April 15 2010
Anyone with kids will know exactly what I mean when I say that I’m sick of all the projects I have to do!
Yes, we all know that the kids are supposed to do their own work. But we also know that it is the parents who end up doing most of the projects. Let’s not kid ourselves.
Over the years I’ve made paper mache dolphins, balsa wood submarines (we even got the balast right for it to submerge without sinking!), rockets, hot air ballons, cameras and all other manner of things. I’ve drawn animals & plants, the water cycle and most of it on very short notice. But a recent project really got me to thinking about how this is all getting out of hand.
The project was to build a 3 storey doll house with working lights & electricity. My wife had warned me this was coming because the school has set this as a project for year 7 students for the last few years. Not only did she warn me about it but also aboout the quality that it had to be – you see she has seen what the previous years parents…oops..kids…had been handing in and something made from shoe boxes or the like wasn’t going to cut the mustard. Did I want our daughter embarrased by the project she was going to hand in? So off to Bunnings we went, for wood, wire, switches, LED lights, batteries etc.
Now, I’m far from being a handyman but by necessity I have become pretty good at doing this sort of stuff but it did get me thinking. What about those kids whose parents can’t do this? Or who can’t afford to get all this material (we weren’t going to get much change out of $100 for this project at the end of the day)? Not all parents take an active interest in their children’s education. How are those kids going to feel when they turn up to school and others walk in with miniature Taj Mahals, trying to convince everyone that they built them, and they have to hand in something made from a fruit box? Does the school even consider these issues anymore?
I can remember when I was at school the teacher would make a big deal out of insisting that we had to do these projects ourselves, but it seem today that this has gone by the way. But it’s not just with projects like this that it is happening. It seems to be becoming more common with homework generally- where teachers are asking kids to do research based homework that goes well beyond what they are doing in class. With 4 kids at school, not a day goes by where I don’t find myself having to research the internet for information on things that are not readily available in their school books – the theory of flight for year 4 & ecosystems for year 6 have been this weeks homework so far. While there is nothing wrong with these topics, the wording of the questions that the kids have to respond to is pitched more at senior high school kids than primary kids. I can’t believe that any of the kids in these years would have had much chance of understanding the questions let alone finding the answers to them – and putting those answers in words they understand as opposed to just doing a cut & paste job off the internet.
There is just no way that any child of that age would be able to do this homework without a reasonably intelligent adult helping them. I can’t believe that all their class mates have access to a parent or older sibling who either could or would spend the time to help them do this and the question arises as to how much this then impacts on the teachers view of the ability of these kids and their own experience with school over all. It seems like a sure way for some kids to become isolated and disilluisoned with school when they can’t compete with their classmates. The fact that it’s not a level playing field seems to be ignored by all those involved.
While it’s tempting to stop helping our kids, that doesn’t seem to be the right solution either. The best we can do is to make sure our kids write things, as much as possible, in their own words rather than just regurgitating the internet. Of course the whole issue of the reliability of the information found on the internet is a mine field in itself.
It may be another sign of my old age, like saying “When I was younger…”, but I hearken back to the old days of homework being something that a child had a reasonable chance of doing on their own without too much assistance short of spelling and the like.
Oh, and the doll-house? I played the role of building supervisor, and electrician, only and we made it from a TV packing box. My daughter and her 2 younger sisters had a ball making and painting it.
A small step in our newly waged war but a victory nevertheless.