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Why back-to-school lists are so long and specific. And what's up with the 3 dozen glue sticks?

I just need someone to tell me: Are they eating the glue sticks?!

Why back-to-school lists are so long and specific. And what's up with the 3 dozen glue sticks?
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
selective focal photo of crayons in yellow box

It's back-to-school time (yaaassss!), but that means it's also the time when you have to tackle those super-long, super-specific school supply lists (uggghhhh!).

You know what I'm talking about — the 15-plus-items-long list of things your kids need for school.

As a bonus, they're often brand-name specific. Seriously. Because Elmer's glue is apparently just that different from generic store brand glue.


Based on the venting ( "OMG, everyone is sold out of pre-sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils!") and cries for help I'm seeing from my fellow parents on social media ("Where did you find three wide-ruled draw-and-write composition books?" — OK, I admit that was my question), a lot of our public school kiddos are being given supply lists quite similar to this one:

woman in white and multicolored floral long-sleeved mini dress with green backpackPhoto by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

Sample school supply list created from actual lists I've collected. Some items have been switched between lists to protect the innocent.

While many public schools send these lists to parents, in certain states they're "requests" not "requirements" (even when not clearly presented that way) because some states cannot legally require students to provide their own school supplies.

Optional or required, however, these school supply lists are important.

I know, I know — lots of us parents have many feelings about them, like:

  • We didn't have to buy a specific list of supplies when we were kids (walking uphill both ways, two miles, in the snow).
  • This is public school, not private school! Can't the glue sticks come out of my taxes?
  • This list is so name-brand specific. Are Elmer's glue sticks reallllyyyy that superior to these cheaper, generic ones?
  • Seriously?? So many glue sticks?! Just ... what?

And we can all agree that it's not right that public school budgets are regularly slashed and aren't big enough to cover the basic necessities essential for our kids' success. (You know, like pencils.) And in some cases, budgets are misused, and that's not right, either.

black cordless headphones beside sport bottle and notebookPhoto by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

But as much as parents dread shopping for school supplies, our children's teachers probably dread having to ask.

Katie Sluiter, a mom of three and teacher of 13 years, shares in parents' frustrations about supplies — just from a different perspective. "I struggle every single August with having to ask for [supply] donations. I hate it," she says.

She'd love to stop asking parents to bring in a combined total of 800 pencils and 1,000 glue sticks and just buy them herself. But as a teacher, she simply cannot afford to do it.

"I hate that we have two full-time salaried workers in our house. ... I have an advanced degree, and we are still living paycheck to paycheck. It feels shameful to have to ask every. single. year. for donations. Teachers don't want to ask for handouts. We just want to teach."

"Teachers don't want to ask for handouts. We just want to teach." — Katie Sluiter

Nicole Johansen, a mom of two who was a teacher for 12 years, echoes Sluiter's sentiments. She cites never ending budget cuts as well as the need to stretch other funds, like PTO-raised money, further and further as the reasons supply lists exist and adds, "It is frustrating knowing that schools should be appropriately allotted funds for supplies — this said from the parent AND teacher standpoint."

So most of us are on the same page here. Class supply lists are the pits ... for everyone!

The most significant thing to remember, though, is that if your budget allows, it's important to purchase the items on the list.

If you're not purchasing the supplies, it's very likely your child's teacher will have to — with his or her own money.

Image by Thinkstock.

And we've already established that teacher salaries aren't cutting it when it comes to taking care of their families and their students.

And maybe it's not so much that teachers have to spend their own paychecks on classroom supplies, but they want to because an overwhelming majority of teachers genuinely care about their students.

"I wish all parents knew how much teachers love and sacrifice for their students," Johansen said. "Pretty much all teachers I know will be spending for their classroom despite having to cut back the grocery bill for their family."

"I wish all parents knew how much teachers love and sacrifice for their students." — Nicole Johansen

"No, we don't have to spend all that time and money on our classrooms, but it makes it a quality experience when your children have things like science experiments, books, art supplies, and a comfortable, cozy classroom environment."

woman wearing white sweaterPhoto by Yustinus Tjiuwanda on Unsplash

OK, but seriously, what do they do with all of those glue sticks?!

I know I'm not the only one who opened up that list when my daughter was in first grade, choked on my coffee, and exclaimed, "THREE DOZEN GLUE STICKS?! What, are the kids eating them? [Probably. Little kids eat all kinds of gross stuff.] Are the teachers selling them for profit? [I wouldn't blame them. See above about teachers' salaries]."

Image by Thinkstock.

"We glue kids' mouths shut," Sluiter told me when I asked.

"Totally kidding. They last like 12 seconds ... [and] no matter how vigilant we are in supervising the picking up and putting away of supplies, each time we get the tub of glue sticks out, there are about three to five dead soldiers and lone caps rolling in the bottom of the bin."

(I love teachers with senses of humor!)

But back to the actual issue.

My friend Shannon summed up the class supply list conundrum perfectly, if bluntly:

She wants parents who can budget in school supplies without experiencing a financial burden to "quit complaining about some of the items being communal. Vote for politicians who will quit cutting money from schools. I don't remember my parents having to buy 20 glue sticks, but I certainly don't think any more should come out of teachers' pockets."

Couldn't have said it better myself.


This story originally appeared on 08.11.15.

Representative image from Canva

Because who can keep up with which laundry settings is for which item, anyway?

Once upon a time, our only option for getting clothes clean was to get out a bucket of soapy water and start scrubbing. Nowadays, we use fancy machines that not only do the labor for us, but give us free reign to choose between endless water temperature, wash duration, and spin speed combinations.

