When buying school supplies for your kid, know that not all wooden pencils are created equal. Some break constantly. Others have erasers that smudge whatever they touch. The worst ones are basically sticks of agony that deserve to be left deep in the junk drawer along with those godawful knock-off crayons.
Meribeth Miller Matthews, a school teacher in Colorado, demonstrated the divide by sharing her own visual ranking of pencils on Facebook.
She had sharpened a variety of the most common pencils that kids bring to school and lined them up according to their ease of sharpening, durability and overall effectiveness. Commenters had feelings about Matthews' subjective pencil opinions, but most felt they were spot-on ("You deserve a gold star", one person wrote.).
Yes, there are greater pencils out there in the world (hello, Palomino Blackwings!), but this ranking is for kids learning how to write "The cat sat on the mat", not architects drafting the Taj Mahal. From worst to best, here are Matthews' results:
5) Plastic-coated pencils. Like the ones you get in cheap birthday goody bags. "Do you hate the teacher?" Matthews writes. "Plastic coated pencils suck!"
4) Other off-brand, novelty pencils. They may come in fun designs, but as Matthews remarks, "Cheap pencils have internally broken graphite. So frustrating".
3) Office supply store pencils (Officeworks). Many parents opt for these pencils because they're affordable and readily available in most school supply sections. For the most part, they can do the job, but some reviewers say they're hard to sharpen — their wood is too soft or the graphite is uncentred. Matthews gives these a definitive "Meh".
2) Faber Castell pencils. Parents like that these pencils are sturdy (they can stand up to being tossed into backpacks all day) and teachers appreciate that kids don't need to walk to the pencil sharpener every two minutes. "These are perfectly fine!" Matthews writes.
1) Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. Known for writing smoothly, clearly and boldly, Ticonderoga pencils have been around for ages for a reason (they were a favourite of author Roald Dahl). They sharpen easily and their erasers don't harden like others do. [Editor's note: These pencils are not easily available in Australia, however, you can get them via eBay and Amazon AU.]
Hails Matthews: "These last forever! Worth the investment!" She suggests using a fine-point Sharpie to label each pencil with your child's name. You don't want them to get lost in the great school supply trade. Do kids still do that these days?