School supplies make the child, break the parent

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Trapper Keeper is the single best school supply ever invented.

A glorified notebook, the Mead invention, popular in the 1980s and 90s, holds loose leaf paper with sliding, plastic rings so there&8217;s no danger of snapping your finger like with the nasty metal ones the high schoolers have to use. It has pockets on the sides for the papers without holes (and for things like stickers, erasers and other fun things). And it all closes up with a Velcro tab that wraps around to, well, trap it and keep it.

Mine was blue with multi-colored shapes, squiggles and lines all over it. It was cool.

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I was mid-childhood, something like third- or fourth-grade, when we bought it &8212; in the summer, before the school supply list came out.

As they all have a knack of doing, the teachers at my school got together and decided the Trapper Keeper would only be a distraction to learning. Either that or they thought it was of the devil, same difference.

In one fell swoop they zapped all the fun right out of the coming year. No Trapper Keepers allowed.

I roamed the school supply aisles of Wal-Mart Saturday looking for the latest and greatest craze in notebooks and pencils. Though I found nothing that even began to rival the Trapper Keeper, there were some notables.

They make plastic two-pocket folders now. It appears water, spit, snot and most washable markers will clean right off the things. They also seem fairly durable. (They&8217;ll only cost you .88 cents each.)

They also have &8220;attitude vinyl binders.&8221; Looked like a folder with a cat on it to me. ($3.36)

A &8220;speed click pivot pen&8221; with a miniature car from the Disney movie &8220;Cars&8221; on top seemed cool enough. For students concerned with time management it&8217;s probably good to have the pen that clicks in and out the fastest. I didn&8217;t get the pivot part. ($1.97)

But my favorite was the light up gel glue. It comes in pink, blue, green and yellow, is quite gel like (it was leaking all over the shelf) and has a light inside the bottle. When you squeeze it the light blinks sending light waves through the transparent, glitter-filled glue. My teachers definitely would have banned this stuff. ($1.76)

Shopping for school supplies is fun (for kids). Sifting through the bag when you get home is more fun (for kids). And assigning them all their proper home in the backpack almost makes the thought of the impending school year bearable (for kids).

You parents may feel differently. Twenty cent boxes of crayons add up fast, and if you are smart you know that&8217;s just the beginning.

If my math is right (ha!) a parent of a kindergartner at West Primary can expect to spend at least $31.83 on supplies this year. That number doesn&8217;t count the cost of &8220;a baseball cap for the tricycle track,&8221; which is also on the list.

It does buy two packs of 16-count Crayola crayons, two packs of 24-count Crayola crayons, one pack of No. 2 pencils, four large glue sticks (I only saw jumbo), one speckled composition notebook, four two-pocket folders, one box of quart-size plastic zip bags, one box of Kleenex, one bottle of pump liquid soap, one can of Lysol and a regular sized pencil box. (I filled the list for a girl; the boys&8217; price is slightly cheaper.)

Sure, $31.83 isn&8217;t so bad. If you have three kids it becomes $95.49 fast. Yes, still reasonable. But it&8217;s kindergarten &8212; it&8217;s only just beginning.

Try the middle school list &8212; pocket dictionary and thesaurus, athletic shoes, shorts and T-shirt for PE, graph paper, protractor and TI 30+ graphing calculator.

Try high school &8212; the calculator on the Cathedral High list is $138 alone.

Stressed yet? You should be, school starts in less than two weeks. Don&8217;t forget to order the uniforms, buy the lunch food and make sure the shoes still fit.

If you&8217;re lucky, the teachers at your child&8217;s school won&8217;t decided to ban any already-purchased supplies relegating them to the shelf at home next to the Trapper Keeper.

Julie Finley

is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or at