Back to School

Sep 3 2009

People often say to me something along the lines of “…but I shouldn’t complain about my one child [or two or three or four] when you have five” in a sort of breathless voice heavy with – is it disbelief? wonder?  Probably a combo.

I try to respond reassuringly, maintaining that, while five kids is a lot of kids, one kid is, too.

How does that math work, where one kids is many kids?  Well, when you have one child who, like my oldest, considers you parent, nurse, playmate, entertainer, personal chef, teacher, paralegal, secretary, taxi driver, therapist (I seriously could go on and on, but I’ll spare you the rest), the duties can feel a little overwhelming at times.

I remember having one kid.  It was hard.

While I wouldn’t say that five kids is easier than one (in fact, I’ll say right here that it’s not), I would say that it’s its own special kind of hard.  Different hard.  Especially when it’s time to head back to school.

I’m certainly to blame for a good portion of the annual back-to-school chaos we face.  And not just for my role in the procurement or production of said children.

I developed a philosophy years ago that each child is different with different talents, different tastes, and different needs.  (Maybe some child psychologist developed that philosophy, but, since I don’t have time to read up on the subject, I’m claiming this one for myself.)

My philosophy has resulted in three kids at three different schools.  Abby, grade 6, is attending a private school.  Ian, grade 3, is attending an intensive learning special education program at a public elementary school.  Aden, grade 2, also with special needs, continues to be mainstreamed in a public school classroom but receives additional one-on-one and small group instruction from the school’s learning resource center.

So about this time every year, when school is knocking on our door and despite the fact that I’m responsible for the chaos, I think that the scheduling stress might actually overwhelm me, tsumani-style.

My kind, reassuring words to parents with fewer children than me vanish, and I can’t quite manage to reclaim them.  It’s as though those words are intangible smoke rising from the inferno of my mad dash toward a reliable fall routine. Yes, I think unsympathetically, you shouldn’t complain about your one child [or four] when I have FIVE. I’ll think the last word with both disbelief and wonder.

I don’t wish to be uncharitable.  And I promise that eventually my head will clear.  I’ll figure out the fall schedule.  We’ll enter a routine.  I’ll stop using dramatic phrases like “smoke rising from the inferno of” anything.

I’ll regain my sympathy for parents with fewer children.  I’ll be back to my supportive, encouraging persona in no time.

Until then, I leave you with this year’s compiled school supplies list (with a special shout-out to my husband, who spent 4 hours inventorying what we already had and another untold # of hours procuring most of the supplies):

Writing/Drawing Implements:

  • 12 mechanical pencils with erasers
  • 62 sharpened No. 2 pencils
  • 6 Black ballpoint pens
  • 6 Blue ballpoint pens – Both Please
  • 6 Red pens
  • 2 boxes Colored pencils, sharpened
  • 2 black Sharpie markers – ultra fine
  • 1 highlighter
  • 2 dry erase pens
  • 2 boxes of short twistable crayons
  • 8 pink pearl erasers
  • 3 sets of water color paints
  • 1 box 16 color set of crayons
  • 1 box of 32 color crayons (no neon)
  • 1 hand pencil sharpener
  • 1 pkg. Crayola WASHABLE broad tip markers
  • 1 pkg. Pencil eraser caps


  • 1 pkg, loose leaf paper, college ruled
  • Graph paper


  • 2 – 12” metric/inch ruler
  • Calculator
  • Compass
  • Protractor (clear, see-through type)


  • 6 pair of Fiskar pointed scissors (for 3 kids? 6 pairs? Really.)
  • 9 boxes facial tissue
  • Small plastic water bottle (optional)
  • 3 sturdy backpacks with zippers


  • 3 spiral notebooks, college ruled, (max 100 Pgs)
  • 3 – 1” 3-ring binder (one with dividers)
  • 5 Folders with 2 pockets on bottom (1 girl, 2 boy, 2 neutral)
  • 1 composition book


  • 23 Glue sticks
  • 3 bottles white school glue


  • NIV Bible


  • Pencil pouch to hold protractor, calculator, compass
  • 3 plastic snap school boxes (6”x8” size)