen pencils in a year, but he/she probably loses half that many. The rest will make it into their backpacks or they will pitch it when the eraser is used up.

        As a mom of 3, I used to dread those lists until my oldest grew up and became a teacher herself. Now I see how much of her paycheck goes to supplies, and copies and everything else that is not supplied by the district. I have a whole new perspective.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      THIS. This makes me CRAZY.

  3. Stacey Owens says:

    At my middle school daughter’s registration, I had to sign a form that states that students in seventh and eighth grades may now bring e-readers to class. E-readers weren’t on the supply list, but I bet before the time Christmas rolls around, I’ll get a note from one of her teachers that she’s required to have one. As much as I loathe the list itself, I loathe even more the fact that it isn’t inclusive. I’m sure I’ll soon be spending another $300 on stuff they forgot to tell me about.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      I’m REALLY concerned about technology requirements in the years to come. Some of the private schools here now require each kid to have an iPad for class!

  4. Tracey says:

    There are a lot of families where we live that can’t afford school supplies at all. What do those families do when they can’t afford 5 dozen, pre-sharpened pencils for each of their 3 kids? What, they don’t have wall sharpners anymore? Maybe schools are padding the list to help compensate for the kids that don’t have supplies?

    The United Way has an annual campaign in our city to provide school supplies for families in need. My family contributes every single year and this year I took my daughter with me to pick out a supply list for the neighborhood elementary school. I try to find something fun to put in the school bag each year and this year I found this lime green pencil bag that had googlie eyes and a big white zipper that looked like monster teeth when it was opened. It was adorable.

    I love school supplies and want kids to have what they need, but I think the cost of school supplies is a bit insane. I agree with you that the brand shouldn’t matter. Do what you can with what you’ve got.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      I’m sure they are padding these lists for others, but I think they’re going about it the wrong way. If a note was sent out to parents asking for extra supplies, I know at my kid’s school, stuff would come pouring in. But the way it stands now, there are plenty of people out there who are buying 48 pencils and struggling to do it, just because it’s on the list. I’m happy to help others in any way I can- but ASK me to help, and AT LEAST let me choose which brand I buy! I want to buy the $.19 one subject notebooks, not the $.99 ‘brand name’ ones!

  5. Miss B says:

    School supply lists anger me, because it is clear that the kids who bring all of these supplies are picking up the slack for those who don’t or else the supplies really are being sold on the black market. Lol. But why don’t all kids bring every supply listed? Because the cost is astronomical, and they aren’t even going to be personally using many of the items they bring. My personal opinion is that all kids are required to bring extra, because some kids haven’t been taught to value and take care of the things they have. Why pick up and put away your half-used red crayon if you can leave it on the floor for the janitor to sweep up, and start with a fresh new one from the supply box tomorrow?
    I live in a very rural area with a small school, and the local school created an education foundation. Members of the community donate money to the foundation to purchase all the school supplies for all the children every year. The foundation buys in bulk, and gets better deals on supplies. The supplies are distributed in the classroom as needed. The kids are held accountable for their supplies, and they aren’t given new pencils daily if they repeatedly forget theirs at home. For some kids, that means that they must purchase a few of their own supplies to keep at home. However, their parents aren’t on the hook for hundreds of dollars worth of supplies every August. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s pretty good.

  6. MorganB says:

    The last few years my children attended public school, we were asked to bring items on the extensive list as well as fork over $35(earmarked for supplies). It wasn’t pleasant but I did it. We have been blessed to have had the money to do so. Many times I sent extra items in. This year is our 5th year of home educating. My husband lost his job three weeks ago. His last paycheck came last Friday. I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to pay all the bills, as he has not found a new job yet. If I was sending the kids to public school this year, the dead last thing on my mind would be that list. If that makes me some evil person because I would rather keep a roof over our heads than to send in things we can’t afford, then so be it. I think it’s terrible to look down on people and assume they are less than because they have less. Or because they can afford less.How about some compassion? It’s not a conspiracy waged by the poor to get someone else to buy their school supplies for them. We are not on any assistance & pray we don’t have to go that route. I’ve never gotten a hand out. But I sure as heck don’t look down on those that do. I have many friends that are teachers at all levels of education. MANY times they have to use their own money to buy things they need for their classrooms & students. IMO we should be asking the politicians what they are doing with our money & why they choose to constantly raid the education budget in favor of everything else they can come up with. Instead of pointing a finger at the less fortunate. Maybe it’s time to start pointing a finger at the state houses.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      I’m so sorry your husband lost his job– I’m certainly not looking down my nose at anyone and I hope you’re not referring to the post I wrote. 🙂 I homeschool one child through a tutorial program and have my other child and the differences in their supply needs has been pretty incredible. My daughter needs the same basic supplies as my son, but we are re-using a LOT from last year- My son has to have new EVERYTHING, because it’s all used by the entire class. I am taking school supply money straight out of our grocery budget, so every dollar counts, and buying lots of brand new, brand name supplies seems so wasteful to me, particularly when I look at the eight pairs of practically-new Fiskar scissors (among many other barely-used supplies from years past) currently collecting dust in my closet. If we truly want to help each other and do it sensitively, I think we could come up with some better methods than the current system.

