Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School with 100 Pencils. Or Maybe Just 50.

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100 pencils. That is the number my 5th grader’s school supply list dictates he bring into his classroom when school starts. Is he supplying the whole class? Have they adopted a school in Haiti to which they are sending extra supplies?

I question my son about the need for so very many pencils. He tells me the number sounds right to him because he goes through a pencil a week (through loss or theft. Theft?). Um, Mr. Advanced Math Student, there are 52 weeks in a calendar year and about 36 or so during typical school year.

Everyone to whom I mentioned this number has had the same reaction: 100 pencils?!


This year I am determined to use as many leftover school supplies as I can before purchasing new ones. Given that my boys have been attending elementary school for years, we have a huge glut of old, half-used supplies.

But few of my stock items match this year’s supply list. I used to regard The List as one might the very tablets on which the 10 Commandments were forged. One year I ran to three or four stores looking for the specific line of watercolors the art teacher asked the parents to supply.

Never again.

Now The List may indicate Crayola, but I’ll buy the RoseArt if it’s cheaper. Whatever damn brand of glue stick comes packaged in the correct quantity is the one that winds up in my shopping cart. And I’m sure that my mega box of 300 tissues is just as good (it’s better, really) than two boxes of 100 tissues each. I just hope the teacher looks at the number of tissues rather than the number of boxes my child brings in.

Speaking of the right quantities. I have just enough 3×5 note cards for the 5th grader. Woot! But my 7th grader is supposed to have 4×6 note cards. Does it really matter if they are 4×6 or 3×5? I convince myself that it just might, so now 4×6 cards on are my shopping list.

Did I say shopping list? My husband insists that I needn’t make any purchases due to the many supplies alrready around the house. True, I’m bundling up gently used pencils instead of buying a new ones, I’m gathering items, like pens, that have been scattered about the house and I’ve got the above-mentioned note cards, but I still need a few more things.

“Hogwash!” the husband says.

“No,” I counter. “I need to buy. See we have a perfectly good box of fine point markers, but the 5th grader needs broad stroke markers. And I have a decent old pack of 12 colored pencils, but they each need a packet of 24.” (Damn, I guess despite my small rebellions, I continue to regard The List as the word of God.)

“I’ll take care of the school supplies,” he volunteers.

I look at him quizzically.

He announces that he is going to pack up the supplies he thinks the boys need without regard to what their teacher thinks they need. He has no regard for The List.

I roll my eyes at him. “That’s crazy talk,” I insist even as he convinces the 5th grader to fill an old pencil box with a rainbow full of markers from my overflowing craft bin rather than have me buy him a new box.

How do you handle this? Does a new school year dictate new…everything? Or do you try to be thrifty or green by re-using what you can? Do you follow the list down to its tiniest detail or do you fudge here and there?

And how many pencils should I send to school with my 5th grader?

This post was inspired by the Yahoo Motherboard members who are talking about about going back to school this month.


adrienne said...

One hundred pencils? Wowza. My mom's fifth grade classroom doesn't have that kind of storage space.

I'm a stick to the list kind of gal for most items. Sometimes the teacher wants Crayola so she can throw all the sets in a box and not worry about who brought what- or maybe Rose Art leaves stains on the desks.

300 ct Kleenex (or Puffs) instead of two 100 ct Kleenex? Now that seems like a win-win for your pocketbook and classroom storage space.

I totally agree with the 4x6 card purchase as you don't want your student's 3x5 card falling out of the rubber banded stack of homework.

Old markers versus new? Here my rule-following tendencies go awry. In my cabinet downstairs I have loads of half-used marker and crayon sets (still in their original boxes from MY own time in primary education). If my kid doesn't go through a box in a year, I hope to send that same box the following year and replace only as needed. As long as they have the same array of colors that the teacher requested, I think you're probably fine. If not, you can always hit the store later.

Tech Savvy Mama said...

Given the abundance of school supplies in our house, we raid the cabinets first to find packs of what the kids need from the list first. Like you, I sent in 2 boxes of 24 crayons when the list called for 48 and will happily substitute brands! I also sent in a giant refill soap instead of a little hand pump because as we know, those dispensers never last long and a refill- just like more tissues- are always more appreciated!

Good luck with the start of school in your house!

Condo Blues said...

My mom told me that there some items like scissors, rulers, etc. that she was only going to buy once. If I lost it, I wasn't getting new. Since she backed her play on other household rules I took care of my stuff. My wooden elementary school ruler is in my adult home office desk drawer :)

She'd also dole out things like pencils, pens, glue sticks as I needed them. If she gave it to as I needed them. If she didn't I'm run through them like water.

It's funny how life changes when you get out on your own. In college, I used as many notebooks, pens, etc. as I could from semester to semester because it was all on my own dime! The thing that made me disregard THE LIST is an elective drawing class I took for fun. I spent a hundred dollars buying the art supplies on THE LIST and at the end of the semester I didn't use half of them! Later I took an art class for professional development I was much more selective about filling THE LIST and quizzed my prof on what we really needed and didn't.

Nicole Pelton said...

