Ask the grumpies: Dual-language neighborhood school vs. Gifted school

Azma asks:

I’m curious to know what you’d do in my situation. I live in the outer boroughs of NYC in a diverse, urban neighborhood with decent (but not great) public schools. My 5 year old got a spot in a dual language program (Spanish/ English) at our zoned school. He also tested very highly on the city gifted and talented test with minimal prep and got into an excellent program several neighborhoods away (he’d take a school bus to get there). There’s been a huge push in our neighborhood to convince educated, middle class families (like us) to keep their kids in the neighborhood schools. Many have historically sent their kids to charters, g&t programs, or private schools. We love the g&t program our kid has a spot in, but we also love our neighborhood and worry that we’re contributing to NYC’s problematic school segregation problems. What would you do in our place?

Right or wrong, I always put my kids ahead of general social spillovers.  So I try to decide what is best for them first, and worry about the ripple effects as a secondary concern.  Not that I ignore spillovers, but the spillovers would have to be larger than they are in this case and I would have to know for certain that the spillovers from removing my child from the district were negative.

What I mean by knowing for certain that they are negative– while we do know that having higher SES kids is good for schools (and having kids whose families have domestic violence is bad for schools) and many other network effects, the benefits to having gifted kids are not as clear-cut.  That is, it isn’t always clear that keeping a gifted kid in a non-gifted school is actually better for the school. Gifted kids are special needs and as such tend to draw resources, act up if their intellectual needs aren’t being met, etc.  The same isn’t true of kids who are high achieving but not gifted– they are more likely to provide positive spillovers. So most of the studies that find beneficial effects of, for example, cooperative learning, remove gifted kids from their experiments.

Still, worrying about neighborhood schools is still a really valid concern, and there are things you can do about that even if you don’t send your child there, *even if you don’t have kids*.  Personally, I donate a lot of money to education-related charities.  Donors Choose is a big favorite of mine. Using Donors Choose, I can also pick districts that have greater needs than the one we’re zoned in, which has even more positive effects than would donating to our relatively well-off district.  Before I had children, I supported schools more than I do now because I had lots of time to volunteer and could tutor in low income urban districts.

All of this is an argument to say, take that spillover concern out of your calculus right now.  If you’re worried about the school, there are ways you can have a bigger more positive impact than you would by sending your child there.

That doesn’t mean that you should automatically choose the G/T school, of course.  There are lots of things to think about when making your decision that only you and your family can place weights on.

  • If you feel you’ve made a mistake with either choice, how easy it is to switch?
  • How do you feel about the administration and teaching at both schools?  Do they seem willing to work with parents?
  • If you’ve visited the schools, do the kids seem happy and not acting up?
  • How will the school schedule work with your work-life?  Are there after school programs?  What happens if your child misses the bus or wants to do an after school activity?
  • How strongly do you feel about foreign language acquisition and are there other ways to get it?
  • How do you feel about the curriculum at both scohols?

If you love the G/T school I would be very tempted to stay with it.  From folks I’ve talked with, dual-language is great for keeping GT kids occupied until 2nd or 3rd grade and then they start needing more acceleration.  Hopefully that would not be a problem at the G/T school.  On the other hand, the G/T schools in the city closest to us have a reputation for not actually being very good for G/T– their main purposes is for white parents to segregate their kids without paying 40K/year for private school, which means that they’re not actually geared towards G/T.  That’s not true everywhere, and is probably not true in NYC given how competitive the testing is, but I don’t know for sure.

Here’s a related question from jlp back in 2014!  And here’s one from Sarah back in 2015.

Grumpy Nation, what have we missed?  What elements would you put on your list to help with decision-making?

 

How to keep a gifted kid challenged

The other day wandering scientist talked about the difficulties of keeping a gifted elementary schooler challenged.  That inspired me to write this post and also to ask the Grumpy Nation for suggestions.   These suggestions aren’t tailored to Wandering Scientist’s kid– they’re a bit more general given that there’s lots of individual differences in circumstances and interests.

