School supplies: mechanical pencils vs wooden ones

Tutoring math, you see the pencils students use. The tutor makes some observations.

I’m a fan of mechanical pencils:

  1. You needn’t sharpen them.
  2. One will last for weeks, months, or even longer, depending on usage.
  3. You can retract the lead when the pencil is not in use.
  4. There are many, many kinds to choose from.

You can buy a nice mechanical pencil and then lead refills for it, but packs of disposable ones can be great. I’ve typically used disposable Bics or Staples ones…there are many other kinds available that have cute features.

Last year, in grade 9, my older son started using mechanical pencils; he prefers them now. My younger son, starting grade 8 this year, still prefers wooden ones. They both share that having your own sharpener, if you use wooden pencils, is preferable.

Wooden pencils have a great feel when they’re sharp. However, they don’t stay sharp on their own. Hence, mechanical pencils seem more practical (to me, anyway).

Starting with a mechanical pencil, a student may be a bit heavy-handed, so a 0.7mm pencil is probably best. However, after getting used to it, the student might try a 0.5mm one – the finer lead appeals to some people.

PS: Although a pencil typcially comes with an eraser on it, a dedicated eraser is needed.

I hope everyone’s enjoying their last day of summer vacation:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

School supplies: stick pens

Tutoring, school supplies are ever-present. The tutor brings up stick pens.

Stick pens (ball-point with a cap) are perhaps my favourite kind. One reason I like them is they don’t make noise. Plus, they’re cheap enough that it makes sense to buy a box of them, then leave a few here and a few there in places you might need one.

Today I picked up three of unknown age that I found at various places in the house. The PaperMate Write Bros, the Staples generic, and the Bic Round Stic all write nicely on cue. So I guess any of these seems good to me.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

School supplies: pens

Tutoring, you see all manner of school supplies. The tutor mentions two kinds of pens.

I love good pens. By “good” I mean they write well.

There are a few classifications of pens, from my point of view: stick, click, and other (fountain, for instance).

In the case of click pens, there are a couple of kinds I like. If you like PaperMate, the InkJoy might appeal to you. For Bic fans, there’s the Soft Feel.

I like both.

I’ll be sharing more about school supplies.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Studying and writing: color stimulation

Tutoring, colour choices of supplies, and even the room, can influence learning patterns. The tutor shares a couple of discoveries about environmental colour.

We all have items that we like because of their colour. Perhaps it’s a pair of boots, a purse, or a phone case. When something is attractive, we like to use it, so are more drawn to activities in which we will.

In the context of working or studying, colour cues can affect peoples’ performance. Red seems best to stimulate attention to detail. Blue, on the other hand, more likely brings forth a worker’s creative side.

Interestingly, not much of the key colour is needed. The presence of a red book on the desk, or some blue cue cards lying there, might be enough – as long as they’re not present at the same time.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, the dictionary I use most often is indeed red. By contrast, the screen cues where I write posts are blue.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

School Supplies: A tutor’s point of view

Last year, listening to French radio, I heard a surprising report:  school supply shopping is the second most stressful occasion for a great many parents, second only to Christmas shopping.

If that’s true, it doesn’t need to be.  What’s more, I can explain why:

1) With Christmas shopping, you’re not told what to get – whereas with school supply shopping, you usually are.

2) While, with Christmas shopping, there is a deadline, there really isn’t one in the same way when it comes to school supply shopping.

I’ve heard that a lot of people fear the expense of back-to-school shopping.  I can’t comment on the other dimensions of it (clothes, for instance), but I can tell you this:  school supplies don’t have to be (that) expensive.

In front of me I’ve got two big-box store flyers from Friday’s paper.  I’ll admit that if you have to shop today, you might pay around $15 for a zipper binder (of course, you can pay a lot more if you want), then another $15 or more for a school bag.  (This is all before tax.)

Coloured pencils, if you need those, might run around $2.50 to $6.00.  Buy a good name – not cheap ones.  When you’re a tutor, you see a lot of school supplies.  I’ve noticed that many kinds of coloured pencils – especially cheap ones – don’t hold a sharp point.  You don’t want your kid to be stuck with coloured pencils whose leads keep breaking.  Ask what the good names are.  I use Staedtler, but there are other good ones around.  I’d guess a name like Hilroy would be pretty trustworthy – although I’ve never tried their coloured pencils.

For just normal pencils (rather than colour), I prefer mechanical rather than wood.  Get 0.7 leads – they last longer and break way less often (as opposed to 0.5).  A twelve pack of Bic 0.7 plastic pencils will cost maybe $4.  If they don’t get lost, your kid probably wouldn’t use more than half of them the whole year.  Pens are even cheaper than pencils – unless you want to pay more for something special.

One note, though, about mechanical pencils:  you can’t get them for most kids until they’re in grade 5 or later.  The reason is that the kids just play with them.  If your kid is earlier than grade 5, you probably want wooden pencils.

Erasers:  get white ones.  Staedtler is one kind I use, but most white erasers are pretty good.  At one place, they’re on for less than a dollar apiece right now.  If it’s not lost, one could last you for years.

Paper – both loose leaf and graph – might be the most variably priced item.  You might have to pay a lot on a given day at a given place.  However, my wife says she’s seen 150 sheets of loose leaf for less than a dollar recently. If you’re paying more than that today, you should probably look elsewhere.  Graph paper is usually more – you might have to pay 3 or 4 dollars for around 100 sheets – but you can sometimes get it for a lot less.  Kids don’t usually use much of it, anyway.

Markers, if you need them, might be around what coloured pencils cost.  A ruler you can get for less than a dollar.  A scientific calculator shouldn’t cost more than $15.  I know I could get a good one for less.  The less fancy, the better.  As long as it has sin, cos, and tan on it, as well as square root, you’re probably pretty safe.  Of course, you shouldn’t need to buy a new calculator every year.

There are other odds and ends, but let’s make a rough total of the items I’ve mentioned.  You might be looking at around $60 to $75 before tax.  You could do better, depending on where you live and how much hunting you’re willing to do.

Where I live, some stores have school supply lists right at the front entrance.  You can find your kid’s school and grade, then pick up a list of supplies.

If your kid goes to the first day of school with just a few pencils and pens, some paper, a binder, a calculator, and the coloured pencils, they’ll probably be all right.  When they get home, they can tell you what they’re missing, and you can get the rest that night.

One final point:  Look for school supplies again in a month.  Watch the prices go up and down.  Eventually you’ll probably be able to get almost everything cheaper than you can today.  Stock up when it’s cheap.  Ask your kid what works and what doesn’t – and why.  If you familiarize yourself with school supplies, you’ll be on top.  Like most things, they’re best to buy before you need them.

Good luck!

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.