The Bane of Motherhood

You may think, by the title of this post, that I’m about to talk about potty training.  But no.  As much as I dread potty training my third child (and I fear she will NEVER be agreeable to it, but that’s another story), the bane of motherhood, in my opinion, is school projects.

I am fond of saying that the reason I send my kids to preschool is so I don’t have to do crafts at home.  I am not creative, I hate mess, and I have no patience with clumsy little fingers.  This is why preschool teachers make the big bucks, people.

I’ve known for some time that as my kids get older, they will come home with the dreaded projects and I will have to decide whether I become That Parent — you know, the one who takes over her child’s project so that it is a work of adult perfectionism, not remotely resembling the work of a child — or if I will be the parent who throws her child to the wolves and lets him suffer an average grade because he actually did the work (gasp!) on his own.

I knew this time was coming, as my son is in the second grade, and surely the projects are not far off.  I never expected, however, that my first school project would be assigned to my preschool-aged daughter.  You have GOT to be kidding me.

This is the assignment: Next week is “Pet Show Week”.  Our theme this month is pet and pet care.  A highlight for this unit will be “A favorite pet home family project.”  You and your child will have an opportunity to design your own favorite pet habitat.  A shoe box works well with this project.

Seriously?  A pet habitat?  WE DON’T EVEN HAVE PETS.  I know — my poor, deprived children.  I am fortunate that I can play the allergy card (my older children have been tested to have allergies to cats and dogs — hooray! — and you may remember how the poor hermit crab met his demise.)

Any-WHO.  I tried passing off the project on my husband.  I handed him the sheet of paper and said, “Oh, this one’s for you.”  But he didn’t fall for it.  So guess who gets to create a “pet habitat” out of a shoe box this week?  Yeah, lucky me.

Because not even I am heartless enough to throw my 5-year-old to the wolves on this one.  If it were my son’s project, maybe.  But I think I’m stuck with this one.

UPDATE:  After I started this post yesterday morning, my daughter came home from school, got out the play-doh, and started her “homework” as she proudly calls it.  I dug up a shoe box for her and told her I’d help her, but she assured me that she had it all under control.  She worked diligently for about an hour, and this is what she ended up with.

Did you know that squirrels and roosters live together in harmony?  It’s news to me too.  And I’m not entirely sure what that is on the fork.  But it’s hers, and she’s proud of it, and far be it for me to interfere.

Here she is, hard at work.

Of course, little sister had to get in on the action.

All of this begs the question:  How do YOU handle school projects?  Are you of the opinion that it is your child’s project and he should be primarily responsible for it?  Or are you of the opinion that the teacher assigns the project intending for the child to have parental help, and therefore it’s free game for you to take over contribute to your child’s learning experience?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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43 Responses

  1. LOL – I tend to think that I will lean towards the taking over of the project so that it is a picture of perfection. I am after all Type A like you. I love her project – very creative!

  2. Since I semi-homeschool, we get A LOT of school projects in this house. We are always making something. We have a classroom and I have a cabinet where I store all my art supplies and such. When they get a project (and I get several a month), I explain the project, point them in the direction of the art cabinet and say “go to town”. On occasion we will venture to Hobby Lobby for specific supplies, but my girls are mostly on their own. They will most likely not win first prize with these projects (not that they are handing out prizes. I’m just saying), but usually they are more creative than me and turn in pretty decent work. So, as long as that’s working, I just go with it. Since I assist in my 3rd graders class 2 days a week, I see the projects that the kids bring in. You can always tell when a parent “helps” with the project. I say let the child reflect their own personality (aka let them do it themselves) and let the chips fall where they may. Good Luck! It’s only just begun!

  3. Maybe a little o’ both 🙂

    Although, less me and more them as they get older…

  4. Not there, yet and not looking forward to it at all.

    I also killed a hermit crab last summer. It was a sad day and we have a tombstone out in the play ground area of our yard that marks the spot. Him and the 2 or 3 fish that have met their sad demise in this home.

    We can’t just flush them. they must have a funeral and be buried in the ground, but the other ones.

