Friday, November 19, 2010

sweet charity

How, what, when and where is charity taught?

Our school just had a book fair fundraiser that held a raffle.  2 of my kids won something.  This made me think, does this teach them anything about charity?  I really though of it more as gambling, but all the proceeds go to the school library, so isn't it charitable to support the library?  The support is probably more effective than buying books that I could get for a fraction online.  For some reason, in my mind, I think buying books and the school making money off of it is more charitable.  The more I write about it, the more convoluted it seems.  As the kids throw money at the raffle and deposit their tickets into the jar, I remind them that they could just be losing their money.  But, since it's helping the library, it really isn't lost, is it?

When we remember to dole out allowance, 1/3 goes to savings, 1/3 wallet and 1/3 charity.  The charity amount goes into tzedakah boxes the kids made at Sunday school.  It accumulates until we decide as a family how we want to share it.

Last year our school did pennies for peace for Haiti.  We had been collecting in out individual boxes at home for a while.  This spurred the question in my mind if school should be promoting donations or not.  What if we made different choices as a family?  Would my kids be treated differently for not participating at school?  Where was the button to wear saying "I gave at home"?  What this did do was give us the opportunity to discuss with the kids the choices we have with charities.  We explained that you did not have to give to the school program if you chose to do something different at home, or you could do both.  Since everyone's tzedakah is separate, it enabled each kid to make their own decisions.

Everyone decided to go the home route.  But, as the week wore on, some of the kids started to feel the tug towards the school charity option.  #3 decided to not just take her pennies, but take her whole $47 and give it at school for pennies for peace.  She was so proud, and we were proud of her.  She felt good about her donation.  She even got a letter of thanks from the principal.  I can't help wondering if her positive feelings were more about competition, in beating out the amount of most other students?  Is this okay?  It's still charity right?

#1 chose to give his money to a wildlife foundation.  He's always had a soft spot for nature.  For his gracious donation, he was to receive stickers, magazines and a stuffed animal.  This managed to put him on the mailing list for every "ask" this company made.  He did get address labels and magazines, but didn't get the stuffie.  Months later, I got around to calling and he finally got the little leopard or jaguar or whatever it was.  Is giving about receiving stuff in return?

#2 went the home route and we chose a charity together.

The kids all bring a little bit to Sunday school each week for class tzedakah.  I guess I expect it there, more than I would in regular school.  The schools feel it needs to be reinforced there because not everyone does it at home and it is an important lesson to learn.  I am not against charity, and am conflicted on how I feel about it in the school setting.

I think the messages get confusing since so much other asking happens at school.  Unfortunately, schools need donations too.  How does on differentiate the needs of art foundations, school PTAs, the garden, scouting, community needs and the needy people in our area and far away?  Bring a toy, book, money, jacket, school supplies and so on.  What if we are struggling in our own life?  What if we are not struggling, but make other choices.  Should we feel judged?  Are people judging us?  Do you judge others?  I honestly can say I judge others, but not about charity.

So, giving is important.  The context should be set at home.  Kids that exhibit charitable actions melt my heart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Two weeks until Hanukkah and I am being besieged by my 10 year old for electronics.  We are a household without hook-up-to-the-t.v. type of games.  No X-box, Play Station (1, 2 or 3), Wii, not even Atari.  Do my kids even need another distraction?

The kids only had use of an old ipod until #1 turned nine.  Then he got an ipod touch.  Prior to that there was no ds or any other game distractions.  We decided to consider the ipod or ds, feeling the time was right.  The ds seemed cool because it had lots of learning options.  It also had lots of parts and was unlike anything we had before.  So, the touch we went.  This would enable him to have his own music sorts and games.

We followed that up with one for #2 when she turned eight.  She's very thrifty and had saved enough cash to buy her own.  She was ready.  We're all under the same account, so can share games and music.  #1 doesn't like to share.

#3 just turned seven.  She wants one so bad.  When she was in the hospital for over a week, I wanted one for her.  We just shared my phone.  So much so, she knows my password.  I pass locked my phone so the kids couldn't just grab and go.  Even though I have oodles of games, I still want control.  Hmm, I wonder where #1 gets it.  #3 is also working to increase her fluency in reading.  She does not need another distraction.

All of my kids are t.v. zombies.  If a screen is on, they are glued to it and cannot tear away.  When they are allowed to play games on the computer, it is the same thing.  When I let the little 2 play on my phone, I have to pry it away from them.

We have friends who have imposed school-year rules of no screens during the week.  I wish we had that in place.  We have a no t.v. during the week rule and no ipod before school or at the table rule.  That's better than nothing I guess.

In polling friends, many sing the praises of the Wii.  "It gives them coordination", "we use it as a family", "there are some educational components to it", and so on.  I am not sure this is the type of "family time" we need.  We should be doing more family reading, family board games and other activities.  We already don't have enough time in the week to get our family things done.

I am very hesitant to add something for my kids to be relegated to the garage to use.  On the other hand, if it's 2 or more people games, this could add to the kid bonding we are lacking.  But what if only 2 people can play at a time?  There are 4 kids in this house!  What?  There are games for 4?  They require more parts that cost more money, but it can be done.  Ugh.

Maybe we can survive with playing it at friends' houses for now.  I just don't feel like we're ready for this.  I'm also not sure I can handle the constant haranguing about it.  Now on to deal with the requests for air-soft guns and a trip to Hawaii....