We are most likely to read emails that we receive on Wednesday. Monday we have too many, and we need to catch up. By Wednesday we are caught up and by Thursday we are already trying to get everything finished so we can leave early on Friday.

This is why Friday at 4pm is the best day to publish a tweet and Wednesday is the best day to send a press release to bloggers. So on Wednesdays I get about 50 press releases. I don’t usually read the press releases, but it came to my attention that that not only was everyone pitching school-related topics, but they were focusing on the negative aspects of school.

1. Ads hawk products to address the impossible scheduling feats schools demand of parents.

Here’s a pitch for the shared calendar app:
– Who is in charge of buying the kids’ school supplies?
– Who’s responsible for dropping them and picking them up at their dance lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
– Who’s attending the first parent-teacher meeting this Friday afternoon at 2:30?
The solution? The Planiclik app!

What strikes me about this pitch is that the solution to school making life crazy is not to take kids out of school, it’s to use technology to enable the escalation of craziness and the sharing of responsibility for shepherding kids through it. People say they don’t have time to homeschool because the parents have to work, but honestly, people don’t have time to manage a job when they have to deal with the constant consumption of family time that traditional school demands.

2. School assumes you need to buy stuff in order to learn.
The subject head for another pitch that came to my in box was Penelope, is BTS already stressing you out?

First, what is BTS? Do I live under a rock? I’ve never seen that term. So I googled it and the only results are BTS stress and BTS spending. So first of all, this tells me that we all associate “back to school” with negativity. But also, it shows that the PR genius who wrote the pitch should get fired because BTS is industry lingo for an industry that has nothing to do with their product or the people they are pitching to.

Video blogger Parker, who is a pre-teen and totally adorable, has a fun video that shows him and his brothers organizing their school supplies. Parker knows the whole thing is ridiculous, but he doesn’t quite have the language to say how stupid it is, because if you send kids to school you are in no position to tell kids that the rituals of school are stupid. Otherwise you are stupid for sending your kids to learn from adults who enforce those rituals.

The language Parker is missing is this: Kids who are rich enough to buy bags and bags of school supplies do not have any regression during the summer. What I mean is that poor kids regress during the summer. Poor kids are under-stimulated during the summer and they forget what they learned in the year prior. Other kids do not have this regression. Other kids continue to learn all summer long, and they come to school a little smarter than when they left. Time magazine has gathersed a good deal of data on this topic.

So if Parker and his brother are still learning all summer without school and without the school supplies, then why do they need all those school supplies in order to learn during the school year? The answer is that school is a distraction from learning and these supplies are tools for the distraction.

3. School supply requirements are itemized plans for wasting kids’ time in school.

Here’s a list of school districts that require kids to buy index cards. Are they kidding me? These are solidly middle-class school districts. This is like using a Rolodex still. What are you using note cards for that a kid cannot do faster and better with a laptop or a smartphone?

Here’s a second-grade classroom that has to buy crayons. What are nine-year-olds doing with crayons? These are kids who go home and build enormous cities with running water and four-season eco-systems in Minecraft. And for aspiring artists, it’s doubtful crayons would be their first choice of medium in second grade. This school supply lists belies the lack of creativity and honesty that goes into thinking about school activities and, in turn, the supplies to support them.

Here’s a list of school districts that require kids to buy paper. I love this grade-school video blogger named Helen. She talks about how stupid her school supply list is. She says she doesn’t need paper unless she wants to draw a picture. And she’s right. Because she grew up using the Internet and the person who wrote her school supply list didn’t.

Three-ring binders. Kids know they won’t use them because they can’t fit them into their backpacks. And anyway, the only thing kids would need to put in a three-ring binder are handouts. And everyone knows that handouts from teachers are a sign of teacher apathy.

The bottom line from all these links? The adults are writing press releases about how important it is to restructure your life to accommodate the awfulness of back to school. And the kids are getting online to speak up and ask: why are we doing this? It makes no sense.

And you know what? Everyone is right.


41 replies
  1. Jenifa
    Jenifa says:

    Through these homeschooling posts (and comments!) I’m starting to see clearly what the differences are between fiscally low-class, and culturally low-class. Othey are discussed as the same thing, but there is a world of difference.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Jenifa, this is such an interesting distinction you make. I think so many people think of homeschooling as for rich people. And we could argue about how much homeschooling costs, but the the corollary is that going to school is for poor people.

