Saturday, November 23, 2013

Project: Make Parents Crazy

I like my kids' teachers--really, I do--but their habit of assigning projects to be done at home is driving me absolutely nuts.

Now, it's at least borderline reasonable for Thing One.  He's more or less old enough and responsible enough to tackle projects at home on his own.  But the other two??  Fuhgeddaboutit.  There's no way. I'm not even talking about the obtaining materials part--the ability to sit down and independently work through an assignment generally just isn't there for younger kids.  In which case, what you are actually assessing, as a teacher, is how involved and educated your students' parents are, how well they speak English and how much free time they have.  An undertaking of questionable value, hmm??

Petunia (who, it will be remembered, is a first grader) came home Thursday with a sheet indicating that she had to bring in a homemade Mayflower--as in the boat--for seaworthiness testing on Monday.  You tell me what six year-old can do that alone!  Thing One's current project requires him to go for a walk in the woods, collect natural materials, build a bird's nest out of them and fill in a sheet about the nest.  (Thing Two was blessedly project-free this weekend.)

In an effort to be efficient, tomorrow being a busy day, Himself and I developed the following plan for today:

1) I take Thing Two and Petunia to basketball practice (they play, I coach.)  He stays home with Thing One, who works on homework and piano.

2) He takes Thing Two and Petunia to soccer practice.  I go home and put the second coat of paint on the dining room walls. 

3) He comes home, drops off the younger two, grabs Thing One and drops him off at basketball practice, then comes home to work on the Mayflower project with Petunia.

4) Painting done, I collect Thing One from basketball and take him directly to walk in the woods to collect his raw materials.  (Of course, it being us, we do this while picking up a series of nine geocaches in a nearby park...can you say multitasking?? )

5) We get home at 5PM and shower off the poison ivy oils.  I make dinner, clean up, and collapse in front of the TV with the (DVRed) Notre Dame football game from the afternoon.  

The actual building of the nest will have to wait until tomorrow...we'll see if he can do it without help.  If he can't, maybe it shouldn't have been an assignment for home.  I'm sure I could make a kick-ass nest, but then, I'm not the one being graded on it, so I shouldn't be doing the work!


  1. Step away from that nest, woman! :)

    Holy moley - that Mayflower project is insane. My guess about the nest project is part of the purpose is to make the kids understand how difficult it is to make a good nest and to better appreciate the engineering. So it's ok if his isn't perfect. And you can quote me on that. :)

  2. My hands are off. Believe me. I passed fifth grade a long time ago and have no desire to go back. ;)

  3. I would almost rather do a project than a book report. I can glue stuff with no problem but explaining sentence structure and grammar? I just want to shoot myself.

  4. Ameena: for some reason, our school doesn't seem to assign many book reports, for which I am profoundly grateful!!

  5. Because book reports really kill the joy of reading! So do reading logs, which I assigned with wild abandon because I didn't know better. I'm a killer of joy.

  6. Oh, I HATE reading logs...the kids have to do them at our school every week from grades K-2 (maybe 3, can't remember). Great way to take something that the kids otherwise might actually want to do for fun and make it homework and therefore much less appealing. All three of my kids read like champs and read every night before bed anyway, but they still have to do the damned logs (and I have to keep track of exactly what they've read!) Growl.

    1. Yes. To all my former student, I AM SOOOOOO SORRY.

      The problem is that at least 85% of my students did NOT read on their own, didn't really have access to books, etc. So by making it homework, I was pushing the parents into taking some responsibility for that.

      I had one bitchy parent about it because her daughter read like a crazed woman (she was one of the most awesome people I've ever known, though her mom was a work), and we negotiated a compromise. Her mother didn't want to sign off on her log at all, and I was like "Seriously? You can't just do that?" Sigh.

      Back to the 85%, my first year teaching I had a really bright kid who could be convinced to read and he really took to it, but he refused to ever read outside the classroom. "Take it home. You know you want to finish it." "I can't. The little kids will ruin it." "Put it in your room." "I don't have a room." "Where do you sleep?" "In the bathtub."

      he wasn't exaggerating. I went to his house a couple of times and it was complete and total chaos with five times more people living in that tiny space than should be legal. And they were one of the most well-off families in the village.

      Sadly, he's in prison now for a long time for attempted rape of a minor. I guess he has plenty of time to read now.

      Do any of my stories have happy endings?

  7. You have some crazy stories, for sure. I think one of your next posts should be one that does have a happy ending!

    I get that a lot of kids don't read on their own and that kids in this age group need to practice their reading. I really do. And I don't want to be that mom in there saying, "Look, you know my kids can read well. Do we really have to do this??" But I do think it, and regularly. ;)

    1. A lot of kids just don't even have access to reading materials. :(

      I don't know many happy endings ... and I'm afraid if I think something's a happy ending then there will be some elaborate plot twist that undermines the happiness.

    2. I know the mindset...I fight it myself as well. A thinker's curse?

    3. Maybe. But I think it's just the realities I've seen. Like the kid who's in prison now - I thought we had a happy ending because he did really well in my classes. But there's always something more, and when kids are coming from difficult lives, the challenges just don't seem to stop coming at them. Of course he made the wrong choice to try to rape a minor, but he was strung out and she was 16 years old, not 6. If his life wasn't so full of stress, he could have handled it better and been less likely to be a violent addict.

      Just one of thousands of stories I've gotten front row seats to.

    4. That's a shame, but almost to be expected given your professional choices? You seem to make a point of going where the most expire me challenges are, so I guess it's not too surprising that they find you. :(

    5. That would be 'extreme' challenges...damned autocorrect.

  8. Yeah, i don't like to shield myself from realities. Just because I turn away doesn't change situations, so I should do what I can to improve the little I can.

    Today? Shouting at my boss that they have to FIRE the police officer who keeps committing assault and battery. And then tracking down a crime victim by Facebook and getting her buy-in to prosecution and testimony even from thousands of miles away (I'll try to convince the judge to let us Skype her testimony). The little bits I can do, but they still don't make for happy endings.

  9. Hope you feel at least a little bit proud of yourself when you look in the mirror. You should. Even a small difference made is better than none at all.

  10. thanks, friend. And fortunately, not many mirrors around here. ;)


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