Project - The New 4-Letter Word

So, it’s seven letters … that’s just a technicality for what has become cause for “bad attitudes and filthy mouths.” Mind you, I’m talking about me – not the kid.

Let me back up … On July 26th, my son began the dreaded 4th grade with so-called endless homework and incessant projects. I pretty much wrote off the worry mongers, content in knowing that my son is a great student, who likes school and rarely complains about homework. That’s him – not me.

And, certainly not me last week. Last week, he put the final touches on his first book report project (p-r-o-j-e-c-t). All total, this biography book report project took 8 hours. He transformed a coffee can into the likeness of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, designed five creative fact cards, and completed a timeline and book report Q&A. Of course, this didn’t even include reading the book.


Rewind … he’s in 4th grade. Also, this project didn’t just take him 8 hours … it took me 8 hours too.

“Why me?” you ask. There are those parents who say that they don’t help, but I don’t believe them – not one of them.

I had to help with the glue gun and locate crafty items tucked in the recesses of closets from last year. There was the trip to Michael’s Craft Store. Of course, there was the endless time management and question asking. Him asking, “What do you think of this, Mom?” or “Where’s that the thing that I don’t remember the name to, but remember seeing last month?” Then, there is me saying, “Are you spending too much time on that? What’s next? Stop picking the glue from your finger tips and start writing!”

Plus, to keep him moving forward, I served as his personal cleanup crew – washing paint brushes, picking up trash, vacuuming googley eyes, scrapping glue off my table. My kitchen could have easily been mistaken for a “Hoarders” episode. Then, there was the constant redirecting of his 5YO sister out of the paints and away from glue gun. (For the record, she didn’t want to use the washable paints on paper. No, she wanted permanent paints and a can to boot. Imagine the crying. Note to self – buy two Yuban tins next time.)

I know that I should embrace the “project.” Yet, I find homework to be a constant time suck and I’m becoming a little resentful about my lack of free time, work time, cleaning time, any time. Gone are the weekday afternoons for riding bikes and running through the sprinklers. There’s no time.

So, after nearly a full week of project preparation, I was downright annoyed by the time it was finished. Really, what is the goal? From my perspective, it feels like were breeding perfectionists.
The rubric, which is the new-fangled term for a grading sheet, scored each element of the project, including “Every word is spelled correctly.” Every! We try hard not to use “always” and “never” and it seems to me “every” falls into that camp too.

Again, it is 4th grade and the only way there will be no errors, is if mama gets involved. And, who decided that any margin of error is bad? I think most innovators would say they failed long before they succeeded.

Ironically, the rubric included a misspelled word. HA! My son and I shared a secret chuckle on that one. More importantly, I could use it as a perfect example of how no one is perfect – not “every” teacher and certainly not mama.


I love the critical and creative thinking that a project can encourage. I hate that it takes up an excessive amount of time to complete, requires a parent’s full-time attention and breeds perfectionism.

My son’s project was brilliant … super smart … lots of fun. One could say, “perfect” right down to the splattered mud on Steve Irwin’s shirt, hair and face. I did spy a couple errors in his writing prompts and suggested that he re-read the copy. He didn’t see them. Oh, how I wanted to show him. (Yeah, right … who’s the perfectionist?) Instead, I decided to let him roll with it and actually learn from his mistakes. It is, after all, his project.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michele,
    I'm right there with you, though I don't think parents should "embrace" this nonsense, I think we should rebel. So much homework has no value, and like you, I can't get anything done once the kids are home in the afternoon, not even laundry, because I'm too busy being the Project Manager.

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