Almost every day I hear from parents who tell me about a silly project that required a lot of time and effort but no learning. If you ever wondered what project-based learning is really supposed to be about, here’s a really good video.
Hmmmm….I really like project based learning. I didn’t know people hated it. I wonder if more focus should be put on helping parents understand what is supposed to be accomplished and how to facilitate a successful project. I don’t really mind projects that come home as homework. Sure beats a folder full of worksheets!
I hear you, Aaron. I love this discussion of useless projects. At least we can all get a good laugh out of it. Cheaper than therapy.
My daughter actually initially loved her projects because she’s artistic and creative. Oh, lest you are all yawning now, thinking, she’s the kid from heaven, well, there were the tantrums and arguing everything and the long persuasive essay in third grade of why homework was a waste of time (can’t argue that one!), and the toilet accidents in kindergarten (I better stop now. She’d “kill” me if she knew I brought that up). and the kid she punched in the nose after he teased her one too many (you go, girl!).
Well, onwards march to 6th grade, The Year of the Project. There we were in Home Depot, begging the man to chainsaw the metal rings in half and then back again in a half hour, begging him to cut the plywood, and then the mad dash to Staples at 9 (me dashing, she cutting) but the store is closed so you pound furiously on the door and the clerk can’t decide if you are a serial killer or insane mother or both and then back to Home Depot for the exacto knife but Home Depot is closed so you drive ten miles to Walmart in a sleep deprived stupor. Then later, much later, you doze off on the couch and she nearly cuts her finger off with the knife you drove thirteen miles to get.
I awoke at 2am to her screams. Blood all over the poster board she’d just spent six hours decorating, like some forlorn overstuffed wedding cake.
What were we building? Er, what was SHE building? I was just running around like a rat on speed, buying, photocopying, and helping her cut the poster board. So what was she making? God only knows… Something pretty, I am sure, something amazing. Was it worth the almost lost finger and the lack of sleep? Each time she finished one of those monster art machinations, I felt as if we’d been through a war. With my kitchen and dining room to prove it.
Truth be told, projects are heaven for the artistic kids and hell for the ones who are not. The ones who aren’t? Mom does it. As Student says, she got a lot out of some of her projects. Same here. It’s not that every single project was useless although many had no educational value. It’s that they came on top of so much busy work. Which meant the projects were all shunted to the weekends. Your love of watching your child do art gets real old real fast when it’s a sparkling Sunday in May and you’re stuck inside. Again.
I once commented to a friend, why not just the projects and lose the daily work? He replied, no, because then your child will truly be working too hard. He laughed. There comes a point at which you’d rather have the stupid worksheet the child can knock out in minutes, he admitted, than another masterpiece you have to help your child plan, time manage, organize, not to mention the sheer amount of time it takes to buy all that stuff (I swear AC Moore would have gone out of business a long time ago, if not for us). And that’s just the beginning. Kid hasn’t even started yet.
Now the pre-game show begins. If the assignment is self explanatory, you’re in business. If it’s not, depending on which parent is tackling it, you say, wait till Mommy comes home, she might be better able to decipher this than I can. Okay, two hours later your child has finally figured out what the teacher wants and It’s Showtime!
These are the moments you curse god for sending you a creative perfectionist. She has to do a board game. You pray she can do this quickly, knowing with every fiber of your being that she cannot. You want to quit your job, no way can you do this and hold down a career.
She will research, you will go to the library, you will spend hours perusing the stacks, you will come home with a mountain of books, she will need to look up sources on the internet but she’s ten so you have to show her and what the teacher thinks is a quick google turns into an all weekend affair. It’s a history board game, but she’s going to research every detail.
Now comes the drawing, pasting, gluing, coloring, clay shaping, painting, cutting, cotton stuffing, building. You pop a valium, go to sleep (no you don’t, just kidding), and pray that when you wake up, the ceiling is glue free, you don’t trip over wet papers and the goppy-goop on the floor is water soluble.
In every case I’ve asked the teachers have excused my daughters from the assignments thus avoiding the need to provide an answer.
While I find it extra-ordinarily frustrating to not be the catalyst for larger change I accept that my first priority is to my children.
I do, however, make sure that the other parents are aware of what I did accomplish and how. They can take it from there with their children. (I also point them to this site and your book 😉
Should I be “organizing”? Perhaps. But I’m not there yet.
The scary thing is that I believe that the teachers know that they are just pushing the homework because it’s part of the curriculum. If it had any purpose there would be some argument(even if it was flawed).
Today my 8 year old ESL showed me her English HW: 28 pages of Use of English to complete!!! Teacher said this assignment is due next Monday. Consider the students will have Spanish HW two days this week. And Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are family and friends days. She didn’t understand all the instructions she says teacher didn’t explain all the exercises.
Does this HW makes any sense for 8 year olds who are not English native speakers?!?!