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Author Topic: Question about childrens school projects.  (Read 11865 times)

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Question about childrens school projects.
« on: January 17, 2013, 10:36:27 AM »
Just out of curiosity, how much help do you give your child on school projects? If you don't have children, how much help did you receive from your parents on school projects?

My son is 12. I was helping him with a science project last night. The work is his, but I help with gluing things, coloring things, etc... Because I hate school work so much, I say "I'm pretty sure the other moms aren't doing this" and my DS responds with "I'm pretty sure they are". We say this during every project. So, I finally decided to ask.

I don't ever remember my parents helping me with school projects, but I also don't remember having any school projects. I'm sure I did, I just cant remember any.

Also, how much help is too much? He prefers my handwriting over his. If I write out the title of his project on the poster board or if I decorate the poster board, is that too much help?


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2013, 10:41:54 AM »
My parents helped a little bit, IIRC, but there were some students in every class whose whole project was obviously done by the parents.

I don't think helping with lettering/decoration is too much, but if you don't want to do it, you're also perfectly within your rights to tell him to do it himself.


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2013, 10:45:03 AM »
First of all, I don't have kids, so what do I know?

But if I did, I think I would provide help if it doesn't interfere with what the child is supposed to be learning. So, if it's making a fort of 10,000 popsicle sticks, I might help assemble the sticks, as delegated labour. But the design of the fort should be the child's.

For the handwriting, it might be a good idea to find out why the child likes your writing better, and if he can learn to do lettering that looks as good to him.
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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2013, 10:48:33 AM »
We helped very, very little. We would take the kids to the store and buy supplies for them, and they could bounce ideas off us, but they got no actual work out of us. 
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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2013, 10:49:09 AM »
I think it really depends on the family and the school system.

I'm 23/24. My parents rarely helped me with school projects past primary school (11). Even then, it was generally more of the "look in this book" or "more words, fewer pictures" sort of help than actually doing any of the work for me.

On the other hand, my cousin is now 15. Ever since I can remember, her school projects have been a team effort between her and her mother. Her older brother (now 19), was the same. I don't think my aunt actually does the research or comes up with the wording of things, but I've seen her do a lot of the writing and the cutting/sticking and the general presentation of things. From what I can tell of their school (I did some classroom observation there), this seems to be the norm.

In your case, you sound a lot like my aunt. I'm sure you aren't the only mother/parent at your son's school helping out. Don't worry about it! I think so long as the actual "work" of the project (the research, the wording, the placement of text/pictures/diagrams etc.) is done by your son, that's more important than the aesthetics of the presentation.


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2013, 11:05:56 AM »
The two times I can recall my dad really helping were when I had to write a rap song about the Civil War (which was hilarious, because neither of us had ever listened to it- he helped me rhyme things) and when I did a science fair project in Jr high of blocks of cake demonstrating geological structures- dad suggested it and helped me assemble it. Otherwise, I might ask for help with a math problem but that was it.
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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2013, 11:12:25 AM »
I only helped my kids on one thing which I'll get to in a minute*. But as a matter of principle, all work was their own. Including not-so-neat handwriting, messy gluing, etc. And yes, many parents do quite a lot of work for their kids which I find abhorent. My sons both thanked me for NOT doing their work for them (later when they got older) because they recognized that it meant they had to learn not only to figure out the project themselves, but also to fend for themselves even when it was hard or time consuming.

I remember one science fair when my son was in elementary school where the mother of the first place winner was all excited, sing-songing, "We won! We won!" Hmmmm... We? Based on her jubilation, I'm guessing it was mostly she who did the work, as evidenced by the fact that her daughter was exhibiting much less enthusiasm. She didn't look like she cared one way or the other!

People think they are doing their kids a favor by doing the work for them but it is really a disservice and I'll give a couple of examples of experiences I've had where this was highlighted.

I used to be a Girl Scout leader (way back before I had kids) and at a multi-troop event, each troop was supposed to bring a girl-made troop banner which would be judged for prizes. I insisted my girls do the entire thing, from brainstorming for ideas to designing to figuring out supplies needed, to putting it together. It was 100% their project. The only thing we leaders did was provide transportation to the store and normal supervision.

When we got to the event, their banner stood out among the others as very girl-made. The other banners looked so professionally done and it was clear adults had helped. My girls were pretty dejected. "Look at how much better those look than ours!" I told them, yeah, but you did yours, they didn't. And no matter what happens, you can always be proud of your ideas and your hard work. Well, guess, what? My girls took first place. Thank you judges!!! Those girls worked hard and their work paid off!

Later, when my son was a cub scout, I was a leader for his den. In first year cub scouts, one parent always has to accompany their son to the meetings. One mother never let her son do anything. She did every project for him. All the other kids did their own thing but her son was just stuck sitting there watching mom do things. I tried to encourage her to let him try, to no avail. Not surprisingly, they dropped out of scouts fairly quickly. The reason? The son wasn't having fun, he was bored. Hmmmmm... really?

Back to your question, I do have one suggestion regarding the handwriting. If he doesn't like his handwriting, why not do the lettering on the computer? Does it have to be handwritten?

*The one thing I did help them with, in the end, was science fair projects. Only because they had to do them year after year and it got to the point where it was an exercise in futility as they were required to submit a project, it wasn't for a grade, and neither of them had any interest in the science fair. The whole science fair experience was just so negative for them and for the whole family really, that I just wanted it over with and so did they. It was the one exception to the rule. And believe me, my help was never going to get them a first place ribbon!