At school

The first suggestion is to ask the school for help.  This will not always work– it is very school dependent.  #2 and I grew up as tracking was going out of fashion and our parents had an extremely uphill battle trying to get the schools to make any accommodations.  DH and I have not had as much trouble, although part of that stems from us so far avoiding working with the high SES K-4 schools that have refused to accommodate our friends’ children (we sent DC1 to private school and the dual language programs are not in the high SES zones).  The private school we sent DC1 to tested and anticipated our needs and made suggestions to us for keeping DC1 engaged.  The middle schools here have been very helpful when we’ve asked for help.  One of the main suggestions when talking with schools is to avoid at all costs saying that your child is bored– instead say that the child needs more challenge.

What schools can do will vary on the district, the school, and sometimes even the teacher. We talk more about options with a few links to research and books in this post here.

Single-subject acceleration allows children to stay with their same peers but to spend part of the day, usually during Reading and/or Math in a classroom a year older.  I did a lot of single-subject acceleration for math and/or reading when it was offered as a child (it varied by school and by year) and always enjoyed it.  DC1 did single-subject acceleration in K, going to 1st for math and English and is currently doing single-subject acceleration for math, though because 30-40 other kids in his grade are doing it as well, there are only same-grade level kids in hir class.

Whole-grade acceleration, in which the child skips a full grade, is another option.  DC1 has technically skipped two grades– zie entered K early, then did K and 1 at the same time, effectively skipping 1st grade.

Classroom differentiation is fantastic for students if teachers can pull it off.  Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom (an update from Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom) is a great resource for teachers.  Great teachers can give the same project assignments but have some kids dig deeper than others.  They can also do things like set up stations for independent learning at various times.  For teachers who aren’t as comfortable with differentiating, you can still talk with the teacher and come up with things that your child can do if zie finishes tasks early.  This could be something as simple as allowing the child to read a book of his or her choosing, or could include more complicated work.  Often teachers have various kinds of fun logic puzzle worksheets they can give out as a first pass and today’s schools often have purchased software that can be used for individual learning.  We talk about some options for additional work below.

Gifted pull-out is better than nothing.  We’ve been less than impressed with it and the research is kind of meh on it.  I assume how it is done is important– I like to think my students got something out of it when I did pull-out math for fourth graders (especially the lesson on adding in different bases!), but who knows.

Outside of school

Enrichment outside of school doesn’t do anything about the “bored at school” problem, but it can help after school and on weekends.

After school activities will vary by what’s in your area.  These were great for us in paradise because they were held at school and effectively extended the school day allowing us to get more work done before DC1 got home.  Where we live now, they require chauffeuring which is a pretty big drain on our time.  Still, playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, doing a sport, art class, academic competition, and so on can allow a gifted child to experience challenges and growth that zie is lacking from school, especially if allowed to learn at hir own pace.  Challenges are especially important for gifted kids so that when they hit an academic wall for the first time they don’t give up.  Classes like robotics, drama, math circle, etc. can also be fun.  Some tutoring programs will also have programs for gifted kids or on topics not taught at school.

At home

Workbooks

At the #1 household, we are big fans of workbooks.  My sister and I grew up doing workbooks and I learned a lot from them.  DC1 has been doing them since zie was 3 (mostly on the weekends and holiday breaks) because zie desperately needed at least an hour of mental stimulation (along with at least an hour of exercise) or zie would be literally bouncing off walls.

There are a couple of directions you can go with workbooks.  First, you can accelerate– introduce knowledge that won’t be introduced until later that year or in future years.  Acceleration is especially useful (in my opinion) for mastering basic materials that are the building blocks of more complicated learning (phonics, addition, etc.) and for when you’re not sure that your student will be getting foundational material in school (because of grade skipping, school absences, poor teaching, or changing school districts).

