Friday, August 24, 2012

How long does it take you to use a box of crayons?

I know I'm going to sound like a nagging complainer. It's just that the last few days before school starts turn me into a crazy woman and someone even I don't want to be around as I am scouring stores for obscure or high demand items on supply lists. And at the end of the year a lot of the stuff comes back unused. I don't want this to come across as anti-teacher, because I am not at all. I love all the caring educators who have taken care of my little ones over the years. I appreciate them. I value their expertise. I sympathize with them. And the last thing I want is for them to have to dig into their pockets to provide materials for my children. Yet, I still shake my heads when I look at some of the lists of supplies.

Maybe it's because I think back on my own childhood. I don't think there was a specific list of items you had. It was just assumed that you bring the basics - notebook paper, #2 pencils, pens, crayons, glue. If you didn't have something you needed or you ran out, you went down to the bookstore and bought an extra pencil for a dime or a notebook for a quarter. No one else took care of it for you. Teachers weren't expected to provide supplies for their students. Other students or parents weren't expected to provide extra supplies so that there was enough to go around. If you didn't have notebook paper and didn't have a quarter to go buy more in the bookstore, you bummed a piece of paper from a friend and made sure to bring a quarter the next day. It was a pretty good system, in my opinion. It taught kids to be accountable, not entitled.

I know it's a different age. There's more required for learning than a pencil, paper, a textbook and a chalkboard. But how much more is really required? At home, I have a box of crayons that the kids use when they want to color. Sure, some get broken or worn down over time, but I can guarantee that I have crayons in that box that are older than my younger kids. Yes, you want to provide them each year with new stuff. But then at the end of the year, it gets discarded - or the old crayons come back home and go into my crayon box at home. This year I bought 10 boxes of crayons for three kids. One kid needing four boxes to last less than 10 months seems a little questionable, but it's on the list, so I buy it.

Dry erase markers are used often in classes for smart boards these days, but one of my kids' list required that they provide 16. And those - on sale - average about a dollar each. I just don't get it. Even using it every day, a marker should last you a month - easily. Are they just being over-prepared? Are they anticipating half the kids not having the needed supplies, so the ones that are buying them are covering the surplus? I'm not sure.

It seriously caused a hardship this year getting into the hundreds of dollars just to send them off on the first day with a new outfit, a new lunchbox and a backpack full of supplies. Seventeen spiral notebooks at $1.19 each. 3 boxes of ziplock bags at $2.49 each. 22 folders at 49 cents each. It adds up. Some of the items I snagged on sale - a box of erasers for a penny, a pack of notebook paper for 49 cents. But the total was insane. I guess I should be thankful that they aren't using laptops and tablets that would cost hundreds more. And at least I don't have to worry about paying tuition anymore. For many years, I had one in private school or had kids in private preschool with hefty tuition payments. Ok, my rant is done. I'm going to go make out my to-do list in a notebook my son brought home at the end of last school year with only four pages used and with a pen that is probably five years old.


Mel S. said...

My daughter came home with a bunch of unused stuff last year as well. I wonder if they could do two supply lists--one in the fall and then one in the spring. That way they can assess if the additional items really are needed in the spring. Also, my husband can get a number of supplies for free. I suspect there are many other parents who can also do so depending on job perks, etc. It is quite possible that some parents could donate free items to the class and decrease the amount of out of pocket everyone needs to spend. It just seems like our society does not use resources very well.

Daisy Chain Mom said...

Oh this post really speaks to me! What used to make me so mad was the fact that the dry erase markers were for the teacher. And that was not the only thing...there were other items that were for the teacher discs for her digital camera. All I know that when I was working with kids we bought our own stuff and did not expect the kids to buy it for us. I realized also that the teachers that asked for a huge list of thing were the teachers that were single without children...go figure.
Great post.
God Bless