How much help do you give kids on big school projects?

I knew we were in deep trouble the moment I saw the First Communion projects that some other kids had turned in early at church.

My 7-year-old daughter Rose has been assigned to make what was described by the teachers as a felt banner with her name and a symbol of her First Communion on it. I was envisioning her cutting her name out of felt and gluing it onto another big piece of felt. Then she’d cut out a chalice of gold felt and glue that puppy down too. Project completed and all done by Rose.

What we saw the other night at Sunday School were ELABORATE scrolls of muslin fabric with the children’s names and things like grapes, chalices and bread EMBROIDERED on.

“Are those ironed on?” I asked as I quickly checked the back of the fabric.

No, they were actually skillfully and painstakingly embroidered — and definitely not by children. All of these projects were obviously (and lovingly) created by the parents.

Although I am a hands-on parent, I wholeheartedly embrace the idea of kids doing their school projects themselves. I think the goal of these assignments is to worry the parents to death hoping that their children pull it off, as well as to see which parents can control themselves and not do the project for their kids. Apparently at church no one is grading down for too much parental involvement.

In my case, I think my children may be better off without too much help from me. While I have great artistic vision, I have no artistic talent. At the newspapers and magazines where I have worked, I always had photographers, artists and graphic designers to bring my ideas to life. Now, my only resources are a craft basket with scrapbooking scissors, some construction paper, paint and some puffy glue pens. Oh, and I do have the often friendly, and sometimes crafty, sales associates at Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann Fabric as my advisers.

Apparently second grade is when these types of large at-home art projects begin to be assigned. Rose recently completed a large science project for her class at school.

Rose chose Mars for her project. She wrote a lovely report with very little input from us and then drew a blue print, as she called it, for what the art portion would look like. She wanted to depict Earth, Mars, and Jupiter. She wanted to show their orbits and the asteroid field between Mars and Jupiter. We talked about what materials she could use to create her planets. However, when we got to the store there was still some debate.

I say debate, but what I mean is a knock-down, drag-out fight in the Jo-Ann Fabric. We had agreed at home to go with the foam balls for the planets, but then she was a stickler about the balls being proportionally sized to one another. They didn’t have a ball big enough to represent Jupiter so she threw the whole idea of the foam balls out the window.

(While this argument was going on Walsh was shooting the foam balls into bins like basketballs and the baby was grabbing fake flowers out of the next aisle and trying to run off with them.)

Even though I wasn’t doing the work, Rose apparently felt like I was making too many suggestions. She kept saying things like, “Mother, whose project is this?”

She drew free-hand an amazing Earth and did a nice job painting. She did not accept my advice about using the gold puffy pen instead of the pink one for her headline so it was hard to read from a distance. I did help her wire a newspaper Mars to the backdrop but that was the most hands-on I got.

She was very proud of her project so I felt like we succeeded.

Her First Communion project is due in two weeks, and I’m completely paralyzed about how to proceed.

If I don’t do it for her then she might be embarrassed that hers doesn’t look as fancy as the other children’s. On the other hand if I do it for her, I may be embarrassed that it doesn’t look as good as the other children’s (err… I mean parents’.)

I am inclined to stick to my theory that kids need to do these projects themselves. What has she learned if I do the project for her just to compete with the other kids?

She’s learned that her mother cannot embroider.

How much help do you give your kids on large at-home projects? What type of help do you feel is in-bounds? How much help makes it the parent’s project and not the child’s?

You can reach Theresa at ajcmomania@gmail.com. If you have a particular parenting question that you would like to run by our community please send it in. We usually can get feedback very quickly.

38 comments Add your comment

Greg

March 15th, 2009
7:39 pm

Let her do it. It will obviously be done by the child, so I would think the other project makers would be embarrassed by not letting their own child do the work. I much prefer letting my children do the work where possible. However, a lot of the projects they get assigned require some amount of parental involvement because the assignment couldn’t be completed by a child of their age level alone.

deidre_NC

March 15th, 2009
8:02 pm

i agree with greg. im all about helping with the project but ONLY helping. i have helped with ideas and have proof read papers. my parents (dad was a teacher!) never did our work. i never wouldve even thought of asking or expecting them to. they did help tho. these kids whose parents do their projects are gonna be stumped when they get in the real world and no one does their stuff for them. and honestly its pretty obvious in the work place which people are the ones whose parents did all their stuff. they are the ones who never do anything if they can help it. grrr at them!