For acceleration, we really like the Brain Quest series which cover K-6 and now also have special summer workbooks.  DC1 worked through grades K-6, and DC2 is currently on their Grade 2 (also we’re concurrently doing the Summer between Grades 1 and 2 book).  Scholastic also often has great workbooks available for sale, but their stock seems to vary a lot.

The second thing that you can do is go deeper and/or sideways.

I strongly believe that learning math different ways is important.  So we can cover the same basic material and will do it traditionally in school and in the Brainquest workbook, but will do it from another direction using the Singapore math books (Singapore math link not an affiliate link– they’re not really available on Amazon).  If your school uses Singapore math, then you could instead supplement with more traditional US math.  Again, DC1 went through K-8 in Singapore math and DC2 is currently on grade 2A.  The material is the same for each grade, following essentially the common core, but the methods and what is emphasized in the two curricula are different.  My children will be learning different ways to get the same answer and thus gaining a deeper understanding of how the number system works.

For more challenge, I cannot say enough good things about Glenn Ellison’s Hard Math for Elementary Students.  It’s best if you get the textbook, workbook, and solutions (3 books).  We’ve had DC1 go through the workbook twice over a 3 year period with a break in between.   We’ve also done a few of the Zaccaro challenge books and they’re ok, but they’re not as good.  We never finished going through the Flashkids Math for the Gifted Student books I got, so I can’t recommend them at all.  Sometime next week we’ll start Hard Math for Middle School Students which finally has a workbook to go with the textbook (solutions without hints are in the back of the workbook, so there’s no separate solutions book).

For just plain deep and sideways math fun (without workbooks) get used copies of Martin Gardner’s Aha! and Gotcha!  They’re even better than Math for Smarty PantsFamily Math is popular for younger kids (we have it but nobody really got into it, but lots of people recommend it).

I don’t have as many recommendations for workbooks outside of math, so I look forward to people’s suggestions.  We are going through Spectrum Writing Grade 7, but that’s more of a remedial thing than acceleration or depth.  We like it.

Online

Just like with Workbooks, you can go accelerated vs. deep/sideways with online programs.

Khan Academy is the easiest way to accelerate (or review!).  It is also a popular way for teachers to deal with kids who get their work done early.  DC1 finished K-8 math in Paradise as a 5th grader (though they have since added some sections).  I would say zie didn’t really master 7th and 8th grade math via Khan Academy, but it did help DC1 skip 6th grade math by passing the relevant exam when zie got back to where we normally live.

Some schools will also have access to a fun (but expensive) program called ST Math that lets kids go sideways or deep on math.   I’m not sure it’s worth buying yourself for $200 for a one-year subscription (though there are discounts available online for home schoolers), but maybe.

Your school may have purchased other online programs that you can access from home– they’re worth checking out.

Less expensive and just as fun (though not as extensive) are Dragon Box products.  We loved Dragon Box Algebra and Dragon Box Geometry (called Elements).  Even DC2 (almost age 5) can do some of the earlier puzzles.  These are well worth the $5-$8 they cost as apps.  (I stayed up late one night finishing up Elements myself– it was pretty addicting.)

Reading

There are lots of great books for kids, fiction and non-fiction.  Kids can also enjoy some books for grownups.

DCs this summer

This summer our 10 year old is doing:

2 weeks regular daycamp (canoeing, archery, etc.), playdates with friends, 1 week game design (got permission even though zie is younger than the limit), 1 week grammar and flow daycamp, 1 week electronics daycamp, 1 week orchestra camp, 2 weeks math daycamp.  Some of these daycamps are half-day only, some are 9:30-3:30, give or take.  Some weeks we signed up for before/after care, some weeks we didn’t.  1 30 min piano lesson each week, 1 30 min violin lesson each week.

Each day:  1 page hard math workbook, 1 page writing workbook, 15 min piano, 30 min violin (it had been 15 min violin, but his violin teacher insisted on upping it), typing (required class for middle school that can be taken over the summer, finished last weekend), Stata (finished the basics last weekend), 1 hour video games (optional), rest of the time is free unless zie is needed for household chores.  On weekends there is unlimited video game time.  Zie has been spending free time reading, creating games, modifying already existing games, playing games, and writing.