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2013, 11:28:30 AM »
We tried to not doing anything they could have done themselves if they had started earlier.

However, I would make occasionally exceptions if they had a particulary busy week.  I'd help with things like doing precision cutting, or retyping a paper (I type really fast and it is painful for me to watch slow typers), I might give input on a project board layout(but to me that is the same as proof reading a paper). If they were looking for pictures on the internet, I might do the searching for them and then print them.  Oh, and they always seemed to have at least one teacher every year who would want them to do a "All about me" poster the first few weeks of school.  So I'd help them go through photo albums to pick out photos and then I'd scan copies for them because otherwise they'd take my originals from our photo albums.

But really past 5th grade, I don't remember helping with much of their projects.  In my experience, about half the parents were doing a lot more than we were in helping out with project assignments. 

A little off topic, but I always thought it was funny.  My DH's cousin taught 4th grade at an upscale private school for one year. She was frustrated that so many of the parents did the kid's projects. She said she tried talking to the parents but didn't get any change. So at the end of the year she sent a "parent report card" home to the overzelous parents. She said she was glad she had already turned in her resignation and was leaving teaching because her principal was not amused. 


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2013, 11:29:15 AM »
We have 3 children in school right now - 2 elementary, 1 middle school - plus a preschooler. Each child has one large project each year, and then maybe two or three small ones. My attitude has always been that these are their projects, and they need to do the bulk of the work so that they understand the concepts the teacher is expecting them to master. Plus, there's almost always some kind of oral presentation where the kid shows the class their finished project and explains it. I think it's easier for them to explain it when they've been in charge of the project. Finally, I have enough to do keeping up a house for 6 people; school projects are not my priority (theirs, yes, but not mine).

Parent help has usually consisted of purchasing supplies, acting as a sounding board for ideas, and helping with the use of any tools the child isn't able to use on their own (utility knife, glue gun, etc). I have occasionally helped with broad stroke painting or basic model construction, but always using the child's design. All writing is their own, but I will provide editing and proof-reading services.

We are fortunate in that the culture at our school is such that most parents work this way as well. Student projects are student projects, and look like student projects. :)

Oh, and in answer to your question about the handwriting: what about having him type up the title or whatever on the computer and print them out? We often use that method, especially for small parts that need to be labeled when the child's writing is still large and uneven.

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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2013, 11:34:58 AM »
I hate school projects, because even if I do help, my kids' work is never as nice as the crafty moms' work.

However, one time I came upon my daughter freaking out over a Power Point presentation.  She was probably in the fourth or fifth grade.  She knew what she wanted to say.  She knew how to do Power Point.  But her brain simply couldn't put the two together.  I took over typing and let her dictate the slides to me.  We were done in five minutes.  The problem has never come up again.  It's like her brain made the connection and it's stuck.  But in that case, I'm glad I stepped in.


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2013, 11:36:26 AM »
My nephew was working on a math project that had a very obtuse set of rules, and I walked him through that, step-by-step.  He did all the adding/subtracting, but if he made an error based on the ridiculous rules in the project, I'd point it out right away so little errors wouldn't compound later.

I also set up an Excel spreadsheet for him to enter the data as he worked it out.

By the time I got to high school, I stopped letting my parents help with a lot of my projects because I actually enjoyed the process of problem-solving and figuring out how to get something to work.

Of course, any time I had a school project that required some sort of moving part, I had my Legos to assist me.


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2013, 11:38:37 AM »
My kids are too young (plus we homeschool) to answer this in regards my children.  But as a kid, when I was in elementary school, my parents would set me up with something.  Like, they'd help me find the markers and glue and whatever.  BI don't know if they'd give me any helpin regards how to spell things, etc.  When I got older, they might help set me up with a word processor and an appropriate font, that sort of thing.  But they wouldn't actually color in parts of my sign, write words on it (past the point when I could basically write the words myself), glue things on, etc.
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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2013, 11:46:49 AM »
My parents usually didn't help with my projects other than buying supplies. The exception was 4th grade, when I hated my teacher (the feeling was mutual) and therefore decided not to expend much effort in her class. Amid lecturing of the "you're cutting off your nose to spite your face!" variety, my parents ended up doing one of my major projects. (IIRC they were a bit insulted by the grade they got.  ;)) In retrospect, I don't know why they bothered. A few Cs in 4th grade wouldn't have had much impact in the long run.
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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2013, 11:55:20 AM »
I'm not planning on helping that much when they get to that stage.  I'll help to study, but they need to do the work.  If they don't like their handwriting, get stencils or something so they're still the one doing the work.


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Re: Question about childrens school projects.
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2013, 11:56:34 AM »
My kids would like for me to help more but I don't.  I instead give suggestions or provide links for them to find the answer.  Or I tell them to google other similar projects to get ideas on style etc. (but I monitor to make sure they don't copy it and they don't)
As for assembling, I am hands off but in the room and will answer specific questions like, "Is this better here or there?"  Not, "Where should this go?"  I can't stand it when I see facebook statuses or hear how they worked on it all night long to get it done or that they had to do most of the work so the kid wouldn't fail etc.  I say let them fail!
ETA actually I remembered dd's last few projects had to be printed commercially since our printer broke.  I did help her with formatting one project to fit the Printing Place's guidelines. (changing the fonts)  Kid was at school and was due the next day when I got the email back from the printing place about the font.  And just doing that I felt wrong. lol
« Last Edit: January 17, 2013, 12:01:10 PM by Zilla »