Texan Mama just wrote about purchasing school supplies for her kids. All I can say in response is "hear! hear!" But it did get me thinking about such things.
Sophia's school has a once a year fee, since so many supplies are shared. Last year I was never asked to send in a new box of crayons or a three ring binder. She just went to school. They are the Queens of Scrounging over there, and do ask for donations of stuff that we have around. But it's never "You need 12 pack Crayolas and Big Chief Tablet #4 only and blunt tip rubber handled Fiskars Brand scissors age 4-8."
When I taught middle school, there might have been lists, but I don't remember anything being standardized. Some brought kleenex, I recall. When I taught in the city schools, there was no list. No supplies came from home because nobody had any money. Of course, the school had no money for supplies either and so this was indeed a challenge. And the year at the private west county school, of course, had everything included in the astronomical price tag.
But it was the year I taught at a south side all-white Catholic school that had the list. I inherited the first grade list from the previous teacher. I had no choice in the matter. Every student had six folders, in each rainbow color, that sat useless at the bottom of their cubby-hole desks all year. Every student had a stenographer's notebook, for reasons I never understood. The same crayons, the same writing tablet, the 15,000 boxes of kleenex and paper towel rolls I had to figure out how to store. And most mystifying: emergency food packs. Just in case there was an earthquake or tornado and we were trapped in the (3rd floor) classroom for a week. Everyone brought a rubbermaid box, bigger than a shoe box, with "non-perishable" food and bottled water. For me to store somewhere. And have kids sneak food from all year--because parents' ideas of emergency food was not the same as mine. Packages of M&Ms and fruit roll ups could, I suppose, technically keep you alive, but I didn't need 24 boxes of junk in my cloakroom.
In January, one of the third grade classrooms was infested with mice, and that was the end of the emergency food packs.
When I was a kid...I remember the Big Chief tablets (or were they the pencils?) and the 8 crayons and the scissors that didn't work. And I remember that, at home, I drew and wrote on surplus paper from the emergency room where my dad worked (like bulk tablets of intake forms), with more than 8 crayons, and cut things apart with sharps-and-blunts, also surplus from the emergency room. Best scissors ever from a kid's point of view. In 4th grade, my dad just went ahead and sent me to school with them. Forget the safety scissors.
I won't miss the expense, but I will kind of miss the trip to Target to pick up all those new folders and spiral notebooks and brand new crayons. That's not what Sophia equates with the beginning of school, though, so it probably wouldn't have the same symbolic meaning. The trip to thrift stores for khaki, navy, and white clothing is her symbol of the end of summer.