Sharpening my school-supply skills

Sharpening my school-supply skills

Late last night, sharpening the last of 72 pencils for my kids' classrooms, I got to thinking:

Why didn't we buy pre-sharpened pencils?

When I bought the nine 12-packs required on our school-supply list (three for second grade, six for fifth grade), it didn't seem like that many. But rather than sharpening a few pencils at a time, which would have been the organized thing to do, we forgot all about it until about 9 p.m., bedtime for the kids.

With our battery-powered pencil sharpener groaning under the strain, I found myself reminiscing about the manual pencil sharpener I used as a kid. Like many other families, my parents had fastened one to a post in our unfinished basement. A little pile of shavings would collect underneath until someone got industrious enough to sweep it up. Unlike our balky electric sharpener, it would never refuse to work or sharpen just one side of the pencil.

When my husband and I bought our first house in Champaign, a previous owner had done the same thing, down to the basement post painted gray. Why we didn't bring that sharpener with us to our current house I cannot fathom. 

I am happy to find that they are still available, for as little as $6. A solid investment, if you ask me. (Stanley Bostitch even makes an "antimicrobial" one, although I'm not exactly sure what that means.)

And, in fact, you can buy pre-sharpened pencils. I didn't see them at Target, but they're plentiful online, starting at $1.19 for a pack of five. That's more than twice as much, per pencil, as I paid for the unsharpened kind, but last night I would have paid $5 a pack.

(You can also buy something called "Smencils" -- pricey at $12 for a 10-pack -- which I find just odd. They aren't sharpened, either.)

I confess I only sharpened three of the six packs for my son's class. The teacher didn't really expect us to do all 72, and fifth-graders are mature enough to do it themselves without sharpening their fingers. Well, most of them anyway.

On second thought, maybe I'll buy them a manual one, too.

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