Back to School Shopping…out of control!

This week’s Hump Day Hmm is all about school. There are a lot of stories that I could tell about my days at school, but I want to take a different look at going back – the school supply list. It’s one of those things that are a big flashing sign to tell you that it’s time to go back; they have the lists available at most major stores now, unlike in my day when they’d just mail you a list and you’d get on with it.

Of course, this is designed for the parent who lost their shopping list sometime during the summer (or for the parent of the kids who didn’t want to go back to school…I remember being terrified about going back to school for the second grade, each year after that got better though…until college ;)), but anyone walking by can grab one, two or half a dozen.

I can not honestly remember ever having a list of things required for school as long as they have for this school year. Of all the junk I’ve kept over the years, I’ve not kept my school supplies lists, but I’m going to try to do a comparison based on what I recall. 😉


This stands for 4-year-old Kindergarten. When I started school, they had a different term for this – “preschool”. I didn’t go to preschool, but I’m guessing that the required supplies were minimal – maybe a small bookbag and the occasional snack for the class.

Now, you have schools giving these toddlers (really, I think 4-year-olds are still toddlers) lists of items to bring in that include scissors, folders, backpacks, and even glue sticks. There’s one school that is giving parents the option of bringing in gift cards to Wal-Mart for photo processing. Last time I checked, photo processing at Wal-Mart cost 19¢ per photo – 100 photos would then be $19. It makes me wonder how many photos they’re going to print out over the year…


I think when I went to kindergarten, we might have had to have a backpack, but it was rarely, if ever, used. We might have needed to bring in a pack of crayons, but other than that I don’t remember a big shopping list like they have today. Then again, when I was in Kindergarten, it was only in the afternoon, not an all-day affair like you have today.

I think it’s mostly due to that single change to all-day school that the schools are now asking for a list of items that you would normally see for first grade, or even second grade. The schools are now asking for kids to bring in upwards of 25 glue sticks (the rationale is that buy them now when they’re cheap – that makes sense actually; it’s something you see across many of the supply lists).

As you move up through the grades, there are some interesting similarities. For example, in first grade, schools are now asking that the pencils all be sharpened so that the teachers can give out pencils as the students use them. During the six weeks I was in first grade (which is a story for another day ;)), I was allowed to have my own pencils; if we needed a new one, we just got up and sharpened it, if it was a new pencil, we just had to sharpen it for a bit longer.

I also remember that by the time I was in third grade, we were allowed to have erasable pens – blue or black, however, most of us chose to stick to pencils; now, you have to be in 5th grade before being allowed a blue or black pen, but if you’re in 4th grade, you have to have a red pen (or pencil). Ahh, the days of “hand your paper to the person behind you; here are the answers”. I don’t know if it was just me, or a lot of people, but there was a distinct style of writing 100 on a paper – you made the one, and then wrote the “00” as if it were two capital Os, making something that looked like this –
Another trend that I’ve noticed is that schools are now asking for color coded folders. What happened to getting just x number of folders? I remember getting folders of different colors, then labeling them with the subject; we all used different colors, and different designs. I guess that the concept of individuality is now frowned upon in schools?

Moving up to Middle School – grades 6-8 in my area – you have pretty much the same requirements as elementary school, but there are some added items. For example, they tell you the exact calculator you are to have for school – TI-30X IIS Advanced Scientific, needed for all 3 years; I had a Casio calculator that did the same things; I bet it was cheaper as well.

