Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Holy Unnecessary Crap!

Do you remember, as a child, getting ready for school to start and the excitement of brand-new crayons, rulers, notebooks, folders, and pencils? I do. My mom would take me to Tar-jay and my eyes would turn into saucers as I eyed the bins of Elmer's glue, Crayola crayons (I always envied those kids who got the 64 with a sharpener), and yellow pencils.

I am guessing my kids feel the same way. After all, it's fun to get all new stuff. It's a new year, new teacher, new books, and so we need new supplies!

Last year I pitched a hissy fit at JL's preschool because I had to spend $26 on preschool supplies. That seemed really ridiculous. And I didn't even get everything on the list. That was because she basically asked the parents to buy the art supplies for the year, things like pipe cleaners, pompoms, paint, and play-doh. For the older kids, I made them recycle their still-usable supplies from the year before. Anything that was a newly necessary supply or else had been used up the year before we bought new.

But this year I have 3 going to private school. 3 to buy full-day supplies for. 3 to buy school uniforms for. I am such a big believer that for us it is a great decision. We want our kids immersed in Christianity. Yes, they definitely get it at home since my husband is a pastor. But they are at school longer than they're at home, right? Anyway, Christian Education is the right decision for our family. So, along with that decision comes tuition (over $600 per month, 12 months a year), school uniforms (polos and khakis, I try to buy second hand but they have to be in decent shape) and school supplies (the list keeps growing and growing and growing). I just don't know how to feel about all the expense involved. While I know that the school is surviving on less per student than the government gives to their public school peers, I have such a hard time shelling out all that money. And, of course, the tuition isn't the end of the money... snack cart - 50 cents every day times 3. Brown bag lunch every day - about $1 every day times 3. "Hot lunch" (brought in from a local fast food place - it is optional but what mom wants to tell her kid no?) - $4 every Friday times 3. School musical t-shirts - $10 times 3. Christmas presents for the teachers - $10 times 3 (Is $10 enough?). Gym shoes for each kid - $15 times 3. School Pictures - $15 times 3. Now I know that some of these expenses would exist even if the kids were in public school. But when did our society evolve into needing all these things? I don't mind sending my kid to school with pencils, papers, folders. But why dry-erase markers ALSO? Why also a specific nap mat? (Can't he just bring his sleeping bag?) And what in God's good name does a KINDERGARTENER need with a black sharpie marker? My son does enough damage at home with regular washable markers! 2 packages of washable colored markers? 2 rulers? Why 2? And 3 bottles of Elmers glue and 4 glue sticks! My opinion is, send them to school with 1, and ask them to be RESPONSIBLE for it. (I know a very strange concept... easier to just throw down a few extra bucks and not have to worry about it! - sarcasm) Plus, the school has let us know that there may be other supplies needed during the year and that some supplies may need replenishing. UGH!

Am I a miserly mom? I prefer the term FRUGAL. Ribbit. So tonight I went through all the leftover crap from years past. You should have seen the looks on my kids faces when I told them: "Here are your colored pencils." (some are sharpened within inches of the nub) "Here is your set of markers." (last years - but I tested them and they all still work great). "Here is your glue" - It is the bottle from last year and I have poured in the extra glue from other bottles. My children have NEVER used one whole bottle of glue in a year so I'll be a monkey's uncle before I buy them 3 bottles of Elmer's. Plus, I am seriously contemplating sending my kids to school with just part of their school supply lists. I do not accept the whole "Well, we might need it during the year." Okay then let me know and I'll send it that day. I mean, I don't want to make the teacher's job harder but I wonder how much they wasting supplies. And have they thought, do I really need to ask parents to buy this? And what about supplies from last year? Certainly not EVERYTHING is completely used up.

I'm a new parent to this school so I don't want to poo-poo it all too much. Plus I've gotten very friendly with the Kindergarten teacher. But it seems like a lot of the supplies I am going to have to purchase will be to supply HER with the necessary stuff that should be coming out of tuition money. This is the same argument I had with my husband over the preschool materials last year. He told me to not get him involved and to just talk to the teacher. He still doesn't get the whole, you-don't-need-to-solve-this-one-I-just-need-a-sounding-board thing.

Before I know it, I'll have to buy a graphing calculator - times 3. A laptop computer - times 3. Grown-up sized gym shoes, grown-up sized lunches, braces, and acne medication - all times 3. I will probably also need my own anti-depressants - times 3. So for now, I will try to get our school to EASE us into the constant spending. And overspending. And wasteful spending. It's very popular, you know.


