Breaking the Rules: My Reflection on the School Supplies List

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This all started with the School Supplies List for Kindergarten.  The list has 30 items.  Whatever happened to pencils, notebooks, and crayons??  

What's on Your School Supplies List

I get it.  

Schools have smaller budgets and teachers want to do more and more with the students every year.  Which, I suppose is why I am asked to buy Crayola Twistable Crayons, Expo Broad Tip White Board Markers, 12 count Ticonderoga pencils, sharpened.   I know that Crayola crayons are the best, and I know that the pencils that aren’t real wood don’t sharpen well.  I also know that these school supplies aren’t  my daughter’s supplies; they are intended for the class.  They are intended for families who don’t fulfill the list.


The list is demanding and comes off with a hint of entitlement, and I strongly want to BE  the family who doesn’t fulfill the list.


I’m asked to bring SOAP, and baby wipes, KLEENEX, specifically, and ZIPLOC bags.  


Mom is About to Lose it


And that’s where they lost me entirely.


Like the Crayola crayons, and Kellogg’s frosted mini-wheats, and a few other random objects (apparently these TICONDEROGA  pencils), I also know that some generic products do not compare to their name brand counterpart.  Some people swear by TIDE detergent. I personally have never used it, honestly, I have never purchased it, not even once, and still feel that all of my clothes are as clean as they are ever going to be.


Well maybe that’s because I do laundry daily versus letting it sit all week in a damp stinky pile and spend my E-N-T-I-R-E Sunday trapped inside the house I have been in all week long, doing laundry, of all things.  I might need a different detergent then.  But that’s an argument for my husband and me to have…

You could even tell me that some El Cheapo tissues out there won’t contain a sneeze.  Well, maybe not, but I know of several other brand names that do.  And are cheaper.  And Scotties even plants three trees for every one they cut down.  Can we get a little but of environmental responsibility here? 

I vowed not to buy the Ziploc bags, and I didn’t.  As a responsible consumer, I couldn’t bring myself to do it when the Dollar General brand had 30 more bags in the box and was a dollar less. I’m certain that somewhere, someone will say, Oh but the zippers will wear out faster on those cheap bags and Ziploc holds 4 lbs more without splitting the seams.


I use the generics at home.  I haven’t encountered any problems with them.  Call me crazy, maybe this is the point I am trying to make, but I am CAREFUL with my things.  I teach my children to be careful with their things, and take care of them.  We ALWAYS put the caps back on our markers completely.   Hello, I have a  scornful  RoseArt  set that has last me since 1996. YES.    I am actually that old.  I know you don’t believe it.   

I even let the kids use these markers.  Haven’t heard a complaint one about the colors not being bright enough, or whatever the argument is why we all must have  name brand markers.

Not the crayons.  I’m totally behind the crayons.  

Crayola won’t melt in your car on a hot summer day.  

Totally worth it’s weight in gold. 

Teachers, I’m not a Rule Breaker, I love rules.  I know you want to do everything you can for these children, or you wouldn’t put up with all of the bull-crap-baloney that I know you do have to put up with in a school system.  I know you are operating on a very low school supplies budget, and an even lower salary to go buy these things on your own.

But I am teaching my children that we don’t always buy the most expensive thing on the shelf.  We make do with what we have on hand or what we can afford. We are thankful for the blessings of anything we have,  and that we  get to freely walk into a store, make a choice of our own, and buy, from a variety of options on the shelf.

I’m teaching them not be to demanding.  To be appreciative, and gracious.  To be environmentally conscious, which sometimes does mean just cutting back. I’m teaching them how use generics when they can, and save the splurge for something good,  really good.  Not a box of name brand tissues.

I can’t wait to see what they learn in your class. I intend to fully support you  in your classroom rules and decisions.  Except for going on a wild goose hunt for scratch and sniff stickers.  And buying name brands where the generic is comparable on every level.  Then, I’m afraid, I’ll just have to be “That Parent.”