Our 4/5 year old is doing:

Preschool, 1 week of children’s museum daycamp (when the preschool was on break), 1 15 min piano lesson each week, 1 30 min swimming lesson each week.

Each day:  5 min piano practicing, on weekends and when zie requests it or is bouncing off the walls 1 page Singapore math and 2 pages Brainquest (1 math, 1 reading or science or social studies) either from the regular book or the summer book.  Zie has been spending free time reading, playing with toys, doing The Magic School Bus science kit with DH, playing games, watching shows on amazon.

I was a bit surprised when I googled “how to keep a gifted kid challenged” how little concrete advice there was in the first couple of pages of results.  The advice that is there seems to be pretty contradictory (praise vs. don’t praise, let them decide vs. remember you’re the grown-up, etc. etc. etc.).  So, grumpy nation, I’m asking you, what concrete recommendations do you have for keeping a gifted kid challenged?  Any specific programs, books, materials?  What did you do as a kid?  What do you do for your kids (if applicable)?

Ask the grumpies: Skipping K?

The frugal ecologist asks:

Our LO is in Montessori but started early so she will do the 3 years before she’d be eligible for K. (3rd year Montessori is K). I’m intrigued about having her skip a grade and start in 1st at 5. What are factors to look for about being ready to skip, any particular grade better to skip or not, etc etc?

You may want to find the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  Here’s Hoagie’s gifted talking about it.  It basically provides questions that will help you think about what’s important in terms of skipping vs. not skipping.  For example, if your family is really really into sports, then skipping isn’t as good an idea as if you’re ok with your kid not being the star athlete at school.  It’s a bit pricey and may not be useful without having taken concurrent IQ tests, so it might be worthwhile just to read up about the general ideas it covers online without actually getting a number.  (But if you want to do testing, that works too!)

It sounds like in your LO’s case, that your child will not actually be skipping K– she will be getting K at Montessori, which is pretty common (something my sister did back in the day!).  So basically you’re asking if she should do K a second time in public school after having done it at Montessori.

I would look into what K is in  your state.  If you’re on the core, then they’re going to expect more than if you’re in a state that doesn’t require K, doesn’t have full-time K, or is in one of the states that refused to go on the core.  For schools on the core, you’ll want to make sure that your LO has mastered the K skillset, which may include reading and simple arithmetic.

IIRC, you’re in a state in which K is mainly for all the kids who didn’t go to preschool to learn how to play nicely with others and reading isn’t really tackled until 1st grade.  (Though your individual school district may vary.  Definitely check the K learning objectives for your district for the year.)  Given that your child went to preschool, I would be very tempted to skip out.  Unless, of course, you’re in a situation like ours in which you want to do the dual-language option and you have to start at K.

This website discusses details and research about acceleration.  One of the things it mentions is that they recommend not skipping the year before starting at a new school.  So if your elementary school is K-4, they recommend not skipping 4th grade.  I’m not sure how big a deal this is in practice, since kids get moved around from schools because of their parents’ jobs all the time.  But maybe it matters in marginal cases.

We chose acceleration for DC1 because zie was bored and starting to act out and hir preschool had run out of materials and was suggesting that the entire next year DC1 would act as a teacher’s aide.  Zie had already mastered all the K skills (except cutting, but zie mastered cutting in the summer before K).  Our private school tested hir and suggested to us doing K and 1st concurrently.  That worked out quite well, though in retrospect, zie probably didn’t need the K at all.

So, I guess I would think about the following:

  • Was the LO in preschool?  If yes, then that aspect of K is unnecessary.  Zie knows how to line up and listen to the teacher etc.
  • Has the LO mastered the skillset that will be taught in K?  This will vary by your LO, the preschool, and the school district.  If not, then there’s less value to skipping K because there’s less chance the LO will be bored in K.
  • All that other stuff on the Iowa Acceleration scale like sports and siblings and so on.

