The five of us sat around the dinner table the other night. My six-year-old needed duct tape to stay in her seat. The nine-year-old had soooo much stuffed in his face, that even if he desired to close his mouth, he couldn’t. And the eleven-year-old ate so fast that we wondered if he has some secret life where he lives in an orphanage and has to share his meal with fifty other children and has no idea when his next meal is coming. All of this results in frustration for both my husband and myself, and ends with us saying things like, “If you don’t pull it together, you’ll never get married!” Awesome.
So when the opportunity came up for me to sit down with Allie Clay, co-owner of Grace. Etiquette. Manners. (GEM), it felt serendipitous. I was so excited to see what they were doing to affect the culture of character and manners in the lives of kids.
Honestly, I had no idea that something like this even existed in the Charleston area. But the truth is, before Allie and her business partner Rindy Ryan, it didn’t. Their business, this concept, was born out of experiences just like the one I had at my meal time. These two ladies were feeling frustrated with their children and found themselves disappointed in the lack of etiquette class options in Charleston. Allie and Rindy knew they could offer something new and different.
And so Grace. Etiquette. Manners. was born
Last year was their first season and they had one hundred children from thirteen different schools.
“We want the kids to have fun and parents to see results,” Allie shared with me in the lovely Daniel Island venue they rent for the GEM classes. She also expressed the importance of children hearing these same concepts from other people, not just their parents. And the part that I love the most? This isn’t just table manners. It’s life skills. It’s character building. It’s learning to adapt in whatever the culture.
I was focused on getting my kids to eat salad with a fork, but am now thrilled that they can learn to have confidence in any social setting.
GEM is laid out in a six session course that meets once a month for six months. Each evening features a short lecture topic on a general theme that varies by age and grade level. (Fourth grade through eighth grade) Although it’s not required, continuing in the program for four years is a great option as each year builds on the next, expanding on each topic. The class meets for an hour and a half. “Because we know the kids have already been through school. We have to keep them interested,” Allie said.
The topics for the course are as follows:
First Impressions: Greetings, punctuality, hand shaking, seating, escorting, appropriate dress, poise, and posture.
Public Courtesies: Party manners, elevator etiquette, sidewalk etiquette, door etiquette, and introductions.
Civility: Making conversation, accepting compliments and criticism, asking forgiveness, social media netiquette and online safety, managing conflict, self advocacy.
Gratitude and Correspondence: The art of giving and receiving gifts, thank you notes and written correspondence.
Friendship, Family, and Loyalty: Compassion, responsibilities for citizenship in family, school, and community, nonverbal communication, sportsmanship, phone and text etiquette, bullying, making and keeping confidences and promises, accepting consequences.
Ladies and Gentlemen in Social Graces: Mutual respect, dancing, escorting, extending, accepting, and declining invitations, social media safety.
Dining Etiquette: Table manners will be practiced in formal and informal settings during class as meals will be provided. Additional topics include: setting and clearing a table, using utensils, and self-service at a buffet. The final class will be a culmination and celebration of the season’s lessons with a formal multi-course dinner.
One of the main differences between GEM and other programs is that each class includes a meal, and they are able to accommodate all allergies. Allie and Rindy feel that it is important to teach table manners in a hands-on fashion. The experiences range from ordering off a menu, to buffet etiquette, to managing a cup and plate in a passed hors d’oeuvre situation. They have also managed to work in a “Gratitude Project” so that your child can learn the importance of paying attention to the people who have made a difference in their lives.
Couldn’t we all use a class just like this?!
Each child keeps a binder as the class progresses so you can see what they are learning. It will also contain ideas of how to help them, and you, practice their newfound graces.
The first classes begin September 11 and concludes at the end of February. The exact dates are age-group dependent, so be sure to check the calendar on their website. The cost for each six month session is $385 (with a sibling discount available). I have to admit that while that number seemed daunting at first, when I factored in gourmet catered dining and life-long concepts, the $64/class breakdown is totally justified and worth it.
Listen, table manners are important. My child not embarrassing me at a wedding sounds great. But knowing that my son or daughter can have the ability to function, with or without me, whether at a friend’s house or on a cell phone, is paramount. And Grace. Etiquette. Manners. can help them get there.