School Supply Hell…and A Give Away!

AUTHOR: | POSTED: August 6, 2013 | COMMENTS: 29 Comments
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Back-to-School, Education, Glass City Parent,

Carolyn Savage

I’m on a fruitless hunt.

Not for wild game or lost treasure.  No, nothing that exciting.  I’m not even hunting for pairs to the fifty partnerless socks that litter the top of my dryer.  Remember, this is a fruitless hunt.  Finding those socks would be miraculous.

There is nothing rewarding about the search I’m on.  It’s actually the equivalent of the scavenger hunt from hell.

What is this hunt that is fraying my nerves?

School supply shopping.

Over the past nineteen years of parenting there are few things I dread more than shopping for school supplies.  There’s irony in that when you consider I actually love school.  As a former elementary teacher and principal I admit that I fancy the smell of new notebook paper and the crisp clean lines of freshly sharpened pencils.  Don’t even get me started on the chills I get from cracking open a new text book for the very first time.

So how is it that a school-lover like me dreads back-to-school shopping?

First, the frustration.  Every year there is inevitably one impossible-to-find item.  One year it was a calendar that had to have specific measurements.  Another it was three required packs of 150 count, wide-lined, three hole punched notebook paper—that apparently nobody makes.  I eventually learned searching for elusive back-to-school items often requires a village.  From text messages flying around with insider information to the sympathetic looks of  “I feel your pain” shared amongst bewildered parents in the back-to-school section, school supply shopping requires a group effort.  After all, none of us wants to be the parent of the kid who showed up with, God-forbid, the wrong color folders or the too-small-pack of graph paper.  What would the teacher think?

Oh the horrors.

Frustration aside, the other juggernaut of back-to-school shopping is the expense.  According to the National Retail Federation   (link below)  the average family will spend more than $600 on back-to-school in 2013. How is that possible?  Easy.  Figure each child needs basic desk supplies, a book bag, and some new clothes.  Then add on field trip and extra-curricular fees plus a graphing calculator.  Now multiply that by each child and and wah-lah–you’ve spent a small fortune

As a former elementary teacher and principal I have a few insider tips to help parents navigate the back-to-school shopping trip.

Does my child need all of the supplies now?

Remember, most school supply lists itemize what a student will need for the ENTIRE year.  If your child’s  list is financially challenging call the school and ask which supplies are needed immediately and only purchase those saving the others for a later.

Reuse!

Before you go out and by your child’s fifth pair of Fiskars blunt tipped scissors rummage through what they already have.  Odds are you’ll find most of what you need in his/her back pack from last year.  Supplies do not have to be new.

Are Any of These Supplies Being Donated?

If your child’s list seems excessive, call the school and inquire.  Some schools ask for extra supplies to give to children who show up with none.  I’m all for being charitable but if I’m donating six of my child’s twelve glue sticks I want to be the one who decides what I can and can’t afford to give.

Brand Name -V- Generic

School supply requests are often brand specific.  If it seems silly to pay an extra dollar for the 24 count of brand-name crayons call the school and ask why the brand is being requested.  Sometimes there’s a good reason.  Sometimes there’s not.

Community or Personal Supplies?

A new trend in primary classrooms is to have desk supply caddies at the ready.  What that means is the 24 number two pencils you bought will be confiscated on the first day and doled out to supply bins throughout the year.  It’s a great way to make sure every student has access to the supplies they need, but it also means that there’s no need to splurge on “Hello Kitty” or “Hot Wheels” decorated erasers.  It’s a good idea to know if the supplies you are buying are for your child’s exclusive use.

Can I Substitute a Hard To Find Item?

If you can’t find that 8″x6″ desk calendar or any other requested supply inquire with the school.  Often substitutions for hard-to-find items are perfectly fine.

Do I Have To Break The Bank?

No.  Watch sale ads and shop in stores that price match.  And, if you find yourself in a position where the supply list is outside of your financial reach, call the school.  Chances are they can refer you to an organization collecting school supplies for students in need.

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Give Away…

In honor of back-to-school season Mamaonthefly.com is happy to give away two backpacks full of commonly needed school supplies.  To qualify for the giveaway please share the most obscure item you’ve found on a school supply list in the comment section below.  Two winners will be picked at random on Wednesday, August 14th.

29 Comments on “ School Supply Hell…and A Give Away! ”

  • Teri | August 7th, 2013 10:10 am

    8, count ‘em, 8 folders with three holes punch to fit into a binder. The weirdest part? They have 7 class periods. Two of the class periods are music, one is gym, one is band, one is lunch. Seriously? I need to buy a folder for gym class? For what, dirty socks??

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  • Stephanie | August 8th, 2013 5:16 am

    I searched 5 stores before finding the elusive item on my quest. It was a Crayola 8 count of twistables (full size, classic colors only)

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  • Rhonda Francis | August 9th, 2013 1:43 pm

    Scotch tape. Really? Are we going to be wrapping Christmas presents? I remember when all that was needed was a notebook, paper, pencil, crayons, glue and scissors. We complicate life!

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  • Julie | August 12th, 2013 11:13 am

    This year’s hard to find item – fine tipped dry erase markers. All I could find were the fat ones.

