School supplies are covering every square inch of my living room floor at the moment. Notebooks, protractors, crayons, colored pencils and binders are everywhere.
The tedious collection of school supplies began a few days ago when I had the sudden realization that school was about to begin and I had done nothing to prepare. The actual shopping took a few hours and now I’m knee deep in crates and boxes filled with everything my three boys will need according to the back-to-school supply lists.
This year I made the decision to attack one school supply list at a time. It was comical. Running from aisle 3B for crayons to aisle 8A for paper and then back and forth again for the next class. I’m sure there was a better way to approach this and you’d think I’d have figured it out by now, but there’s always next year.
The school supply lists are interesting. Some teachers are very explicit about what brands they want while other school supply lists are a bit more open-ended with room for interpretation.
If a list is specific and asks for a product that could be harmful to my child or other children I have no problem deviating from the list. For example I always send in a safe alternative to alcohol based hand sanitizer. I generally don’t write a letter to the teacher explaining my position, but if you’re interested here’s a sample letter to a teacher which spells out why some of the school supplies have been swapped out for safer alternatives.
The real concern is that many if not most of the school supplies are placed into a classroom “pool” for general consumption. So my sending in one lone bottle of safe hand sanitizer isn’t going to make much of a difference. I still haven’t figured out a way to tackle this.
My Interview with the Wall Street Journal
I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal to talk about school supplies and whether or not I stick to school the suggested products on school supply lists.
We had a really interesting conversation about how product placement could be lurking in our children’s school supply lists. There seems to be a tremendous push by big brands to get their names out there and at the top of all of our school supply lists. For example “teachers, parents or school administrators who put Kleenex on their lists were entered into a sweepstakes that could win their school $25,000 to buy books and other supplies…”. So of course parents are swayed to buy Kleenex.
Product placement on school supply lists poses a number of issues. Requiring families to buy specific brands when there may be more economical options isn’t fair. Also, as I mention in the Wall Street Journal article, I want the option to send in non-toxic school supplies, especially when the suggested product is a product that comes in contact with food or the children’s skin. I really wish more school systems would suggest safer alternatives for some products such as hand sanitizer and wipes.
You can read the full article and find my quote HERE.
I’m wondering how you feel about all of this. How do you handle school supply lists? Do you follow them or do you deviate?