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about grade skipping– there are plenty of reasons not to skip for most kids, but for kids who can skip, the things random “helpful” people will suggest to you are just not real concerns.  So… I would not worry about your LO’s size.  DC1 has skipped two grades and has still not been the smallest kid in hir grade in public school even though zie is of exactly average height.  People also have been pretty nice to hir– hir social experience has been very different than mine was and has been much more like my experience in my single-subject skipped math classes.  I would also not worry about drivers licenses etc.  The trend right now is for kids to put off driving until they’re much older than 16.

In general, it’s easier to start out in 1st and say you’re trying it out and then drop back to K midyear than it is to start out in K and do a mid-year skip up to 1st.

In general, I’m very pro-skipping for kids who have mastered the material prior to the year starting.  For kids who have mastered most, but not all, of the material, it is going to depend on more stuff, like how much they act out when they get bored, how quickly they can pick up what they’ve missed, and so on.

For our kids, we’re still taking it a year at a time.

Update:  Before another person posts about grade skipping being bad based on one anecdote for which they do not know the counterfactual (note:  research suggests that on average, the counterfactual would have been worse!), please read this post here.

Child family labor: Do you let your kids help with your work?

It is legal in the US for kids under the age of 14 to work if it is for the family business.  Even when they’re older, it is legal for them to work for less than minimum wage if it is for the family business.  Labor laws don’t apply the same way when your employer is a parent.  (Note and disclaimer:  consult a lawyer/do your own research before making employment decisions.)

When I was younger (including when I was on break from college and an experienced grader!) I used to offer to help grade my mom’s stacks of homeworks for free.  She would never let me, even when it was just multiple choice and required no specialized knowledge to mark.  I was never really sure why she wouldn’t.

I have friends whose parents are famous economists who learned Stata practically in the cradle.  These skills came in handy when they were old enough for paying work as students and then later when their humanities degrees didn’t really pan out and they needed to change fields.  Data analysis is a valuable skill.

DC1 has played around with programming in Python and likes building things in minecraft.  Zie has also done some Scratch and some lego-robot programming.  This summer I suggested zie might like to try a little Stata and zie said that sounded fun.  We’ve done about three hours now (1 hour of showing how excel works using our mortgage spreadsheet and 2 hours of creating a numeric variable from a text variable from an incomplete but already created .do file) and zie seems to be enjoying it.  Once we’re done with the variable generation (that I actually do need for my work and would normally have an RA do but they’re all off for a week), we’ll start going through A Gentle Introduction to Stata.  Right now I’m paying $7.50/hour which is much more than zie gets for hir allowance.

Zie is mostly booked all summer with summer camps and a keyboarding class and books and sleepovers and games and traveling and so on.  But there are a few days free here and there, so we’ll put in a little Stata training on those days, and if I have scut work to do and no RA to do them, zie will be able to help out if zie stays interested.  Especially if I’m out of Here to Make Friends podcasts to listen to while copy/pasting.

Did you ever help your parents with their work?  Did they pay you?  Would you let your children help?  Why or why not?

Spanish vs. Mandarin Dual Language programs?

Hypatia Cade asks:

I’m curious about your thoughts (or your readers’ thoughts) – we will have the option to lottery in to 2 dual lang programs: Spanish or Mandarin. There are other pieces of these choices (school location, true public vs. charter, curriculum differences) that make it complex….But if the language of instruction were the only variable would you pick one language over the other? Why? (And to what extent would parental familiarity with a language enter into this?)

