Family / Kids / Parenting / School

School Project Hell for Hands-On Parents

I don’t recall having homework until about 5th or 6th grade.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have homework before then, but I have no recollection of it.  Whenever I did have homework, I completed all my assignments on my own.  By myself.  Without assistance.  Was I an academic genius?  I am quite certain you can answer that question without my having to confess my mediocrity.  Back then, in my day, when the word DIGITAL referred to alarm clocks not an AGE, homework was sporadic, not very difficult, and age-appropriate.  On the rare occasion, I asked my mother to help me diagram a sentence or two.


When I hit high school, I required my father’s help in chemistry, and I will admit that there was a particular project about the environment that my mother completed.  She went to the library, researched articles, and copied images for me.  Fast forward, my mother has a library science degree.  Just to say that it was her pleasure to do this project.  Projects are not my pleasure, however.

Last month, Asher’s class studied the human body.  At the end of the unit, students were to design and create one of the body systems they studied on a t-shirt or brown paper bag that they could model in class.

Deborah:  Gabriella, I know I’m the homework Mom, but I need you to own this project.

Gabriella:  Ok.

Deborah:  And by own, I mean, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

Gabriella:  Fine.

Deborah:  I mean, I can’t search for references or shop for materials.

Gabriella:  I’ll do it, Deborah.

Deborah:  Ok, and I don’t want to have to be the deadline police.   You can’t leave something like this until the last minute, you know.

Gabriella nodded so as to prevent herself from replying in a patronizing or disrespectful tone.

Deborah:  I know what’s going to happen.  We’ll be up until 3AM the night before it’s due trying to glue or staple or sew crap together for this project he can’t do by himself, and I’ll have a breakdown comparing myself to my mother who was an amateur costume designer and artist and whose Halloween costumes were the talk of the town!  And while I may have grand visions of blind stitches and soft sculpture and interactive engineering, I don’t have the skills to implement what’s in my head, which will result in feelings of frustration and failure that bring me back to the days when my mother forced me to learn how to sew, and I hated every minute of it, and my blouses looked nothing like the blouses on the Butterick pattern envelopes, and I was forced to walk the streets wearing these horrific DIY shmatas that no loving mother would have allowed her already-awkward child to wear in public let alone… can i buy gabapentin in spain MIDDLE SCHOOL!!

Gabriella:  Deborah, we’re done here.  I’ll take care of it.

Deborah:  Fine.  Good.  I shall not mention it again.  Thank you.

Asher selected the Muscular System. Gabriella provided the t-shirt, fabric markers and images printed from the Internet.  The weekend before the Tuesday deadline, they colored and labeled, and I had nothing to do with it.

The night before the project was due, I unearthed the instructions that had been stuck between papers awaiting filing.  My cross to bear in life is that I want to be an organized person.  I could walk the aisles of Staples for hours imagining my organized, color-coded life with my Robin’s Egg blue, Martha Stewart accessories,


but no matter my intentions, I have been cursed with a genetic predisposition to piles, as in paper, not hemorrhoids.  Let’s stay out of anuses for now…

Upon reading the assignment one last time before turning in his project, I realized that I had forgotten or ignored the part that instructed students to “make their systems 3-dimensional using household, recycled objects.”

Clacton-on-Sea DOH!! 

Well hello, Self-Sabotage!  Come on in.  Take off your jacket and stay awhile.  Why don’t you have a seat while I realize my fears and stare inadequacy in the face?

Asher and I did our best to fix the job I had poorly managed.  We completed the project together as pictured here with a hint of soft-sculpture and a modicum of paint.  Asher’s favorite part?  Using the label maker.  Ah, genes!


During Parent Teacher conferences last week, I waited outside Asher’s classroom marveling at all body systems displayed on the hallway walls.

“What a wonderful job all the parents did,” I said as the teachers greeted me.  They laughed validating my suspicions that we were not the only parents to do more than their share.

At least we managed to stay out of anuses…unlike some!




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  1. Sew n Sew

    • Yes, my mother’s venture into retail was probably not the best example of her talents, and I’m still traumatized by the experience of peddling her wares at work. Thanks for the memories! Did you ever buy a Sew n Sew tie??

  2. Stitch Witch is ma bitch, yo.

  3. You are giving me flashbacks to the kindergarten science fair a couple years back. I did my darnedest to make my kid really take charge of it. As a result, it was a modest display compared to the parent-done ones. I think at least the science teacher appreciated it, though.

    What’s more work, doing it yourself or getting your kid to do it? The question for the ages…

  4. I don’t know why they have this crazy kindergarten science fair. Most of the projects were A) completely done by parents (go figure) and B) not really experiments.

    I was proud to have made Nat’s follow scientific method, with a question, hypothesis, experiment/data and conclusion.

    It was: which is best to make a seed sprout, no water, water once a day, or water several times a day?

    I skewed the results, too, because all three sprouted just fine. But I made Nat do the planting, watering, and writing up of the report…

    It was all pretty silly, though.

  5. I am blessed with my oldest who will willing do his home work before he goes out side. He is in the first grade and I hope this keeps up. My other two are a totally different story. I am dreading school projects.

    • Rest assured, Danette. You have an understanding support group right here when that day comes. Until then, enjoy your academically responsible first-grader. Perhaps he will fill in for you when the other two are of school project age. Keep hope alive!

  6. We don’t even have kids yet, but I already dread school projects. Just reading this gave me flashbacks to arguments with my mother over the latest diorama disaster, science fair debacle, or worse–the “California Mission” monstrosity.

    • So sorry for the flashbacks, Molly!! Get a paper bag and do some deep breathing in it. I’m right there with you. There’s a reason diorama sounds like diarrhea. They get you running scared. Perhaps your unborn child(ren) will be school project prodigies. Or maybe when the time comes, someone will have launched a school project outsourcing company. Better still, it could be that school projects go the way of microfiche or the Dewey Decimal system. Anything’s possible. Keep hope alive.

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