Remember the School Supply Search?

August 1, 2008 | By More

Please let me take a moment and express my deepest sympathy to all the mothers of elementary-age through middle-school-age children. You are, at this time, struggling to find all those items on your child’s school supply list. Those of you with a list should however consider yourself lucky because there are others out there simply struggling to find the list.

My very first column was about this very dilemma and I cannot help but think about the frustration so many of you will go through over the next couple of weeks. Hang in there is does get better; well, kind of.

Let me explain how it works when your child gets to 10th grade; Pay very close attention, it is a little tricky. It is very important if you know someone with a child going into 10th grade that they get this information.

The first thing to know is you will buy no supplies until after your child starts school. It will feel odd after all those years of sending them off to school loaded down with individually-labeled folders, crayons, markers and a pencil pouch, but just go with it. Trust me. They will survive the first day with just a pad of paper and a pencil. The tricky part will begin when they get home.

The first day, each of your student’s seven teachers will give your child a supply list for that class. Some teachers will have a printed list and some — this is sooo bad for those of us with boys — will want your child to copy down the supply list from the board.

Even worse is when they want your child to write it down as they read it aloud in class. This last technique has caused great frustration in the Bentley household. My children will write as few words as possible leaving out very important details, such as the size of the notebook or the number highlighters they need.

When asked these details by their mother, they become irritated. It is as if I should somehow just know even though I was nowhere near their classroom. God bless the teachers who send home a printed list. Now let’s break down the lists. It will appear that your child needs a separate notebook for every class. Don’t do it. As a matter of fact, some classes will tell you they need multiple 2” or 3” notebooks. Don’t do it. Only get the extra notebooks if they will receive extra credit for having them in

class by the end of the first week. Otherwise, do not buy all the requested notebooks. We ended this last year with nine unused notebooks.

Let me explain what I think is behind all these excessive notebooks. (And no, it is not a kick-back from the notebook companies as my husband has suggested.) It is the idea of making the students keep all their work organized by nine-week grading periods.

The intention is to grade these attempts at organization and responsibility. It sounds good on paper — until the teacher realizes there are just not enough hours in the day to grade all 100+ notebooks. This leaves you, the “trying-really-hard-to-do-the-right- thing” parent with lots of empty notebooks.

Letmegobackto“ifyouhaveitinby the end of the week you will receive extra credit” scenario. By the end of the week is often do-able. It is the teacher who says, “have it in by tomorrow and receive 100 extra credit points” that makes you want to pull out your hair.

I have to believe they have no idea what trauma they are placing on parent and child. If they did, they would stop the madness.

Just picture other parents (like myself) who have multiple children in multiple schools. We also have multiple church events, sports events, work responsibilities, and occasionally in my house, we have something that looks like a family dinner. On top of that, the schools have sent home two or three night’s worth of paperwork that needs to be filled out for each child.

I am going to digress a moment here and ask, ‘What is the deal with that?’ Is there not some way to carry this information over from year to year? I mean if my child was not an American Indian last year I don’t think he will become one this year. Why do we fill out the same paperwork year after year?

Okay, now let me continue with the ‘next- day-extra-credit issue.’ Besides all the other complications to accomplishing this ‘next day bonus,’ is the complication that parents of elementary and middle school students have previously cleared the shelves of most of the required school supplies. For those of you new to this next phase of school supplies, just wait; you will be amazed at how cleared out everything is.

Here is my final bit of advice for those of you with children going into 10th grade or above:

Unless your child really, really, really needs those extra credit points, don’t go. Stay home and have a family dinner. (At my house, that means ordering take out.)

Put all those forms aside for another night. They have never kicked a kid out of school for not having those forms completed the next day.

Take time to ask your child about their first day of school. If you have boys, you will only get three questions before they accuse you of trying to live their life — so ask wisely.

Lastly, enjoy the simplicity of the high school supply list because the college list is just around the corner and that is a completely new ballgame.

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