Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Unsolicited Advice: School Supplies

It's August. That means BACK TO SCHOOL for many of us.

I taught public school for nine years and am about to start year eight with my kids at home. Add the 18 plus years I was a student (kindergarten through college!) and I've been in a classroom for most of my life. Basically, I'm an expert on this stuff.  Sadly, I'm not really cool enough to get endorsements from any of these companies, so these are my honest, unbiased, real-as-real-can-be opinions. Take 'em or leave 'em, but I really think you're going to want to take 'em.

1. Crayola trumps EVERYTHING. Don't cheap out and get the store brand. Crayola costs more because they make a better product. You will regret it if you don't get the name brand for crayons, markers, colored pencils and water colors. Trust me. Your kid's art will look cheap and dull next to their friends who take my advice. You don't want the kindergarten masterpiece to be second rate because of a few cents difference, do you?

Do you like my handy-dandy little storage box? That's a baby wipes container. Throw a little fancy looking duct tape around the sides and bam! You've got a perfect size container, with a lid, for free. 
Unless the teacher asks for the regular, get washable. Yes, they cost more. But they cost less than replacing the new school clothes you just bought.

*NOTE: Sometimes washable doesn't work. For example, I used to do an art project where kids used crayons to draw a picture and then water colored over that. Washable crayons result in big puddles of muck and sometimes crying kids. The teacher knows how your kids will be using these things. Get what she asks for.

2. Ticonderoga is the ONLY pencil we buy in our house any more. I wish I had known about these when I was a classroom teacher. They sharpen correctly the first time, every time! No more having to sharpen the pencils for hours every week. Classroom teachers, you know the sound the pencil sharpener makes that lasts forever? Well, with these, it lasts a lot less time. They last forever and write amazingly. Those cheap ones you get a thousand of for a dollar? Well, those are horrible. STOP BUYING THOSE! You can get 144 Ticonderogas for under 14 bucks on Amazon. That will last you your lifetime! You can also get a lot less of them for less money if you're not ready to stash them away forever. They even come in pretty neon colors if you want to splurge a little. Aren't they pretty?

Obviously, these have been hanging around my house for a while. But look! Even though they've been chewed on, beaten up and used for constant drumming, they're still all pretty long! They last forever! 
3. Elmer's glue is really the only kind you should buy. Amazon has 30 sticks for under $10. Those will last you a while. The younger your kid is, the more of these they will need. I bought the 30 pack three years ago and we've still got a jar full.

I'm a big believer in repurposing containers. These glue sticks fit perfectly in this glass jar that was originally a candle.

4. If an item on the supply list is almost impossible to find at a decent price (in my town, it's a yellow folder they use at the middle school), let the teacher know. Usually, they can have an idea of where to get it or they can easily swap it out for something else. But they don't know how hard it is to find if you don't tell them. My first year teaching I asked kids to bring a certain color of notecard because it matched the cover of that book. One of the parents let me know it was really tough to find and I made the change to something more readily available. No big deal for me and I saved the parents the hassle of trying to find something that didn't exist!

5. Last year's scissors will work just fine. Really. Unless your kid is heading into 4th grade, where he's probably making the transition into an adult size pair, just use what you've got.  There's no need to go buy shiny new ones.

6. Skip the fancy stuff. Really. Your kid doesn't need shiny, light-up writing utensils. Or sparkly glue. In fact, those things are just distractions at best, or at worst, waiting to be stolen right out of your kid's desk.  Keep the swanky stuff at home for special projects or writing in your diary. Do your kid's teachers a favor and don't send it to school.

7. Okay, maybe not ALL of the fancy stuff. I do love me some Frixion erasable pens. They come in all kinds of pretty colors and they actually erase smoothly. I've found that they're a bit finicky and a few that we've ordered haven't worked at all. But the ones that do are awesome! I use them for lesson planning. These pens erase when heat is applied, so they may fade or disappear completely if you put a cup of hot coffee on them. They also make erasable markers, which I have yet to try, but are on my list. How fun is that?

Keep these things in mind as you head out to spend your kids' college funds on their new school supplies and you should do okay. Godspeed on the new school year! Make it a fabulous one!

Give me shout out for your favorite school supplies in the comments!