Round-up: The book fair fail

This week’s drama was the book fair at my son’s elementary school. I vaguely knew this was coming, but there are heaping helpings of mental load coming out of that school at the moment, and I’ve lost track of some of them. Plus, we don’t have a shortage of books at our house. We just ordered 8 new Magic Tree House books from Amazon. I kind of figured the book fair was Not A Big Deal.

Well, it was. My husband was out of town this week. I was gone Monday night, and came back at midnight from NYC on Tuesday night so we didn’t need two overnights of coverage. I woke up Wednesday morning to my son howling that he was the only kid who didn’t have money for the book fair. Further questioning revealed this was not true. Another girl had left her book fair money in her backpack on the bus. Another child forgot hers, and a third’s parents didn’t send any. Nonetheless, he had not been able to purchase number 40-something in the Magic Tree House series, the one with the pandas on the cover (see illustration).

We got a reprieve. The class visited again on Wednesday, and I had sent him with $15, figuring a Magic Tree House book was $5 (that’s per paperback on Amazon, lower pp for boxed sets as I tend to buy in bulk) so he could get three of them. He came home with one hard-cover book — the one with the pandas — that cost $14. I successfully stopped the cheap part of me from pointing out the price differential, and he is incredibly pleased with his purchase. So all is well.

In other news:

I have a post at Citibank’s Women & Co site called “Homeschooling & working: could it work for you?

Over at CBS MoneyWatch, I write about “How businesses fail fast — and learn from it.

At I offer advice on “5 ways to upgrade your performance reviews.”

My next ebook, What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekends, will be out on Dec. 31. I welcome suggestions of bloggers and reviewers who might want an advance copy.

I’m also pondering regular book ideas — narrative non-fiction with a business or economic slant — and welcome thoughts! If you’re looking for direction, I heard a rumor that my editor at Penguin just acquired a book on the Beanie Baby bubble.

Photo of the Magic Tree House book in question. The hardback cover is nice and glossy!




12 thoughts on “Round-up: The book fair fail

  1. They do our son’s at the same time as an after school event celebrating the start of the Christmas season (it’s a religious school). Last year there wasn’t anything he wanted so we didn’t get anything.
    re: Magic Treehouse books– those things are crazy cheap through Scholastic in the packs (We have up through 45, with the last 3 in hardback from a Scholastic clearance sale. We got lucky and got the most recent ones as new books at the library this summer.)
    Our DS’s next series addiction was the A to Z mysteries, with Magic School Bus preceding the Treehouse.

    1. @NicoleandMaggie- I’ll have to check out the school bus and A to z series — we will definitely need to start some new series (plural) soon, if only for my own sanity. But I know that I *devoured* the Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew Files, and Boxcar kids and so forth when I was an early reader so it’s kind of fun to see the same obsessiveness in my kid.

  2. If you’re looking for books to read (rather than topics to write about) I recommend economist Thomas Sowell’s series on Conquests and Culture, Migration and Culture and Race and Culture. (could have the titles slightly wrong) I thought he had some fascinating ideas about how geography has affected human economic development.

  3. I am really intrigued by the idea of homeschooling and working. I have a coworker who “unschools” his kids, and his wife has a very successful work-from-home business, so they do their “schooling” on a very flexible schedule, a lot of which revolves around travel to places that they use as part of their lessons.

    In my ideal world, I could send my kids to “regular school” part time and then homeschool part time. Totally possible with preschool and half day K, but not sure if/how that would work after that.

    But I think it sort of depends on how you define “homeschool” as well. I went to traditional school (public and then Catholic) yet my parents had plenty of academic work we did together in the evenings, on weekends and in the summers.

    1. @ARC- I have heard it said that a lot more parents are in fact homeschooling their kids than think of themselves as doing so. If you’re doing an hour or two of instruction per night…that’s a lot. I liked the perspective shift that one of the people I interviewed gave — that all working parents have to figure out childcare, even if their kids are in school. Homeschooling parents have to figure it out a bit more, but it’s a difference of degree. A school year is 1080 hours (6 x 180). A work year is about 2000.

      1. This is a good point, because the time spent in instruction is not all the same. For example, in one post you mentioned that your son gets 2 hours of instruction at kindergarten, but you or your nanny spend an hour with him working on math in addition to that. I would say that the hour of one on one time working at his level is probably a more useful hour than the two hours when the teacher is teaching a group of kids, all of whom are at different levels. Not that there isn’t value in the group instruction, but that’s why homeschooling usually doesn’t take as long as group schooling. Rather than sitting around doing busy work waiting for other kids to catch on, my kids only do the work that is at their level. Instead of explaining a math concept five ways to try to reach 20 kids, I explain it until the one kid gets it, and then he practices. Having viewed the scope and sequence documents at lots of schools in our area (I’m always trying to keep options open), I’m satisfied that my kids doing school for 4 hours a day (plus free reading time and family reading time on the side) covers way more than full day schools do.

        Anyway, I think you’re right–parents who do a couple of hours of enrichment in addition to a brick and mortar school probably ARE homeschooling in some hybrid fashion.

    2. I worked with many Asian engineers and as far as I can tell, all professional Asian parents “homeschool” their children. As one colleague put it, “Everyone homeschools. Some people do it for a diploma, and some people do it for extra credit.”

  4. Our book fair is coming up. But it requires a parent to accompany the kid. And runs from 8:40 until 4:30. Argh. Haven’t figured out what to do about that one yet. One of us may leave work early to take her to the fair, since they’ll have books in Spanish as well as English, and our attempts to buy Spanish books for her on Amazon haven’t gone so well.

    1. @Cloud- whole host of posts that could be written on school things that are not only inconvenient for working parents, they’re inconvenient for people who have more than one child. I’m thinking I won’t enroll my daughter in a preschool program next fall in part because I can’t deal with three schools and the logistics associated with that (there’s no 2-year-old option at my middle son’s preschool).

  5. I don’t have kids, but I remember adoring our equally over-priced fair as a kid. I devoured the Boxcar series and my all-time favorite series was the Little House set. I enjoyed these books so much that I convinced my parents we needed to travel to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead and museum, which we did. So while I attended public school, I do think my parents took many opportunities to provide “homeschool” learning experiences for me and my brother.

    As for your next work: As a fellow writer and runner and a huge fan of your perspective, I can’t stop thinking about how much fun it would be to read your take on accountability. I realize this is might not be quite like the Beanie Babies, but, still…I had to tell you!

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