      I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. That homeschooling is for anyone with a mindset that they can control their family life and where they fit in the world.


  2. MarcyB
    MarcyB says:

    My solidly middle-class school district has 2 large pockets of economically disadvantaged households. Brief surveys of those households indicate the lack of computers in many if not most, as well as lower adoption of smart phones (generally only for the adults in the household). I don’t think that all students even in middle class districts have ubiquitous technology as your post assumes. That still has to be optional.

    And besides, doesn’t research show many benefits to manipulatives and other “manual” activities in primary grades?

  3. mbl
    mbl says:

    I frequently wonder how many hours are wasted by forcing each family to shop for supplies. I think most schools specify brands and colors, so it’s not like kids get to choose what they want—b/c god forbid they show their personalities. Why on earth don’t they just have parents send in money and have the schools buy in bulk.

    I have no problem with second graders using crayons, my seven-year-old has a ridiculous array of high end art supplies and frequently uses crayons. Especially since we got Prang crayons. I had bought into the Crayola is best marketing (given that our district specifies them, they did too,) but when my daughter was 6 she informed me that Prang were much smoother and more vibrant. I had assumed that they were crap, like Rose Art, but no–she was right.

    The photo above can go in our “how to get rid of the crayolas” file. So, thanks for that.

    And, dude, I am familiar with red-shirting, but nine-year-old second graders?! Yikes!!

    Truth be told, my heart still skips a beat at the thought of Fall BTS (I’m a quick study) clothes. I adore Fall clothes.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      “Why on earth don’t they just have parents send in money and have the schools buy in bulk?”

      I can answer this one. It’s because parents with kids in public school have vastly different resources. And because the parents with resources, who are the ones who run all the volunteer groups, are terrified to alienate the poor parents (who may work three jobs and have no time to volunteer – time is a resource too).

      In my brief tenure as a public school parent, I made one seemingly sensible suggestion to the Finance Committee: Why don’t we just figure out how much money we need, divide it by the number of students, and ask parents for the money, instead of sending our kids door to door flogging crappy chocolate and wrapping paper? That suggestion went over like a lead balloon. And that wasn’t even about the BTS list – it was about the fact that our PTA paid the salaries of our music and dance and science teachers, who the school system didn’t support.

      The schools (unless they’re private schools) almost certainly don’t get full compliance with the BTS list, and have to redistribute the stuff. It’s all calculated to save embarrassment among the poor kids. You bring all this stuff so that the poor kids who don’t already have this stuff at home can have it. And of course they have to have exactly the same stuff as the rich kids… so the lists need to be exhaustively standardized.

      BTS in my city is the week after Labor Day. That’s the week of our annual Not BTS Vacation. It’s so nice to be out.

      • Morgan
        Morgan says:

        School is so unfair. They try to level the playing field by requiring “all” children to bring in school supplies when in reality on a marginal few bring in the full amount. Then they redistribute. Some schools also require uniforms to take the attention off of fashion choices. That’s not REAL life. Poor people can’t afford name brand school supplies and clothing. They need to face that fact now and get over it. Another reason why traditional school is waste of time.

  4. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Uhm, second graders are usually 7 years old… I can agree that there is some fluff in the supply lists and some busy work at times, but I don’t think 7 yr olds using crayons and paper instead of electronic devices is necessarily problematic… Kids shouldn’t be boxed in by the paradigms presented by devices… Have you read Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget?

  5. Natalie Lang
    Natalie Lang says:

    I’m 34 and I still color the random coloring book using crayons. What art medium you use is completely subjective and you can’t really use logic with art because its art…also, most 2nd graders in public schools are 7 or 8 at the oldest, not 9. Maybe there is a 9 year old in 2nd grade public school somewhere, but it’s not common. Maybe you meant 3rd grade because I did see crayons on the list for them too.

    We are celebrating “BTS” (I hate whoever abbreviated that) by going to Disneyland for a week while all the other kids are back in classrooms staring at walls having dreams being killed.

