"Connoisseur Kids" A manual for manners
“God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food,” we first graders recited with Miss McIntosh at our public elementary school.
Then she lined us up boy, girl, boy girl, and we proceeded to the cafeteria. All the girls wore dresses, so it was easy to see at a glance that we were in the right order.
We filed inside the cavernous lunchroom and stood solemnly facing each other across the long tables. Bubbling with excitement, some of us suppressed giggles.
“Boys, pull out the chair for the girl to your right,” Miss McIntosh instructed while raising her right hand. And so we began our school year with this awkward but thrilling introduction to manners.
It was 1965, and Wright Elementary was doing its part to uphold the cultural norms that our parents were teaching at home.
Apparently, the widespread rebellion of the 1960s hit our school the next year, as we never received any more lessons on manners.
The destruction of good customs has proceeded apace ever since. Not only do the schools not teach manners, many parents don’t either because they were not taught themselves. They need help to know what and how to teach their children the basics.
This is what Jennifer L. Scott provides in her book, Connoisseur Kids: Etiquette, Manners, and Living Well for Parents and Their Little Ones. Mrs. Scott is the mother of four children, and author of the Madame Chic book series.
Connoisseur Kids provides a foundation in the skills and courtesies that make everyday living go more smoothly and happily. Mrs. Scott takes care to present the information in the most pleasant of ways, utilizing short chapters, activities, games, and even poems.
It is not a Catholic book, but as it is hard to conceive of practicing manners without the virtue of charity, a Christian spirit runs through it, with much emphasis on thinking of others, being grateful, and appreciating order in the home.
In six chapters, the author covers a wide range of topics under the following broad titles: Communication, Table Manners, Tidiness, Thinking of Others, Hygiene and Grooming, and Health. There are recipes for food but also things like bath bombs, hair gel, and play dough.
The chapter on table manners is particularly delightful with simple tips for setting the table, flower arranging, and folding napkins. There is a multiple choice quiz for helping children identify the best way to handle issues like what to do when they don’t like a food that they have been served. Each question is a great opportunity for discussion with the parent.
Emphasis is placed on the importance of good conversation, and there is even instruction on thanking the cook and cleaning up after the meal. Best of all there is a review of all the table manners tips followed by a plan outlining how to practice the new skills one at a time over the course of a week.
Instruction on grace before and after meals will have to be added by the parents.
One important thing that is not covered in the book is using courtesy titles, such as Mr., Mrs., and Miss, when addressing adults. This can easily be added, though, and would be a good place to insert instruction on addressing religious and clerics.
The book is written in such a way that older children can profitably read it themselves, but also as a sort of teacher’s manual for the parents to use and adapt to fit their family’s needs.
Connoisseur Kids would also lend itself well to use by church organizations, playgroups, homeschool co-ops, etc., so that the children could practice with others outside of the family.
Published by Chronicle Books in 2019, with illustrations by Clare Owen, the book is available as a hardback that retails for about $22 and as an ebook for $2.99.