What’s the new hobby?

 Just because your kids are tweens or teens don’t give up introducing new activities, crafts and sports – ideally when they have enough time and are not locked into a busy school schedule. What’s more hobby development should pay off – not just giving young people a raft of skills, but also helping them see that there is fun to be had without falling into a consumer consumption shopping trap that steers them from internet shopping to the mall, and a life of either debt or unsatisifed desires for stuff. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see http://homemadekids.wordpress.com, or my book Homemade Kids,www.nicolabaird.comBasket of homegrown veg by Nell, 12, gets highly commended. It made a nice salad too.

How much is enough? Basket of homegrown veg by Nell, 12, gets highly commended. It made a nice salad too (though she is still very wary of eating her greens!).

If you are lucky your child may already have become fascinated by growing things, making stuff or cooking. It doesn’t matter if the interest comes from untold hours watching the Great British Bake Off.  Although most crafts have some cost implications, in the long run as those new skills are honed you could see your shopping bill go down (something I’m very interested in right now!).

I’ve been reading a new paperback book over the past fortnight called How Much Is Enough? It’s written by a father and son team, Robert and Edward Skidelsky, who know a lot about the economist Keynes and use Keynesianism to consider money and the good life.

To being with I would have told you – rather sarcastically – that How Much is Enough? was ‘about 26 pages’. This is partly because the Skidelsky team use the new preface to argue that all the critics of the hardback are wrong, or politically motivated. Fortunately I completed the preface without giving up and once I reached the original start of the book began to enjoy it very much.

I know very little about John Maynard Keynes.

If only there was a film about him – his work first as a civil servant and then launch back to Cambridge, the endless clever economics books, the love affairs with numerous men including those in the Bloomsbury Group, the face-offs with LLoyd George, the 1920s fab clothing and then his unexpected love match with Lydia, a Russian ballerina starring with Diaghliev’s troop. Such tidbits are all begging for translation to  the screen…

He died aged 62, earning a lovely obituary from The Times (a very small quote),

“There is the man himself – radiant, brilliant, effervescent, gay, full of impish jokes … He was a humane man genuinely devoted to the cause of the common good.”
How much is enough? It's a question families need to ask all the time... And complicated. The only reason Nell and her friend could try out a tent this summer was because I'd hired a car so I could carry the camping equipment. Ridiculous!

How much is enough? It’s a question families need to ask all the time… And complicated. The only reason Nell and her friend could try out a tent this summer was because I’d hired a car so I could carry the camping equipment. Ridiculous!

None of the stuff about Keynes’ life is in How Much is Enough? – but the book inspired me to go and find out. It did however inspire numerous conversations with my partner about Keynes (figuring that as Pete studied economics for a term at uni he might be able to explain about multiplier effects and deflation and what was wrong with Adam Smith’s invisible hand…).

HMIE - high res pbk jacketThe Skidelsky duo basically focus on one question – how much money do we need to fund a good life? The answer turns out to be way more money than we’ve got, and far more resources than exist… A conclusion anyone alert to the conspicuous consumption of our times could come to.
Of course this leads to much debate about what is a good life. But for some bizarre reason the Skidelsky pair do their best to alienate anyone with any concern for the environment. Though I do feel they hijack their own argument by putting such store on the writings by James Lovelock about Gaia (just to explain I’m not a fan of Lovelock mostly because of his tolerance for nuclear, although the Skidelskys’ offer another pile of criticism most particularly the mix of science and anthropomorphistic views of Nature as vengeful).
Any families who prioritise thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to bring up children and do it without snide snipes at their carbon-wasting neighbours is likely to find this book an uncomfortable read. Because apparently we are sniping… so there.
Battling for the seat at the winning table. Or just a game of chess.

How much is enough? Battling for the seat at the winning table? Or just a game of chess?

Win a FREE COPY of this book
So why have I reviewed How Much is Enough? on this blog, half pretending the post is about hobbies? Well for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a good idea to make an effort to understand economics… and this is written with enough style and opinion to make it reasonably easy.
  2. It gives you another heads up about what is a basic need. Definitely worth revisiting before the tumult of Christmas present buying  season.
  3. FREE GIVEAWAY: If you’d like this copy and you have a UK address, then please send me an email explaining why you’d like it so I can draw a lucky reader out of the hat on 4 October.
My own children’s secondary school schedule is so full-on that even three weeks into the term I can see that the simple pleasures, that enrich their lives, are gradually being edged out. There seems no time to play a board game, or chess; to experiment with lego or charcoal; to spend hours reading or picking a spot for a tent. Here’s hoping they may have time to build on such simple pleasures again next summer, but it seems a long, long wait.
Over to you

  • What ideas do you have to try and make sure that most days your children get to enjoy or try something practical that ultimately is life enriching. BTW I’m not sure music practice counts (especially if as a parent you have to nag to get your child to do it), but I do think walking to and from school is one small but achievable pleasure.
  • Remember to see if you can win my copy of the book How Much Is Enough? Or maybe just go and find a copy yourself as it is definitely food for thought.
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One Comment on “What’s the new hobby?”

  1. homemadekids Says:

    From Facebook
    Emma: “lovely blog Nicola Baird, beautiful and thought-provoking, thank you x”

    From email:
    Karen: “I really enjoyed your blog review and thought it had some very interesting points. I’m glad it sparked some interesting conversations at home.”


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