The Box of Awesome

I’ve learned a few things since my kids have been in school for … well, I guess Abby is going on 14 years now if you count preschool … and one of those things is this:

As soon as school is out, you get those leftover supplies stored in one place.

Box of Awesome with its 2015-2016 school year offerings.

Box of Awesome with its 2015-2016 school year offerings.

For us, that place is The Box of Awesome. (Yes, it has an official title. I like names. Just ask my iPod, Jane Austen.) It’s a sturdy box I inherited from my cousin-in-law Brandi (hi, Brandi!) and it’s large enough to hold all manner of folder, binder, pencil and the random bits of a school year past.

And now that the girls are older, I can just say, Box of Awesome on the table, and it magically gets filled! That’s one thing about older kids, breakdown aside: There is something to be said for self-sufficiency.

Anyway, when I started the Box of Awesome a few years ago, I had this dream that school lists would come out and at least half of what we’d need would be right there.

That’s not exactly how it has ended up working.

I feel a rant coming on, and I’m going to rein it in, you guys, because none of us have that kind of time, but COME ON! Why are we expected to buy all new stuff every single year when perfectly usable old stuff always comes home? And not only that, why is it that different stuff is required, basically negating the ability to reuse what IS sent home the previous year?


It’s worse in elementary school, I think, but I went nuts Abby’s freshman year when a science teacher required a certain binder on his syllabus and then THEY NEVER USED THAT BINDER EVEN ONCE ALL YEAR.

Ahem, sorry. Still bitter, I guess.

Johanna and her required third grade "three inch blades." I got the size right, but not the brand. Sometimes we can only rebel in small ways.

Johanna and her required third grade “three inch blades.” I got the size right, but not the brand. Sometimes we can only rebel in small ways.

Kind of forgot where I was going with this, oh, right, anyway, so the box isn’t exactly used the way I thought it would be — that first year we employed it, Johanna could reuse all of four things out of a list of like 25. So there went my dream. Still, it comes in handy for projects and art journals at home, and as the girls get older (especially in high school, unused freshman binder aside), the less supplies they seem to need, which means the chance that something can be reused goes up. Looking into the box with this year’s offerings, I’m feeling almost hopeful — we have some really nice folders, one sort of thrashed binder, a binder sleeve and a calculator (surely Johanna won’t need more than a basic calculator in sixth grade?).

Still, back-to-school is going to be interesting, trying to outfit these girls while keeping the project in mind. I guess we just look for recycled notebooks … and maybe research environmentally friendly pens and pencils? Any suggestions are welcome — it will probably take me all summer to figure this out.

Bonus story: When Johanna was in third grade, her supply list contained specific brands, including scissors — with a specific size to boot. I just sent her with her second grade scissors. It’s not like they wear out. But the teacher went through each kid’s list with them on the first day, and told Johanna she needed new scissors. My mom is a minimalist, Jo said, and the teacher was just like, You need THESE scissors.

I’m willing to fight, you guys, but wow, sometimes it’s just so dang hard.

Next up: Bea Johnson’s All-Purpose Balm. On Friday again, sorry, summertime.