Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to Eww! School

Bleatings from EnviRambo

As my now 13 year old daughter - who outgrew everything she owns over the summer - and I head off into the land of consumerism in search of a whole new wardrobe, I will have this post on the forefront of my mind. I originally wrote this last year on my personal blog Greeen Sheeep as my submission to the Green Moms Carnival: Back to School Edition.

WSMS Supply List - Grade 7
  • 1 large zippered 3-ring binder
  • 1 3-ring 1" binder (for reading class)
  • 1 3-ring 1" soft cover binder (for science)
  • 1 pencil pouch
  • 9 spiral notebooks
  • 1 3 subject notebook with pocket dividers (for English)
  • 1 ruler with centimeters & inches
  • 1 box of colored pencils or markers
  • 1 compass
  • 4 plain blue pocket folders
  • 1 protractor
  • 2 black pens
  • 1 pair scissors
  • 2 blue pens
  • 1 eraser
  • 2 fine point black markers
  • 2 glue sticks
  • 1 box of regular pencils
  • 1 calculator
  • 2 large boxes of Kleenex
  • 2 highlighters - different colors
  • 1 plain green pocket folder - choir
  • 1 plain pocket folder - general music
  • 1 roll 3/4" Scotch tape
  • 1 pad of 100 Post-it notes 3"x3"
  • 1 3 subject notebook for both years of Spanish
In our blended family of two children (five, if you count the Ex-wife's other three) and four parents back to school shopping is split. Ew (Ex-wife) buys the school supplies and Hubby I buy the clothes.

I cringe when the chitlins return home from the summer with their new backpacks stuffed to the gills with all new supplies. The contents of their cheap crappy ass backpacks (that never last past the first week without some major malfunction) never coincide with the list put out by the school. The list is available online, the school mails it out, and every store known to man has it prominently displayed as soon as you walk in the door. She can read, can't she? Come on!! Could you get it right just for one year, please?! After nine years you think one would get the hang of it. Geesh.

As if that is not irking enough, the amount of resources being wasted drives me up the wall! Every time I hear the zipper on that backpack open for the first time it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. *shivering*

There are so many supplies from previous years stashed in totes in the basement that I could start my own Back to School store. I have stocked my craft room completely from purchases made by Ew, created a kids craft/activity area in the basement from other Ew leftovers, and still have totes full of Ew's wasted money. She is always complaining they do not have any money. Why then does she spend needlessly?

The chitlins both have large zippered 3-ring binders from last year and previous years that are well enough to reuse this year. We have amassed a pile of half used notebooks. We even have notebooks that are untouched from previous years! I have used all the folders I can for household organizing and still have enough to supply the chitlins for the school year.

One shelf in my workroom contains nothing but 3-ring binders. There are no less than half a dozen plastic rulers floating around the house. The markers/ colored pencils/ crayons got so out of control I started giving them to the school art room and daycares. Pens and pencils. Oy ve! Do we really need to buy more pens and pencils?! I think I can find two black and two blue in there somewhere. A protractor is a protractor; as a compass is a compass. Do you really need a new one every year? Same with calculators. I have yet to see one go bad in a year. In fact, I have yet to see one quit, period.

Why, why, WHY are we bringing more of this stuff into our house? Why is Ew spending money that she does not have on stuff the chitlins already own? It just does not make sense. Never mind the fact that half this crap is plastic and made from virgin materials. What lesson are we teaching our children?

As adults we do not go out and buy all new office supplies just because it is a new year. So, why then with our children? When will it become acceptable to wear the same clothes as last year? Use all of the paper in a notebook before starting another one? Reuse a backpack/binder/folder? Keep the same protractor/compass/calculator throughout your school career? Use markers/colored pencils/crayons until they are gone? These things should be encouraged not looked down upon.

People are quick to judge and have tendencies to slap on the poor label if someone buys secondhand, mends, repurposes, doesn't have the new latest and greatest. I will revel the day when it is thought shameful to show up for the first day of class wearing the fashions of the moment, sporting a new backpack chock full of pristine bleached white paper, plastic mechanical pencils, a cool new calculator with whatever cartoon/pop star is hot at the moment sprawled across it, glossy folders touting the same, pens, fresh post it notes, and a pvc lunchbox containing a disposable prepackaged lunchable.

My dream school supply list:
For more Back to School musings check out the Green Mom's Carnival that was hosted at Organic Mania on August 11.


Billie said...

Wow! I am feeling like an old fart. I still have the calculator, compass, ruler and so on and so forth from when I went to school. We were only able to get the bare essentials for each school year when I went to school. If you owned something already, believe me, you weren't getting another one. It simply wasn't in the budget.

And this is what p*sses me off about these school lists. We have to give all this crap to the school for who? Piero? Piero and Kylie still have the same 64 crayons that they were using 2 years ago. So why am I supplying him with 64 crayons for 9 months? And then another 64 crayons for the following school year. Clearly, he doesn't need 64 crayons. And a pair of scissors every year? Hello? Since when were scissors disposable? Apparently when all of his school supplies are taken from him and put in the school supply room to be doled out when needed. So in reality... we are buying for all those kids who don't know how to take care of stuff - or potentially buying for the school system since none of the stuff gets returns - including non-disposables like scissors. ARGH!!! Ok... breathe deep... stop rant...

Daisy said...

