Back to School – Irish style

26 Aug

You know, in the past, I never really made a huge fuss over back to school shopping.  Our district always supplied supplies, so I didn’t need to buy paper or pencils or folders even.  I let the kids pick out backpacks and lunchboxes, maybe a new outfit, some new gym shoes if need be.  That was about it.

And then we moved here.

I’m trying to console myself with facts like “Hey, my kids are going to the US equivalent of private schools and we don’t have to pay tuition.” and “I won’t have to buy a fall wardrobe for each kid.” and “Thank God I don’t have a booklist for Maura too!”

There are two key elements to Irish back-to-school shopping – the Booklist and the Uniform List. Let me start with the latter.

The Uniform is a key element in Irish schooling.  Very rare it seems are the non-uniformed schools, at least in Dublin.  Everywhere you go, there will be kids in jumpers or track suits, slouchy knee highs and ties askew.

I will admit to making Harry Potter jokes.  Especially with my boys uniforms.  They’d be Gryffindor according to the stripes on their sweaters.

This is the Junior Uniform List for the boys college (aka secondary school – think kind of like high school) –

School sweater (meaning one with a crest embroidered on it as opposed to a generic one)

Grey Shirt

Grey Trousers

School Tie

School Jacket

Black School Shoes

Sport Shorts

Polo Shirt

Sports Socks


School Jersey (an optional item)

The total cost for Collin’s uniform (all of the above) = 300 euros.



Now, I sort of have it lucky as Maura doesn’t have to wear a uniform.  However, she wants to wear one.  I figured out that uniform pieces at Marks and Spencer’s were cheaper than regular old clothes…so I bought her a few to mix in with stuff we already own.  She’s thrilled, I don’t have to think about clothes for a while.

Sean had to be fully kitted out for this fall, as he’s starting secondary school.  So Josh dealt with that.  In a way, it’s one-stop shopping – only one store carries the stuff.

But then, I had to deal with The Booklist.

Yes, here, you buy your own textbooks.  The school provides jack squat.  It took me back to college days…going into a bookstore…scouting for the right texts…spending way too much money…ah…good times…

Today I went on the Great Book Hunt.  The hardest part would be getting it all home, and the one bookstore I’m familiar with would be a bus ride at least.  But then, I realized, there was one right off the Luas stop.  I could hop on the train, see what books they had, ride the train home. This could work.

I was worried that I was the only last-minute mom there.  I shouldn’t have worried.  Instead, I was grateful I got there before the line got too long.  I handed over my booklists and the clerk started picking off stuff from shelves, checking off what they had, marking what they didn’t.  Impressively, I got all but two books and two dictionaries there.  However, I had a big stack of stuff there.  He got me a box.  It was heavy.  Then I walked outside and it started raining.


Luckily, I was right by the train, so I made it to the Luas stop and called Sean. “Meet me at the Luas stop, and bring a really big backpack.”  Then I rode the train to our local stop, met Sean, managed to fit all the books into the backpack, sent him on his way and got back on the train to do Part Two of the Booklist –

The School Supplies.

Copy books, A4 binders, plastic covers and sheets and pens and maths sets and colouring pencils and a calculator.  Oh my!  I walked into Easons, one of the stores that carry school supplies and found the check out line to be winding around the store.

Oh dear.

The store was a mess of mums, all on the same trip as me.  To search out and claim for their own all the right items.  Copy books with the appropriate amount of pages.  Business Ledger 1 (as oppposed to 2 or 3. ) The correct calculator.  Then once it is all gathered, make your way to the check out without your kids piling on extras, like backpacks or pencil cases.

I got lucky.  The dictionaries I needed were at the store.  As were all the necessary supplies.  I think.  I’m hoping I got the correct copy books for the right classes.  But I got all that I thought was right, and by the time I was ready to check out, the line had dwindled to just three people ahead of me.  Score!

And so, we’re all but done.  I have two books to find tomorrow at the other book store and then label everything with everyone’s names.  And a lock with two keys.

Oddly enough – no one got a new backpack this year.  Thank goodness.  I don’t think my wallet could handle another expense!


The fruits of my efforts today


6 Responses to “Back to School – Irish style”

  1. Hannah August 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Your story sounds like the begining of several Harry Potter books when they go shopping for school supplies minus the new quills and wands.

  2. Chris August 28, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Having attended Catholic school, I am familiar with the drill but….. you didn’t have a school supply list for your kids when you were in the states? You should see the supply lists for my kids! We don’t have to buy the books but pens, pencils, binders, notebooks, expo markers, tissues, antibacterial wipes, paper towels, zip drives, crayons, etc.

    • phoebz4 August 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

      Nope, we didn’t have to buy a single pencil. We could donate some tissues or stuff like that, but there were never supply lists. Which seemed crazy to me as the district was cutting the budget to death but still buying all the supplies, including homework folders and all.

  3. Lisa Jane January 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    they need Fonn?? are they not exempt from Irish?

    • phoebz4 January 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

      The boys were exempt because they’re over the age of 12. My older daughter was only 10 when we arrived, so is taking it…turns out it’s her best subject! LOL! She’s as good or better than classmates who’ve taken Irish 5-6 years! Yes, we’re kinda geeked by that.

      • Lisa Jane January 6, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

        Irish kids generally hate Irish (myself included :P) so make sure she keeps it up! And whatever you do, don’t let her drop down to pass Irish for her Junior Cert. If she does then Leaving Cert Irish will be much harder for her. Tell her I said good luck 🙂 and I hope ye are settling into Ireland (although I will admit the weather sucks :P) Slainte!

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