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Published September 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: School supply list has grown

As the last weeks of summer waned, you probably saw the TV commercial in which a boy comes up to his mother with his list of needed school supplies and anticipates an over-the-top reaction when she considers the cost.

By: Kathy Tofflemire, INFORUM

As the last weeks of summer waned, you probably saw the TV commercial in which a boy comes up to his mother with his list of needed school supplies and anticipates an over-the-top reaction when she considers the cost.

I saw the lists issued for my two grandsons and would probably have fainted myself if I were their mother.

The second-grader needed two red ballpoint pens, a small scissors, two glues, 10 No. 2 pencils, a large eraser, a small pencil sharpener with cover, one large box of tissues, five wide-lined spiral notebooks, one 24-count box of crayons, a three-ring binder, a box of colored pencils, a yellow highlighter, an 11½-by-7-inch school box and five pocket folders (and a partridge in a pear tree).

The sixth-grader’s list was somewhat similar (sans crayons) with a couple of extra items for art and 15 page protectors, index note cards, loose-leaf paper, a Sharpie pen, a ruler and a calculator.

Though hardly akin to Laura Ingalls sharing a slate and a copy of McGuffey’s Reader with her sister, back-to-school shopping when I was a child was pretty basic: a tablet, pencils and, if I could convince my mother, a new box of crayons. It always seemed to me that one should start the school year with pristine coloring instruments.

I do remember a wooden pencil box with a roll-top lid that I had in first grade that was pretty cool. (I can obtain a similar “antique” on eBay today for just $11.99.)

My father, who came from a rather large family, told me that there were times in the winter when he was unable to go to school because he didn’t have any shoes. I found that terribly sad, but I wonder now if he wasn’t pulling my leg.

Many times I told my daughter how I walked to school – uphill both ways – and killed a bear with my loose-leaf notebook. She knew I was kidding, but it wasn’t until years later when she heard Bill Cosby’s routine that she realized I was using stolen material.

My neighborhood friends and I did walk to school except in the dead of winter. And though not uphill, it was a lengthy hike that involved crossing a major thoroughfare. If we were feeling adventurous, on the way home we would “cut through the coulee.” When that parcel of land gave way to a shopping center, it just wasn’t the same.

I never rode a school bus. I never paid for milk at school. And I never ate a school-cafeteria lunch until I joined my daughter occasionally when she was in elementary school.

I didn’t have a locker until junior high, and for 12 years I sat in desks lined up in rows, not grouped as a table for four.

We played unsupervised on the playground at recess, and we girls had to wear slacks under our skirts if we wanted to hang upside down on the monkey bars, which I did. I recall jumping rope and endless games of marbles, during which you never used your favorites.

Now I can’t remember how the game was played. Gosh, I feel old.


Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum.

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