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  • Heather | August 12th, 2013 11:53 am

    This year I am buying for my twins for Kindergarten after just having my two older children graduate high school! Their supply list requires Fiskars scissors. What are those? Last time I had a kindergartener, we just sent scissors!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 12th, 2013 12:11 pm

    Fiskars is a brand name. You don’t need Fiskars. Any old pair of children’s scissors will do. I don’t know why teachers put “Fiskars” on their list. Makes.no.sense.

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  • Lynette | August 12th, 2013 2:49 pm

    The most ridiculous school supply we have ever purchased has been stretchable fabric book covers. They were required in middle school to protect the covers of text books. The problem was, that most often the book cover would ruin the binding of the books and I can not tell you how many book repairs we’ve had to pay for because of these fabulous inventions. It’s hard to tell your child, no we are not buying them when it is required as part of their class grade. As we still have one in middle school and one not far from it, I’m hoping that the school is becoming more aware of this problem! :)

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  • Abby Arnold | August 12th, 2013 9:07 pm

    Pencils with their names printed on them…I understand it can eliminate confusion but they can be expensive to custom order if the child has a unique name!

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  • Pauline | August 12th, 2013 11:29 pm

    The most headache provoking item on my son’s 2nd grade list is NON Perforated spiral notebook. I totally get that teachers have their preferences (heck I am a teacher and have had years that parents send in the wrong things and I need to add to my out of pocket budget to replenish supplies). But the issue is that I cannot find these non perforated notebooks in ANY story. Everything is perforated. Who’d a thought that would be the most obscure item this year!

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  • Jodi Miranda | August 13th, 2013 2:57 pm

    um… disposable camera??? what on earth for??? LOL

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  • Liza | August 13th, 2013 3:02 pm

    The 8 count of Crayola Twistable Crayons. Not the 10,12 or 24, but 8. I still have not found them at any store I have been to! So I guess she is gonna have to take the 10 since I cannot find 8 anywhere!

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  • Karin | August 13th, 2013 3:10 pm

    The different sizes of note cards. I can understand needing 3×5 or 4×6 cards, but this year my son needs 5×8 note cards!

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  • Cathy | August 13th, 2013 3:27 pm

    This year it was lined 3×3 post-it pads – why? especially as they also wanted 4 unlined versions AND wait for it 12 black fine tip dry erase markers – how exactly is a first grader going to use 12 black dry erase markers and how is the teacher going to go through 24×12 of them?????

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:39 pm

    This made me laugh. When I was a teacher we had an enthusiastic (possibly over zealous) supply clerk who was in charge of managing all the text books for the entire school. Fabric book covers were contraband for the exact reason you mention. She used to hunt for them and tear them off the books. A public shaming for the offending parent usually followed.

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:40 pm

    Tip…Use return address labels (printed with your child’s name) for this task. Worked great!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:41 pm

    Do they even still make those? Hello…we are in the digital age. Good Lord!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:43 pm

    Why not just ask for a pack of card stock at that large size? Things that make you go hmmm….

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:44 pm

    I’ve got no reasonable answer for this. None.

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:44 pm

    Prepare to be publicly shamed. Oh the horrors…ten crayons instead of eight? Your poor child. ;)

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:45 pm

    I’ve had this on our lists in the past. PITA! Good luck!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:49 pm

    hmmm…usually the fat tipped ones are better for little fingers. I suspect they’re for the teacher? If so, I have a problem requiring this as a supply. A “requested donation” for supplies that are for teacher-only use seems more appropriate.

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:50 pm

    If they are wrapping Christmas presents let me know. I’ve always wanted to farm that task out. LOL!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:50 pm

    Seems the “eight count” of twistable Crayola crayons has been a problem for many, many parents!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 13th, 2013 6:51 pm

    I dunno, Teri. My “lunch” folder was always my favorite. Ridiculous!

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  • Sarah Nudi | August 14th, 2013 12:22 am

    Today I went to three stores looking for a 9×13 double sided dry erase board one side with lines. Three stores!!! Office max was the only one that knew what I was talking about! Yet these were not located near the other dry erase boards but hiding somewhere in the back! Urg!!! Definitely last stage kind of day!!!

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  • Marion Downing | August 14th, 2013 12:48 am

    I had to buy a packet of 500 ‘Reinforcement rings’ (cost $6.00 AUD) to go on A4 paper that already had plastic reinforcing on the left side of the paper(i.e. around the circular cut outs). I couldn’t find them anywhere and in the end just sent our daughter to high school without them. The paper in her folders has not ripped in the last 3yrs of high school without those ‘reinforcement rings’ (good tongue twister if said multiple times in a row). Logic seems to be lost in the school supplies department down under too :D (if my post wins please donate to a local charitable organisation).

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 14th, 2013 9:01 am

    Okay…what I don’t get is this…With this kind of item why not have the school order it and include the cost in a fee? It would be much, much easier instead of sending parents on a crazy snipe hunt. Good grief!

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  • Carolyn Savage | August 14th, 2013 9:01 am

    The Aussies must be very concerned about ripped paper. Wow!

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  • Lynette | August 14th, 2013 12:08 pm

    That’s hilarious!!! :) I’m not a teacher but an elementary Special Ed Aide. It’s funny that even though I love what I do, looking at it all from a parent of six boys perspective, sometimes I just want to scream!!! :)

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