Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stuff

I received a letter indicating the tuition rate at my kids' school will go up by approximately $50/month next year. Coincidentally it was the same day as our mandatory parents’ meeting. I’ve been trying to compose this letter since then.

Dear School Principal,

To say I’m disgusted by what is expected of next year is an understatement.
I respect that you intend for the students to perform service hours to ‘earn’ their class t-shirt. I respect that they will need to earn the right to wear them on Fridays. My kids are probably not the norm. They will each have completed ten hours of service within the first two days of their summer vacation. What I do not understand, comprehend, condone, or encourage is the acquiring of ‘things’ for our students.

I’m likely in the minority. I’ve always been frugal so we can afford our children’s wants as well as their needs. This will likely shock you, but I’ll tell you anyway. For all of my children’s back-to-school supplies (including shoes & clothing), the cost for July 2010 was $99. It was done very carefully, watching sales, using coupons, buying “pre-worn” items, and with several gifts from current 8th graders.

But that doesn’t resolve my feelings about what is expected for our soon-to-be eight graders.

A class shirt. Estimated cost $25 each. As is typical for our family, we purchase 5 shirts (one per day) each year for each child. Because these are unique to this class, the cost to my household is $125 for one child.
A sweatshirt. Estimated cost $30. $155. For two children (yes, there are two families with two kids in the class) the total is now $310.

A yard sign. Estimated cost $10. $165. For two, $330. For use one day of the year. To announce what the rest of the school already knows – these kids are graduating. Yes, the children are given the option to take the sign home and display it in their yard. As a safety issue, this concerns me. Do I really want everyone on the street to know my now-graduated-from-8th-grade-child has gifts, money, spare time, and will likely be home alone?

A DVD. Estimated cost $10. $175. For two, $350. With pictures of my child on it that I supply. I’m supposed to pay to buy a DVD of photos I already know I have?

And the big class trip. Estimated at $150 per child. $325. For two, $650. And we haven’t purchased shoes, pants/shorts, socks, jackets, gym uniform, dodge ball, or the various track/cross country/volleyball/football/basketball/kickball/soccer/sports t-shirts and equipment. I know I can scratch off the class sweatshirt, the DVD, and the sign, but that saves a $50 from the total. Not a significant savings.

I know (and understand why) my 8th grader will ‘want’ everything the other kids have. I realize there is an opportunity for them to participate in, not one, not two, but THIRTEEN or FOURTEEN fundraisers. What is that teaching my child? Yes, hard work = earning your trip. But also, “your trip can be better than the one the class had last year" if you earn the money to pay for it. I’m also teaching them to sell “stuff” to people in our neighborhood who are already facing reduced incomes due to high gas prices, higher costs at the grocery store, higher taxes, more responsibilities, bigger burdens. And can you imagine what it does to the families with two children? Oh yippy skippy! TWENTY-SIX to TWENTY-EIGHT fundraisers! I assure you, those parents are not thrilled.

Yes, graduating from eighth grade is a ‘bigger deal’ from a parochial school than it is from middle school. Perhaps only because most of these children have been in the same class for the past 9 years. Perhaps because they’re all looking forward to attending high school with the same set of kids. Perhaps they should consider scaling back on their final year of school. Perhaps consider inviting the kids from a "less fortunate" school to participate in their class trip to a park for a picnic – perhaps our privileged youth should share their blessings?

People don’t need more STUFF in their lives.

I’m ready to wash my hands of the whole year and move the kid to public school.


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