As some of you might know, I have 4 children, 3 of which are school age and all 3 go to different schools, which is a whole different blog.  I am starting to realize as they get older and we have more experience with more schools than most, getting ready for school is a completely different experience for each student (depending on grade), each school, district and whether private or public.  There is no 'uniform' way for children to get ready for school anymore.  Long gone are the days of Trapper Keepers, kitten and puppy folders, everyone having Crayola markers and crayons, (and to that, the jealous days of the 'lucky' or in my case, I always thought, 'the rich kid' who got the 64 pack of Crayola crayons with the cool built in sharpener.) and a little cardboard pencil box with super cute designs. 

Now everyone has to pool their school supplies, no one can put their name on their folders, the teacher does that for them, you can only buy a certain kind of pencil, everyone must have the same sized and colored crayons and markers, only solid colored folders and absolutely NO Trapper Keepers!  (Yes, this was actually written on one supply list.)  I could take this blog again down the road of, no individuality in our students, all must be little robots with the same stuff, the same look, the same behavior, however that is not the road I am taking today.  Today I am wondering, why are the lists so different, why are they so long, and what do my taxes pay for again? 

What started all of this?  Well, last night my mother took 2 of my 3 school aged children school supply shopping.  It is something she likes to do with them each year, it is an easy excuse to spend time with each child and they all look forward to it each year.  So, she called me last night almost in shock to tell me how much she had spent just buying their supplies, almost $250 for just TWO children!  Are you kidding me? 
First of all, so glad it was her and not me and second of all, how can families afford this?    I thought at first this is what everyone must be going through, then I found out how different it is depending on school, district, location, state.  Crazy, so everything has to be uniform, except schools and districts.    Is it really budget cuts to education that are doing this or is it the actual schools/districts that are doing it?  Is it teachers demanding these things and who decides which pencils brand the entire district is going to go with and what color dry erase markers the children need to buy?  When did the students need to start suppling the 'teacher' supplies?

I quickly learned through many friends, every school/district/state is all over the map and it can vary even from one neighborhood school to another.  I found out in Apple Valley the PTO sells school readiness packs for under $25 with all the supplies the children need to start school.  I discovered there isn't much difference anymore between public and private school supply lists either.  I even discovered one mom who spent just around $10 for ALL of her children's school supplies by shopping all the different stores and their back to school sales and having coupons. 

I actually did some research online and looked at school supply lists, Edina's was really long, and they were one that specifically said, NO Trapper Keepers, however they also had a great idea,  you could order pre-packaged bundles of the school supplies for the students and many other items were available for purchase at the school.  I like that and think it is good for working parents or parents with small children!  Minneapolis had the easiest and least restrictive one I saw anywhere, it was just a checklist of supplies each child would need, but had no brand names, colors or quantities listed, nor were they specific on style of folders, pencil boxes, or backpacks.  Richfield is all over the board depending on the school and grade.  One thing that has puzzled me about Richfield is their rule on 'NO backpacks with wheels', aren't there all these articles each year of how weighted down backpacks are for children and how back they are for their backs?  After having 2 children in the Richfield district and being at 3 of their schools, I now know why, many of their schools have stairs. 

As a parent, taxpayer, and just someone who is curious and wants to know, I wonder what our schools are spending their money on?  I know education seems to be getting cut more and more each year however, in Minneapolis, where they have been cut a lot their list seems surprisingly small and non-descriptive.  I thought if I looked at the poorer districts, the ones with the most cuts, I would find differences, but not really.  Although, I do have to wonder why a 2nd grader in the Anoka-Hennepin district needs 60 sharpened pencils and 3 packages of post it notes?  That seemed a bit excessive on pencils and a bit odd on the post it note deal.    On a side note, I also noticed how many of the 'poorer' communities offered FREE (apparently this is a big selling point) all day Kindergarten and yet a district like Edina only offers 1/2 day Kindergarten for free and if you want full day Kindergarten you need to pay about $350 a month for it!  Again, not seeing that any of this spending, supply lists, private/public....none of it really seems to add up and make sense to this mom.

Anyone else notice this?  I seem to only get more questions than answers when it comes to the cost of just preparing my children for the first day of school.   I would love to hear about your school supply lists, any crazy school supply items and how many pencils does a student really need in a year and why do they have to all be sharpened?!  :-)


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