Friday, August 15, 2008

Back to School?

Many of my students have planned to buy school supplies this weekend and clothes for their children because it is "tax free" weekend in this part of Texas. That means that school clothes are supposed to cost less--if not the other school supplies.

One of our teachers recently went to JCPenneys and made the rounds of the clearance racks. She was able to buy her tween daughter several neat little tops to go with some of those short pants that we used to call "peddle pushers." She paid less than three dollars per top and found the pants on clearance as well. She said that she didn't want to buy the child slacks when she knew that two or three weeks from now the girl would look as if she had been wading high water.

Sitting here remembering how I bought my boys' pants three sizes too long and rolled them under and whipped in a loose hem. If I was careful to wash them in only warm water, we didn't get the fade lines and were able to just keep letting them down as the legs got longer and the year progressed.

Still, going back to school can be pretty expensive when each one of those notebooks costs maybe $2.50 to $5. It is just amazing to me that these things are so expensive. And some things simply cannot be substituted for what the teachers want. Even so, I read an article in ParentDish about how some parents were trying to make what they could not afford to buy. I wrote a comment to include on the board and have included it here.

Simple things can be fun for the kids if THEY make them. Instead of "making do," they get the fun of "hand making" things. It is a matter of perspective. Lunch bags one of the forgotten items before school? Find one of the gift bags left from Christmas and make that lunch REALLY special--especially if it is a NEAT bag to begin with. Forgot to buy ink pens? Have a "treasure hunt" through the house for pens and pencils. (It is more fun if there is a "prize" involved.) Need a pencil bag? The bank gives away money bags at many banks. Not only do they zip up neatly and have plenty of room, but they are more durable than anything you will buy on the school supply aisle. Just use some imagination and praise the kids when they come up with like-minded ideas.

Each year some of the teachers at our school will buy up a bunch of school supplies and put them where the students can get what they need for their children. No one asks and no one says anything about what is there or who needs it. We do the same thing with a food pantry that supplies things that the students can eat for lunch or take home to make a meal. Occasionally--though it happens infrequently--one of us will lose weight and hang up some dress clothes for which we have no further need. A nice résumé is much more impressive if the woman is dressed in something with a little style and neatness.

It is difficult to be a parent--don't think that it has EVER been easy. My dad's parents had to shuffle around to provide him a horse to ride to school. And how they were able to dress him is another wonder. One of our old friends told us years before when he watched our little ones going off to school that our kids were blessed. He had had to wear his sister's old dresses because there simply was no money for him to have pants until after he started school. Now THAT is poor. But Henry learned to sew as a boy and even made his own clothes until he left home and had a real job.

When I was young and my parents were trying to keep their bills paid, Mom would almost cry when she had to come up with another nickel for one of us kids for a notebook required by the school. And when I started college, my Uncle Buddy brought me little boxes of Tide from his oil lease pumping job for my laundry while I was away at the dorm and an entire box of pens and pencils that he had collected from different places. So I had some of the essentials, and I was even well dressed. Mother made my entire wardrobe except for the shoes and undies. No, it wasn't easy being a parent then either.

Pretty soon the PTAs and PTOs will start their fund raising activities. They will try to peddle over-priced cookie doughs, candles, room deodorizers, and other nonessential goodies for whatever project they may deem necessary. And some of the children won't be selling those things because their parents will be doing well to keep them in shoes and socks. Sometimes I think it is amazing that more parents haven't decided to home school simply to live a more realistic lifestyle. For the price parents would pay to buy school supplies and new clothes for three children, they could buy software and a new computer with educational programs. Hmm. And they wouldn't have to worry about a car pool. I wonder now what I would have done if I had known then what I know today. Probably what our children are doing--sending those kids off to school week after next!

1 comment:

Carla said...

As a classroom teacher I am besieged every year by young fundraisers. Here is my policy:
1. I will work only with the FIRST person in an organization who asks me.
2. I won't buy anything. Instead, I will donate $5.00 to the organization. That way, I spend less, they actually earn more, and I don't end up with something that I don't really want.

It's a win-win.