Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back To School

I spent this most beautiful March weekend for the most part, indoors. This was because we had a science fair project due this Monday. And I say "we" because really, do the kids ever actually do the work themselves?
I find it annoying. I sincerely do not remember my parents ever toiling over projects with me, but it seems to happen a lot in our household. I do remember my dad especially helping me out with some research and contacting various companies, but he never sat and planned/carried out the whole damn project. Is this because we (my DH and I) try to do too much for our son? Or is it because the projects that are sent home too difficult for his age? Or has the education system changed so much that more learning at home is expected? I don't know. All I know is that I already completed grade three, so why does it feel like I'm back in school again?
Several months ago, R had to plan and construct a circus float. He was supposed to use things from around the house, but like most of the parents I'm sure, my DH went out to the local dollar and craft stores and bought supplies. He also planned the float, as there were certain limitations to it (dimensions) and it had to bear a certain amount of weight. The project completed the unit on structures. It took DH and R the whole weekend to put this thing together, and to be honest, it wasn't even the best one I saw (sorry guys). This is how I know that we weren't the only ones that were "helping".
This current project was for the forces and movement science unit. The kids have to present their project, and also there will be a science fair of sorts (without the judging, just displays). The thing is, is that the outline given was rather confusing. It wasn't entirely clear what the whole expectations were, even though the marking rubric was including. But seriously, a marking rubric? How can they, in all honesty, mark this thing? For God's sake, it was sent home!! How can they give a fair mark not knowing how much work the child did, and how much the parent did? I wish I could show you the outline, but that's just too long and boring to retype (and for you to read, I'm sure). I still don't know if we did it right, but it's done now.
The kids could pick from different types of "forces"; i.e., friction, gravity, muscular force, magnetism, etc. We picked magnetism. We did a crude sort of measurement activity, where we laid a tape measure on the table, placed our "main" magnet at zero, and used several other magnets to see how close we would get before the main magnet jumped to meet them. The farther away, the stronger the magnet obviously. Then we used the magnets to move the main one around on top of various surfaces - over a glass dish, a plastic lid, a piece of cardboard, etc. This is the part I'm unsure about. I don't know how you really measure a magnet's strength, and even if I did, I'm sure I wouldn't have the scientific tools to do it. A science fair project should be very precise, and methodical, but how can an 8 year old child accomplish that? And was he supposed to research why magnets attract each other? Cause I sure as hell don't know, and all the kids websites we looked at didn't go into that much detail, so I'm pretty sure it would be a little beyond his understanding.
So we didn't really even go into scientific detail. We just took a bunch of digital pictures, and put together a real purdy Powerpoint presentation (which R has actually done before and therefore taught me how to use the program), as well as a graph (that I made on Excel), writeup (that I mostly typed and wrote while trying to encourage his input as best I could) and a poster board (that I printed all the stuff out for, helped him cut out, and laid it all out).
So can we really say this was R's project?
I'm not really sure what he would have done had I not helped him. Part of me is saying maybe I just should have left him to it; see what kind of a mark he would have got. But I know that all the other parents helped their kids, and there's that mothering instinct again. The one that doesn't want to see your child fail, or be the worst in the class because they're the only one who truly did it all on their own.
So we will take whatever mark we receive. I'm not really bothered by that part so much. And I can take comfort in the fact that it did allow us to spend a weekend together instead of me cleaning while he plays with his brother, which was nice. I also got some really nice hugs and thank yous from him. And I know that there is one part he will have to do all on his own, that I can't help him with, and this part to me is almost the most important part anyway. Far beyond learning about magnetism (really, who needs to know how magnets work anyway?) I think the experience of presenting a project is what he will glean the most benefit from.


  1. I'm beginning to understand the whole "parent helps with project" thing. You want it to look good, to get a good mark, and you're pretty sure the other parents are "helping" their kids too. It's a tough decision, and I don't know what we'll do. At this point, in SK, the hardest "project" A has had is a giant fish that she can decorate any way she likes. But it's to be a family project (what does that mean exactly?). Last year I did some things and put on the penguin outline, and she did some things, and DH did some things. I'll admit it - it was ugly - but she liked it. I think that's what counts.

    I agree with you that the cool part about your R's project is the time you guys spent with him. And the fact that the presentation will be done completely by him. That'll prove to him (and you and T) that he actually learned stuff.

  2. Ahhhhh. I have no idea what you are taking about. My little guy will be doing it himself because mom apparently is to stupid to do Grade 3 science. Now I am scared. And bored. Yugh. I hope my guy gets his father's brains in math and science.