Penguinmom

March 15th, 2009
10:36 pm

We’ve done a few science fairs and a couple of history type projects. With elementary age, I help with brainstomring and planning. I give suggestions about final board layout and help glue/tape everything down once it’s all laid out the way they want it. I never do their artwork and I try to give suggestions in a way that lets them have freedom to do it differently. My oldest would let me do the whole project if I didn’t back off and force him to make decisions and do the work. My middle has definite ideas about what she thinks it should look like so will listen to suggestions and reject or accept depending on how it fits in with her concept. Youngest hasn’t really done any yet so we’ll see next year how he handles projects.

I think letting her do it herself will create something that she will cherish more. Just because she did it doesn’t mean it will look bad in comparision. Sometimes the simple things are better anyway.

Completing a project yourself is an important skill and Rose will be better prepared in the long run because she has had to come up with and accomplish her own concepts instead of just standing back and taking credit for someone else’s work.

JJ

March 16th, 2009
7:48 am

I have not one artistic bone in my body ( didn’t get THAT gene). Unfortunately my child was on her own when it came to projects. All I could do was watch. I’m horrible in that department.

I can organize and run an office, but I have no clue when it comes to projects and artwork.

momtoAlex&Max

March 16th, 2009
8:07 am

Oh boy, I think I am slightly guilty in that department. I try very hard to just offer guidance, but I slip and sometimes my “suggestions” are more than it’s needed.

The only thing that I can offer in my defence is that I believe that certain projects are way above the child’s level. For instance, 2 years ago my then kindergardener was asked to do a diorama of a jungle. I really didn’t think a 5 year old was capable of even coming up with a simple concept. He did it by himself, but I had to give him a lot of ideas.

Michelle

March 16th, 2009
8:53 am

I believe the kids learn a lot more when they can complete the projects on their own! It helps them to brainstorm and express their creativity! My little guy had to make a leprechaun trap this weekend. He was very excited about doing it too! So…we looked around and tried to find ideas of what to use. We finally found an empty Sprite box (for bottles). When I showed it to him, he said, “Mommy, that’s perfect, look, there’s a door we can shut to trap him!” So, we got some felt, colored pipe cleaners, a shamrock bag, and gold marbles! Then, we got to work. I only helped a little bit. I held the felt while he cut it (and I didn’t go back and trim the edges like I REALLY wanted to!) I put the glue on the box, and he put on the felt. He filled the bag with the gold marbles and glued some into the box for bait! I put the rainbow through the top of the box (because he needed 2 sets of hands) and he put it into the bag. I made the clouds with tissues and put them onto the top, I just made sure they stuck! Then, when it was all done, he decorated the outside with fluffy, glitter covered shamrocks! He was SO thrilled with the outcome. Honestly, I think he did a fine job too! So, he had a project, completed by him with very little input or help from me! He was so proud!!

Sorry for the long explanation! Yes, I think the projects should be done by the kids. If the teachers grade better for the parents doing the job, shame on them! They are NOT helping the kids!

LM

March 16th, 2009
9:51 am

I am very much in favor of letting the child do the project. When AB/DC had to do the First Communion banner, the only thing I helped with was ironing, she did all the designing, cutting and decorating. I don’t feel I am doing her any favor by doing her projects for her, she is now 16 and I feel she is better able to handle the High School work load since she was responsible for her work when she was younger.

However, I will agree. It is hard to see your child’s work up against the work of an adult and know she may feel her work is not as good as her friends, not realizing it was done by the parent.

Off Topic and personal, for the “Old Timers” on this blog, I am getting married.

JJ

March 16th, 2009
10:09 am

They have to do projects for First Communion?

Michelle

March 16th, 2009
10:13 am

Well LM…I don’t know you, but congratulations!! I wish you the best of luck and much happiness!