I would probably pick Mandarin over Spanish all else equal because it’s easier to pick up Spanish at older ages as an English speaker.  (My assumption would be Mandarin as a child and then Spanish as a third language in middle school and/or high school.)  Both Mandarin and Spanish are useful languages to know — I wouldn’t, for example, choose Dutch over Spanish even though Dutch has similar pronunciation problems to Mandarin for English-speakers, because Dutch isn’t that useful (in my experience, most Dutch speakers you come in contact with know English extremely well and will prefer to use it).  Note here, that I would expect Spanish learning in either scenario– that’s non-negotiable just like swimming lessons, it’s just a matter or whether or not there’s also fluency in Mandarin.

I am pretty fluent in Spanish, but sadly have Kindergarten-level Cantonese rather than Mandarin (of which I only remember how to count up to 999 and how to write the first few numbers and the word for “big” which is the same in Mandarin as it is in Cantonese).  (I also have first grade-level French and a smattering of Latin.  And I’ve picked up a bit of school-girl Japanese from Anime, which is pretty useless unless I need to tell someone to wait or that I like like them.  DH has high school-level German.)  I think I would just trust my kids to pick up the Mandarin in school and would get a tutor if there were learning difficulties along the way.  The dual-language material we have is very adamant that we don’t have to do anything special to get DC2 prepared for dual-language K and that it’s ok if the parents don’t speak Spanish.

Here are some replies from our regular readers:

becca:

given Mandarin or Spanish, I’d let my kiddo pick, which would probably result in Spanish. Dad took Spanish, Mom took Mandarin, so that’s not a huge factor. But my kiddo is SO into soccer, and Spanish means ze can translate when we go on dream Argentina trip ;-)

If I were factoring in efficacy of language training (i.e. how proficient they are likely to end up), I’d lean toward Spanish. Though for that I’d consider possible peers who might help hir practice too. Pronunciation on Mandarin is probably easiest to learn very young, but this wasn’t the trickiest part to me. The thing I think was really hard about Mandarin was the writing. Are they doing simplified characters, or traditional, and when do they bring in typing? It’s very challenging, and I wouldn’t suggest it for most kids until about age 11 or so.

crone:

One consideration might be which language is easiest to reinforce from home or environment. I have 5 year old grand child who has been Mandarin immersion from 2 pre-school years and just finishing K. Reads and writes and speaks in both English and Mandarin. Both parents speak Mandarin, my co-grandparents speak primarily Mandarin, so lots of reinforcement happened naturally from birth. Had a Spanish speaking nanny before preschool and both parent’s Spanish increased in fluency through those years. But for last two years, post nanny, it has been harder to reinforce and keep in use. Being able to reinforce and use the language outside of school makes a huge difference.

ChrisinNY:

My daughter has dysgraphia so found the Mandarin characters problematic. (She was exposed to both the characters and… pinyan?) In theory learning Mandarin sounds great, but living in the US Spanish may be more useful and enjoyable. My daughter ended up learning French and still keeps it up on her own as a young adult.

Cloud:

We had a choice between Mandarin and Spanish for language immersion programs, and chose Spanish based primarily on the fact that the school that does Spanish is in our neighborhood. We had low probability of getting into either, but got very lucky (a literal lottery win!) and got into the Spanish school in our neighborhood and have loved it. Also, it starts at 9 (with before care provided by the YMCA for a fee) and the Mandarin school starts at 7:45, which even for our early rising kids would have been a struggle and a PITA for the entire family.

We pay for very low key private Mandarin lessons, mostly because my oldest kid really excels at language so we want to let her push on that. But it also means that both kids will have learned the tones at an age when they can really learn them and that should make it easier for them to become fluent in Mandarin later if they want to. Bonus: the Mandarin teacher picks the kids up from the after care program one day per week, giving us extra schedule flexibility on that day. Win-win.

FWIW, we have noticed no real problems with learning two languages at once. I don’t know if that would be true if we were really pushing on the Mandarin, but with our immersion Spanish and low key Mandarin, it seems fine. We have noticed that our younger kid, who was not reading fluently in English before starting the Spanish program, tends to spell English words with Spanish phonics, which is hilariously cute. (Eg, miles is spelled “mayols”) We assume that will sort itself out by about grade 3, when her school starts working on English spelling. She is now reading fluently in English, which should help.