      • MorganB says:

        No, Lindsay, nothing you said pushed my buttons. I actually agreed with what you wrote. I used to wonder if I would catch one of the teachers at the flea market with a table over-flowing with school supplies. I imagined her to be in disguise. I’m pretty raw right now and I saw a comment that set me on the path my comment took. I certainly don’t want to offend or anything. Like you, I can see both sides of the issue. I’ve been on both sides. I saw an article that said the average family would spend $1500 on school supplies. I thought surely that must have been a typo. I’m a school supply junkie. I just love the smell of crayons & pencils. Not $14 pencils. REALLY? $14? Shame on Reese. I know that here in AL the teachers aren’t given much(in my district) for supplies. I think it’s sad. I don’t mind bearing some weight for supplies, it’s a given. But, over hearing some moms in the stores reading off the lists just made me sick. Especially this year, I felt really bad for them. And more so for the parents struggling like we are. I always say we are a paycheck away from disaster, I was kinda joking, but here we are. Thanks for the kind reply. And I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

        • suburbanturmoil says:

          I hope things get better for your family very soon. 🙂

        • Brittany Bryant says:

          I understand how your family is burdened by the sudden loss of a job. And I’m sorry to hear it, my father just lost his job as well. A piece of advice, talk to your teacher, she/he will help you out. We love helping people, that’s why we became teachers! Send in what you can, but don’t forget to send in what you can later, too! Teachers have families too. I’m not a mother…yet, but if it is true that families spend $1,500 a year on school supplies…I, as a teacher, am also spending $1,000 a year on my own classroom as well as what my children need. A teacher’s salary is something not to boast about, and it’s a shame that we are all paid less when we teach the future doctors, lawyers, politicians, and everyone else. Communicate with your teacher, it’s the best tool we have in this world to understand and empathize. We all aren’t evil. I promise!

        • Brittany Bryant says:

          I understand how your family is burdened by the sudden loss of a job. And I’m sorry to hear it, my father just lost his job as well. A piece of advice, talk to your teacher, she/he will help you out. We love helping people, that’s why we became teachers! Send in what you can, but don’t forget to send in what you can later, too! Teachers have families too. I’m not a mother…yet, but if it is true that families spend $1,500 a year on school supplies…I, as a teacher, am also spending $1,000 a year on my own classroom as well as what my children need. A teacher’s salary is something not to boast about, and it’s a shame that we are all paid less when we teach the future doctors, lawyers, politicians, and everyone else. Communicate with your teacher, it’s the best tool we have in this world to understand and empathize. We all aren’t evil. I promise!

  7. When my oldest was in elementary his school lists were way more normal – and he brought home all of his unused junk at the end of the year. This year, with my middle son starting K, I noticed something: Yep, it’s a communal list. You have to bring a bunch of stuff, then girls and boys are slated to bring in MORE stuff as well. Baby wipes? Kleenex? Freezer Bags? Mr. Clean erasers? 12 frikking glue sticks? Check…sigh. The only thing that is his in reality is his backpack. My oldest son, being a Senior in HS, his list was easy “Yeah, I need new pencils, pens, and maybe 3 cheap folders and comp books”. Done.

  8. KatBliss says:

    When my youngest was in first grade- the teacher had buckets of communal supplies for each table. (I knew this as my oldest had the same first grade teacher.) Wanting to be kind, I bought 30 boxes of .25 crayola crayons and 30 boxes of .75 crayola markers for the entire class. The first time I worked in the class I was aghast that all the markers were dried out and the crayons were broken and looked VERY old. Fast forward to the halfway mark, the teacher gave me her keys to find a package of neon paper in her supplies, and tada! there I find HUNDREDS of boxes of BRAND NEW crayons and markers…

  9. cheesehead4ever says:

    This makes me very grateful that my daughters’ Catholic school gives us the list on the last day of school and specifies at the bottom that items do not have to be new as long as they are in good condition. Fortunately they also just say so many #2 pencils, 6 notebooks, 7 folders etc. They only specify brands when it comes to Crayola crayons and markers and Elmer’s glue.

    My kids haven’t had communal supplies since kindergarten except for the Clorox wipes and Kleenex.

    Make sure to keep your receipts since the supplies may be tax deductible. They are on Minnesota state taxes.

  10. Tanya Goertzen says:

    I tell you right now… If you did send the chalkboard and 1 piece of chalk. Guaranteed that your kid would hold onto them and not use, abuse, waste, lose as they are unfortunately being encouraged to do by having endless supplies. Remember the days when you had to keep care and track of your things? I wanted to post this in a funny way but it ended up being a crotchety rant. …. Oh well at least one of my kiddos is out of elementary school now!