Bridgett said...

Goodness we are cut from similar cloths. I'm going to have to blog about this myself. We've lucked out--the school Sophia goes to is a charter school (but run by Catholic Workers, so it still matches all the Catholic values I find most important (and learning the rosary is not one of them...). And since it's montessori and run like a commune, it's a $25 fee for the year for it all. She brings nothing but a pair of slippers or off-brand crocs to change into. Because you're right: a sharpie for kindergarten is wrong.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Nuh-uh. Before you know it, you will be buying that stuff TIMES 4 because Maura is not all THAT far behind.

Homeschool anyone?

Back to work for mommy?

Included on my child's list this year is also Gallon size Ziploc bags. Wha??? Gavin lost a tooth last year and brought it home in one of these bags. Wouldn't maybe snack size bags be more appropriate? I don't know. Maybe there is a reasonable explanation.

Snack cart? Maybe your kids should have to pay for snacks out of their allowance...


Texan Mama said...

Bridgett - I have found out that the Sharpie is for the teacher. Dunno what it's used for but I'm just sending one we have on hand here. I don't agree with buying the teachers' supplies. I was a teacher and I NEVER asked the students to bring anything other than what they needed for themselves. I didn't even buy tissue - I told them to bring their own and if they ran out, use their sleeve or get TP from the bathroom. Same thing I tell my own kids now.

Angie, Homeschool? Never. You know I would beging twitching and rocking within weeks. And gallon ziplocs? I'd ask the teacher - if it's for lost teeth just send whatever you want. That's my philosophy. They end up having so much left over at the end anyway and if they run out I am more than willing to buy extra if I don't buy enough in the beginning. I have already told my kids 'You are only bringing 2 bottles of glue, not 3. And 2 boxes of Kleenex, not 3. And 2 rolls of paper towels, not 3. And you are splitting the package of plastic forks & spoons, I am not sending you each with a package of both. That's crazy." They seem okay with it. Don't cross mommy with THAT look in her eye!

Bridgett said...

So, assuming a kindergarten class of even only 16 students, what teacher needs 16 sharpie markers?? I used mine in a first grade classroom *maybe* once a week after the first week of school (labeling everything). I think I had two the whole year.

I don't believe in teacher supply buying, either. Somehow I always managed to have enough stuff to make it work.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I feel your pain, seriously. I have had two going to a private school and a third joining them in the fall-can boys wear pink uniform shirts?!

Elizabeth said...

i've seen on different TV programs about how much it costs to provide 1 child with school's kind of insane. I think the estimate was nearly $100! I think reusing is better for everyone and teaches children great habits. :-) go-mom!

stephanie (bad mom) said...

Another teacher here and I feel your pain & share your philosophies.

I just today went through last year's stuff and checked off what they need for the upcoming year. After scoffing at a few things (we also have requests for Sharpies), I popped into Goodwill and found a few items. I think we're teaching our kids smart habits by not racing to the store to get everything brand new & right now.

And you are very sweet already budgeting $10 per teacher per kid. I wait to see a) how much I love the teachers & their connections to my kids and b) what kinds of things they like - maybe something I bake or make will fit nicely. Regardless, $10 is more than generous. Personally, I love stuff the kids themselves came up with [usually!]


Donna-Michele said...

YOU ARE RIGHT> Dont back down.

I dealt with this at the highschool level. I was given a page with each child's teacher's e-mail addresses... so I sent an e-mail, explaning that we were a 'green family', trying to be ecco-responsible and asking what was absolutely necessary, and what could be re-used. I got one response out of 12 teachers saying that 'parents don't generally follow the lists anyway, so she has stopped providing one, and that she would ask, in writing for supplies as necessary throughout the school year'. We never got one request from her!

Our two went the first day with 1 three ring binder with pockets and dividers (all from a past year), 2 pencils and a smile. Two teachers required special folders and one asked that the child bring a calculator. (I think that was for an AP science class).

Other parents told me that they spent over $100 per kid.

We 'school shopped' after school began and we had a sense of what they'd outgrown/ was needed.

Our kids got allowance for chores and if they wanted extra snacks, they budgeted that out of their allowance, unless I was feeling generous and gifted them extra.

Save money without compromising quality, and be proud of it. Ask good questions, politely. That is what we taught ours, so we set that example.