  5. Unless the assignment specifically states that it is a family project the kids are pretty much on their own.
    Now that they are in Middle School some of the bigger projects are done in pairs or small groups. Fortunately for me the kids have arranged to meet at another students home to work on the projects. The just coordinate schedules and materials needed with me. Then I explain why their requirements are far too expensive and impractical.
    Apparently some mothers – who are far more patient than I – don’t mind several teenage girls doing filmaking projects requiring loads of makeup and elaborate costumes, or scale models of Alcatraz taking over their homes.

  6. I hate school projects. My kids insist on doing the science fair every year. Guess who actually does the project. Me. I didn’t do science fairs when I was in school, why would I want to participate now!?!?!?! The worst part, their/my projects didn’t even win! What does that say about me?

  7. I try to look at home projects as an opportunity for us to do something together. Not trying to sound like a goody-2-shoes, but I help my kids to put their ideas into reality when it comes to projects for school.

    That said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE what your daughter came up with for her habitat! Even better, I love that you encouraged her and allowed her to keep it as it because she was happy with it. Keep up the great work!

  8. Oh I hate projects! Hated them in school and hate them now with my daughter. She had one ridiculous project of writing stuff about flowers or plants — I basically typed up sheets for her to copy the words in her handwriting. I printed the pictures out from the internet and she wrote under them. She was very upset that we couldn’t just use what I’d typed up 😀 We got an A on that one.

    She’s only in 3rd grade — I hear they get much worse, and multiply next year.

  9. I try not to get too involved, but my resolve is never strong enough. My daughter’s last project was to create a bedroom in a shoebox – to which they would add electric light as part of their science course. Not only did I end up printing off digital scrapbooking paper to wallpaper and carpet the room, I also printed out brickwork paper for the exterior walls. I then rummaged through the attic for the dolls house furniture!

    This all would have been over the top enough, but then my daughter persuaded me to also print out wallpaper, carpet and bricks for two other girls in her class!

    What were their parents doing? Do I have “Mug” written all over me?

    PS I have photos of my/our/her project to prove it!!!

  10. I had no idea about the “squirrels and roosters live together in harmony” thing. Good solid information.

    I personally think the projects my oldest son brought home from pre-school were WAY harder then grade school. One of my problems was that he wasn’t that interested in them at that time. Oh the pressure! It was just too much. I gave up and didn’t send my younger ones to pre-school. Talk about slacker mom…

  11. I have always had my kids do the main parts of the projects. My husband and I are available for input, but we are hands off.

    I found out yesterday that our way of doing it worked to our benefit. Max has two projects due over the next two weeks and he has done them completely by himself. I love self-sufficiency.

  12. I think you did exactly the right thing with your daughter – especially if she was excited about it! Look what a great job she did! I love that her pets are a squirrel and a rooster. 🙂

    I think the learning is more important than the grade. I think if they don’t know what they want to do with a project that help with the process is ok (such as what materials to make it out of, help finding a book about the subject if they need that), especially if you can guide the process with questions (such as, what do you think a pet needs in their home?) but they should do as much as they can and should get the joy that it is their own.

  13. As a teacher, I assign very few “home projects”. When I do, I am very clear in the assignment contract that this is the child’s project and not the parent’s. I often outline what is fair game for parent help and what is not. I also require that students credit their parents for help given.

    I let the kids know that I can tell very easily what is kid’s work and what is adult work. They are warned that too much adult work will earn them a lower grade because their parents are not in 5th grade, they are.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

    Thanks for letting your kiddo do her own “homework”. She is learning valuable lessons: Responsiblility, hard work, pride in accomplishment…

    I only hope her teacher will reward her work and not penalize the lack of parent involvement!

  14. We let the kids do their own projects. I think that they have a greater sense of accomplishment when they complete the project that they planned and made themselves.