  6. redrock
    redrock says:

    actually writing and reading on paper has a “dimensionality” which is missing on electronic devices. taking notes not organized line by line for example (which can also be done with a tablet – but is a hell of a lot easier with handwriting gadget then the wonderful word processing programs which take out the creativity of arranging your writing as you like). Or, looking at two pages or leaving through a book or looking at several pages at the same time is faster and easier on paper then by having fifty windows open and juggling them. I am a big fan of tablets and computers, but there is a lot to be said for the good old paper.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      redrock, you and Gretchen make very good points about being boxed in and feeling somewhat constricted by the limitations of an electronic device. That’s exactly how I felt when I was learning various aspects of computing many years ago. I would want to do certain things in a spreadsheet or whatever and then go on a tangent researching help to learn how to use a certain feature in the program. Very frustrating and time consuming. Of course, I was far from being a digital native. An old dog learning new tricks on a blasted computer. It wasn’t a pretty sight!

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        I don’t think it is directly connected to the literacy of a certain program – it is that programs are made for a certain purpose and thus optimized for it. Paper offers no such constraints – I simply don’t think it is obsolete, but I also think there is great technology out there.

  7. lyndap
    lyndap says:

    Where does back to school shopping fall in the list of “shopping events”….Christmas, Halloween, back to school, etc?????

  8. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I hated the $200 or more yearly trip all over town to find the “right” this and the “right” that from the supply list. After doing that for a couple of years, a teacher told me what they really did with all the stuff that we were bringing. I am sure this does not apply to all elementary schools, but it applied to ours. The teacher stated that they basically took all the supplies, crayons, writing paper and other general use items and pooled them together. She said there were kids that didn’t have the money for supplies and that padding the lists and pooling everything together enabled them to provide for the kids that either couldn’t afford supplies or just didn’t bring enough.

    After that, I waited until school started then only purchased the items that each teacher specifically asked for and nothing else. I would purchase additional or replacement items over the winter break instead of sending everything in bulk at the beginning of the year.

    I do not have a problem helping out kids that are in need of help, but I do have a problem with not having the choice.

    I homeschool now, so I just walk past all of the BTS hullaballoo and breathe a sigh of relief.

  9. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    At my kids’ school the PTA grants gives each teacher a set amount of cash and they purchase what they need. No lists.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      this is really interesting to me – your school’s practice really drives home how so much of the school supply discussion is a discussion acout economic and social class.


      • Amy K.
        Amy K. says:

        Yes, and language/literacy issues as well. Everything is translated into Spanish, but not Mien, Arabic, Lao, Portugese, etc.

  10. Judy S
    Judy S says:

    I was just writing a post on my own blog about the back to school madness and how happy I am to not have to get involved in it! I have friends who have been in a constant state of panic and stress over the whole back to school thing. School started in my district this week and for those I know, it’s not been pleasant. What with the supply lists, the clothes, the teacher meetings, the attempts to change undesirable teachers, getting kids back on a bed time schedule that allows for a 6:50 bus pick up time, discussion of how the busy-work homework packets are going to get done, etc. – I don’t know how my friends got anything done at work. Not to mention that I can’t imagine young kids (K-5) catching a bus at 6:50 when school does not even start until 8:00.

    Some of my friends have even come to the conclusion that school intentionally infringes on family time and undermines a parent’s relationship with their kids. And yet, they go along with it. You have to think that all that negative energy surrounding the start of school and school in general affects the kids in a negative way, too.

    We homeschool year round because learning never stops, not even during the summer. So on our district’s first day of school, we did a little math exploration (no text books), visited Barnes & Noble for story time, read and purchased some books, attended golf lessons and then went shopping for furniture.We’re going furniture shopping again today (Saturday). The kids will measure the space and then they’ll compare our measurements with the furniture we like and figure out what will best fit the space. For the non-homeschoolers, that’s called a math lesson.

    • Christina
      Christina says:

      “Some of my friends have even come to the conclusion that school intentionally infringes on family time and undermines a parent’s relationship with their kids.”
      I actually read somewhere that this was part of the original intent when compulsory education was designed and introduced in this country: Get the kids away from the influence of parents and families and under the influence/control of the government at the earliest age possible.
      It seems to have worked pretty well since, as you note, parents (mostly government “educated”) continue to allow their kids to participate in this system despite their suspicions (correct in my estimation) of the government’s agenda.
      Thankfully more and more parents are waking up each year, and numbers of homeschoolers are growing by leaps and bounds.

