Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I Hate Birthday Party Gift Bags

I would like to know who started the ridiculous phenomenon known as birthday party gift bags.  Who decided it was a good idea to reward guests with trinkets, candy or other gifts for coming to a birthday party that has already been established as a fun-filled, cake and ice cream loaded whoop-de-doo affair?  Birthday parties by definition are fun.  Birthday parties by definition have birthday cake.  Why, oh why, is it necessary to give candy or other gifts to the guests who have come to celebrate with the birthday boy or girl?  Why?

I'm sure the parent who started this ridiculousness probably celebrated 1/2 birthdays or went so far as to give each kid a birthday gift on his sibling's birthday so no one felt left out.  The idea that anyone other than the birthday boy or girl deserves a gift is mind-boggling to me.

What started as an, I'm assuming, innocent gesture of reciprocity has turned into an ugly, my-take-home-gift-bag-had-more-crap-than-your-take-home-gift-bag conundrum.  These gift bags have gone from one or two trinkets related to the theme of the party to an over-the-top bag full of junk. 

Not just any junk, but junk from China.  The last two gift bags I went through included candy that was made in China.  MADE IN CHINA!  I know people really want to get the most bang for their buck, but c'mon.  Is it really worth the few dollars in savings from Oriental Trading to compromise your kid's and his friend's health by giving him candy made in a country whose food safety standards are sub-par at best.  Seriously, if it's made in China it's not going into my kid's mouth.  That includes candy, straws, Dracula teeth, etc.

The trinkets in the gift bags break after using one or two times.  The reason the trinkets are cheap is because they aren't made very well.  So, what's the point of giving a gift bag full of trinkets if the trinkets don't even last?  Are we so accustomed now to giving these ridiculous gift bags now that we simply fill it with inexpensive junk just to fill it?  Is the sheep mentality at work here against our better judgement?

Christopher had a bowling birthday party last year.  Each child received one or two bowling-related items like a ring or some stickers (notice I said one or two), but I spent more time on the pictures I took of Christopher with each of his guests. I used simple photo-editing software to frame each picture with a message like "Fun Times" or "Best Friends Forever" and sent the picture along with Christopher's thank-you notes.  I don't think anyone missed the candy or cheap junk. 




If you're filling a gift bag just to fill it please understand that I'm not alone in my irritation and I, like many other parents, simply throw the stuff away.  Again, just to be clear, if it's MADE IN CHINA, we do not consume it.  So, even though you saved a few bucks at Oriental Trading, you still spent money on items that ended up in my trash can.

Plenty of options are available if you really do feel the need to give a gift bag.  Google "alternatives to birthday goodie bags"  and many terrific suggestions will appear.

Non-candy or Chinese-junk related ideas.  How refreshing!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Happend to Good Old Addition and Subraction?

I hate math homework.  Ssh.  Don't tell my kids. I am their biggest cheerleader when it comes to anything homework related and I usually do a sis-boom-bah routine equivalent to "you can do it , you can do it, just put your mind to it!"  I try to be optimistic even if it comes off as a little annoying.

But lately I've been biting my lip until it bleeds to keep from screaming, "what on earth are they teaching you in school ?"  These newfangled math lessons are so foreign to me that I shake my head and mutter, "huh...what?"  I don't get it.

Have you ever heard of touch points? Students count forward and backward touching each number at specific points.  The number eight has eight touch points for example.  So, the student learns where the "points" are on each number and touch those points to add and/or subtract numbers.  If you are adding 3+8 you would touch the number three on each of its three points and then continue touching (counting) the eight points on the number eight to reach 11. 

When I asked why not just use your fingers the boys said, "we aren't allowed to use our fingers!"  As far as I know, humans with digits have been using those digits to count since the dawn of time.  Apparently, touching the points on a number somehow makes learning math easier because of its multi-sensory approach. 

Whatever.

I was confused on some of Nicholas's math homework when he was estimating sums.  He had to do about two more steps than I thought was necessary but he was instructed a certain way so he wouldn't veer from that instruction one iota.  When I offer an alternative, it's always met with "but that's not the way I was told to do it!"  Fighting ensues...

Remember when we had to memorize our times tables?  We literally had a table with the numbers 1-10 going across and down and we had to memorize all the multiplication numbers.  Now they use fact families.  Little triangle thingies that help students multiply and divide a "family" of three numbers.  Not only can they multiply but also divide those numbers on the same triangle thingy. 

Everything seems so new.  Yes, it's been (too many) years since I had to learn this kind of math, but I'm feeling so inadequate.  Even if I know how to do something, nowadays it's taught a different way so my kids won't listen to me if I try to explain how I came up with a different answer.  Even if my answer is correct, I cannot coerce the kids into learning the way I came up with the answer if that's not the way they were taught in class.

Math was never my strong suit and I'm having trouble helping with some of the more advanced homework questions.  I can barely keep up with some data and probability answers and fractions are coming back...slowly but surely.

I am so glad the boys will be keeping up with their math studies over the summer with their math tutor.  She is wonderful and she teaches them what they need to know going into the next year.  She can help them with all sorts of new concepts.  And, they listen to her. 

We will reach a point soon where I can no longer help at all.  Like with Geometry.  Right Angles?  Quadrilaterals? 

I'm out.

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