Becky

March 16th, 2009
10:18 am

LM, congratulations on the upcoming wedding..Yes, I think kids need to do the project on their own..I have a coworker that is great at giving suggestions to her kids without taking over the project…I agree with others that if a parent does all of the work, it does the child no good..I also think that some of the projects that young kids are given today, couldn’t be done without the help of an adult…

JJ

March 16th, 2009
10:38 am

Congrats LM!!!!! When’s the big day? Can we have a blog wedding shower?

Theresa

March 16th, 2009
11:25 am

Congratulations LM – that is wonderful!! I assume you mean remarried??? Maybe we should do a topic on advice for second marriages?? Does the new husband bring any children into the union? Maybe a topic on mothering in blended families??

DB

March 16th, 2009
11:49 am

First off: Congratulations, LM, and best wishes for a lifetime of happiness!

To the topic at hand: Hands off all the way! My assistance usually came in the way of introducing the kids to various materials that they could use that they may not have been aware of, i.e., that cool craft clay that Crayola has is great for modeling and painting, and showing them how to use the materials — not using it for them! Other than that, the modeling, painting and lettering has always been their own. And when they get older, my help was strictly as a proofreader and showing them where on the web they could find cool templates for PowerPoint presentations (Thank GOD the high schoolers use PowerPoint! I have grown to loathe poster board!)

Theresa, in view of Rose’s determination to “do it myself”, I don’t think you’re going to have too many options, here, on the communion banner — she’s going to want to do it herself, and your just going to have to swallow your fears of not living up to the Jones! God doesn’t care if her banner isn’t beautifully embroidered — neither should you. What she should be getting from this project is an opportunity to think about her First Communion, what is important about it, and what it means to her. This is HER banner, not yours. To want to jump in to avoid being embarrassed at CHURCH sorta flies against all the “judge not” stuff we’ve been shoveling at these kids, doesn’t it? Judge not, Theresa — the week after First Communion, no one will remember Rose’s banner but her. Would you rather her remember it with pleasure, or look at it and remember, “Mom didn’t trust me to do it ‘right’”.

Amy

March 16th, 2009
1:31 pm

I agree with the previous posters to let Rose do the project herself. As long as she is able to complete the project on her own and does not ask for your help, I wouldn’t get involved. You don’t want her to think that her communion banner isn’t “as good” as the other children’s whose parents did it themselves. She may like her banner even better than theirs! And you don’t want her to feel like you think she’s not capable of completing the assignment on her own. Sure she would do a better job if you basically did it for her, but I think the other parents were wrong to go as far as they did. And who cares how it looks? As long as Rose is happy with it, that’s all that matters. I think it’s more important to build her self-confidence and independence instead of competing with others.

new mom

March 16th, 2009
1:50 pm

Hi all! First of all, LM, congrats! That is so exciting!

I will join in with the others on letting Rose do the banner herself. Amy put it well, that she will likely prefer hers over those done by her friends’ parents! I never received much advice when it came to projects, other than the feasibilty of what I was wanting to do. And my dad would always cut the backboards for my science projects out of pegboard, so I woudln’t have to use posterboard. But looking back at pictures of those projects now, there was NO doubt that I did them! Crooked lettering, handwritten signs (before the days of computers) etc. And at the time, I thought they looked like a million bucks. And I always got As.

As far as the argument ‘they are assigning projects that are beyond their skill level’, I respectfully disagree. When I was in first grade we were assigned to make shoebox dioramas about our favorite book. I still remember how hard it seemed, but we all did them without the help/interference of our parents. They probaby were the crappiest collection of shoebox dioramas ever! But we weren’t judged against what a middle schooler, high schooler, or adult would do. We were graded on our effort, planning, and cutting and pasting skills of a first grader! So I think that even if the project sounds like it could have been assigned to an older child, the younger one should still approach it themself with their vision and take a swing at it.

JJ

March 16th, 2009
2:11 pm

I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about this kind of stuff anymore.

Off topic, anyone ever applied for financial aid for college? I’m working on the grant application now. They want everything except a blood sample……

motherjanegoose

March 16th, 2009
2:20 pm

congrats LM!!!