Reuse, recycle, I forgot the other re - but I agree, much better idea. I love that our school just asks for money so the teachers can buy their own supplies.
Only the 1st grade class did it one year, but it's caught on. It's $50/child (half now, half later) which seems like a lot, but since it's a low income school they may be accounting for some people not being able to give much, so I don't gets me out of shopping. Also this year Costco donated a backpack with a few supplies to each kid who paid the $25.

I have all these crayons and pens as I'm always fantasizing about sitting down with my kids to make art, but they prefer to draw the minimal requirement in pencil so we rarely run out.

Elizabeth @ My Life, Such as it is... said...

This is our first year in school so I pretty much went by The List. We had some leftover supplies from Pre-K that I used like scissors. But his markers & crayons from PreK are pretty banged up from being used at home this summer. :)

The only thing I had issues with was the 6 notebooks I had to end up at a teacher supply store to get after visits to 7 different stores. I blogged about it too.
Next year I'm sending all the free pencils we get instead of buying them.

As for 100 pencils, I'd call the school and ask. Or send an email to his teacher and ask.

Drew @ Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

Condo is totally right about doling it out. Even supposing the kid needs 100 pencils throughout the course of the year, there's no way in hell they're bringing them all in on the first day.

And speaking of pencils, the erasers always run out long before the pencils do. How about making pencils half as long?

TheAngelForever said...

100 pencils seems extreme, unless they are eating them for fiber snacks ;) Seriously, we had to have 20 for second grade. I know my son will need more than that and I have tons from my teacher stash to send in.

I have to say I am a brand snob. As a teacher I have found that not all supplies are made equally. It may save you money up front, but if the markers don't last (Roseart) why bother? Having been a teacher and being the one that got the supplies in the room, I think I am more anal retentive about getting just what is on my son's list. Of course the giant glue sticks bothered me when I could have sent 3 smaller ones in at much less money. Still I got what it said not wanting my child to stick out.

About the 4x6 cards - there may be a reason for those rather than teh 3x5. There are some projects I have done with students that just work better with the larger ones. Seriously, most teachers are not trying to be difficult - we do have a rationale behind the lists.

I just posted a blog post on my new project about school supplies. A lot of people are noting other items like wipes, sanitizer, and ziploc bags on their list. Times sure have changed.

Stacey @ Tree, Root, and Twig said...

I know for a fact in our school district that many of us are "filling in" for the families who can't buy school supplies, and I certainly don't want that coming out of the teacher's pocket. So...I usually buy what's on the list. I've heard from teachers that the quality and usefulness of some brands are just better than other brands, too, and since I'm happy to be in my shoes and not theirs, I buy what works for them. Yes, there are plenty of times when I roll my eyes at what's on the list - and it definitely kills me to buy supplies for FOUR KIDS every year - but I often just suck it up. At this rate, though, I may find that putting my kids through college will be cheaper than this. :)

RL Julia said...

After years of adhering (more or less) to THE LIST, my son is going into 7th grade and has none. Aside from the purchase of a $90, fairly challenging to find, calculator (TI-84 Plus - but not the Plus Silver or the TI-83 or the child's or teacher's head might just explode), we were on our own. I felt so lost.....

As far as 100 pencils? One year I had to buy 48 which seemed excessive.

My son did reminisce about the 48 pencil classroom. Apparently the pencil glut led to alternative uses of pencils (including the wasteful but apparently highly satisfying snapping of the pencil in two).

I am so happy that your son's class will be making their very own shelters out of pencils!

Amy @ YodelingMamas said...

I think your approach sounds perfect. Look for what you've got and then buy the remaining items. (Though I don't think it's wrong to question the quantity!) I'm all for being thrifty and green (which is why I love the tissue example), but I also think it's important to feel prepared. When your kids pull out their new markers and notecards, hopefully they'll feel excited about that blank slate and new start. It's well worth a few extra bucks to arm them with possibility.

Meagan Francis said...

I have to say I'm pretty impressed with how our kids' (public) school handles this. Everything on the list is just a suggestion (the middle school tends to be more specific with folder colors and such though) and they don't get super specific about brand names--something that used to really irritate me about the private schools my boys went to before moving here. Of course, my MIL, a retired teacher, claims that RoseArt crayons get flakes everywhere hence the request for Crayola. Still, I think it's presumptive. And man, what a pain! I wish they'd just create their own "packs" and let parents write a check. As you can imagine, shopping for four different kids' school supply lists gets very confusing. I shudder to think how it'll be when Clara's in school too...

Brooke G. said...

Seriously - 100 PENCILS!?! That is a little crazy! We were asked to bring 12 which seemed adequate. Mine is still in kindergarten though.

Wife and Mommy said...

100 pencils is a lot! My first grader was asked to bring 50 pencils--already sharpened. The supply list also calls for 25 large glue sticks, no gel and no colors, white only. That was near impossible to find.

Meowmie said...

I saw the stationery list for the primary school that DD will attend next year. The administration has asked that people give the school a certain amount and every kid gets a stationery pack appropriate for her/his grade. Saves parents having to shop to a list.