  11. Christine Mahoney
    Christine Mahoney says:

    Personally, I prefer the use of real items (paper, pens, pencils) to using technology (drawing on an ipad, using a smart phone). I say this despite being a person who appreciates and uses technology.

    I do think the school lists are a bit ridiculous, but the reason for the lists are partly to compensate for the lower-income families. I live in a mixed neighborhood, though much of the neighborhood does pretty well (and we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the country).

    I think part of the reason for the specification of the school supplies is to avoid children arguing over school supplies. If some kids prefer Crayola and others prefer Rose Art, there is going to be a problem for SOME kids when kids do not bring in identical supplies.

    I do think some of the teachers need to do a better job in estimating what supplies are actually necessary throughout the year (many of them have, after all, been doing this for quite awhile). I was disgusted by the number of folders with lined paper and notebooks that were brought home at the end of the school year that had minimal pages filled in. Very wasteful. (My kids are finishing their last year in public school and we are just starting homeschooling in a couple of weeks.)

  12. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    We are a family with all the current technology, but still buy school supplies in droves. I disagree that they are “itemized plans for wasting kids’ time” in public, private or home schools.

    When my son wants to get skin & map packs, and various extensions for his games, he uses his allowance to buy Microsoft Points. When my daughter wants an interesting new pair of sneakers she’ll visit a garage sale, dig through the “treasures” and purchase a pair of second-hand Keds, as well as some acrylic paint, to upcycle them for use.

    These are supplies just as much as the lists I make each homeschool year; filling our drawers with markers, highlighters, map pencils, and yes, crayons. We also buy notebooks, looseleaf paper, binders, dividers, and even flash cards (you would not believe how fast index cards disappear around here).

    A class isn’t old school just because it comes with an itemized list of supplies. Everything my kids do require supplies. Music lessons, golf, art, gaming, Legos, etc…

    We love technology, but we also thrive on tangibles – writing on paper, painting on canvas, holding a music book, etc…

    I get the gist of the message, but I don’t agree with the extremity of it because yes, many times we do have to buy things to learn or grow in our area of interest, and while technology is important, it simply is not going to replace all the tangibles (paper, pen, index cards) as much as you’re asserting.

  13. Joanne W.
    Joanne W. says:

    I don’t officially homeschool my kids, as in they go to public school. In reading Judy S.’s post I have to say we do a lot of those activities with our kids all year long, so I guess that means we DO homeschool them after all. We “super-school” them because 1) we are educated, 2) we value education, and 3) we want them to like learning and see that it can be done anytime, anywhere.

    Your point about it being difficult to schedule all the school-related stuff is valid — we have 4 kids and it is indeed difficult, sometimes impossible feeling, and I sometimes wonder if we didn’t have to deal with an official school schedule would it be easier. Probably at least a little, yes.

    In my opinion, I think your other points are one-sided unfortunately. Public school doesn’t have to be evil. It’s not for you, great, but maybe it’s perfect for someone else. 7-year-olds like crayons, as do older kids, and at least in our elementary school, the crayons they bring for “BTS” aren’t for art class — I don’t think they even use crayons in art class. They use them instead of just pencils when they practice handwriting, or do math, or play learning games, or yes, do some really stupid hand-outs too. They use paper, but they also use Ipads and computers all the time. I’ve got to believe that’s true in so many schools.

    I think not everything is black and white as you suggest, and it seems your attitude is a little negative. Please respect that different from you doesn’t necessarily mean worse.

    • Rea
      Rea says:

      I had a discussion with a friend about this same thing! I hate it when homeschoolers–or more particularly, unschoolers–point at everyday activities and say “look, they’re learning!” My sister takes her kids to the zoo and they read more about animals on wikipedia when they have questions or they go to the library and check out books. They also go to museums and cook and all that sort of thing. She also sends them to school. Maybe the school part is a waste of time, but I don’t think homeschooling can be seen as just doing every regular day things. And I’m planning on homeschooling–I figure 2 hours a day max for K and I’ve ordered books and stuff to see us through 1st grade.

      • Jenn
        Jenn says:

        I know that I am running the risk of sounding condescending here, but here goes. This post is equivalent to the people who don’t have children commenting and judging with the “if that was my child” about other people’s parenting choices.

