This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Friday, August 16, 2013

School Days, School Days

I have been distracted all Summer.  I've had friends in need, family vacations, and 4 kids who fluctuate between "I'm bored" when I limit their TV, phone, or video game time and "I'm too tired" when I tell them to clean something.  I have attempted to write several blogs during all that, but I thought that they sucked so I either never finished them or just never published them.  I would read what other bloggers wrote and think "This is good.  This is really good.  This is much better than the crap I am writing." And then I would delete what I had written.  Or I would write about something only to find that 2 or 3 other bloggers had already written on it and done a better job.

Not today.  Today I will tell MY story about back to school crap no matter who else tells it or tells it better because I have spent the past 3 days dealing with back to school for my 4 kids and I have just about had it.  I am broke and I am developing a nervous tick as a result.

This was me.  Standing in the School Supply section of Walmart at 10 PM last night.

I was actually pretty excited about back to school (aside from the getting up before dawn every day) because for the first time since 2001, I was going to be kid free from 7-3 every day.  The possibilities were endless.  Maybe I would go get a real job.  Or clean.  Or sleep.  Or work on writing.  Or do WHATEVER I wanted because I don't have to be home until the bus is at 3:00.  It's my youngest's first year of school, so there is all of the excitement of that too.  He couldn't wait to go to "big" school.  It is also the ONLY year that I will have all 4 in the same school since the oldest will go to middle school next year.  Lots of excitement, hope, and new things to look forward to -- Yay!

And then I got the school supply list and all of that hope turned to dread and I began to get a headache.

Now last year, with 3 kids in school, I spent over $200 on school supplies (not including backpacks and lunch boxes and clothes) by buying everything on the district supply list.  Because they apparently exaggerate, we still have some of it.  In fact, on my son's list last year was "compass and protractor" and so I bought one and sent it.  It got sent home along with a note informing me that he was not allowed to have a compass at school because it could be used as a weapon.  (THEN WHY WAS IT ON THE STINKING LIST??!!)  And they asked for 20 pronged folders, but they only used 6, 8 packs of notebook filer paper, but they only used 3, and 15 glue sticks, but they only used 4.  So this year, I decided that I wouldn't buy supplies until I spoke to the teachers at open house.  Unfortunately, their teachers this year said basically to get it all.  Sigh.  So last night, I went to Walmart to get supplies.  It was ridiculous.  And I ended up at 3 other stores before finally stumbling home at 11:30 pm, without everything I needed.

The sheer volume of supplies needed for each kid is disturbing. 8 packs of 350 sheets of notebook paper? and 96 pencils?  15 glue sticks?  3 identical boxes of crayons?  WHAT FOR???!  Or is it because us responsible parents have to buy enough supplies for the entire class?

Between my 4 kids, I needed to get 262 SHARPENED No. 2 pencils. (and the 6th grader also needs 48 blue or black pens).  There are only 176 school days.  So apparently they need a new pencil every 2 days.

Then on the kindergartner's list, he needs 3 boxes of 24 count Crayola crayons, AND 2 boxes of 8 count Crayola crayons.  Why?  The colors in the 8 count box are all in the 24 count box.  Not to mention that the 8 count boxes are nearly impossible to find (as in I have been to 4 stores so far and no one has them).

I am beginning to think that the schools are in cahoots with the school supply companies.  

The 1st grader has to have a certain kind of folder -- plastic with prongs and pockets.  The list states it like this: "10 Plastic pocket folders with brads (solid colors only): 2 red, 2 yellow, 2 blue, 2 green, 2 orange."  The only problem is that no one has yellow ones.  In fact, only one store carries these at all and they are $2.99 each.  And the 6th grader also needs 4.  So 14 folders at basically $3 each, means just the folders for these 2 kids, I had to spend over $45 (including tax).  It also doesn't make sense that the 1st grader needs 10 of them.  They don't have 10 subjects in 1st grade.

Then there are the glue sticks.  Holy cow at the glue sticks -- between my 4 kids, they need 51 glue sticks (luckily, I still had glue sticks left over from the school supply shopping spree last year, so I only had to buy 36 glue sticks).  I do not know what they plan to do with all of this glue, but I better have some arts and crafts worthy of the Guggenheim.

And I am expecting some truly inspirational writing as well.  18 composition notebooks, 12 spiral notebooks, and 6 binders along with 6,300 sheets of notebook paper between the 4 of them -- and the 5 year old can barely write his name.  Now don't get me wrong -- I am a writer, so I am all for lots of writing.  I just seriously doubt that there will be 6,300 pages of it.