    That being said, we are willing to answer questions and give some guidance, or just be a sounding board for their ideas. We also do look things over once they’ve finished to make sure they haven’t made any major mistakes. When my 14yo was in 5th grade he misspelled a word on a report on squids. I won’t repeat what he wrote on a family friendly blog, but let me just say, it would have been reaaaaally embarrassing for him (and for us!)if we hadn’t caught the mistake and corrected his spelling.

  15. It’s all good and everything to have the theory that you will let kids do their own thing and be proud they did all of the work themselves. And then, the science fair project gets displayed for all the world to see up against the professionally laid out power point presentations. Oh my word. Next year I am going to bribe her NOT to enter the science fair.

  16. I love your daughter’s project and I love that she did it herself.

    I hope that I will be the kind of mom who encourages her kids to do their own work but will be nearby if help is needed.

  17. Oh, this is so relevant! I am getting together with other moms to study, “Breaking the Good Mom Myth” by Alysson Schafer. It is a FABULOUS book! Personally, I’m not into my children doing homework all day at school, and then at home too. So I will strongly discourage the at-home projects from taking any more time that we allot to homework. My oldest is in grade 2 right now, so that’s not much! (10 minutes) I think it is about priorities, I’m okay with a C on a project in exchange for solid family relationships. So far. lol

  18. As the mother of a junior in high school and a fourth grader I have seen my fair share of projects. Here is my resolution to their horror…their father! My husband and I have come to an agreement that I am the support system for the daily homework and project support falls to him. Since I work from home, the daily work can usually be done long before he darkens the door. Projects however, usually have a longer lead time and this gives my kids a great chance to see that daddy can help too!

  19. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE (did I make myself perfectly clear?) school projects.

    Like, we have not one, but TWO, science fair projects due in 16 days and I don’t know when I’m going to have time to help my children power a clock radio using a potato or how to keep an egg afloat. But me? I’m the parent that waits until the last minute, spends $35 on the supplies to make a decidous forest and helps because if I don’t, there’s no way the child will get to bed at a decent hour. But because it was so rushed, it still looks like they did it.

    However, I have learned to ask their father for assistance on these… because he’s the creative one. Which reminds me… I should go get the supplies for the kids to take over there this weekend!

  20. Generally, I help with the prep (brainstorming, finding supplies, figuring out how it will work) but the execution is up to them. Unless it’s the rare project that I think is asking too much of them for the time allotted, in which case I’ll identify the least creative part and do that.

  21. You’ve lucked out this year. My son has had 2 this year in 2nd grade. I’ve really tried to find the balance between him doing most of the work with some help from me or my husband. He usually comes up with how he wants to design it, and we’ll help implementing his ideas.

    His last project was to create a model of the solar system. My son wanted to use a box and have it painted black. Needless to say, there was no way he was going to be let loose with a can a spray paint. Dad and he did that one together.

    I have to agree that I agree with most of the other comments — I hate school projects!

  22. Ohhh, how I sympathize with you! I HATE school projects too. I am not crafty or creative…I try, but it never turns out quite as I had it pictured in my head! I have a project sitting (or is it setting?) in front of me right now for my THREE YEAR OLD!!! Usually my husband does all these things, because sadly, he’s the creative one in this household! But, since he’s leaving for the weekend, it’s on me…I’ll just put some stickers and washable paint out…literally, OUTSIDE. I’m like you, I don’t like messes! Wow, I’m learning I’m not a very fun mom. I’m gonna go cry now.

  23. Projects are a “pet” peeve with me. Harhar!

    They seriously are though. With my oldest I was totally naieve in this department and did have her do her own projects from the idea to the work and I just helped her with questions she had. Well, the kids who won the science fair won with ideas that no grade 5 child would come up with on their own and obvious parental work. I was ticked and had a nice meeting with the teacher about that one. With my next two I knew better and helped them way more even though I did not agree with it. But I didn’t want my kid’s work to look way below the other’s kids. How sad is that. I hate to even admit that. As you can tell I hate projects.

  24. I hate school projects. I loathe them. My child FINALLY started doing his own (thank goodness we haven’t had that many – besides the ever dreaded entire year of 3rd grade book report each week).

    Your daughter did great!

