Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Start of School Blues

The plastic tubs lined one long, low table at Apathy Elementary School. They were filled with supplies. One was overflowing with boxes of crayons. The other was filled to the brim with markers. There were piles of scissors, rulers, erasers, and rows of bottles of school glue. On the floor next to all of these supplies were boxes of Kleenex, packages of paper towels, and tubes of disinfectant wipes. These were the supplies that parents were asked to bring with their children to school yesterday. These were supplies to be shared by the entire class. Gone are the days when a teacher sent home a list of supplies that little Johnny needed to keep in a small cardboard box in his desk to use throughout the school year. Now it takes a village to supply a school. Education has become communal.

We witnessed the annual great restocking of school supplies when we attended school to meet our daughter’s therapists. She attends our local elementary school to receive speech and occupational therapy services. I was grateful for two things. The first is that as a very part-time student, we were not expected to participate in this charity event. The second is that we were not attending Pauoa Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii, where students are required to bring a four-pack of toilet paper on their first day of school. Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times reported last Sunday that the list of supplies that students are “requested” to bring on the first day of school gets longer and longer each year. In her article “Back to School? Bring Your Own Toilet Paper,” she reported that along with the normal supply of pencils, scissors, and glue, students across the country are asked to bring double rolls of paper towels, Clorox wipes, baby wipes, garbage bags, liquid soap, Kleenex, Ziplocs, cleaning spray, hand sanitizer, cotton balls, facial tissue, sheaves of manila and construction paper, paper sandwich bags, Dixie cups, paper plates, printer paper, wet Swiffer refills and plastic cutlery. I would have thought that cutlery would have violated a zero tolerance policy against weapons in school.

Along with the list of supplies, new students at our local schools are asked to bring, among other things:

• Proof of identity & residency or other documentation, which the Apathy Board of Education determines to be satisfactory

• Proof of immunization of certain disease or furnish documents to satisfy statutory requirements. Booster shots required by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Environment are also required.

• certified copy of birth certificate (Kindergarten & 1st graders only)

• $50.00 book fee (payable by check, cash, or credit card)

Now, why is it that our local school can demand “proof of identity & residency or other documentation, which the Apathy Board of Education determines to be satisfactory,” but the state of Arizona cannot ask people stopped on suspicion of violating the law to show proof of identity and residency or other documentation that they are in the country legally? I faced the acceptable documentation gauntlet at our local elementary school last year. The school has yet to satisfactorily explain to me why a utility bill is acceptable documentation of residency but my driver’s license is not. The school has yet to explain to me why I must prove eligibility at all. In court, the burden of proof is on the state and the accused is innocent until proven guilty. At our local elementary school, the burden of proof is on the consumer, and the consumer stands accused of not being eligible to send their child to school until they prove otherwise. Thanks to a federal judge in a decision concerning a lawsuit brought by our current president’s administration, kindergarten students in America’s heartland face a tougher burden of proof than do people crossing our country’s borders illegally.

My homeschooled children have a much easier time enrolling in school each year. Besides the annual first day of school wake-up call, a boisterous and off-key rendition of the “First Day of School” song as performed by my wife and I, enrollment involves eating breakfast, stumbling downstairs in their pajamas, and starting their first subject of the day. I don’t ask for documentation. I don’t require proof of residency. I provide all their supplies. I even give them free bathroom tissue. All I ask for is a smile, but I’ll settle for the absence of a frown. Homeschooled or not, they are children. They still suffer from the first day of school blues.


  1. Love this post!! I have to admit that my school has a collective box of crayons, a collective box of markers, and a collective box of colored pencils. But then again, I only have 4 students, and they all happen to be my own children. If one of them has a special set of art supplies, s/he may keep them put away for personal use. For example, my oldest son the artist has some pastels he received for his birthday. He keeps them in his room. He doesn't even have to share them if he doesn't want to.

  2. The only requirements made here are one from the teacher - If you can't say it nicely, then don't say it at all.
    One from the kids - mechanical pencils, please.