Aside from looking for insects to help with my son’s entomology project ( we found 18 out of 90)…LOL…I am hands off when it comes to projects.
Some of the projects turned in by ( parents) students are ridiculous.
I think these parents need to back off and get their own life.

It has always been a sad to me that there are children out there whose parents do not have $50 to spend on a project that will be in the trash by the first of the month, as they have to buy groceries. Also, they may have parents who simply do not have time to spend 12 hours on a project, as they are working 2 jobs. How do you grade a project that is obviously put together by Mama?

I once mentioned previously that I am quite familiar with a 21 year old whose mother wrote an English paper for him and then was mad that he received a B. WHAT?

If you need me to stop by and pick up some yarn, glue or toothpicks…I am in…otherwise, I am not on board.

I did ask my son if he would like to submit my INSECT Cd to the professor for extra credit, as it contains over 20 original insect songs..HE DECLINED …hahaha!

Anyone know what the fastest insect is ( no googling)? I was in at Caribou Coffee shop in Minnesota and this was the trivia question. I walked up to the counter and told them I knew the answer…the clerk said, ” I doubt it but go ahead…” When I answered correctly, he was amazed.
I got $1 off my coffee…LOL!
That was fun!

Meme

March 16th, 2009
2:22 pm

All my students projects are done at school. That way there isn’t a question of who did what.

new mom

March 16th, 2009
2:44 pm

MJG–if the hummingbird is possibly classified as an insect instead of a bird, it could be the fastest insect, it’s pretty insect-like. I am obviously not googling and therefore risking looking stupid :)

new mom

March 16th, 2009
2:49 pm

OK, I cheated and looked it up, hummingbirds are definitely birds. LOL. But I found three different websites that list three different ‘fastest insects’.

Here’s my trivia question: Anyone know what fast food chain invented the drive through?

JJ

March 16th, 2009
3:38 pm

new mom

March 16th, 2009
3:43 pm

Becky

March 16th, 2009
3:54 pm

in & out burgers? I think I saw this on DD & D’s..

LM

March 16th, 2009
3:57 pm

In-n-Out Burgers?

Thanks everyone for the positive thoughts.

The reason that we have finally got to this point: he is being shipped off to Afganistan next months, we just found out last Thursday. It will be a hard adjustment to me married but single at the same time.

**JJ** I really don’t think we need a blog wedding shower but I really appreciate that you thought of it. We have not picked a day yet. Way too much to try to get done before he ships out. Could use some suggestions and ideas on what I could do to make it fun.

Again, thanks to everyone for your positive thoughts

new mom

March 16th, 2009
4:16 pm

Actually it’s Wendy’s :)

LM, we will definitely be thinking about you and your sweetie as you get married and he goes overseas. I can’t imagine how hard of an adjustment that will be…but please thank him for us, for his service for our country, and thank you for supporting him.

Which part were you looking for ideas for, the wedding, or after he leaves? I’m confused…but considering my hummingbird comment, I’m sure that surprises no one.

Becky

March 16th, 2009
4:22 pm

LM, how much time will you have with him after the wedding? I’m sure if you give us more details, we’ll be full of suggestions for you..

LM

March 16th, 2009
4:31 pm

The getting married part. He has never been married and will never get the chance to marry again…lol. So I do want to make it special, but with the limited time I can’t seem to wrap my head around any ideas. Though he does not leave until the middle of April, he will be gone all this week for training, and the next 4 weeks are up in the air. Figuring out marriage stuff is taking a back seat to getting the mountain of legal, financial & logistics worked out. Also was/am trying to get a 4th surgery scheduled for my shoulder. For those who don’t know I was trambled by our horses last year and shattered the shoulder. Once married I will go on his insurance and don’t know if they would even consider care on the shoulder.

uh, my brain is tired just thinking of all that needs to be done.

**Theresa** – He has no children, so a blended marriage is not the issue. Our issues are more the Non-Parent preconceived ideas of how to raise children

DB

March 16th, 2009
4:47 pm

JJ, I hear you on the financial aid forms! People think mortgages are paper-intensive — HAH!