What’s your take on the School Supplies list for Your Classroom?  Are they over the top?  Would you do anything for your teachers?  Are you a teacher and you think I’m just being a pain in the rear?   Please leave me a comment below; I’d love to know.

And I‘ll  send you all the coupons for the name brand items so you can go exchange what I bring in for what you really want.  Even though those bags will still be cheaper even after you use your coupon. 


Denise Davis

Denise is a Frugal Mama who loves food, fitness, and family fun. She used to love shopping, now she loves consignment shopping. She’s on a mission to get the most of of life while spending as little as she can, doing all of this while teaching group exercise classes, feeding her family real foods, and loving her little ones to bits. Have a question, comment, or idea? Email Denise here: Denise gocheapgohome com


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  1. RaineDropp526 says:

    I am totally with you! I have a second child starting kindergarten this year. They are asking for 12 Expo dry erase markers. My dry erase markers from the Dollar Tree have lasted over a year, because we put the cap back on. I refuse to spend $5 for something I can get for $1 and it’s the same product inside. Most of the time, the bags are being used to send home things. They are not holding liquids or heavy objects.

    • Denise says:

      Yeah…. That’s a lot of dry erase markers for every kid to bring in. If for that alone, they should go back to chalkboards! Chalk is so much cheaper!! I can buy barrels of it for $1!!

  2. Liz says:

    Hi Denise! Of course you’re the one doing the buying and should choose your own products. As a former kindergarten teacher of 9 years, I feel I can speak to this topic. Yes, the list is long (obviously lists vary from school to school but everything you’ve mentioned was on my kindergarten list as a teacher AND it is a grade level decision what to put on the list, not just each teacher making up their own.) but I can promise you, everything is utilized or I used everything anyway. 24 kids use a lot of tissues! And any brand is fine! I do disagree that they’re writing name brands and I never cared in the least if parents sent in generic. I was always just happy if they sent in their supplies. We also used baggies (Ziploc or whatever) for countless projects and lessons! We put math manipulatives in them, cut-up sight words, finger puppets, fallen out teeth…. so many reasons I can’t even remember now. And all sizes! Gallon size if your child has an accident to put their wet clothes in. I understand it may be hard for a non-teacher parent to visualize all of the ways these supplies will be used but if you have a good teacher, nothing should go to waste. And if you ask the teacher, I’m sure she’ll be happy to explain it to you. I taught at a low income school and would never have wanted to waste my parents’ hard earned money. And if you don’t send in all the supplies that’s fine too. You’re correct that many of the supplies are used for the community of the classroom. I always ended up spending a lot of my own money each year so of course, any supplies that were sent in were helpful. I hope this has shed a little light on the school supply thing.

    • Denise says:

      Thank you for this!! I think a small not like this at the beginning of the list would be very well received! And I do hope that every parent out there doesn’t feel the need to complain (Like I did!!) but it was the name brand attached to EVERYTHING on the list that just sent me over the edge. I don’t buy name brands at home. Generics almost always do the trick, and I didn’t like the DEMAND that I do it elsewhere! At least, without the note and explanation on the performance of some of the supplies, that’s how it came off :o )

      You and several other teachers have been very helpful in explaining the matter to us and I hope it has been eye opening for parents who do want to contribute as much as possible, but just get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the list! Thank you!

  3. Liz says:

    Oh yeah, and it helps for the pencils to be pre-sharpened as it’s very time consuming to stand there and sharpen 1000 pencils. The kids go through a lot!

  4. Niki Hill says:

    I agree with you on each point. But I would also add this thought: If the powers-that-be managed finances as well as we frugal moms do, the schools would have a supply budget that provided each classroom with whatever brand of tissue and crayons they required. I doubt prison inmates are given a list of supplies to bring before they check in…

    • Denise says:

      And I agree with you. There is soap on the list. You mean to tell me the district doesn’t provide soap for the building and appropriate number of occupants? That sounds to me like a health violation. And the fact that the list is so dang long is kindof an indicator that they are not there to maximize their budget. They are there to pull everything they can, any way they can.

