The Problem With School Supplies


Once again, it is the most wonderful time of year as parents who less than 3 months ago were counting down until the last day of school are now whole-heartedly awaiting the doors of school to reopen. Maybe the days with bored kids seem long, but we will recall them in just a few fast weeks as flying by so we better stop and enjoy these last few weeks in between  running around looking for school supplies, clothing and pinteresting new snack and lunch ideas. 

As a parent of a middle schooler and a first grader, I plan on having a diverse and lengthy list of items my daughter’s teachers feel they need. Pens. Pencils. Notebooks. Cleaning supplies. None of this bothers me. Yes. As a tax paying citizen, I want to know why the government’s school spending doesn’t cover basics like soap and paper towels,  but I will happily send my kid on the first day with what ever is asked for, and if I feel the need to complain, I will bypass teachers and principals and go straight to all those people who got voted into their nice cushioned seats for that.   

So as smooth and stress free as back to school shopping goes, the peace is usually threatened a day or two into the school year. By all means, collect the paper towels, soap and other items I bought intending to share with the class, but it should stop there. When I send my child in with specific markers, pens, pencils and crayons, I see no reason for those to be collected and redistributed to the class. I understand teachers have their thoughts and opinions on what works best, but the thoughts and opinions do not trump the rights of my children over their own property.  

Before the outrage kicks in from those that think teaching my child to share and to see that no child goes without is important, I completely agree. This does neither, and at the same time, takes away my daughters’ sense of personal accountability, whether that pertains to taking care their things, or helping others in need.

How does collecting and redistributing goods teach sharing? I guess it teaches sharing the same way filing taxes does. How many of you reach into your pockets at tax time and hand more than necessary towards public welfare? If something is forcefully taken, you will not get the opportunity to be charitable, nor the resulting emotions that come with it. 

I don’t want my children to blindly trust that others will take care of charity for them. I want them to see what it is like to not only help a friend that may need a pencil, a piece of paper, or even some of their lunch, but to see what it is like to be the person in need. The teachers may find it easier and faster to eliminate rather than foster these immensely important social interactions, but they are forgetting about the hidden cost. 

Not only are we stifling our children’s ability to freely choose to share, but we are taking away any accountability for being responsible for their own stuff. Having a child need a pencil every day for the first month of school may be frustrating, but not giving them the freedom to learn to be prepared will just delay that frustration indefinitely, because you are not teaching the child how to be responsible.

This goes beyond a parents ability to provide supplies. Last year I was flabbergasted when I read a teacher’s account of how many pencils get swept up daily. First of all, if my child drops a pencil on the floor, I expect them to pick it up. At home I spend much time and effort teaching the value of things, and I don’t expect that to be actively untaught the 8 hours they are in school. I sure hope that this is not a regular occurrence, but what is that teacher showing her class about taking care of things by allowing such unnecessary waste in her classroom. 

I find it ironic that people will so willingly dispose of things that are meant for extended use, like pencils, while having major campaigns to make things that are made for single use and disposed of regularly banned, like straws and bags, so we stop wasting so much. The irony does not end there. I don’t remember even knowing what hand sanitizer was when I was a child, nor do I remember all the warnings of washing hands and coughing into your elbow during flu season being so pervasive. So we spread awareness on how to prevent spreading germs and then turn around and ask our 6 year olds to share crayons, markers and pencils with everyone in their class who have not yet learned the art of keeping germs to themselves.  Then we compensate by liberally applying hand sanitizer while the news tries to scare us with reports of drug resistant bacteria and infections. 

So as I begin a new school year, I hope to have a teacher that shares my values. I hope they respect personal property and the accountability, growth and wisdom that come from owning things. If not, I will respectfully ask that my child’s belongings be left in their possession anyway. As always, I will tell the teacher if she needs supplies throughout the year, I would gladly send in extras and I will pay my class dues, send in a few extra sets of daily supplies like crayons and pencils for those that may not have, and I will make sure my child comes in as prepared the last day of school as she did the first, because this isn’t about being cheap or greedy, it is about ensuring my child is not only taught math and english in first grade, but character and responsibility as well. 

What do you think about school supplies. Do you think they ask for too much, just the right amount, or not enough so that teachers are left on the hook to foot the bill? Do you think it is too much to expect a first grader to take care of their supplies? 


6 thoughts on “The Problem With School Supplies”

  1. This is my first year buying school supplies since my daughter is starting 4K. I am shocked at some of the items but I guess I’ll see what happens as she gets older! Ha


    1. Lists will probably become increasingly shocking as she gets older. Then you’ll have to add in class trips, graduations and proms! These are just warm ups for college tuition. 🙂 Good luck with the first year!


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