I am a sometimes teacher, and though most of my teaching has been inflicted on adults, I have also taught high school. So it seems to me that I might do well to write about children and collecting from a viewpoint of a teacher. I have no kids of my own -and I’m not at all sure this is a handicap. I have a more global view of the subject, I think. For example, are you the parent of a nascent collector who has brought home every repellent little bug he or she can find and let them loose in the house?
Or are you -as I am- an uncle who has things and ideas to share with a nephew or niece -and
my sisters get to deal with the fall out. Or are you a parent who has a beloved collection of X and hope to share your love of the subject with your kids? For that matter, is your child young enough to feel your enthusiasm & joy, or is he or she reached the age where-upon collecting X is “like…. totally tired -f’r sure -I mean, like…. how gay.” (No opinions on ‘gay’ -but I learn from one of my nieces that ‘gay’ is not necessarily an insult, but refers to something well outside of the universe of the speaker. In my day -or perhaps a little earlier -we would have used the word ‘square.’)
Here I flagrantly plagiarize my own-dang-self. (See below for a link to the whole article.)
We teacher-types do all sorts of things to get our students motivated / prepared / willing / awake enough etc. to learn. Collecting is a wonderful -pain-free way to do this.
Consider, for example, stamp collecting and geography. A child who has somehow gotten a stamp from Timbuktu just has to wonder where Timbuktu is. If there a gazetteer and / or a big map of the world somewhere in the home, education HAS to follow. One small word of caution though, there is a fine line between helping a child learn and irritating the little dear beyond all tolerance. You don’t need to be an expert in a given subject or collectible to teach your kids. Let them follow their own interests.
So how do you use collecting to awaken curiosity and avoid making what ever ensues a battle of wills to get the child to clean-up every day and follow through over the long term? And –perhaps, just perhaps– carry a childhood whim on into adulthood.? (F’rinstance, a chap by the name of Greg Martin had a thing for guns as a young lad and built it into a wonderful and successful business called Greg Martin Auctions [http://www.gregmartinauctions.com/gma/index.asp].)
Well, you start at the end. You ask yourself where you want the kid to end-up. In education jargon, this is called TSWBAT (pronounced twîz bât) and lists what The Student Will Be Able To…. Not a bad idea this. Starting at the end is the basis of most planning efforts, but the value here has to do with opening your thinking. For example, it would be all well and good to take the above example of stamp collecting and have a goal of “teaching geography”. But it would be better to say to yourself, “Little Johnny will get a stamp & envelope that has been mailed from each of the 50 states and he
will be able to find all 50 on the map by the start of school next fall.” (Have you seen The Tonight Show when Jay Leno goes Jay-Walking and asks people on the sidewalk where Europe is and someone guesses it’s the capitol of Canada? Makes me a little embarrassed to admit to being a teacher.)
Now when they tried to teach me this planning stuff in various b’ness classes I had to take, I seem to remember that after only after defining where we want to be when we are there, did we start planning the steps involved in getting there. Seems reasonable. What is perhaps just a little unreasonable, however, is the amount of where-with-all a child insists he or she needs to get the job done. But then again, perhaps not. Please remember, thought, that childhood is about trying out a bunch of stuff, and setting aside some of it -or perhaps even most of it- in favor of what will become their passions.