sharpened pencil

I decided I’d get an early start on school supply shopping. There’s lot to buy between now and the beginning of school, and I don’t want to do it all at the last minute.

Do you know that children no longer sharpen their pencils? Parents are instructed to buy only sharpened pencils. Not only sharpened pencils but several packs of expensive name brand sharpened pencils. It’s one thing to request a supply or a type of supply, but it’s quite another to request a brand. And it’s not just our school. When I arrived at the local discount store, there were plenty of unsharpened pencils to be had. Piles of them. There were even sharpened pencils of another brand at the ready. Stacks of them. As for the expensive sharpened ones? Not one pack. The place where said pencils were supposed to be was empty, and it looked like those pencils had been gone for days, possibly weeks.

Do you know teachers ask for specific colors of supplies? Simone needs four plastic folders with prongs and pockets. Her teacher wants one each of red, blue, yellow, and green. No problem, right? I found plastic folders that I thought would hold up to the wear and tear of going to second grade, but none of them came in the desired colors. Those colors are so primary. The colors I found were purple, pink, turquoise, rust, black, and teal.

Do you know parents now buy dry erase markers? Nadia’s teacher wants dry erase markers with broad points. Simone’s teacher wants dry erase markers with fine points. Do you know what I found? Tons and tons of dry erase markers with …. chisel points! At the moment, Simone and Nadia do not have any dry erase markers.

Do you know even paper can be a problem?  Simone needs two packs of 200-count wide rule paper. I found 100-count packs and 150-count packs. The 150-count packs are a better deal. Simone will now have 50 more sheets than the little girl sitting next to her. Simone also needs two 100-sheet spiral notebooks, one red and one blue. There are 70-sheet spiral notebooks and 90-sheet spiral notebooks. There are even 120-sheet spiral notebooks. More paper is better than less, I suppose. But the 120-count notebooks come in black, blue, teal, and pink. No red.

Good thing I started early. I’m sure I will find everything the girls need before school starts. The experience, though, has led me to one conclusion. THIS IS WHY PEOPLE HOMESCHOOL THEIR CHILDREN.

15 thoughts to “Doggone School Supplies

  • Laura Majersky

    Do they just throw the pencil away the first time it becomes dull? Or do they bring the dull pencils home in a sold gold pencil case for their parents to sharpen?
    Why so much micromanaging? I could see how that whole process would get old real quick.

    • Honeysmoke

      I *guess* they sharpen them when they get dull. As for the micromanaging, I wish I knew. 

  • Beth_rubin

    Disgusting!! Does the school get a kickback from the pencil manufacturer? I’m so glad I’m not young anymore and that my kids are grown. Our public school system is  governed  by anal bureaucrats who want to perpetuate the wrong models: obey the rules (and keep making more), and “teach” kids the funnel-vomit method. They should focus more on motivating kids to THINK outside the box and LEARN creatively. But nothing will change  until we, as a society, value learning and compensate teachers better. Ever notice how closely schools resemble prisons?

  • Jen Marshall Duncan

    The back to school shopping causes me angst every summer. I can never find the right colored folders or notebooks. Four years ago I thought I’d save by buying unsharpened pencils, but then got blisters sharpening at home when I didn’t have an electric pencil sharpener. I ended up spending more when I gave in and bought an electric sharpener! Having three school-aged  kids, each having such detailed lists of necessary supplies, is very stressful. 

    Last year I discovered a time-saving helper: Office Depot online ordering. I searched the website for every item on the list, added it to a cart, paid for it with my debit card, and then drove to my local store to pick it up. They found every specific brand-name and color for me, loaded it in a cart, packed it up in boxes, and even loaded it in my vehicle when I picked it up! The cost difference between shopping in person and ordering online was negligible, and worth every penny due to my complete lack of stress. I highly recommend it!

    • Honeysmoke

      Thanks for the good idea.

  • Claudia Pierce

    I never buy the whiteboard markers, ziplock baggies, kleenex, paper towels etc. that the teacher requests. Sure it would be spendy for the teacher to buy all of that for their classroom but I have three kids that need other specific school supplies that are already costing more than I want to spend. If I added the incidentals for each child I’d spend $50-70/child on school supplies. I will send a box of Kleenex to school when MY child has a cold. I also skip the “name brand” supplies if they are more expensive except for Crayola, their markers, crayons and colored pencils really are superior over off brands. 
    We changed schools a couple of years ago and I balked when the teachers not only asked for all the incidentals like white board markers, reams of paper and clorox wipes but they also requested an extra $20-50/child for “other” supplies that would be needed over the year. I haven’t paid those fees either. I guess I’m cheap, but then again I don’t expect my patients’ families to supply me with pens, scissors, a stethoscope, scrubs etc. they are just part of my expenses for my job.

  • Zainabusiti

    One item on my 3rd grade daughters list is 4 tennis balls that may or may not be used….hmmmmmm may or may not be used? I guess I may or may not purchase. Leaning towards not.