What would you choose, Grumpy Nation?

DC2 got into the dual language program

Which means zie won’t be going to private school or skipping a grade.  At least not right away.

Our plan was either DC2 does public school in the dual language program for kindergarten or zie skips K and goes straight to 1st in private school.  DC2 lotteried into dual-language and will be going to the one on our bus route.  (A benefit of being rezoned into one of the worst school zones is that’s also where the specialty programs are housed in the hopes of getting high SES parents and kids involved with the school.)

I’m not sure how to feel about this development.  On the one hand, dual-language is awesome.

On the other hand, while DC2 doesn’t need to skip two grades at this point (recall DC1 started K early and did K and 1 at the same time–DC2’s birthday is right before the deadline unlike DC1’s), zie really does not need to take K.  Zie can read pretty much anything at this point and writes pretty well (with some getting letters and numbers backwards a lot much like I did at hir age) and is up to double-digit addition and subtraction without carrying/borrowing in hir math books.  The state goals for K involve counting to 10 (recall that learning goals for this state are about a year behind those in much of the rest of the country).  Not to mention that class sizes are large, which makes it more difficult for teachers to differentiate and give personalized attention, though obviously some teachers are still good at it.

We’re hoping the second language acquisition will make the lack of other new material in K more bearable.

Starting K early wasn’t possible if we wanted to do dual-language, and skipping dual-language K doesn’t seem like a great idea even if it’s allowed given that DC1 knows very little Spanish.  It’s possible zie could skip dual-language 1st or a later grade, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

So I worry.  I hope we’re making the right decision.  But I know we can course correct if not.

I also hope that my eager, strong, excited DC2 doesn’t get beaten down too much by school.  I hope zie isn’t silenced by expectations and peer pressure.

I want to protect hir.  But I don’t know that I can.

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How often do you have to buy new plates and glasses: Musings on breakage

We recently stopped at Target and bought some new glasses and a Corelle set to replace those that have been broken lo these past few years.

How many years, you ask?  I can actually tell you that because deciding to buy Corelle caused some internet drama when I realized it would be foolish to get a nice set of Lenox or Wedgewood to replace the brave floral plates that had fallen over the years.  That post was up in Summer of 2014, so it seems like it takes 3 years for 2 children to force replacement purchasing.  Given that purchase happened in 2014, I can also calculate that it takes 6 years for one child (and two sleep deprived parents) to force replacement purchasing. (We initially had another set that we got rid of because life is too short to live with dinnerware that is not microwave safe).

Last time we picked out tumblers that were most like our previous glasses.  Fortunately for us, this newer style is still in stock after 3 years.  So we’re down to one tall glass and two shorter tumblers in the old style along with 8 tall ones in the new style and too many of the shorter tumblers to fit in their special place in the cupboard.  I guess the tall ones are more likely to break even though we never give them to small children.

For china, last time we bought more we decided we wanted plain white easy-to-replace difficult-to-break Corelle.  Even if we could afford something fancier.  Corelle is nice because it is much more likely to bounce safely than our previous higher quality porcelain.  Sadly, when it does break it shatters into a zillion thin shards rather than the two or three large pieces that nicer china falls into, which means after sweeping and vacuuming we still have to mop the floor just to be sure.  The choice of plain white seems to have been a good one as it is still available and I didn’t shed too many tears getting a new set.  Of course, now we have way too many coffee cups as they never seem to break and they come with the Corelle set.

My parents would just pick up bits and pieces from other people’s former sets at garage sales and didn’t buy a new matched set until both children were off to college and no longer washing dishes by hand.  We don’t really have time for garage sales, so $40 every few years at Target seems like a reasonable purchase for us.

How long does your china and glassware last?  How do you replace it (new sets or single pieces?  same design or different?)?  Is your cupboard full of mismatched former sets waiting for the final piece to break like ours is?