School Supplies on a Budget

No one ought to feel defeated by a list of school supplies that comes in the mail along with a teacher’s welcoming letter and other news from the PTA. Having to purchase school supplies ought never become a financial burden. If it appears that it is, it is not your fault and not your problem.

The first thing any parent should know about school supplies is that boards of education regulate what supplies students need to provide.

School supplies on a budget are frequently driven by a teacher’s wish list. And judging from what I’ve seen over the years is that every teacher has a wish list.

In most instances, that is all a supply list consists of-wishes. No teacher can require students to buy a three-ring-zippered-binder or a pencil-pen-eraser pouch with a special slot for one’s lunch card.

Yet some teachers do. Students want the things on the teachers’ lists because “teacher says!” and it is nearly impossible to dissuade a student who comes home with the dictum: “Teacher says!”

A good word of advice is, “Check your Board of Education Regulations.” A few principals get ahead of this problem by stating what the board of education requires in his newsletter and frankly advises parents that the teacher list is simply a wish list.

Most School Boards have these regulations and they clearly state and list what parents should purchase for their students to come to school with and be equipped and prepared to work.

At this time of year, your typical business supply store will be loaded with these-paper, pencils, pens, erasers, copybooks, and inexpensive folders to hold their work. They may even have your children’s teachers lists posted for you to consult should you forget it at home. But remember, there is no obligation on your part other than to supply your child with the basic tools to work with at school.

If there is a big problem with children and school supplies it is that there never seems to be enough paper around at home to satisfy kids who use it up as if it were toilet paper. They throw their mistakes away faster than your printer can push out a printed page. So buy paper now while it is cheap.

Another thing that elementary school children do is break lead in a pencil sharpener and end up with stubs rather than pencils. The other thing they do is spend a lot of time erasing. I tried for several years to teach triplets at home to cross a word out-one line through to delete the word or sentence to delete it rather than erase it or the whole sentence or paragraph.

But these kids are adamant about erasing until all they are left with is a hole in the paper and the metal rim containing the left-over end of an eraser that is black and useless and a sheet of paper that they want to use with eraser marks all over the sheet because it’s the only hard copy of the assignment that they have.

I favor buying the kids books to read even though the library is there at school to use and most classrooms come equipped with great reading material that parents left as gifts when their children moved on.

But by buying the book I mean to encourage pride of ownership or the reading material, and I can guide their reading. Owning the book also allows them to use a highlighter to underline unfamiliar words or to note important ideas by writing with a pencil in the margins about why that which they underline is important to them.

Books don’t fall under supplies, but I would advise the routine I’ve just described because it spurs students to read more and as a result they end up becoming better readers than even their teachers believe they are because teachers are often guided by lists of books suitable for the grade called “leveled reading lists.”

Good advice, then, is buy only what the Board of Education says the student must come to school with and no more.

If the teacher lists tissues, send your student to school with a small, zip lock bag full of facial tissues for herself and not boxes-full for the teacher’s desk. The health office has those.