Too many school supplies?

Summer is almost over. It’s time to get ready for the new school year which means to buy school supplies. 

My daughter is going  to be a 5th grader this fall. There are about 20 items on her school supply list. Among them are: 

  • 10 single subject spiral bound notebooks
  • 10-12 colored pens 
  • 4 dozen #2 sharpened pencils 
  • etc. 

Since my son started school in 2003, I have to deal with school supplies. My impression has always been that schools ask for too many supplies. It seems excessive. When kids have too much, more than they need, they become wasteful. 

I don’t know how many used notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, etc. I have at home. My kids bring them home at the end of the school year. Some of the notebooks are like new, or used only a few pages. Pen and pencils are still fine to use, but they are abandoned. When a new school year comes, we have to buy everything new again. 

No, I don’t have any problems buying school supplies. They are dirty cheap. In fact, they are literally cheaper than dirt. You can buy notebooks, papers, pens and pencils for pennies when they are on sale in August.  

But I do have a problem with wasteful behavior.  

How can a student use 4 dozens of pencils in one school year? Kids learn nothing but wasteful behavior when they have too much. 

Two years ago, my son helped a kindergarten teacher do cleanup on the last day of school. When he came home, he brought several packs of colored pencils and markers. They were practically new. He said the teacher was giving or throwing supplies away. I was surprised. Why didn’t the teacher return the supplies to students? 

For people who can’t afford school supplies, here is a tip. Visit your kid’s school on the last day of school, you can find lots of supplies in the trash. 

I didn’t make this up, I actually read the tip somewhere. 

Every year, my kids ask me to buy them new backpacks, because “everyone gets a new backpack and new supplies.”  

My son has used his current backpack for at least three years. It is still in good shape. I keep telling him: “You don’t need a new one, just because everyone else gets a new one.” 

It bothers me. Not that I can’t afford a new backpack once a year, but I don’t want to buy a new one while the old one is still in good shape. 

I don’t know how long I can hold my ground. 

When I was in school, things were simple. I didn’t have any school supply list. My parents definitely didn’t buy me a new backpack every year. I don’t remember, but it’s safe to say, I probably used the same one for several years. I probably just had a couple of pencils and a bag to carry books and notebooks. I used everything till there was nothing left or totally worn out. We had no extra half used notebooks and pencils in the house. 

I do remember once I had to stay in line for a long time to buy new erasers that were not the plain kind and just came on market. I was so excited to get a new eraser that looked pretty with some design on it.  

Nowadays, we have so much extra in everything, from school supplies to clothing, shoes and food. No wonder every house is so cluttered.  

And I don’t think school age kids in the US will ever get excited to get a new eraser. The bar is much higher now.    

A lot of waste is going on in our society, not only in our schools, but also in our offices and in our own homes. 

That’s a concern for me.

6 Responses to Too many school supplies?

  1. wicked mom says:

    Between my 5 year old and 9 year old I am sending TWENTY FOUR glue sticks and SIX reams of copier paper….in a school of 1400 kids, that is 33,600 and 4200 reams of paper. This is just 2 of the 15 other packaged items required. I just find this absurd. Seriously 33 THOUSAND glue sticks, are they serving them for snack? I just moved to this upper middle class town in GA from a small town in NJ where your were either rich or poor and all the kids were asked to bring in were backpacks and then the parents that could would supply what was needed. The feeling of community was so refreshing and understood it made the school almost feel classless. I know that sounds pollyanna-ish, but it’s true. My neighbor has volunteered to buy the 850 boxes of crayons needed for the 12 years her children attend the school district. Done, I did the same with glue sticks. It just seems so ridiculous that we can’t pull it together and come up with what the kids really need and use, I agree with the wasteful comment. If a kid leaves the top off of his glue stick do we just immediately hand him another one out of the pool of glue sticks? I don’t know, I guess I’m just especially aggravated now that I have two in school.

    • Avatar of Qin Tang Qin Tang says:

      Well, it’s that time of the year again, to buy school supplies. I understand your frustration. I hope with the current economic recession, everyone, every family, every organization learns to be more resourceful and becomes less wasteful.
      Thanks for visiting.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t mind supplying my kids with supplies because I don’t send them all to school if not needed. I buy extra paper and pencils and I dole them out from my secret stash. I make them reuse notebooks with unused paper in them. I was raised with the “waste no, want not” mantra. I used to volunteer at the elementary school and the amount of waste is mind boggling. Some children purposely waste items like breaking pencils and crayons. Do their parents not teach them anything about respect? In my school growing up, we had to use both sides of paper. we had to use half a sheet for spelling words and use the back side for the following week and the other half for week 3 and 4.
    I don’t buy anything new just because it’s a new year. If the backpack is still good, it get’s used the following year. I’ve learned not to buy those really cheap backpacks though. The straps break very easily. That is one school supply thing I pay a little extra for.
    The schools don’t do anything to promote not wasting. I do my part to instill this into my children at home. I make it a habit to be resourceful as an example to my family. I preach what I teach. My children bring home all their supplies at the end of the year. They know if they threw it away, I wouldn’t be happy about it. Maybe they are listening. :0)

  3. Avatar of roxane s. roxane s. says:

    Qin, how timely. With five kids in school starting this week, I am overwhelmed by the lists and supplies. It is difficult financially, even though these things are cheap. They do add up, times five, making it very stressful. I agree with your points about waste. Everyone gets new backpacks at our school, too, and there is a lot of pressure. We have had more than a little conflict in the last couple weeks over this. So, I am SO with you, wishing this could be different, and that we could be less wasteful. Thanks for saying what I have been feeling, and helping me realize I am not alone.

    • Avatar of Qin Tang Qin Tang says:

      Roxane,
      You are definitely not alone. With 5 kids in the family, a new school year can cost a small fortune if not spending carefully. I feel your frustration.

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