    I tend to make my son do his own work, my husband = not so much. Guess who my child goes to FIRST if he doesn’t want to do a project for school.

  25. I have not had a home project yet, but I think I will try to stay out of it for the most part. Although that will be hard for an OCD mom.

    P.S. Love your daughter’s work!

  26. I didnt realize I would be back in school right along with my three boys. I HATE school projects…and homework too, for that matter! I know, that’s terrible to say but I do.

    As we speak, my eldest is working on a cereal box design inspired by the ‘Magic Treehouse: Pirates Past Noon’ book. Have I lifted a finger? Well, yes, a little, but Im of the opinion that teachers want the kid to do the work, not the parents. I wish more parents would back off and quick setting the curve! 😉

  27. I’m a (former) teacher and a parent with kids ranging from 16 to 6.
    I despise school projects.
    I will take my children to the store. I will buy supplies for them (more willingly, the more advance notice I get).
    I will not do their project (or any other homework) for them.
    I am done with school. I did my homework. They have to do theirs.
    Teachers who assign fewer projects get better “parting gifts” come June 🙂 (just kidding, but it’s tempting!)

  28. Yes, I am one of those mean parents who (for the most part) make their children handle the work. (I WILL go to the craft store and buy everything they need for each project, and help make sure they meet assignment deadlines.)

    And yes, I am one of those parents who have to handle the fall-out when they didn’t win first prize. Or second. Or third.

    But listen, I am a firm believer in buying the ice cream as consolation.

    Who needs a stinkin’ blue ribbon when you’ve got 31 Flavors down the street?

  29. I love your daughter’s project!!! And believe me, as a daughter of a teacher (for over 30 years) you can spot a parents project like a bull horn!! I loved this post!!!!! BRAVO!!!!

  30. I love your daughter’s project!!! And believe me, as a daughter of a teacher (for over 30 years) you can spot a parents project like a bull horn!! I loved this post!!!!! BRAVO!!!!

  31. I love your daughter’s project!!! And believe me, as a daughter of a teacher (for over 30 years) you can spot a parents project like a bull horn!! I loved this post!!!!! BRAVO!!!!

  32. I love your daughter’s project!!! And believe me, as a daughter of a teacher (for over 30 years) you can spot a parents project like a bull horn!! I loved this post!!!!! BRAVO!!!!

  33. I love your daughter’s project!!! And believe me, as a daughter of a teacher (for over 30 years) you can spot a parents project like a bull horn!! I loved this post!!!!! BRAVO!!!!

  34. I love your daughter’s project!!! And believe me, as a daughter of a teacher (for over 30 years) you can spot a parents project like a bull horn!! I loved this post!!!!! BRAVO!!!!

  35. i hate projects! science fair, book reports. i even hate homework i think they do enough work at school why do they need to bring more home!

  36. I could have mostly written that second paragraph – not much for the kid crafts myself (although I like to do my own). And SO NOT looking forward to school projects AT ALL. Good for your daughter for doing her own thing. You should be proud. For many reasons! ; )

  37. So not looking forward to handling projects. It’ll be a nightmare with my strongwilled children.

  38. I’m dreading the project stuff too! I think that we’ll have some next year and I need to start praying now because I don’t do well with that sort of thing.

    I think that my approach will be more hands off, but available. I want them to do it and let them use their imagination, but I’ll be around to help if needed. That’s kind of how it is when we do break out the paints and stuff (once in a blue moon).

  39. I am all for letting her do it herself. I’m not about to stick my nose into something that I can’t do very well myself. If she wants to make her sky green and the grass purple, so be it.

  40. OH I HATED IT WHEN THEY HAD SCHOOL PROJECTS! LOL I am SO glad I am passed those days! AND, KUDOS to you for letting her do it on her own! I COULD NEVER DO THAT! EVER! See why I am glad those days are over!

  41. I always think about potty training as the bane of my existence as well, but after my dear son got potty trained (after the age of 3), I am with you on the school projects! My daughter’s school actually encourages to do most of them at school. This rocks!

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