Why We Hate (Doing) Our Kids' School Projects

Don't D101 teachers understand our children can't drive themselves to the craft store?

I’m a parent who sends her kids to school with 100 percent child-completed projects.

OK, that is a bald-faced lie. Any parent that makes that claim without at least one hand on a Bible is also guilty of lying through their pearly veneered whites.

Any parent that also would smile and claim they enjoy helping their kids with school projects either 1) has a well-worn straight jacket in their closet or 2) lives in a facility where a person in a white coat buzzes visitors in and out.

As a self-proclaimed truth-teller, I will share what most moms and dads think, but won’t admit: 1) it’s easier to translate the Bhagavad Gita into to Swahili than successfully solve a first-grade Everyday Match problem 2) trying to turn a 2-liter soda bottle into a historical human Replicant is just unnatural (4th grade biography bottle project), and 3) an American Girl doll would have a better shot at getting an unassisted “A” for the fifth-grade wax museum project than a human child.

There I said it.

Fortunately, my children are pretty self-sufficient, but a lack of supervision has its own inherent problems. For example, my son chose WWII hero John Basilone for his “biography bottle” project. He was the creative force behind the project, but I had to do the legwork.

We had a soda bottle, but procuring the Styrofoam head required an inconvenient trip to JoAnn Fabrics. I stood in front of those darn balls for 20 minutes deciding which size would be proportional to a body that once emptied into a tumbler of Scotch. Undecided, I bought 2 sizes. I also found a bonus—camouflage paper to make his little bottle uniform to keep his tiny plastic body warm.

When I brought the craft items home, it was clear the smaller Styrofoam ball was the better choice, and the larger one was perfect for a helmet. My husband somehow "ice-cream scooped" the larger piece to fit over the smaller one. I am not sure which power tool one uses for that, but somehow it worked and no one was hurt in the process.

The next day, I caught my son suspiciously looking for carpet cleaner. He had started clothing poor Mr. Basilone when my son turned all “Calvin Klein” and decided on a wardrobe change. “Mom, the camo paper you bought looks too German,” he said, “I had to make my own camouflage, and I got some chalk on the carpet.” “Some chalk” was a black stain the size of Vermont. It took three tries and two chemicals to get it out—but we got an “A” on the project.

We got an “A."

cuban pete March 21, 2011 at 11:58 PM
I know your article was intended to be humorous and it was but I have a son and a daughter-in-law who teach at both ends of the economic spectrum and their stories are legion about the parental indifference. Your kids are blessed to have your involvement. So you earned your "A" in more ways than one. All the best, cuban pete
Paulette Delcourt March 22, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Thanks Cuban Pete, but I think we all "go there" somewhat kicking and screaming (silently).
Julie Farrell March 28, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Paulette, it's a great spin you've put on this issue. I'm (obviously) not in the same district, so I know nothing about the specific projects you're referring to. I will, however, tell you that the only thing I do for my kids' school projects (aside from the ocassional assistance with glitter glue when they were younger) is to purchase, or help them gather, any necessary items and answer questions. They always come with me when purchasing is necessary and choose their own items, within a reasonable price range. I think I assisted in a Native American diorama that had some physics issues once, my daughter couldn't figure out how to keep their rolled paper bodies standing up under the weight of their uncooked garbanzo bean heads. It's really a minimal contribution, though. I'm always overseeing and guiding, but the physical stuff is entirely up to them.
Paulette Delcourt March 28, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Garbanzo bean heads? We just CAN'T make this stuff up! Thanks for your comments Julie!
Annie Roso February 11, 2013 at 04:43 AM
I (I mean we) just made a Thomas Jefferson version of this bottle project for my son's second grade class. Of course it looks more like a Puritan muppet than TJ, but we do our best. Thanks for the giggle!


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