    Enjoyed the post.

  3. As I was reading your post, I was reminded of the "Meet the Teacher" day at the school where I student taught. We had bins EVERYWHERE where students could drop the erasers that would be eaten within three days (I didn't know until then that 1st graders eat erasers), the glue sticks that would roll under a table and never be seen again, and the scissors that would soon cut everything except what we wanted them to cut (bye bye, little Charlie's math book). Oh yeah, and the hand sanitizer my dear little students would use right BEFORE they coughed in their hands.

    To be honest, I didn't think much of it at the time... but maybe that's because I was a home school student, new to the world of public schooling, and I just thought, "Hmmmm. That must be how they've always done it here!" In fact, I never thought of it again until I read this post.

    I do, however, remember the rationing of other supplies. The numbers were something ridiculous... maybe two rolls of paper towel for the entire semester? A half-dozen Kleenex boxes? Beyond that, you're on your own. (And yes, my cooperating teacher was more than happy to let our students' families carry this burden.) Everyone was frustrated with the system, and yet it remains to this day. But isn't that true with the system overall?

  4. I would write something, but I'm still laughing too hard at Darcy's comment!! (that's my girl!) Maybe we should get her to guest post on the blog sometime. I think she might have a thing or two to say about "the system"....ya think?

  5. 1)Actually, this took place at a “Meet the Teacher” day this past Monday. We never met the teacher in advance of the first day of school when I attended Mozart Public School on Chicago’s near north side. No one in their right mind wanted to enter the school building any earlier than we had to. As for teachers, we relied upon rumor, gossip, and the testimony of older brothers and sisters to learn of the horrors that awaited us in our new classroom, and we lived in good old fashioned terror until the first day of reckoning (aka the first day of school).

    2)I was given two reams of printer paper per month at the parochial school where I taught. There were no other supplies. Period. When the paper was gone, it was gone. Those two years were the best years of my teaching career.

    3)Darcy is more than welcome to guest blog.

  6. I am very relieved that I am back to homeschooling Blondie this year. We'll get the school supplies as we figure out what and if we need them. I remember last year when she attended the Private Christian School there was this long list of things that she needed to get. I did not want to be cheap so I bought most everything on the list. I didn't know why I was buying three boxes of kleenex, and many other things on that list. I was really annoyed because the tuition was rather steep. Now that she is back home, I can relax.

    But WAIT!! Red is starting public kindergarten. Honestly, I am looking at it as free babysitting. He is no way ready for school. I have the back to school date down to meet the teacher, etc. I am dreading it. I am reminded by your post that I should look if there is a "kindergarten list" that I should be buying.

    What does a kindergartner need? Kleenex, sure. But Red just tends to stuff them in his mouth and grin at me. The Headstart teacher last year said he "eats" paper. That was not true. He just shoves them in his mouth and sucks on them until their mush and deposited in my hand. Think his teacher will be willing to do that?

    He also doesn't like to sit still. Poor little boy. hmm... no, poor teacher. Red will just smile at her frustration.

    Last year I met the teacher and tried to explain how active he his. "Yes," she smiled, "all little boys are active." "No," I said, "he is VERY BUSY." "Yes," she smiled.

    I tried another tactic. "Red's biological sister, Bluesy, was in kindergarten here last year." "Oh? She was in my class!" The teacher smiled. I said, "Their behavior is THE SAME."

    The teacher paused, "Will Red be coming with his own para?"

    Now, you will ask, why am I sending Red to kindergarten public school. Simple. Sir said so. Really, that's it. And I will use that time to focus on readjusting to schooling Blondie.

    Kindergarten probably will be fine. It will be the all day he starts when in first grade. I think things might change then.

  7. Oh. My. Gosh. I love this post, Arby. I just found this new blog today and am thoroughly enjoying your enthusiastic reporting of all things homeschool related. Keep up the great work and by the way cranberry harvest begins Oct. 11.:)