In 6th grade, you need to have a 3-ring zipper binder (so much for all the prohibitions of trapper keepers for all the previous years, now they tell you that you need one!), also 2 dry erase markers and a set of highlighters. 7th graders are required to bring 2 inch-and-a-half binders, a compass, graph paper, and a composition notebook. In 8th grade, you need to have two binders – one at 1½ inches, one at 2 inches. They also require a jump drive – at least they haven’t said how big it has to be, but it is an improvement over a floppy disk. 😉

I think I made it through middle school using maybe 2 binders – a small one in 6th grade, then a larger one in 8th grade. Interestingly, there is no prohibition on the type of paper that students can bring for middle school – it used to be that you were only allowed to have wide rule (and it is still that way for students in elementary school). Of course, I always went to college rule since it was more efficient, and my teachers never made an issue of it 😉

Fortunately, by the time you get to high school, there are no lists of things to bring for class. You’re pretty much expected to have a general idea of what to bring. If you’re needed to bring other supplies in, the teacher tells you. As it is, one of the common restrictions – no wheels – was one that I ignored in high school, being one of the first with a wheeled backpack (which I later abandoned for a more traditional bookbag, one that I use every day now when I go out to walk).

What I’d love to know is what were you asked to bring to school when you were there – was it the laundry list, or just bring the basics? If you have kids in school now, do the required items seem ridiculous compared to when you were in school?

6 thoughts on “Back to School Shopping…out of control!

  1. In my experience, schools are less and less able to provide necessary items for kids, which REALLY creates a socioeconomic strata, you know?

    So parents must provide more and more. Teachers must provide more and more. Taxes go up and so do costs personally.

    Also, I find schools are getting more and more systemized.

    There is so much in my daughter’s elementary that just makes me shake my head. I’m all for organization but not to the point of assembly line.

    Also, even though I ADORE school supply shopping, I was so intimidated I just bought the shrink wrapped supply pack from the PTA.

    Ravin’ Picture Maven

  2. I remember buying a ton of school supplies when I was a kid, but don’t know if my mom shopped from a list or not.

    We’ve been lucky – last year my oldest daughter’s supplies for kindergarten were all provided by the school (teacher?) and this year for first grade she is only being asked to purchase a pencil box (99 cents last I checked). Phew!

  3. I never got a supply list when I was in school. My daughter is going into grade 8 and the one list she got is quite long. This list is from her homeroom teacher, she won’t get the list from her other teachers until she has that class, so it may be a day or two after school starts until she gets it. Really annoying! You would figure that they would give all the lists out at once. On top of everything I have to buy there is the student fee of $35. Still don’t know what that is for other than renting the lock for her locker that she has to return at the end of the year.

    I have to stop complaining, this comment is getting way to long.

  4. I’m working at a school in an underprivileged area of Sydney, and here kids don’t bring ANYTHING. All that we technically ask of them is to bring a few lead pencils, a rubber and a gluestick.

    My class? Doesn’t bring any of those. I buy pencils for my class, I buy colours, I buy stationery. The only thing the school provides are exercise books & craft supplies.

    As for the past, I remember having a pencilcase full of stuff. My mum once confessed that she loved “back to school” time because she loves stationery shopping so much, and I must have gained my love of school supplies from her. 🙂

  5. Julie – I think it’s a fine balance between what’s provided and what is asked to be brought in. For example, when I was in school, we were expected to bring the basics – notebooks, pencils, etc. Now I’m seeing requests for students to bring in book covers; they gave us those when we got the books.

    I do agree with the increasing systemization of schools – it seems that if they don’t have a procedure for every single last thing, it can’t be done. Ah well, times change..

    Deb – You’re really lucky! I have a feeling that won’t stay the same however.

    Tammy – They don’t say what the matriculation fees are on the sheets, but when I was in 12th grade, it was somewhere in the range of $40. The middle school does have a fee mentioned – foreign language class – $25 for 7th grade, $12.50 for 8th grade, plus buying a workbook for class.

    And don’t worry about leaving a comment that’s too long. 😉

    Snos – I never experienced that – we always got our own stuff (and I suspect that around here, schools giving out supplies wouldn’t be looked upon too highly).

    Alynda – I can understand the difficulties in getting some of the necessary supplies, but I would think that even underprivileged families could scrape together the $10 to get the required supplies (I’m just taking a wild guess at the price of the items, so I’m probably overestimating).

    Anyone else miss their trapper keepers? 😉

    Thanks y’all 😉

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