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?
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