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