  5. In our school district, teachers are not allowed to ask for anything other than what is on the standardized supply list that the county dictates. Largely because the requests were out of control and not everyone could afford them. Now the teachers have “wish lists” that you can voluntarily help out with. It’s a catch 22 because I hate thinking it comes out of their pockets because Lord knows they don’t make enough but man.. buying those supplies for THREE girls was breaking my bank. I have learned the week that Walmart has their HUGE BTS sale and I buy mass quantities of everthing.. hello 24 packs of Crayola for $.50?! As for the TICONDEROGA pencils… I just learned that the lead in cheap pencils breaks inside the barrel a lot easier than the “better” ones and thus, require more frequent sharpening because the lead is always breaking. I never knew that!
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    • Denise says:

      The requests are out of control. OUT OF CONTROL, I tell ya!! Our list is put out by the school for the entire grade, which makes me think THIS is the standardized list. HOO BOy!! I do think it would be nice for the schools to check out what goes on sale like the crayons, and ask for those things. Not the twistable crayons that arent on sale, at all, anywhere. Honestly. Can we not make do with crayons and markers?? Can we not teach the children NOT to color on themselves with markers? HEY! Those washable markers aren’t on special, kid! That’s $2 you are coloring all over your arms and legs right now ;o) As for the scratch and sniff stickers that were on the list, I remember when my teacher would use her INK PEN and draw a smiley face on my page. And tat was treat enough for me.
      Ps. I was OVERWHELMED with comments (from my norm) yesterday! I hope I wasn’t one of the ones “not responding” who you mentioned. I’m trying to catch back up!!

  6. Stephanie says:

    I taught in a school district where teachers are not allowed to ask for anything beyond the standard district list, and at my low income school we were forbidden to have a wish list either. I don’t know how it is at other schools, but our supply list was treated as a wish list rather than a rule. Many of the students brought nothing – several parents said they weren’t “contributing” because they knew the supplies would be shared with classmates. The rest brought enough kleenex, hand sanitizer, and paper to get us through September. After that, I spent roughly $50 a week on every pencil (the pre-sharpened are awesome), notebook, eraser, tissue, and oh lord the plastic bags that we used. I had to buy generic because I couldn’t afford anything else., and they all worked fine.
    In a perfect world, I would love to see a parent explain to one of these teachers that they bought generic instead of brand name – and they bought extras with the money they saved so the other could be donated to a school like mine.

    • Denise says:

      The generic bags I bought had More in the box for less money!! That’s what killed me about the brand specification on the list. I got all wrapped up in myself about how the school could be getting more supplies if they encouraged parents to buy generics in some of the cases! Pencils, I am totally torn about the whole thing. I know those pencils that arent real wood do not work very well, especially for small students, but looked for a long time at Target yesterday, and there are SEVERAL different kinds of ALL WOOD pencils out there. I still don’t understand why it has to be all brought in up front, as well. It is a financial burden on a lot of parents! And like you said, few bring it in and then the classroom runs out by September. It’s obvious that a lot of effort went into this list, maybe a little more could be put towards planning it out so the supplies are brought in year round!

  7. scout says:

    When the heck did this communal pot thing for school supplies start? When I was in school, I had to have my own pencil – it was never the teacher’s responsibility to supply one. If you are low income – take care of the dang pencil! No one takes care of community property – no one has ownership! And when other people are paying, of course only the best will do. When people provide their own school supplies for their own use, each individual gets to determine what best meets their needs. This stuff is ridiculous!