  • Angela

    Wow… Hmmm… what do I say that won’t get me in trouble? LOL Most school supply lists are put together at the end of the previous school year since teachers want to reassess what supplies were most beneficial and what wasn’t. We do keep in mind the cost to the parent. As a former teacher, I don’t recall requesting specific brand names for any school supplies (that seems a bit ridiculous). Pencil sharpening: I always put preferred, but not required. When you sit down for over 3 hours sharpening pencils, with an electric pencil sharpener if you’re fortunate to have money to buy out of your own pocket, it gets a bit daunting when you have a classroom to organize and get ready for the school year. 
    As for specific colored folders, it’s for organizing the student folders to match the subject so that when the teacher is grading 25 – 35 folders per each subject (I was a 3rd grade teacher and taught Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing, DOL/DOM,& Language Arts equaling 7 folders multiplied by each student… well, that’s a lot of work to correct), it helps to have all the folders in one color for collecting, organizing, and distributing purposes AND it helps the students learn a sense of organization by color coding their subjects. 
    Dry erase markers – this is up to the teacher and their specific methods, but I used them for class use – be it for me to write everything out on the board, lessons where students use their personal white boards (again, purchased out of personal money), lessons on the whiteboard where students interact, etc. 
    Paper: The paper the teacher requests for the classroom is mainly for in class projects print outs. With all this said, know that some counties that have money allots said money to the schools. The school admins then decide how to distribute the money according to what they see fit. Some schools are lucky enough to offer teachers a $100 to $150 teacher budget for the school YEAR. (And this money is from a very generous admin… most teachers don’t get anything) I can say, from personal experience (and I can look at receipts) I can say, that I easily spend the $150 plus anywhere from $100 to $300 additional money out of pocket. Not including the initial money that goes into setting up your classroom if you’re a first year teacher. I probably spent 1/2 of my first paycheck before I even got it when I started teaching. 
    As for some supplies such as kleenex, clorox wipes, antibacterial gel, well… let’s face it… kids get sick A LOT! At any given day at least 1 if not more students are sick and these supplies help teachers try to keep it moderately contained. I used to have tasks for my students, and at the end of the day, I always had a student in charge of wiping down all the desks, door knobs, and sink with clorox wipes… my classroom didn’t have a single case of the flu even during the worst seasons. When things would run low I would ask parents for supplies via a newsletter and 9 times out of 10 there were always at least a handful of parents willing to help out. 
    So please, know that most teachers aren’t trying to break your bank. I agree that requesting specific brands of pencils is ridiculous! And tennis balls? Seriously? LOL (that should be something the teacher can request later in the year when it’s actually needed) But in all seriousness, please know that the good teachers are doing the best they can with what they have. It takes not just the teacher but the parents contributions as well to help a child succeed in school (especially in the public school system). At least in my classroom, that $30 – $40 is being used wisely to benefit your child and the environment they are learning in. Sorry for the long post, but I am a great teacher and I worked with amazing educators. We all work very hard to ensure that our students get the best education we can give them within the realms of our budgets and restrictions. Help cultivate the great educators out there…. they’re the ticket to your child’s successful school career. 

    • Jen Marshall Duncan

      I am a teacher, too, Angela and I really appreciate your reply here! I never complain about the number of things listed for my own kids because I know exactly how much of my money I spend on supplies for my own classroom. Every little bit parents can donate helps immensely. And I especially appreciate it when  parents chip in extra because I work with a group of kids who live in poverty; many literally cannot afford things that many of us take for granted. It means the world when they sacrifice to help their child’s education.

      • Angela

        I know exactly what you mean. I’ve had great experiences with the generosity of the parents of my students. We’ve had a few students over the years that really needed supplies and even clothing and the parents of my other students always managed to help out. I was very blessed to have the support of such wonderful parents and really touched by their generosity and caring. Every little bit helps. 

  • Frankie Howley

    Fantastic post! This arrived just in time, as I was just browsing for school supplies for my son, who will be entering the eighth grade, this school year. To my surprise, flash drives are now on the list of suggested supplies to have for class! And while I am a big supporter of technology and advancements in the classroom, I have to wonder what’s next? What happened to the good old fashioned way of learning? In addition to going paperless, will pens and pencils be no more? What about artists who rely on their paintbrushes and canvas to create? Or if your child learns more  from a ‘hand’s on’ environment, than strictly from a computer? And worse, what if your child’s computer gets hacked? With all these questions at hand, (and even though times are changing for our children), this is all a bit much for even the most ‘tech- savvy’ parents out there! What are your thoughts?

  • K

    Wow, ridiculous!  I can’t believe that school systems feel that they can tell people how to spend their money.  A pencil is a pencil, right?  Most children lose school supplies like it is nobody’s business…why spend a lot of money on something that your child is just going to misplace.  It is the reason why we buy hundreds of pens and pencils each year.  I would suggest that more community involvement is needed to tell schools that they are being ridiculous.  

    Case in point:  one year my mom bought school supplies for my nephew.  A week later he told my mom that the teacher said it couldn’t have any tint in it.  The protractor had a slight tint of gray and was almost no different than the clear, plastic one.  Isn’t there something wrong when we spend more time on how our school supplies look than teaching?

  • Wendy

    I did actually homeschool my kid for a couple of years and it was bliss.  Seriously.  For “Back to School” we went to the local art store and bought paints and markers and pads of watercolor paper.

    At her current school, they charge a flat rate at registration which covers all supplies.  Since they buy everything the kids need in bulk, they get a pretty good discount too.  Though we do still usually buy a few extra supplies from the art store (for both of us).

  • Di4bmf

    I wish luck, and yes it a good reason to homeschool. Another up side to homeschooling no head lice, less illness, and a start time of 9 am or so. 
    I think the teachers are just a little too demanding. I also think sharping pencils is a good thing, give you a day dream break needed for childhood. 

  • bee_del_bird

    Crappy pencils break pencil sharpeners (fact).  My students use only
    Mirado Black Warrior pencils, but I would NEVER ask parents to buy
    them.  Just buy unsharpened pencils, sharpen them, and put them back in the box. 

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