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Who's REALLY Making That Diorama?

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Angry Mom: What'd you do this weekend? I spent mine working on a diorama of a lion's den. Why was I doing this when I'm 36 and well beyond first grade? Because there was no way my kid could pull this off without my help!

woman holding glue

When I brought this up at a birthday party yesterday, the other moms chimed in about the projects they'd been working on: a 15-entry slave journal, complete with charcoal illustrations and parchment paper burned around the edges; a Picasso mural; a milk-carton birdhouse. Another mom said she had to type out a four-page planet report for her SECOND grader (!) because it would have taken him about twenty hours to type the damn thing ... and don't even get her started about the bibliography.

WHY do teachers assign these projects, when they know that the parents are just going to have to do them anyway? Is it so their classrooms will look impressive for open house? Isn't this just a waste of time for everyone? (It's also a waste of money -- I spent $30 at Michael's on popsicle sticks and other crafty supplies!)

When I walked into the school science fair a few weeks ago, I had to laugh when I saw the elaborate projects supposedly created by kindergarteners. Yeah, right: We all know who's doing those projects ... and it sure isn't the kids -- who don't even know how to tie their shoes yet!

A mom of a preschooler I know said she will NEVER do her kid's projects .. but that's easy to say before your child actually hits elementary school. I don't know about you, but I don't want my kid to be the only one with a crappy project on display. If she gets a bad grade, it reflects poorly on the parent -- me! -- and could impact the teacher's opinion of her, which could affect her future years, too. (It's a small school, and word travels fast.)

Believe me -- I know it's a complete crock when I'm sitting there hot-gluing sand into the bottom of a shoebox and she's sitting nearby "helping" me. But I let her do as much as she is able to at her young age, and then I help out with the rest.

There is just something wrong with the system. WHY are kids given so much homework? WHY are they given projects that they're not capable of doing? WHY? WHY?

I wish there was a better way. But until someone comes up with one, I've gotta run ... I've got a paper-mache puppet I need to work on that's due Friday.

next: 'Survivor' Producer Leaves Mexico, Seeks Custody of Kids
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Robin May 24, 2010, 1:30 PM

Maybe they make the projects above their level so that it forces parents to be involved in their education? Then again, in the forth grade I wrote a 10-15 page report with bibliography a speech and visual aides including diorama, clay models, and graphs. The only part my mother did was the note cards for the report because (to this day) I find note card format for a report tedious and annoying.

Homeschooling Mom May 24, 2010, 8:54 PM

There is a better way….(can ya guess what it is?)

Deanna May 25, 2010, 5:19 AM

Quite often, it is us parents who allow the projects to be bigger than they have to be. As stated, “I don’t want my child to be the only one with a crappy project on display. If she gets a bad grade, it reflects poorly on the parent—me!—…” Why does it reflect on the parent when the child is in 1st or 2nd grade and the project seems bigger than the child his/herself? If you are doing your kids work in 1st grade, are you going to go to their job when they are an adult and do their work because they’ve been given a “too big for 1 person” project? Remember, what we teach our kids now carries forward farther than we realize. Teachers understand the capabilities of the students. Perhaps this is a test for the parents!

Jilly May 25, 2010, 7:50 AM

I have a beef on both sides…I do agree with Deanna that parents sometimes involve themselves when they should not..however some of these projects are way out there! Typing in 2nd grade WTF!! That is when I go to the teacher and raise questions, that is weird!

John May 25, 2010, 8:08 AM

Many parents don’t realize there are a variety of new online tools which can help both them and their children with their projects.

For example, to create a bibliography, millions of students use The service automatically creates and formats citations. While there is a generational gap, mom’s may want to do research on modern tools for education. It may save them a lot of time =)

Mo May 25, 2010, 11:47 AM

I am totally appalled! I would never ever dream of doing my children projects for them. My parents didn’t do it for us, we always receive high grades because we were the ones that obviously completed the project ourselves. What you are teaching your children is to cheat! IF you complete the project for them what did they learn? How will your children learn pride in their work?

Christine May 25, 2010, 12:33 PM

It is comical that a parent can say “I would never do my child’s work” - in today’s world teachers are requesting that children hand in 4 page typed reports in 2nd grade - You need to ask yourselves what are they thinking these children do not even know how to type but then again in the NYC school system they no longer teach penmanship since the Board of Ed feels we are in a computer age and they only teach the children to sign their names. My son is in 6th grade and I can begin to tell you how much work he has received completely out of his realm of understanding and grade level. Teachers deduct 25 points for using pencil instead of pen - what are we talking about here!

Mo May 26, 2010, 8:06 AM

Christine, I will NOT ever do my child’s work period. I can remember not getting any sleep because my parents said I couldn’t go to bed before my homework was done. I went to am academic Catholic Elementary school, and while I didn’t understand it then I do now. My parents built a wonderful work ethic within their children adn we learned at a very young age not to expect something for nothing. Yet again what are you teaching your child……when times or the work is too hard get hard cheat? And what 2nd grader in this day in day doesn’t have typing skills? My children learned proper computer usage from my husband and I starting at 2 1/2

Bryan July 3, 2010, 4:11 PM

I am a 56 year old man who has been paid by my boss to do a couple of these projects for his 5th grader. One took 4 nights of internet research. However it did pay well.

Emma July 20, 2010, 7:09 PM

My parents never did any of my work for me nor my little brother. I can’t even imagine it. It blew my mind when I found out some of the kids in my grade had parents that did their projects for them, mine rarely did more than buy the supplies I asked for!

But then again, I actually liked school projects. Even though I always, always waited until the very last second, I also always put a ton of effort into projects, and they tended to be pretty impressive (even compared to my friends’ parents’ work). I never asked for help with projects or papers.

That might be because I was a very creative kid. Sometimes I would help my brother on his projects, and end up totally taking over until my mum realized what was going on and took me off of project-helper duty.

So I could see myself doing projects for my kids, if only because I would think their ideas/work is lame and I can totally make a better solar system/map drawing/whatever! Hopefully I’ll have a stern wife to keep me from doing that!

pita July 29, 2010, 3:09 PM

The only thing I have ever done on any of my kids’ projects was to draw a couple of straight lines with puff paint and write a couple of words so the teacher could read them. Both of which the teacher knew about and wasn’t bothered by it. Kids don’t get anything out of projects when a parent does the project for them. It’s one thing to help with little things like manning the glue gun, but it’s a whole other thing to be doing the project yourself while the kid is doing little to nothing.
If you think the project it outside the scope of your child’s grade level, talk to the teacher. You could be over thinking it. If it turns out you aren’t over thinking it and it really is a grand project, talk to the principal with your concerns.

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