New school shopping

I have my new school shoes. I wonder if you do. The correct footwear is part of being ready for the first day of school, which is coming up faster than it should, if you ask me. So, like it or not, you’d better be ready. That involves some shopping.

Sending youngsters back to school is more than an emotional process, of course. Americans spend billions on back-to-school shopping. One source I consulted said the cost comes to about $700 for each child from kindergarten through grade 12. And that’s just the cost of supplies, which have gone up in price since last year.

I still can remember those long lists of supplies that were required when my children were in elementary school-notebooks and pencils, crayons and erasers, pencils and paste. Even tissues. While it wasn’t required, the perfect backpack also had to be secured before the new school year started.

Carrying the right school bag was almost as important as wearing the correct pair of shoes, as I recall. Now, according to a little research I did, shoes are the one clothes item that parents are not reluctant to purchase for their children for the start of a new school year. (Getting off on the right foot, perhaps?) Nobody expects the young students to wear shoes that hurt their feet. Or maybe parents just can’t wait to get those young feet out of flip-flops and into real shoes for the first time in months, so they are more than willing to pop for new often-expensive footwear.

I wondered about how long this back-to-school shopping and preparation has been a big thing in our culture. So I looked through my late grandma’s notes about what life was like for her a hundred years ago. As a country school teacher in Hamilton County, I figured there might be some mention of starting off a new school year. Not so. I expect that going back to school simply meant wearing clothes and shoes that fit and were clean and mended, and maybe getting a different empty lard pail to carry their lunch.

As I consider all this business of getting a new school year off to a good start with the proper equipment and accessories, it occurs to me that it’s a shame we can’t shop for what’s really important, what it really takes to thrive in the classroom. That would be dedication, diligence, a drive to learn, curiosity, the right attitude, and-perhaps most important of all-whatever it takes to show up and be ready to learn. Family encouragement and support has a whole lot to do with it, too.

Bringing with you the right school supplies in the best bag is all just window dressing if a student has those qualities with them.