        You do not homeschool therefore your judgements are of ignorance. Trying to find or identify the teachable, learning moments in the day may be the thread that homeschool parents hold on to to get through the day when they have to validate to themselves that they are doing the right thing when people are standing behind them judging the education and opportunities they are providing.

        Why do you even care about the manor in which other people educate their children? If you say it is because you are worried about the future and our citizenry, then you too are fooling yourself. It is all comes down to competition, comparison and a need to feel superior.

        I wish you the best of luck with homeschooling. It will be the most challenging job you will ever love or maybe hate, but it will be worth it.

        • Rea
          Rea says:

          Jenn: Well, technically I DO homeschool. If it involves finding teachable moments for your kids throughout the day–then everyone homeschools, even if they send their kids to school. Lines between homeschooling and parenting become rapidly blurred, don’t they. But I think a lot of homeschoolers in their eagerness to convert try to make it sound very easy (“We go to the zoo and we learn so much there! Field trips!”) and then when other parents say, haha! I must homeschool, too, because we do that as well! Then they go no you don’t! You send you’re kids to public school! You don’t homeschool!
          So is it homeschooling or not? Then again, I know homeschoolers who insist they’re homeschooling ALL of they’re children (will label themselves a ‘homeschooling mom of 5,’ even if only 3 are of school age), so really what’s the difference?
          So I would say, yes homeschooling involves a bit more. Otherwise everyone is a homeschooler, aren’t they?
          (PS Congrats on being condescending–you did it in one go! I’ll mail you your certificate of achievement!)

          • Cassey
            Cassey says:

            Rea: Yes!! My friends will say to me “I don’t know how you homeschool” and I tell them “You homeschool too. Your homeschool is just called homework” I might spend a few more hours a day doing academic subjects but public school parents are still sitting down and doing homework and projects with their kids too. EVERY parent should be involved in educating their children not just homeschooling ones. I am a homeschooling parent and I hate the condescending attitude to homeschooling parents when they act like they are better than public school parents as much as I hate public school parents acting like I am doing some sort of wrong by denying my child a public school education. It would be nice if we could all just respect each other’s education choices. That last part was just a tangent.. I am not trying to say that either you or Jenn had that attitude… Just wanted to rant about it while I was here. :)

    • mh
      mh says:

      Joanne W.

      I’m a homeschooling parent, and I admit to tossing around terms like “compulsory-schooled kids” to get on my mom’s nerves. (My Mom does not APPROVE of homeschooling. We say that with a certain tone of voice, you know?)

      So I apologize to you; I think homeschool >IS< superior to traditional school. I'm afraid that attitude comes through here at Penelope's site.

      A lot of us homeschool our kids because we want what is best for them; many of us homeschool our kids because schools are tyrannical; a lot of us homeschool our kids because we want to give them advantages their traditional-schooled kids will never have because they waste so much time at school; many of us homeschool our kids because we see something that dies in school kids at the end of summer. A lot of us homeschool because that one child we adore has a special need, or because that one child we adore had a horrible trauma at school, or because that one child we love is an intense learner and school schedules don't match up, or because that one child we love is ready for 5th grade math in 2nd grade but is emotionally still 8 years old…. so many reasons. So many families who switch to homeschool do it for the one child, and then stick with it for all the children because it works so well.

      I look at traditionally schooled kids and have a hard time hiding my feelings of pity. What a shame to waste all that time and energy, all those years, all that rich childhood.

      Homeschool is frustrating and hard for parents, because it is counter-culture and it can be tricky to balance careers and homeschool.

      But most homeschool parents make the change because homeschool is so much better for the kids, for the parents, for the family, for the education, for the opportunities, and for fulfilling the potential of the children.

      I'm sorry we ("we" being the universe of homeschool parents, for whom I am now taking the liberty of speaking) bug you a little bit with our attitude. You sound like a nice mom who values education. Your kids will probably thrive in any learning environment.

      If I tell you you'd make a great homeschooler, does that make me more annoying, or less annoying? It's true, though. Cheers.

      • Joanne W.
        Joanne W. says:

        You may be right, but it would drive me crazy! I’ve been home 10 years already getting to this point, and I’ve got 3 more till my youngest is K-aged. I feel like my brain has melted. I love my kids and being with them, but I miss my career.

