Hands off the project!

My 11-year-old has more and more school projects to complete lately. A few years ago, we both went through a bit of a clueless stage when we either forgot the due date, or ignored it until the last minute.
Here we are though, two years down the line, having learned a thing or two. These days, we have the experience to approach school projects thoughtfully and sometimes, even skilfully.

An area I’m still a little dubious about, however, is how far to go with assistance. I’m there if he needs me, but how much help is too much?

For a recent project, this was the extent of my assistance:
  • Make a note of the theme and due date.
  • Remind him daily that he needs to get started on it.
  • Take him to the library to find information for it.
  • Pay for photocopies.
  • Allow him to use my computer to type it out.
  • Make him aware of the value of proofreading.
  • Print it out for him.

I’m fairly sure that’s a reasonable amount of support, but just to be sure, I asked other parents how far they go to assist their children with projects.
  • Adele says that she gives advice on how to do the research, but she won’t touch the actual project.
  • Similarly, Kathy, mom to James, says that it’s his project, so he has to do it himself and she hardly helps at all.
  • Damian’s mom, Angel, helped with layout if it was anything other than a written work and she also facilitated research and sourcing of materials.
  • Yvette, whose daughter Michayla has so far has only had to do orals, says that she helps with research and printing of pictures after Michayla has chosen a topic. Yvette picks the salient points out and Michayla does the writing out. She says that as Michayla gets older, she will be allowed to do more on her own, because for Yvette, the important thing is that Michayla learns to think for herself.
  • Alan, dad to Eden and Damian, feels that different levels of input are required for different children. Eden, for example, loves getting help during the planning stages, but wants him to back off when she’s putting the project together.
From these responses, it seems that facilitating, rather than completely taking over, is the way to go.

Tips from a mom who’s been there
  • Time management is vital. Ensure that your child is aware of how much time he has to complete the project and help him manage his time.
  • To avoid that sinking feeling the night before, make a list of materials and resources you’ll need and buy them well in advance.
  • Facilitate access to sources like the internet or the library by scheduling time to use them.
  • Don’t be tempted to take over and do it for him, even if you think you could do a better job. As Adele says, what they learn is more important than the final outcome.
Says Ema, mom to Angelo. ‘Children need to be given a start and the tools to continue. After that, provide supervision and support so that they learn the process of putting it all together and get over any anxiety they may have about what the project will entail.’

What’s your project policy? Do you stress over them or keep clear?
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