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Today's Family Magazine

The Quest For "Unnecessary" School Supplies

Jul 23, 2018 10:58AM
By Stacy Turner

The back-to-school sales began before the stores had time to clearance the Fourth of July sparklers and flag-themed décor.  And while I appreciate a good sale as much as any budget-minded mama, I’ll wait until August to purchase whatever glue sticks, colored pencils, folders, and notebooks my kids will be needing (or not) for the coming school year).  It seems I’m not alone in thinking retailers have jumped the gun.

On a recent trip to a big box store, my youngest hurriedly grabbed my hand and steered the cart away from the back-to-school section as though shielding me from a tragic car crash.  “Look away, mom…nothing to see here…just keep on moving…” I got the distinct impression she may not be ready for summer to end, and I agree with her wholeheartedly.

At this point in the summer, we’re searching for sunscreen and road trip accoutrements.  The only notebook I’m remotely interested in right now is the one by Nicholas Sparks.  I’m certainly not ready to scour the shelves for that one particular type of folder or that special accordion file holder that, according to the school supply list-making gods, is crucial to my child’s academic excellence.  Even though I’m fairly certain that same item will be returning home next June in pristine condition after having been forgotten in the back of my child’s locker all year.

I’m not referring to the items marked on the illustrious list with an asterisk as *optional*, like facial tissues, hand sanitizer, or cleaning wipes.  I’ll happily provide those as often as requested because, while sharing is admirable, sharing a nasty cold or virus with your class should be a detention-worthy offense.  I’m referring to those items that require a trip to several stores to find that particular, unique item or device that will cost a small fortune because it was apparently washed by unicorn tears, packaged by sea monkeys, and will never see the light of day in any actual classroom.

I’d rather see the list include useful items like snack foods or beverages, since listening to students’ lame excuses for missed work or grading countless repetitive homework assignments could make even the most patient teacher hangry.  Why make up stuff we won’t use?  Didn’t we learn anything from ‘new math’ or the metric system, people? 

At open house last year, when my girls packaged up their supplies to place in their lockers that night to avoid lugging them in on the first day of class, at least one teacher questioned the need for several of the required items on the grade-wide mandatory list.  Now, I understand that teaching is a tough, often thankless job, and I’m not trying to be difficult, but seriously?  Don’t you people talk to each other?  Don’t we have enough to worry about without spending precious moments of summer on some ill-informed quest for unnecessary necessities?

A friend of mine recently shared that her brother had offered her a box filled with school supplies purposely purchased for his own kids that had never been used.  It was full of unopened crayons, markers, and a variety of other school supplies – each painstakingly labeled – that were noted as items crucial for their child’s academic success.  They sat forgotten in a drawer, unearthed while cleaning for their son’s college graduation party.  Not to press the issue, but I’m pretty sure chips, salsa, and a case of soda would have been more appreciated and long gone by now…just saying.