        I fully admit that I thought homeschoolers were nuts. That is, until I had a school-aged child. I get it, and I have no problems with homeschooling at all. I have problems with people who criticize me for my choices though, and I thank you for understanding that. If everyone is honest, they’ll admit that some wonderful things are not possible for everyone no matter how much they might want them, and different things are best for different people. You should be (and sounds like you are!) passionate about what you do and how you support your kids, and at the same time allow other people to do so as well. All the best to you.

  14. Linda Lou
    Linda Lou says:

    Why are school supply lists even legal? Public education is to be free for all, covered by taxes.

    And frankly if supplies ARE a parent’s responsibility then for Pete’s sake the school should request a check from us so THEY can purchase what is needed – saving our time and accessing volume pricing!!!! I have better things to do then go to ten different stores getting the right brand, right size of each item!!

  15. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Maybe it’s bc I just have one kid, but I don’t see what the big deal is. You go to Target and knock off the list. If you don’t want to get the exact thing bc it’s hard to find, then don’t. If its too much drama bc you have lots of kids then maybe you should have held back…

  16. Chris M.
    Chris M. says:

    This is a conflicting issue for me because I’ve seen both sides of the argument.
    Side 1: You can’t afford materials, heaven help you. I’m uncertain how all school districts operate these days, if there is a uniform standard on supplies and distribution among students, but when I went to High School you used what you brought. If you didn’t bring anything you had nothing to use and no one gave you anything. I couldn’t do assignments at times because my family couldn’t afford a pencil or paper. We could barely afford to eat. And of course I was too proud to ask for help- shame on me.

    Does anyone know what it’s like to have the vocabulary to complete a complex assignment but not the pencil or paper to do so? Ha! No gold stars by your name on that one. :-)

    But now I’m on the flip side and my child has nearly an overabundance of materials. At 3 1/2 she had an iPad and was using it proficiently within a month.

    One can argue about the choices made for the list (Crayola vs. Prang vs. Sketchbook Pro) and the certain frenzied madness of everyone seeking the same object at the same time, and these are all certainly worth considering their necessity in the larger framework of educating children.

    I think the larger issue is the relevancy of our education system and what tools we have to keep it relevant. We have many issues like this that seemed to have simple, standardized answers (e.g. the prison/justice system), but we’ve come to find are more complex and require rethinking. I ask, who is doing the rethinking and how is that shaping what we have for better, particularly when it’s much easier to maintain the status quo.

    On a side note, as much as I am capable of home schooling and find some aspects of if appealing I can’t imagine living up to my own standards. I’d be turning to chocolate covered coffee beans for support way too often.

  17. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Okay, so point taken that the crayon argument wasn’t my strongest.

    But here’s the issue with school supplies. The assumption is that the school knows which materials will be most stimulating to a kid. If we make the assumption that holding materials in one’s hand is a fun way to learn, then I think it’s fun to choose your own materials instead of having to use uniform materials.

    Another assumption is the idea that kids needs manipulatives and art supplies and whatever at that age. The assumption is questionable because not every kid wants to sit at a desk. The school supplies take for granted the kids are sitting in a desk.

    My boys would way rather run around than draw. They think of drawing is something you do when you have to make a card. They’re just not into it.

    I start to feel like the school supply list is for girls. You can’t even make a good weapon out of a No. 2 pencil. The point always breaks.


    • mh
      mh says:

      Yes. My kids did “fun math” outside last Thursday. I did not know what they were doing; they just came in after 90 minutes and said, “Hey! We did Fun Math! We’re going to do it again tomorrow.”

      What is “fun math?”

      I still don’t know. I will have to eavesdrop on them doing it. But I didn’t schedule it, I didn’t require it, I didn’t expect it, and it must have involved multiplication and percentages because I noticed the difference when we went to the grocery store. I sure didn’t buy curriculum for it.

      Kids are little learning machines. I’m trying to imagine a situation in a school where “fun math” could happen — a group of mixed age kids outside and no teacher plan. There’s no way.

      Similarly, my kids read whatever. All the time. There’s no stopping them. I don’t quiz them on it — ever — but I know they are reading well because their vocabulary is great and they are always talking about books. Plunk them into a school and make them read out of a reader? And forbid them to read for pleasure during class time? And require corny handouts with alphabetizing and crosswords for vocabulary and spelling? Horrors.

