There's a very good reason parents are made to spend so much on school supplies.


The silly season may be over, but if you think your weeping credit card can have a break for a little while, you’re sadly mistaken.

For parents of school-aged children, Christmas is small potatoes compared to the back-to-school needs of your little learners.

Yep, as the long, long, long school holidays draw to a glorious conclusion, where you can almost touch the finish line – that sweet moment you get to kiss those precious darlings goodbye for six incredible hours – you’re no doubt frantically splashing out on everything needed to be prepared.

Bags, lunchboxes, drink bottles, new uniforms to replace the lost, outgrown, and paint-stained items from last year, name labels in the hopes they won’t get lost again this year (hint: they will), new shoes to replace the ones from last year that have toes sticking out of them, and then you’ll get to the booklist.

At this point, you’ll start to wonder whether you are in fact taking crazy pills, because how could your child possibly need eight glue sticks, 30 grey lead pencils, six erasers, four pencil sharpeners, five boxes of tissues, and 20 exercise books?

And then you’re requested to not label anything with the fancy labels you just bought, because they will all be going into communal class supplies to be shared throughout the year.

It seems ludicrous that one classroom would need 240 glue sticks for a year, right? I used to think it was too, to pay $200+ for all of these items that surely won’t all get used. I’m pretty sure I even wrote about how ridiculous and unfair it is! But, I can (occasionally, but don’t tell my husband) admit that I was wrong. I can see the error in my thinking.

"I used to think it was ridiculous and unfair to foot the bill for so many school supplies. But now I can see the error in my thinking." Image: Getty.

You see, while you might pay the booklist fee, and have all of these items delivered to the school for communal supplies, others will not.

Whether it’s because they can’t afford it, or because they choose not to, or other issues, there are children in your children’s classes who will be showing up to school on the first day with nothing.


“But why should I have to subsidise the education of other people’s kids?” I hear you asking. I’m not judging you, because I too have asked that question.

It turns out, there are several reasons. For one, it isn’t the child’s fault their parents can’t or won’t supply them with their schooling needs. This way, each child gets an equal opportunity, at least while they’re in the classroom, to learn.

And importantly, by combining the supplies into a communal pool, the other children don’t know who didn’t bring their share; eliminating the shame and embarrassment that child may otherwise feel.

LISTEN: A teacher shares all the things she wishes knew about school (post continues after audio...)

The other reason those of us who can afford the booklists should subsidise the less fortunate children’s supplies is this: If we don’t, the teacher will. Teachers are basically underpaid and underappreciated angels who regularly use their own meagre incomes to buy classroom materials, but they shouldn’t have to.

Next time you’re looking through the supplies list clucking your tongue and thinking how unfair it is to have to pay so much, take a moment to be grateful for the fact you are fortunate enough to not only afford to give your children a great start, but that you can also give other children the same start to their school year their own parents can’t.

It feels pretty good, no?