Saturday, April 19, 2008

I Finally Had a Chance... look over some of those posts from this last week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

There were two in particular that caught our attention here. The first was from one of my regular readers, Chris from A Mountain Homeschool, who was writing about what could be termed the "problem of gifts".

The problem, simply stated, is that our kids these days have far more loving family members, and good friends, than they have a need for stuff. Imagine what happens when your tyke has friends from between half- and one-dozen families; and imagine that all these kids (and don't forget siblings!) get invited to a birthday party, and bring gifts. And imagine that there are two sets of loving grandparents, and assorted aunts and uncles, who all want to shower their love down upon the birthday kid....

Furthermore, imagine what happens when little Joey's birthday party two months back had a bounce house, and little Brittney's birthday party one month back had a bounce house and a pony; and little Jason's birthday party two weeks ago had two bounce houses, a petting zoo, a magician, and (for all we know) ostrich races. When your own little one says, "I want a birthday party too!" what then do you do?

This sets up a cycle of social obligation that few parents can maintain without going completely bonkers. For one thing, the birthday kid winds up with a huge haul of toys, most of which will frankly never get played with--but which will nevertheless contribute to the tremendous pile of stuff that gets pulled out during the day, and which the parents have to make the kids clean up before bed. (My lovely bride wrote about this phenomenon here.) For another thing, all this costs money. It costs a lot to buy the presents for all the other birthday parties you attend, and it costs a whole lot of money to hold the parties for your own kids.

Some of us parents have been trying to push back against this phenomenon, in our own subtle (and not so subtle) ways for a while now. And seeing that Chris and I have so much in common otherwise that we think we are each other's doppelgangers, it's not surprising that Chris is one of those pusher-backers. He writes (forgive the extended quote):
One of the cool "trends" of late involves birthday presents. ("Thank goodness", you scream inwardly, "he finally gets back to his original subject!!!"). While not 100%, a common clause on many birthday invitations of late includes a statement similar to this:

Ella Grace is thrilled that you're going to be coming
to her party. Since she has already been blessed with
so many toys, Ella Grace would just love it if you would
bring a donation of XXX instead for us to take
to the local XXX.

OK, the phrasing isn't usually that colloquial, but the premise stands. Kids around here, instead of getting more toys, games, and (forgive me for coming right out and saying it) junk for themselves, are getting toys (for Toys for Tots), canned goods (for the local food pantry), or cases of paper towels and toilet paper (for the Ronald McDonald House). It's awesome. You don't have to try to figure out what Ella Grace would just LOOOOOVE to have. You don't have to sacrifice your friendship with Tripp's parents (Josiah Edward Smythe-Jones III) because you bought a gift that makes LOUD music at the slightest touch and has no on/off switch. And, best of all, you don't end up with a house full of "STUFF" after your own kids party.
Anyway, if this is indeed a "trend", as Chris mentions, then count me in. (And by the way, I sympathize entirely with Tripp's parents--like Josiah Edward Smythe-Jones III--about the gift that makes LOUD music.

Unless it's a pipe organ or something. But that brings us back to the bit about the cost of all these presents....


I also liked this article which talked about the dreaded "S" term. How does a homeschooler go about socializing his or her kids? There are right ways and wrong ways to do it. In general, we homeschoolers tend to think--more so than the general population--that kids don't need quite as much time around others their age than is typical in our society, but they still need to get out from time to time.

The writer talks about raising kids according to a "passion-centric" rather than a "people-centric" or "curriculum-centric" model. That is, if the kid develops an interest in--say, horses, you let the kid start doing things at the local ranch, or through 4-H. Eventually, the child will form relationships--good ones--with other people who share the passion. The people in question aren't trying to build a relationship "face-to-face," in a vacuum; rather, they're building a relationship "side-by-side," upon shared experiences.

Anyway, the writer makes some good observations. Check it out....


Jarrod J. Williamson, Ph.D. said...

Tim - do you think the Carnival would be interested in an article about the use and efficacy of graphic organizers in education?

writer2b said...

Hi Tim, I followed the link over from my blog. Thanks for your thoughts here. It's encouraging to know others have similar ideas about "the S-word"!

Jarrod J. Williamson, Ph.D. said...

Thought you would be interested in Lisa VanDamme (long) critique of a Well-Trained Mind in her article The False Promise of Classical Education. It is a bit on the long side and I don't totally agree, but I thought you would be interested.

Timothy Power said...


I had a quick look at the critique you posted, and boy howdy, that thing is long and involved. I'll try to look at it in depth to see what I agree and disagree with. It'll take me some time to digest it all, however.

Jarrod J. Williamson, Ph.D. said...


Yes, it is long and involved. However, the reviewer seems to think that a student must go through all the impiracle (sp?) evidence of an atom before they can truly understand what an atom is. While there is merit to that argument, this guy essentially argues that students must reinvent the wheel (from first principles) everytime before they can truly know something.

Written like a guy who has his theory down cold and is a true believer, but little to know experience actually teaching students.

The problem with madmen is not that they are not logical, but that they are only logical. -- G.K. Chesterton