      You say, “My boys would rather run around than draw.” And you say, “The school supplies take for granted that kids are sitting at a desk.” And you say, “the school supply list is for girls.” Yes. And yes. And yes.

      But more, and darker, the problem is this: schools treat boys like defective girls. Because schools are run by, and for the benefit of, women teachers.

      • Chris M.
        Chris M. says:

        mh: “…and darker, the problem is this: schools treat boys like defective girls. Because schools are run by, and for the benefit of, women teachers.”

        The plot thickens (and I accidentally laugh so hard milk comes out my nose).

        I originally thought you were going to point out its’ foundation on the dated Prussian military educational model, extraneous behind the scenes bureaucratic struggles or a system implemented to create middle managers for the wealthy to rule. When you went with the female teacher angle, you caught me off guard.

      • Cristen H
        Cristen H says:

        We originally chose homeschooling for my eldest, a boy, for these very reasons. Imagine my surprise when my #2, a girl, turns out to be more physical and kinetic than my son. Even her attention span moves like a hummingbird. So where do girls like her fit into the school model? Thank goodness we don’t have to find out!

  18. Kelsey Langley
    Kelsey Langley says:

    I fully expected a BTS (stupid, I agree) post but I’m surprised you didn’t include the commercial singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” with parents joyously purchasing supplies while kids looked miserable. (Here is the Staples commercial. I guess it’s a few years old. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwcYbo7pjto) Maybe it’s in another post of yours. But to me, that commercial drove home your point that parents are overwhelmed in the summer because public schools make the parent feel like they can’t possibly handle the kids on a full-time basis. “Schools teach parents learned incompetence that they are not able to be with their kids all day and they require a public babysitting service.” (http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/2012/09/17/public-school-is-a-babysitting-service/) So at back to school time, parents are so overjoyed for the reprieve from summertime parenting that they don’t mind buying whatever the teacher says they need. (I know I never used 3 boxes of Kleenex through the year, but my parents bought them anyway.)

    People frequently say that they “couldn’t possibly be with their kids non stop.” I wish I had the nerve to say “I can’t possibly NOT be with my kid through her childhood.” I am still so excited about homeschooling and by homeschooling I mean exploring the world around us with my little girl. I can’t imagine not wanting to be the biggest part of what she learns and who she becomes.

    Once, in kindergarten, she came home spouting off some political crap based on what her teacher had told the class. It happened to be opposite of what our political views are. I was mad, but what can you do when you send your kids to someone else to learn? Nothing… until you keep them home to learn.

    My 7 year old uses up crayons, markers, sidewalk chalk and all kinds of paper like you wouldn’t believe. So I like back to school sales because we can stock up on all the supplies for our little artist!

  19. Joanne W.
    Joanne W. says:

    Cassey, my thoughts exactly! “Best for me” is just that, and doesn’t have any bearing on “best for you” and EVERYTHING is relative. Hopefully as more and more people homeschool “officially” (wink), no one will have to feel defensive because they’re going against the grain, and people can just make their choices and move on and not care what other people are doing. World peace, right?

  20. K
    K says:

    I’m laughing over this mess because when I get the school supply lists for my kids I don’t buy what’s on them. My school district required these items this year:
    dry erase markers (not yellow)
    dry erase markers (yellow)
    red pens
    black sharpies
    post its
    index cards
    ziploc bags
    hand sanitizer

    and that’s leaving out all of the other stuff like “300 sheets of notebook paper” “3 binders” “6 journals” etc. FOR EACH KID.

    I realized pretty quick that this is just a list for TEACHER supplies, and that the stuff isn’t getting used by the kids. They come home at the end of the year and I never see those 300 sheets of paper and the journals don’t get used much. I decided that I was going to buy whatever I felt was useful on the list and forget the rest. It makes me so angry.

  21. mh
    mh says:

    Incidentally, this IS a great time of year to buy baggies, kleenex, and sharpies.

    Also, those fun magnetic locker-decor devices — I have a non-stainless fridge, and I stick those little pockets on the side so I can find the scissors, pen, grocery list, etc.

    And a mirror. Who doesn’t need a mirror in the kitchen to remind them to SMILE?

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