Without Elmer's and Crayola, none of us would've made it beyond first grade.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
mom prepping kids for school
Without Elmer's and Crayola, none of us would've made it past first grade.
| Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Getty

A friend recently mentioned that her children's school no longer gives parents a school supplies list. Instead, parents log onto a website, pay a fee electronically, and the supplies will be there for each child on day one. Convenient and efficient? Yes. But this mom was a little wistful for the days when she went back-to-school shopping in person, watching her kids patrol the aisles at Walmart, agonizing over which notebooks and pencils to buy. (Kids can make a day of school-supplies shopping.)

Elementary School Supplies List

When I entered first grade (very few kids went to kindergarten in my home town), iPads and cell phones hadn't been thought of.

My retro school supplies included jumbo pencils and those lined tablets with the horrible rough paper that I couldn't deliver decent penmanship on now, let alone when I was 6. Mama also bought me a book satchel and a pink metal lunch box in a "Campus Queen" motif. It had a magnetic board game on the back. (Guess how long it took me to lose the magnets?)

Our Mamas were also instructed to select a shoebox from the family closet and fill it with some seriously vintage school supplies:

1 jar of Elmer's paste (Back in '68, first-graders weren't trusted with glue.)
1 pair of small, blunt-edged scissors (Teachers knew we'd run with them, no matter how many times they told us not to.)
1 small container of buttons (Kind of a down-home abacus.)
1 box of 8-count jumbo crayons (Aside: Remember graduating to that awesome box of 64 Crayola crayons with the sharpener on the back of the box? Suddenly those flowers in your coloring book didn't have to be red, yellow, or blue—they could be Carnation Pink, Maize, or Violet. Scha-weet!)

Middle School Supplies List

Of course, things change in Middle School. Gone are our innocent childhood selves, when we could be impressed by the addition of a few new hues to the crayon box.

In Middle School, we were all about that three-ring notebook. Should you get the one with the sunflower or (gasp!) a peace sign on the front? Or maybe the faux-denim one that your friends could sign? Also available were spiral notebooks with David Cassidy and Donny Osmond on the cover, but that might be putting too much out there. A girl has to play her crushes close to the vest.

High School Supplies List

  • Levis/Chic jeans
  • Gunne Sax dress
  • Candies shoes
  • Dingo boots
  • Add-a bead necklace
  • Perm
  • Bubblegum-flavored Kissing Potion
  • Love's Baby Soft
  • Mood ring

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It goes without saying that, when Mama is seeing Junior off for the first day of a new school year, her list of instructions gets long enough to wrap around Texas.