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Monday, March 19, 2012

Science Fair Projects and Leprechaun Traps

I am a horrible mother.

I am one of those moms who think that if my child is assigned a project, he or she should probably be the person who completes the projects.

Crazy, isn't it?

My thought process behind this is the following:
1) I have already graduated school.
2) There is probably a reason they are given the assignment.

Oh yeah, and I have nasty memories of B and C students winning the science fair each year with projects they CLEARLY did not do.  So I harbor a little anger about that.  I also throw in girl scouts, boy scouts (yes, I was an actual boy scout) and 4-H as other areas that I would shake my head and think "There is no freaking way he did that..."  In fact, in 6th grade, I went around and asked kids questions about their projects-- questions that were on their tri-fold boards- and snarkily prided myself on the fact that they had no clue what the basic science concepts were that they had so wonderfully depicted for their projects.

Amazing I wasn't more popular...

Anyhow, so the time has come for my children to be given these tasks.  Last week were the leprechaun traps and this week are the science fair projects.

My daughter is in kindergarten.  She has difficulty finishing a meal, let alone designing and making a trap to catch imaginary creatures.  I appreciate the project- it's a fun task for us to do together.  I actually asked my son, Skip, to help her.  He's a future engineer and loves this sort of thing.  They also have been fighting like cats and dogs and I thought it was a great opportunity for them to work together.  I also was very tired from work and not feeling particularly creative.

So they did it. I helped very little.  It was cute. It is also looked like they had done it.

The traps that showed up, however, clearly were nice parent projects.  Not all, but most.  I think the kids may have signed their names  They were elaborate and fancy. They were not done by 6 year olds.  My daughter noticed.  I told her to be very proud-- she did hers all by herself.  She didn't look too particularly proud.  She looked annoyed that I hadn't stayed up until midnight designing the ultimate trap.

Oh well.

Then it's science fair.  Neither Skip or Zoe have to do a project.  It's optional until 4th or 5th grade.  They like science.  It seems like a good exercise.  And as my son, who did a fantastic 6 week project comparing tap water versus Brita filtered water to grow a bean plant (surprisingly, the tap water grew a much better plant) learned last year, I absolutely, positively will not "do" the display board.  I will help.  I will offer typing and spell check.  I will not do it.  And if I say "Mommy has to go out of town so we have to have it done by Friday" I mean we have to have it done by Friday.  After all his hard work, he did not turn in a display board.  There were tears.  Especially when we still went to Science Night and he didn't get a ribbon.

Oh well.

This year, he got it done.  A little later than I would have liked, but part of that was my fault this year.  And yes, I had to stay on them both to finish.  Well, actually not my daughter.  Her board looks AMAZING.  No kidding.  Better than anything I could have dreamed up.  Give her a blank palette and she creates art.  I don't know if she really understands why the white flowers turned colors after putting them in colored water, but she's at least got a general idea that the stem works like a straw.  My son put Mentos into soda.  Warm soda does explode more than cold soda.  We think.  We really didn't have a good way to measure.  But that was part of the process.

So the boards are done.  They learned a little something.  I helped a little bit.  But it is theirs.

And when they take them to school there will probably be some that are fantastic and done by parents- although I have to say, my daughter's really blew me away-- but hopefully my kids will have the confidence that they can complete a project. 

I've always wondered what happened to the kids whose parents did their projects.  Some I know washed out before high school.  Some bailed in college.  Some are completely fine.  But I wonder if the ones who barely got through high school might have been better off if they had learned, as my son did last year, that there are consequences for not doing your work?   Did their parents help actually undermine their confidence by making them think that their work wasn't good enough?  Did the kids appreciate the parents help? 

And even sadder- half the kids will have crap because their parents didn't care at all.  Or didn't read the newsletters and even know there was a project.

It seems like a fine line- overparenting, underparenting-- it's a crap shoot in some ways.

Every day I feel like I'm walking a fine line- too strict- too lenient- too hovering- too disconnected. 

But I will never do my kids' homework.  I may be the meanest mom in the world, but I'm okay with that.

And some day I hope they appreciate it.


Sarah said...

I'm glad I'm not the only mom that refuses to do her children's projects for them . My oldest is a procrastinator , she spends a lot of time in doors completing tasks that she didn't bring home to do or rushed to get done because of it . She has gotten better this year because , as it turns out she doesn't like missing recess :-) I also really dislike the fundraisers one right after the other that the "kids" are supposed to be selling .

Mary said...

Cub Scout bake off at Christmas many years ago. Eight year olds bring gingerbread condos. My twins brought blobs of chocolate with chow mein noodles and peanuts dropped on wax paper. They called them chow mein chewies and won first prize. I think they won because the judges realized they were the only participants who actually made their entry. They still talk about their joint victory and my sons have told me they find themselves teaching their children the same lessons I tried to teach them.

Anonymous said...

Good for you. Remember when we did our science project together in the 5th grade-hot air balloons!

Mama Bean said...

I absolutely remember our project!!! And we did every single stinking thing on our own and got an A... even if we didn't win the big prize!!!

Anonymous said...

We went to the library for a couple of Saturdays and worked...Even took our lunch and ate outside. It was fun. Meghan has NEVER done a science fair project!

Norma said...

I err on the side of under-parenting whenever an act does not involve physical danger.