Saturday, August 25, 2007

The key to compliance

This week we had the 8 year old's parent-teacher interview. As regular readers know, this is not something I look forward to. This is not because it represents bad news but more that I don't really know what to do with myself.

Anyhow, the interview began:
"I have to tell you that your child is a delight."


"Yes, she does everything she is told. She is always ready at the beginning of class with her diary on the table. She works hard all day at projects. And she always helps clean up."

"Umm, we are the Gans family. Take another look at your sheet. Are we talking about the same child?"
Turns out that we were talking about the same child, physically at least. At home, 'compliant' is not the word I would use for Child No.1. Sure faced with the inevitable, she is very good and does most things without being reminded. But on anything extra, well, it is a struggle where she clearly believes that if she complies she might be doing whatever distasteful activity it is for the rest of life. Actually, she is probably right about that.

Nonetheless, let's face it, we can't complain. If we are going to have compliance somewhere best that it be at school. Indeed, we rewarded that by allowing her to have more of a free reign with her time at home.

But I was curious. Why was there such a difference? We asked her:
"Well, of course I am well-behaved. They pay me there."

"What do you mean?"

"We get money. Well, not real money but bonus money. I have the most in the class."
Ah ha, so once again she proves that she is her father's daughter. At school they get the price right which is clearly not the case at home. Nonetheless, I don't think we are going to change things here, lest we upset the current happy situation at school.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Giving yourself to the schedule

There was an interesting New York Times article this week about a family who had trouble of keeping track of their cars. To resolve the issue, the mother, writing the story, adopted Google Calendar to resolve the situation:
That’s all they would need to create personal calendars that they could share online with a master family calendar, which would display all appointments in color-coded text blocks. Another thing that set Google apart was a recently beefed-up spreadsheet tool that enables me to create a monthly budget chart that might trick my husband into confronting the truth about our finances. I also had big plans to use the documents tool to make a grocery list everyone could edit.
Turns out that she had mixed success.

For that family, giving themselves over to the need for a group schedule appears to have happened late. For us, it happened a few years ago. The parties escalated (and as regular readers know that is a big problem for us), the after school activities grew in number, there were events at school and just many amendments to a normal weekly schedule. Add into the mix that on certain evenings or on certain days one or both of us might have work commitments or travel and just keeping up became a nightmare.

Our initial pass was to agree to put all events on the calendar on our iMac in the kitchen. The idea being, if it is not there, it does not exist. That was a good solution but sometimes you find out about something at work and don't have access to the home machine. Also, you might need to commit to a work event but can't consult the schedule.

After much angst about whether we could rely on an internet-based means of scheduling, I moved us over to Google Calendar. What a marvel it is. It is so easy to consult, put schedules in, and even link to maps of where to go. We have separate calendars for all five of us and am teaching the two eldest to put parties and the like in the schedule themselves. That way we can train them early before it is seen as an imposition. Big Brother serves best when they are young.

Many people have reacted in horror to this outcome that we use IT to communicate rather than some personal touch. Well, those people do not understand the magnitude of the logistical problem we face. More often than not they have a single person responsible for where the children are. We can't rely on that and so we track them on Google. If we could get some GPS locators on them and tie that back in we will be set. It might seem impersonal but there is nothing less personal than a lost child. Can you imagine the conversation with police?
"So can you tell us where you last saw your child?"

"Well, this morning but her mother apparently dropped her off at a party at 10."

"It is 2 now, who picked her up?"

"It was supposed to be me but it turned out that I was taking another child to Taekwando."

"So the mother stepped in ..."

"Well, she had to take the youngest to another party."

"Have you checked at the 10am party?"

"Well, the invitation went with the child and we have no record at the moment of whose party it was or where it was held."

"Have you thought of putting this on Google? It's free."
I mean, we all want to avoid that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Influences on children

Two new subversive influences on children. First, apparently, children are happy to eat pretty much anything if it is in a McDonald's wrapper. As I have said before, parents should rejoice at this since it will make their task of getting kids to eat healthy stuff alot easier.

More worrying is a Wash U. study that suggests that Baby Einstein can impair speech development. Hard to see what the mechanism is here but it is not good news for those products. From my perspective, Baby Einstein gave our children a whole sentence of vocabulary: "I want a DVD now."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Toilet riddle

My six year old son has come up with a riddle that I believe may be original.

Q: "What toy can you do wees and poos into?"

A: "A toylet!"

If anyone knows a source for this, please let me know. I couldn't find anything similar in an internet search. He claims he made it up, which is possible.