As a mother, a teacher for 19 years, and now a school counselor, I have seen the many anxieties that an upcoming school project can cause for your child. In the end, it can feel like your project when your child states that she has waited until the night before the due date to get started.
I truly do not know how my mom did it. I remember sitting in my church at a youth group meeting on a Sunday night, announcing to my mom that I had a book report due the next day and that I had to dress the part. My mom, of course, handling everything with grace, stated that there might be a monk’s robe from a play in the church closet. “You could be Martin Luther,” she suggested. “Gee, I didn’t know Martin Luther was a monk?” Her head shook in dismay. “Not Martin Luther King Jr., Beth.”
As parents, our intention is to guide our children in the right direction and Remain somewhat sane in the process.When it comes to long-term projects, it is best to establish a clear project plan for your child. Think of planning a special dinner party for your friends. Now shift gears and plug those ideas into practice for your children. They may actually look forward to their project, and so will you.
1. Talk About It
Your child may need to select a book or topic at the onset. Discuss what she knows about the topic, what she wants to know, and get her excited about what she will learn when she is finished.
2. Set Up the Plan
This is the time to pull out a calendar with the length of time that your child has to complete the project or paper. Map out which assignments will fall on what date. Days one and two, For example, can be for taking notes, or gathering sources and materials. Day five might be a rough draft due date.
3. Make a List of Items
Sit with your child and talk about what she will need, from poster board to clay, to access to certain people for interview time. Then have your child make a list of all needed supplies for the project. This is the time to get her excited about what she is about to create and give her gentle options and ideas. Not mandates, but ideas.
This can be a quiet time to go online to research the topic and take notes. It can be done at home, but as your child gets older, working at the library is a wonderful way to foster independence and keep you from interfering with the direction that the project is going.
5. Time Management
Make sure that your child is taking time each night to work on the project in some way. This instills that successful projects take time and thought. This will also get your child to recognize that by doing a little bit each night, she will not be overwhelmed at the last minute.
6. Last Minute Check This is the time to check over the assignment a couple of nights before it’s due. Ask your child to proofread everything and to make any last minute additions or revisions as she sees fit.
7. Pride of Ownership
Now is the time to help her be proud of completing a project in a timely and efficient manner. Talk to your child about how she feels. Does she feel less stressed?Is she excited and ready to present the assignment? Most importantly, what was learned from the project?
In my work with children at an Henrico County elementary school, one of my most important missions is to help kids organize and feel less stressed.When I asked my fifth graders what their number one issue was with projects, you would be surprised at their response. It was parental interference. Whether it Was changing the presentation or rewriting it completely, kids commented again and again that parents need to back off.
As I listened in disbelief, I had to admit that I still try the same thing with my tenth grader. I thought back to my daughter Ally’s cell project for biology.
With the best intentions, I bought floral foam and mounted her work while she was at a sleepover. When I dropped her off at high school that day, she quietly took the project from the bag (that I packed it in), removed the foam, and said, “Bye Mom, I love you.”
Okay, well-meaning moms, dads, and caregivers, repeat after me: I promise to never touch or alter another project as long as my child is in school.
Allow your child to stumble and to learn from mistakes. Let her take pride in the fact that she can do it by herself. Give her credit for knowing what the teacher is expecting. And maybe every once in while she’ll ask you what you think, too.