School supplies are necessary.  I get that.  But why so much?  Why so specific?  Why can't it be easy?  Why not say "pencils, notebooks, crayons, glue, scissors, and a box to put it all in?"  But ooooooh nooooo, it has to be this brand, this color, this size, from this store, etc.  It is ridiculous.  I am keeping all of our extra supplies at home this year.  If they run low on paper or pencils, they can get more here.  There is no way that I am sending 18 packs of filler paper and 262 pencils to become part of the community property of the classroom so that other kids can use them all up and then in April I have to buy more for my kid.

This is what I am afraid of...

When we went to orientation I also had to pay a $20 supply fee for each kid in addition to the supplies that I purchased yesterday.  All told, I have spent approximately $200 on school supplies, and $80 on school fees.  And each kid needs a "spirit shirt" that they wear on field trips and every Friday to earn points for their class -- $48 for those.  Oh, and as a PTA volunteer, I have to have a shirt -- $12 more.  So I have spent about $340 for back to school stuff and I haven't taken anyone clothes or shoe shopping, haven't bought new backpacks or lunch boxes, and haven't bought the stuff I need to make 4 lunches a day yet either.  In case you were wondering, every week I need a minimum of 2 loaves of bread, 20 bags of chips, 40 cookies, and 20 juice boxes JUST for lunches during the school year, and they are all supposed to have a "snack" every day that can be eaten at their desk with a bottle of water.  I would let them eat in the lunchroom, but that would cost about $55 per week, and I am pretty sure making lunches at home is cheaper.

As I was lamenting these facts, a friend of mine told me that they always just bought the PTA's supply boxes to save themselves all of this hassle.  And I admit, I thought about it.  But the supply boxes ranged in price from $60 to $85 depending on the grade and the contents and everything was all exactly alike inside (so all of my kid's stuff would be indistinguishable from the next kid's stuff).  I came out cheaper buying the stuff myself, and I was able to buy something that reflected my kids' unique personalities for the few items that weren't so strictly regulated.

In any event, I am done supply shopping until next Fall.  It was hard.  It was frustrating.  But I did it -- I got everything that my kids (and apparently their classmates) will need for the rest of the school year.

Except for those elusive 8-count Crayola crayons....


Xinh said...

The whole school supply thing is crazy! If the teachers want special supplies outside of the normal in order to keep the kids' stuff organized, then the school needs to pony up for the supplies, not the parents.

Counting Caballeros said...

I remember school supply shopping when I was a kid. I got a Trapper Keeper, crayons, glue, pencils, and scissors. Then we'd get a box of tissues to donate to the class. I look at my kids' lists now and I wonder what they are doing that requires all of this extra crap when the majority of what they're learning is geared toward scoring well on some state or federal mandated test. I don't mind getting their supplies, I just don't think that it needs to be this complicated.

Carin said...

I'm a teacher in the Netherlands. A public school. We charge the parents a stipend of about $45 for each kid attending our school each year. We pay for the supplies ourselves. Being in charge of ordering the supplies for our entire school, I know what needs to be bought down to the last eraser. For each child from the 3rd grade up (we have groups 1 & 2, that's our Kindergarten. In groups 1-8 kids are in elementary/primary school, they leave school for "high school" when they're about 12) we count 4-5 pencils a year, 2-3 erasers, one sharpener, one ruler. Crayons? No, because you cannot mix them, so we use colouring pencils in 12 colours. Each year the children get a new set that they have to work with the whole year. Of course we keep back ups, but not as much as you have to get for one kid!!!
Scissors get ordered once every 5 years, because they stay in the classrooms. Nothing is the children's "property", unless they bought it themselves. Lots of kids do, as we only supply the bare necessities. Paper? Glue? Binders? All supplied by school.
Lunch? They bring their own, just like the water bottles and fruit (no chips or candy allowed), we eat together in our classroom during lunch.

Last year I read a blog about buying school supplies and I thought it was a silly system. Seeing what YOU have to get for 4 kids I think the schools have gone into collaboration with the stores. It's insane. What would happen if you would buy less, or the "wrong" brand? Would your kids be shunned? Learn less? Get teased?

Good luck, Lady G. I'm going to enjoy 2 more weeks of summer holidays (we have 6 weeks here, not 2 months), pinning school ideas, study our new math books, do some scrapbooking. House cleaning? Yeah... maybe... or not ;-)

Big Hug from across the Atlantic.