The school year is just days away and parents are now scrambling to get all the school supplies their kids need to start the school year off right.
From specific binders to brand-specific crayon and pencil requirements, some parents are frustrated at that expectations they are required to fill to complete the back-to-school list each year.
Earlier this week, Sheril Missere-Sorensen took to a Penticton Facebook group to share her frustration over the back-to-school list she found for one of her kids.
“List says specifically a 2.5-inch binder. Not a three inch because it wont fit in the desk. Check!! We can do that,” reads the post.
“But…at the end of the list where they put the special *** instructions it informs me that ‘binders are not used at this level’. So… do I buy the $12 binder so it can collect dust in her desk, because we know it will fit?”
While she meant the post as a humorous reflection on the list itself, the post took off with many parents joining in with frustration at the lists themselves or at Missere-Sorensen for complaining about it in the first place.
“This is my 18th year of buying school supplies, I think some of it is funny,” said Missere-Sorenson.
“I thought it was kind of ironic as half the stuff comes back unused and the other stuff they can’t use because it is not the same stuff as what is on the list next year.
“My husband and I have good jobs, but you’re going to get a mom who goes out there and spends money she doesn’t have on a binder that is going to come back wrecked at the end of the year, but not used.”
She said she understands the parent’s frustration as she said when all of her kids were school age it cost her $600-$700 each year alone, just for the school supplies.
“I think people complain because they’re frustrated, they complain because they’re overwhelmed,” said Missere-Sorenson.
“It is incredibly hard for a lot of people in our community right now, for example, because of the rent they are paying. Families with spouses both making $12/hour and they cannot find a place to rent for under $1,800/month, then you add school supplies, it is a struggle.”
She hopes some of the new budget changes will bring also bring changes regarding school supplies. She says a model where parents pay a reasonable set fee to each school and the school provides the supplies would work better, so that each kid gets the same supplies as the other kids.
“Kids know which kids don’t have money, kids know which kids are not using brand name and that is not fair. Kids can be mean. Kids should be on an even playing field,” suggested Missere-Sorenson.
“The kids are happy, the parents are happy and there is a lot less drama.”
Unrelated, but well timed, Laura Murray also took to the same Facebook group regarding school supplies. She was witnessing the struggle of so many parents in her community and decided to offer her assistance to a few families in need.
“As I sit here with family and health and prosperity in my life, I know not everyone is in the same situation,” reads her post.
“I’d like to help a local family or two out getting their kiddos back to school.”
Murray said her family moved back to Penticton from Calgary and are currently in a stable financial situation and wanted to give back by providing school supplies for a few low-income families.
She was shocked at the immediate response from both parents needing help and parents wanting to donate supplies with her.
“I knew there was a need out there, but the responses have blown my mind,” said Murray.
“I am a single mom of four and I know how stressful getting kids back to school can be, especially on a limited income, knowing the economy here in the valley.”
Murray will now work to match up all the families who asked for help with those offering help. She will buy school supplies for three or four families herself and hopes together they can all help at least a dozen or so families.
“Everyone has a story, everyone goes through hard times. I have been fortunate to get a hand up in my past and I wanted to pay it forward,” said Murray.
“The lists are demanding and having to buy school supplies does not always fit in to everyone’s budget.”
A President’s Choice survey from 2016 found more than one-third of parents plan to spend more than $500 on each of their children this time of year, which is more than they expect to spend over the holidays.
A whopping $764.8 million was spent in the summer of 2015 on back-to-school supplies in Canada. It’s the second busiest shopping period next to Christmas.