Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Back-to-school time has excited me ever since I can remember. New school supplies! New clothes! Seeing friends I hadn't seen all summer! What's not to love?

The excitement increased exponentially once I had school-aged children because, not only did I have the fun of shopping for stationery (OCD heaven!), but I could look forward to whole hours of the day that were relatively quiet.

Brian's first day of junior kindergarten, in 2000.
Can you even believe how cute he is?
(Even with four children, having one less in the house makes a difference. Depending on which child, it could make a dramatic difference.)

But this year, something's missing.

Our youngest graduated from high school in June and has opted not to take any post-secondary program, for now. Our older kids are well installed in their programs and don't really need much in the way of typical back-to-school supplies.

I'm pretty sure they mean 99 cents, not 0.99 cents, but I'm seriously tempted to bring this in to Target
and demand that I be allowed to purchase these items for a penny each.
I see the back-to-school ads and really wish I had an excuse to buy a 24-pack of pencil crayons (or even the holy grail of 64-pack crayons with the sharpener in the box), a glue stick, a snazzy pencil case, and a brightly-coloured backpack with the latest Disney characters on it. But they would only fill shelves and gather dust.

Having said that, I am beyond happy that I don't have to fork over wads of cash every August.

When I was growing up, all the materials were supplied by the schools, but by the time our kids were school-aged, funding cuts meant that each student had to bring a backpack full of supplies on Day One. And the requirements for that stock became ludicrously specific.

Emily and Brian make their way to the first day of school of our first year in Colorado Springs.
(I was carrying Brian's backpack for some reason. Probably because it was filled with 150 pounds of school supplies.)
Brand-name (no substitutes allowed) glue sticks, notebooks, and pencils. Protective covers for the school-issued textbooks. Hand sanitizer. A ream of paper.

Complicating matters, each classroom had unique requirements. One teacher might require a red binder, a green binder, and a blue one, while another might require six different report covers. I would end up making trips to multiple stores all over town.

I get it. I understand that the costs of supplies were downloaded to the families, but when you're kitting out several kids, it really adds up. I used to estimate $150 per child for supplies and basic fall clothes and shoes. For a median single-income family, that's pretty punishing; we were fortunate.

And I realize that teachers routinely supplement these supplies out of their own pockets, which they shouldn't have to do.

Enough griping.

It's back-to-school season, and I am nostalgic. I may have to borrow someone's school-aged child and take them out shopping.

Even then, he didn't like his paparazzi mama.

1 comment:

  1. I have until September... and it will take me that long to save the money. oye -- it's so true. with 3 kids in grade school: it literally financially breaks us for a month or two. because they also want them to have indoor AND outdoor shoes. they are not allowed to wear their outdoor shoes inside the school. and they have to pack lunches that are litter free; so you need to buy the appropriate containers to put the food in. It just keeps adding up each year it seems.
    But, yes, I will be celebrating that first day they all got back on the bus still!! ha :)


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