LM: Are you looking for a church wedding or a service outside of a church? That will be the major determining factor. Once you make that decision, the rest tends to fall in place. Keep the reception simple but elegant, only invite people that you love, and stay away from the bridal magazines — it’s just an invitation to spend money on things that ultimately don’t matter! I had the big church wedding when I married, but if I was contemplating a second wedding, I’d be real tempted to do a sunset wedding on top of Stone Mountain, and have small dinner buffet at the Inn for the guests. Assuming, of course, that no one is afraid of heights . . . :-)

new mom

March 16th, 2009
4:50 pm

LM–wow, that is a lot to get done in a short amount of time.

Without knowing what you have in mind, I would suggest keeping it simple and making it special for you and your sweetie. Are there any special places that mean someting for the two of you? It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy to be meaningful or special for you. Not sure that really helps…

Theresa

March 16th, 2009
4:59 pm

LM — that’s still a good topic — we’ll try to hit that one soon!! — I can’t imagine husband going away so soon after getting married and to Afghanistan — that’s tough!! I was going to mention that the Magnolia Tea Room over in the old town of Stone Mountain has been redone for wedding and receptions on site — I’m looking for the new name — can’t remember where I wrote it down

new mom

March 16th, 2009
5:22 pm

I looked it up–it’s “MichaelDavid’s” http://www.michaeldavidsevents.com I went to a bridal shower years ago when it was the Magnolia tea room, what a pretty location!

Theresa

March 16th, 2009
5:29 pm

thank you new mom!! trying a new dish tonight — a quickie paella — we’ll see

motherjanegoose

March 16th, 2009
7:26 pm

NEWMOM….you and my husband need to get together…he also guessed humming BIRD and the kids and I had a great laugh about it. Did anyone know the correct answer? It is the dragonfly.

I love the trivia and did NOT know about Wendy’s. Maybe someone could share a trivia question each day to get us thinking. We have played TRIVIA night at some restaurants and when my son is with us…we are winners….LOL! My husband gets all proud of the fact and he rarely knows the answers….it is riot.
Financial aid is a waste of time for me…I must not know the correct answers because our son never gets much at all. We have saved money for years and that hurts us. I remember one form came back to say we could contribute $30,000 for one year…hello? I am just happy for the HOPE and that we have a son who works…
My husband and I were married and immediately relocated 800 miles away, where I knew NO ONE and then he went on Naval detachments for 2-3 week stints…it was tough…plus we lived on $25,000 per year….yikes! Good luck to you LM.

new mom

March 16th, 2009
7:44 pm

I’m glad my hummingbird comment was entertaining! I was thinking it could be a trick question, like how a tomato is really a fruit :)

I also love trivia (shhh, jeopardy! is on!) and like the idea of a daily trivia question. We love to go to trivia w/ friends, and are currently on a streak. Our winnings pay for a tableful of appetizers for everyone for the next game!

OT - First Fast Food Drive Through

March 17th, 2009
7:06 am

OT - Not Wendy's

March 17th, 2009
8:46 am

The great thing about trivia is the debate it sparks. In-N-Out claims to have implemented their first drive through window in 1948. A sandwich shop called Maid-Rite allegedly had a drive through window in 1927. Wendy’s didn’t even exist until 1969.

Here are the sources for the above. These are internet sources, so take them for what they are worth. I would like to see the source for Wendy’s being the first drive through.

Source:
http://www.wisegeek.com/when-was-the-first-drive-thru-restaurant-created.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drive-through

Kat

March 17th, 2009
9:14 am

Just like new mom, I love to play Team Trivia – but I HATE it when other teams cheat – they are right there looking up the answers on their phones. ARGH – so annoying. As far as a simple wedding, hold it at a non-meal time – such as 2 pm or so. And the invite would say cake and punch will be served or something like that, so no one is expecting to chow down.

LM

March 17th, 2009
9:36 am

Thanks all.

I like the ideas and suggestions, will talk to him and see if he thinks we could do any of them. Time is not our friend right now, so we both feel our focus should be on the bigger issues we need to get done before he leaves. It doesn’t help he is gone this week.