Of course, here’s where the paradox of choice comes in. Suddenly you’re second guessing whether that lace item needs to use the “delicates” cycle, or the “hand wash” one, or what exactly merits a “permanent press” cycle. And now, you’re wishing for that bygone bucket just to take away the mental rigamarole.

Well, you’re in luck. Turns out there’s only one setting you actually need. At least according to one laundry expert.
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Cavemen must have been perpetually late, given that humans didn't get around to inventing the sundial until 1500 BCE. The first attempts at measuring time via sun movement were shadow clocks created by the Egyptians and Babylonians. These led to the sundial, an instrument that tells time by measuring shadows cast by the sun on a dial plate. Sundials were our preferred method of timekeeping until the mechanical clock was invented in 14th-century Europe.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Sara Bogush

In 1972, Hamilton introduced the world's first digital watch. Its $2,000 price tag was hefty, but by the '80s, digital watches became affordable for the average person. Now, both technologies have merged in a cool invention, the digital sundial. Created by French Etsy seller Mojoptix, this outdoor clock uses the patterns on a suspended wand to mold natural shadows into a digital-looking time readout. The digital sundial has two major drawbacks: It only reports the time in 20-minute intervals, and it's not very effective after sundown. But it sure does look cool.

Here's the digital sundial in action!

This article first appeared on 9.15.17.

Kampus Production/Canva

How often do you change your sheets?

If you were to ask a random group of people, "How often do you wash your sheets?" you'd likely get drastically different answers. There are the "Every single Sunday without fail" folks, the "Who on Earth washes their sheets weekly?!?" people and everyone in between.

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Mattress Advisor, the average time between sheet changings or washings in the U.S. is 24 days—or every 3 1/2 weeks, approximately. The same survey revealed that 35 days is the average interval at which unwashed sheets are "gross."

Some of you are cringing at those stats while others are thinking, "That sounds about right." But how often should you wash your sheets, according to experts?

Hint: It's a lot more frequent than 24 days.

While there is no definitive number of days or weeks, most experts recommend swapping out used sheets for clean ones every week or two.

Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD told Cleveland Clinic that people should wash their sheets at least every two weeks, but probably more often if you have pets, live in a hot climate, sweat a lot, are recovering from illness, have allergies or asthma or if you sleep naked.

We shed dead skin all the time, and friction helps those dead skin cells slough off, so imagine what's happening every time you roll over and your skin rubs on the sheets. It's normal to sweat in your sleep, too, so that's also getting on your sheets. And then there's dander and dust mites and dirt that we carry around on us just from living in the world, all combining to make for pretty dirty sheets in a fairly short period of time, even if they look "clean."

Maybe if you shower before bed and always wear clean pajamas you could get by with a two-week sheet swap cycle, but weekly sheet cleaning seems to be the general consensus among the experts. The New York Times consulted five books about laundry and cleaning habits, and once a week was what they all recommend.

Sorry, once-a-monthers. You may want to step up your sheet game a bit.

What about the rest of your bedding? Blankets and comforters and whatnot?

Sleep.com recommends washing your duvet cover once a week, but this depends on whether you use a top sheet. Somewhere between the Gen X and Millennial eras, young folks stopped being about the top sheet life, just using their duvet with no top sheet. If that's you, wash that baby once a week. If you do use a top sheet, you can go a couple weeks longer on the duvet cover.

For blankets and comforters and duvet inserts, Sleep.com says every 3 months. And for decorative blankets and quilts that you don't really use, once a year washing will suffice.

What about pillows? Pillowcases should go in with the weekly sheet washing, but pillows themselves should be washed every 3 to 6 months. Washing pillows can be a pain, and if you don't do it right, you can end up with a lumpy pillow, but it's a good idea because between your sweat, saliva and skin cells, pillows can start harboring bacteria.

Finally, how about the mattress itself? Home influencers on TikTok can often be seen stripping their beds, sprinkling their mattress with baking soda, brushing it into the mattress fibers and then vacuuming it all out. Architectural Digest says the longer you leave baking soda on the mattress, the better—at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. Some people add a few drops of essential oil to the baking soda for some extra yummy smell.

If that all sounds like way too much work, maybe just start with the sheets. Pick a day of the week and make it your sheet washing day. You might find that climbing into a clean, fresh set of sheets more often is a nice way to feel pampered without a whole lot of effort.

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Brian Gordon is a cartoonist. He's also a dad, which means he's got plenty of inspiration for the parenting comics he creates for his website, Fowl Language (not all of which actually feature profanity).

He covers many topics, but it's his hilarious parenting comics that are resonating with parents everywhere.

"My comics are largely autobiographical," Gordon tells me. "I've got two kids who are 4 and 7, and often, what I'm writing happened as recently as that very same day."

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Artist paints characters as described in books, then shares side-by-side with film versions

He doesn't know who he's painting, and it's fascinating to see who is close and who is way off.

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Anyone who's watched a film based on a book has experienced the disappointment of a movie character not matching their imagined version of what a character looks like. Book authors offer descriptions of characters with varying levels of detail, usually just enough to help us form a mental picture or give us necessary information about them, so we may not all imagine them the same way.

Some characters' physical features are crucial to their story, such as Harry Potter's lightning-shaped forehead scar, but some are just an author's attempt to share whatever they themselves imagine a character to look like. There's often a lot that's open to interpretation, though, so it's a bit of a crapshoot whether a film depiction of a book character will match a writer's description of them—or a reader's vision based on that description.

One artist is exploring this phenomenon with a video series in which he paints characters based solely on their written descriptions. Jazza, who has made a name for himself on social media with his creative art videos, is given the features of a character as described by a writer without being told who the character is or where they're from. Then we see how his depiction compares to the character as shown on screen.

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