I have encouraged my kiddos to reuse their supplies from the time the oldest was in kindergarten. I also want to say thank you for donating crayons, etc., to the schools and day cares! I keep crayons on hand for kids who need them.
When I write up the supply list for our grade level, I always keep in mind what they'll need, not what "I" want.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I still have my calculator from high school, and re-use all my college binders in my classroom now.

As for my students, I just ask that they have a notebook of their choice and something to write with. Is that too much to ask? Apparently yes, because they burn through all my writing utensils and then I end up grading papers in colored pencil because that's all I can find.

It makes me nuts that I have notebooks that only get partially used. I use them around the house for messages, recipes, etc. And I've been using the same notebook for the last 3 grad school classes. People are just so wasteful in general.

Christine said...

I would talk to your child's teacher. It's possible that not every kid can afford everything on the list, and it would be awesome if you could donate the 'leftovers' from previous years to the classroom.

I know that I'd love to get a donation of pencils, as a math teacher, even if they are half-used. A used pencil is better than no pencil!

De in D.C. said...

What gets me is that no emphasis is placed on using items up entirely or treating supplies with respect and care. Why does my son need to bring 48 new pencils for 3rd grade? How much writing do you really expect this kid to be doing? 20 glue sticks - really?! Those things last forever when the caps are put back on and they don't dry out.

I'm lucky that he's an only child, so I can keep tabs on what isn't used up and send it in the next year. Luckily he doesn't seem to care (either a result of being a boy, being used to this, or just being too young to notice).

The Mom said...

I do find it amazing that they dictate so much of what should be brought to school. When I was a kid, I bought what worked for me. I've always been a 3 ring binder with loose leaf, kind of girl. Spiral notebooks make me nuts. They're messy and always have too little or too many pages. Aggravating.
Now, my son's teacher rocks. She only replaces what is needed. Of course, that would be me, since we homeschool. This year I bought just about nothing. It was wonderful!

Kate said...

At 28 I still have my high school calculator and binders. I (finally) used up the last of the notebooks from college last year but I still have tons of loose leaf paper. Oh - and the crayons from elementary school. I still have them. 20 year old crayons still work great in case anyone wanted to know.

knutty knitter said...

My 30 year old calculator still works too. Fortunately our school provides the necessary from our activity fees and nothing is replaced until it is totally worn out or used up.

Anything left is recycled (a very small remainder). As much as possible is ecologically sound too. No plastic allowed and nothing with trademarks/cartoons etc is allowed on anything including clothes.

What else could you want? err...a high school too? :)

viv in nz

Lynn from said...

Wow...well of course you know I agree with you! :) And so cool to include last year's submission to the carnival!

I know you kind of let it all hang out in this post with us greenies, but imagine you re-phrased this post with more of a "politically correct, positive" spin and approached the school? Do you think you could make progress?

The continuing recession gives us a great excuse to emphasize thrift, if not in the name of greenness, then in the name of saving $.

Could you organize a drive over your school list serv where people donate their new supplies to kids in need and their own kids voluntarily re-use last year's supplies? I know many schools are still collecting.

It's a bit easier for me because I have a young BOY, not a teen-age girl (egads!) but maybe if the drive idea came from the girls? Are there still girl scouts, youth groups, or other civic groups that could help with something like this?

(Not to give you a whole new project, but my instinct is always to try to fix/improve things...typical Virgo!)


Anonymous said...

Ugghh!I know how you feel! I'm an elementary school teacher. All the school supplies are provided by the school, which are paid for by the school fees and yet so many parents go out and buy a whole new stationary set for their kids every year. I banned students from bringing outside materials this year, so that parents wouldn’t have to put up with the nag factor. I’m planning on getting the students to reuse their binders next year, and tried to buy recycled items where they were available. Try and talk to someone at the school about your concerns – it’s likely that there is a teacher feeling just as frustrated as you are about the waste.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head:

"people are quick to judge" and we have been brain-washed by the media/marketing beast and our social circles to fear the stigma of "looking poor."

How sad it is, because poverty in the U.S. is more a state of mind, since even the "poorest" among us usually own a tv, fridge, and materials above the basic necessities. Many of us still cling with a clenched fist to the notion of material wealth (relative to what we can afford) with human happiness and well-being. It sort of makes sense: in a fast-paced and transitorially experential society, outward appearances carry more meaning (snap judgements), than what a 15 minute conversation may more fully reveal about a person's character. Insert scheduled playdates, chance run-ins on the way to a structured activity, and the pattern keeps repeating in our youngest.

Let it start with me. Let me be not afraid of the judgments of others, for I am fulfilled in the totality of my Life, and not in the circumstance of one Day. Let me fill my children with this same feeling so that they will not fall into the trap of equating the (falsely) *New* or even *Required* with their own Integrity and Character.

greeen sheeep said...

Christine and Lynn - donating supplies is a wonderful idea, I just wish there weren't so many leftover to begin with. I was just talking to a fellow PTO officer about collecting supplies at the end of the year. Most kids just dump everything right in the trash! It's gut wrenching.

I was able to supply everything my daughter needed this year from previous years' unused surplus. I even use the used stuff at home. Her teachers don't allow both sides of notebook pages to be used - another thing that drives me nuts - so I use the back sides for notes, to-do and shopping lists. I use all their old folders to organize my office. Pretty much any leftovers stock my office. And single-sided homework assignments get run through the printer or cut into scrap paper.

I am starting to work with the schools to get them more involved with Earth Day. Being in April, it would be a good time to get them thinking about end of year surplus supplies and what to do with them - besides dumping them in the trash!


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