Me in Grade 6. Velour and turtlenecks were my jam.

Back to school time to me will always mean “new shoe shopping” with my mom. From Buster Browns to North Stars, a new pair of runners or meant a new school year was upon us. And I hated trying them all on. Sure, I got a few sweatshirts, maybe a pair of Jordache jeans, but it was the shoe shopping that sticks in my head for back to school. Ugh.

New shoes is a thing on back to school lists that hasn’t changed. My kids need them – just like I did – and they hate trying them on – just like I did.

Some things have changed a lot and as I scramble around picking up what they need, I find myself reminiscing about my 80s Back To School shopping list and the things we used to crave back in the day versus what my kids think they need now.

I visited The TELUS Store to compare back to school shopping lists for NOW and THEN. Things may have been simpler back in the day, but things are so much cooler now.

Trapper Keeper vs Tablet Case


The Trapper Keeper would let you stuff in all your notes, scraps, and things into one tight case without falling all over your locker (they still make them, BTW).

Now, as my oldest hits Grade 6, and his iPad is less about Angry Birds and Minecraft, and more about projects on bird migration and natural resource history, a bluetooth keyboard that doubles as a case is oh so handy.

Calculator Watch vs Apple Watch

Everything has to start small. Today’s ‘internet in your pocket’ lifestyle of smart phones started with wristwatches capable of … calculating. Calculators were a big part of Back To School for me back in the day, especially the scientific calculators that did nothing to help me understand calculus. My best accomplishment with a calculator was discovering that 80085 also spelled “boobs.”

Nowadays? Apple watches put the internet on your kids’ wrist. And I have to worry about a lot more than my sons just typing out 80085. A new Apple Watch is set to drop this fall with a bigger face that can do more things, so watch for it.

Walkman vs Bluetooth Headphones / Speaker

Back in the day, I had a couple hours each way on the bus to get to school. My Walkman was my lifesaver. I used it to listen to my favourite morning and afternoon radio, and maybe jam a new cassette from Honeymoon Suite or Corey Hart. Oh, and if when the batteries ran out, you could always save them by rewinding your tape with a pencil! Oh, the struggles my kids will never know.

Nowadays kids don’t have a care for keeping their music to themselves. Bluetooth speakers are the norm and with this JBL Clip 2 attached to a backpack, the entire school bus can jam along to Drake.

World Book Encyclopedia vs Smart Speakers

I LOVED the World Book Encyclopedia growing up. It was my first stop to learn about platypus or Thailand or anything. I was amazed at the entire wealth of human knowledge distilled into the pages of these books. I wanted to have them at home, but was satisfied by going to the library to look things up.

Now my kids don’t even need to lift their heads from their desk to learn about something. With one scream of “Hey Google/Siri/Alexa..” they can have a robot reading Wikipedia to them.

Phone In My Room vs Own Mobile

I really really really wanted my own phone in my room when I was teenager. Eventually I got that Garfield phone – with a really long extension cord. My parents and brother and sister could pick up any other extension and listen in (and they did) but hey – at least I had a phone in my room. The really spoiled kids got their own line.

My oldest is in Grade 6 and has been asking for his own phone for 2 years. We live close to school, he doesn’t have a busy social life, so he doesn’t “need” it. But we recognize that it might be good to introduce him to smart technology habits early on. We have a drawer of old smart phones at home and, if he behaves, he might get an iPhone 4 (oooooooh) for Christmas. And to help with the data habits, we can pick up a prepaid pay as you go plan from Telus so we don’t get surprised with big bills.

Adidas Bag vs Backpacks

The cartoon character backpacks of today are nonsense. They fray and rip by Christmas. Actually, so did my old Adidas bag. Remember wearing it as a knapsack, having to pull one strap through the other because it ripped out, and throwing it down the dusty hallways of my school like it was a curling stone I was trying to stop right by my locker.

I wanted this red and blue one so badly. I got the blue and silver once, and the two-tone brown once. They weren’t the sturdiest back to school bag ever, but they were – and still are – the coolest school bag ever.

My kids are into vintage bags. Instead of buying new ones each year, Zacharie tosses my wife’s 20 yr old Taiga backpack over his shoulder each morning. Nothing trendy about it, but it’s solid, doesn’t have a stress or rip anywhere, and it gets the job done.

They’re something to be said about going back to the old school.

What old school things do you remember most about back to school? What’s on your kids’ list that compares to what we had back in the day? Let me know!

Disclosure: I’m a member of Team TELUS. This post is sponsored by TELUS. 

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