    • Tanya Goertzen says:

      Oh and BTW. We are one of the areas where tissues and hand sanitizer is on the “list”. Lol yeah right! I always forget to buy them for the home! Maybe I should suggest my little muffin just ‘pinch’ it from school?

  11. Angela says:

    As an elementary school educator, I want to thank you for your support. Thank you for buying one box of crayons so I don’t have to buy 30. Thank you for buying pencils that won’t be automatically chewed up by the pencil sharpener causing you (or me) to have to purchase additional pencils in October and the lead doesn’t break in 5 seconds. Thank you for buying Elmer’s glue sticks so your children aren’t frustrated that when their paper is dry all the pieces don’t immediately fall off. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s so nice to know that we have so much support from parents to help your children learn. I want to apologize for needing things like paper, glue and pencils.
    And you are right…in a few years a laptop could be a requirement and the laptop will teach your child. Good luck with the future of children not knowing how to interact with others unless it’s through cyberspace. Let’s sit back and see how important complaining about school supplies will be then. Maybe, just maybe, you should consider for one minute that the “list” is the list for a reason. That perhaps we’ve had enough experience to know that unless it’s Crayola it’s useless.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      First of all, you’re welcome! But I didn’t buy just one box of crayons- I bought three. 🙂

      I’ve gone above and beyond helping my kids’ teachers every single year they’ve been in school, and so have most other parents I know. I know how much they spend on their classrooms and I give much more generously on their special occasions- and give things like Target gift cards as opposed to a wreath made out of rulers– as a result. But I also think it’s okay to write a funny post about what really is the bane of parents’ back-to-school existence– the dreaded school supply list– just as it’s okay with me when you teachers post funny pictures and quotes about how glad you are to get a summer break away from our “little darlings.” I get it. It’s funny.

      Also, I’m homeschooling my daughter and using the cheaper products myself- The difference in most off-brand products (minus markers- I do prefer Crayola markers for sure) is negligible, in my experience. I do think it would be nice for schools to decide on an either/or approach– ‘Either we ask parents to send in 48 pencils per child and let them choose the brand OR we ask them to send in 12 pencils per child of the nicest brand on the market.’ But not both. For the love of gobstoppers, NOT BOTH. 😉

    • Brittany Bryant says:

      Love this response! As a teacher, it is unbelievably frustrating to have to hear bickering about school supply lists. The materials on that list help your child learn! And as a teacher, I’m not making enough money to buy 30 of everything for all of my students. I make approximately $32,000 a year, while paying insurance, bills, union dues, and spending about $1,000 annually for my classroom/students. Asking you to send in maybe $50-$70 of supplies over 180 school days is you paying 25-39 CENTS a day for your child to learn in fun and engaging ways. That’s it. Give teachers the benefit of the doubt. We always have everyone getting upset at us for something…we could use just a little amount of support by parents bringing in school supplies.

  12. Megim Parks says:

    Lol…while it’s true that those lists seem extensive, it’s also pretty staggering to see how fast those supplies are completely vanquished. I have had three packs of pencils gone in a matter of three weeks’ time, at which point I ask myself whether there is a black market run by STUDENTS for supplies.

  13. cheesehead4ever says:

    I don’t understand why people get upset about bringing in sharpened pencils? I can understand the five dozen aspect being upsetting.

    I just buy the unsharpened ones and sit there and sharpen them. You don’t have to buy them that way.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      If you have an electric pencil sharpener, sharpening 50 pencils isn’t a big deal. However, I believe that most families do not have an electric pencil sharpener and so sharpening 50 pencils manually would take them forever. That’s my take on it. 🙂

  14. Laura Cooper says:

    Where to start? I did it for 26 years, from 1989 – 2015. I also sent in extras of whatever I could, and the name brands, Crayola, Kleenex, etc. I also sent in a nearly new, but not pristine box of 24 Crayolas one year for my 9 year old, and received a scathing note from his teacher decrying “six of the crayons had OBVIOUSLY been used”. Geez Louise! I also became very tired of all 3 sons telling me six weeks into school that they needed a new pack of colored pencils. What, I asked, had you been using said colored pencils for? “We use them to outline our coloring sheets” Okaaaay…whatever.

  15. Laura Cooper says:

    Oh, and what the hell are “Southern Pencils” Do they write in a drawl? Are they infused with the scent of Georgia peaches? Are the words “Bless It” embossed on the barrels?

  16. Brittany Bryant says:

    As a teacher, it is unbelievably frustrating to have to hear bickering about school supply lists. The materials on that list help your child learn! And as a teacher, I’m not making enough money to buy 30 of everything for all of my students. I make approximately $32,000 a year, while paying insurance, bills, union dues, paying off my student loan debt, and spending about $1,000 annually for my classroom/students. Asking you to send in maybe $50-$70 of supplies over 180 school days is you paying 25-39 CENTS a day for your child to learn in fun and engaging ways. That’s it. Give teachers the benefit of the doubt. PLEASE! We always have everyone getting upset at us for something…we could use just a little amount of support by parents bringing in school supplies that we can use.

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