I’m a huge advocate for experiential education, creative curriculum, and having kids learn in a variety of styles, but between Valentine’s Day and my son’s “Night of Nations” project I’m ready to chase a box of conversation hearts with a quart of rum and call it a parenting career.
The Valentine’s thing, I sort of get. I did it when I was a kid — decorate the bag, address the cards, shove the red plastic-y looking lollipop in there. And I’m also grateful for the initiative my daughter took in creating her own craft-paper Valentine’s. Once we had finally hoovered up the drifts of clippings from that project, it was on to the winter poem memorization mobile project. Think snowmen with hearts. Okay. Done.
On deck, the 6th grader with the international report on the Bahamas. Reviewed his fictional/historical story about a time-traveling tourist catamaran and gave him some feedback. Check. Helped him arrange the interview with the international student from the Bahamas. Check. Then there’s the costume. He can get that through the drama department. Okay. Except he didn’t.
So now it’s up to him? Us? And what is a Bahamian costume? A little research shows that the Bahamas isn’t Bermuda. There’s no identifiable traditional or historical dress. They do have a post-Christmas Festival called Junkanoo. If I were more cynical I might suggest it that looks suspiciously like a Carnival clone cooked up by the tourism office. Giant feathery costumes. But my local sources confirm that the celebration is legit and has history.
So now what? Lucy in Disguise? What’s the budget? Make my kid go down there with me? When? Two soccer games, a basketball game and a half-marathon on the family schedule so far. And my guess is there are a few other people in this town interested in Mardi Gras/Carnival costumes this time of year. We’ll get it done, but frustrations run high.
I know that lots of parents wrestle with this issue. Struggling with your own desire to make the work the kid’s own. Trying to support him or her without doing the project yourself. At the same time, trying to put yourself within a context of other families — to guess what “normal” is.
What do you think of projects? Worth the headache? Something that delivers valuable lessons, or are they usually undermined by the complex calculus of parental involvement?