    • Denise says:

      I agree that people take less care of community property. Everyone is always reliant on the “other” person to be the one responsible for taking care of something. There is a fine, fine line between when this is for the good of the classroom and when it is demanding on the parents, and maybe even the students. And I just can’t help but sit here and think, I have a little girl. She’s 5 years old. It’s all new to her, she JUST wants a Pink pencil!! Why is it such a big deal if I buy her some dang pink pencils and teach her to keep up with them???

  8. Oh girl, we could go on ALL DAY about this topic…and don’t even get anyone started on the communal supplies…whew, people get UP IN ARMS about that one! Great post!-Ashley
    The Dose of Reality recently posted…10 Items You Will Need To Buy For Blogging ConferencesMy Profile

  9. Crystal says:

    Oh no! I never knew I was subjecting my kids to humiliation by providing them with Roseart products! LOL Honestly, they were and are boys and could give a hoot. As long as they have something to write with, they are not particular. I will say, I almost choked at the cost of some of the supplies on my teen’s shopping list this year. What happened to the ten cent boxes of pencils we grew up with?
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    • Denise says:

      Oh!!!! They are going to ban you from the PTA!! Yeah ummm, I get it these crayons are better and all, but you know what else? It’s Kindergarten. I bet even Picasso did not have the name brand supplies…

  10. Mike Poole says:

    can’t the kids use toilet paper as tissues? Industrial size rolls could be gotten from the school janitors. That is what I do in my class. Furthermore, every kid should bring their own pencils. It is called teaching responsibility. Bring your materials to do your work. The problem is, we are too worried about entitlements and no longer teach responsibility and preparedness.

    • Denise says:

      When I originally sat down to write this, that is what I wanted to cover. Who is teaching responsibility now? I know it’s my job but you would think that would be the kind of core lesson that is taught in elementary school. Take care of your things, keep of with your things. If you lose or break something, you have to go home and fess up to your Mama!! I know mine (and yours too!) would’ve said we would just have to do without! Asking for all of that stuff by just posting a list on the internet and expecting it to be filled is definitely hitting right up there with entitlement.
      Me no likely.

  11. Kelly says:

    This post makes me laugh because I’ve actually felt guilty about not buying the Ziploc bags. I’m afraid they’ll send my kids home because we didn’t follow the supply list to a “T”. I’ve even sent in their supplies full of generic brands in a generic bag WITHOUT a name on it in hopes that it will slip through the system. ha ha.

    • Denise says:

      I know how you feel!! I couldn’t bring myself to buy the “name brand”, but I really didn’t want to be the rule breaker parent!! If they would have given me some specific reason, then I may have considered it, but just being on the list made me sneer at the school just a little!! Someone said they need the big baggies for kids who wet themselves to send their clothes home. Okay, then, why do I need to send a whole bag for someone else’s kid? Shouldn’t you put a bag in your kid’s backpack and be responsible for replacing it if your kid has to use theirs? And if you don’t, you get wet pee-pee clothes mixed in with all the other fun stuff? Okay. Maybe that’s mean. But I’m pretty sure the Dollar General brand will hold it all in for a few hours!


  1. [...] It stopped me and reminded me that no matter what the controversy over school supplies is, or how big the pile of laundry may be, I have so much in my life to be thankful [...]

  2. [...] REM said it best.  It IS the end of the world as we know it.  Michael Stipe said some other stuff, too, but unless your name is Leonard Bernstein, I doubt you have any idea what.  Feeling anything but fine though, what with my baby heading off to Kindergarten Monday morning, and me having absolutely no idea how I will get to sleep tonight.  Or worse, how I plan to get out of bed for this one, save those three alarm clocks.  Good thing we went to WalMart this weekend to stock up on some Bigelow Tea and a whole slew of Back to School Supplies that were not, I repeat, NOT a part of the infamous list. [...]

  3. [...] kids school, or to an organization that helps schools that barely have anything?  We all know the school supplies lists are a bit outrageous, but a few generous acts would be a true blessing to these students, and maybe even lighten up some [...]

  4. [...] by the school supply demands, it clearly isn’t taught in schools [...]

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