The Curse of the P word

from
by Susan Messina via the Huffington Post.

Lately I’ve been experiencing a bout of nostalgia for simpler times. What happened to the good old days, filled with low expectations and mindless worksheets? I’m all for a robust education, but must we continually challenge the school community…right up until the very last day? Bring on the busywork!

I wonder how many times I’ve heard myself say, “I can’t handle my kids’ homework load.” I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I also know what broke me. The P word.

For me, the word PROJECT now sparks shortness of breath and a creeping despondency.

PROJECT means late nights, endless trips to craft stores, and insomnia for all. Honestly, providing comfort in the middle of the night is not my forté. I’m tired and cranky, too, short stuff.

PROJECT means trying not to have an anxiety attack while your child wields a box cutter in an unorthodox manner. That’s right. It’s actually scarier and waaaaaaaay more frustrating and time consuming to nag your child until she gets it done than to just whip something up yourself. Same goes for research papers, by the way.

It means stepping in blobs of clay, glue, and acrylic paint before tracking them into the living room rug–with no one to yell at but yourself.

PROJECT means not finishing the grant I have due because I am scouring a three-county area in search of blue tri-board, two-foot balsa wood planks, or tiny bells.

It means a tarp thrown over your dining table for 8 days while you sit on the floor with your plate in your lap. Or forgetting dinner altogether the night before everything is due.

It means explaining the concept of scale for the one billionth time while trying not to let the last straw show in your voice or demeanor.

When Miss 12 was in fourth grade, she embarked on the quintessential MISSION PROJECT. Four weeks later, after ruining three and a half weekends in a row and nearly ruining my marriage–not to mention having to completely ignore my other kid for twenty-seven days straight–I dropped her at school with her plywood/sugar cube/cardboard/fake plant baby. That’s when I found out that half the families had simply purchased mission kits online! Of course, kits were expressly forbidden in the teacher’s directions, but WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THEY WERE DOING THAT ANYWAY? We could have distressed that cookie-cutter mission enough to look homemade, believe me. I didn’t go to art school for nothing.

mission

I’m not sure what my kids have learned in the past few years, but I developed a conditioned response to PR#J@CTs: a craving for Xanax when I hear the word.

My secret fantasy: locking me and my Netflix account in my bedroom between the hours of 3:30 and 10:30 pm, Sunday through Thursday. Too late now. Maybe next year.

Addendum: Before I get any backlash, I should spell out my disclaimers. I’m all for project-based learning. I’m just…tired. It’s been a long, tough year on the homework front. It’s exhausting to have to be sitting on both my kids to yank out giant project after giant project. Sometimes, the phrase “independent work” sounds like music to my ears. And I’m not sure the project always gets at the learning one would hope. A couple days before her mission project was due, I turned to my daughter and asked, “So what is a mission?” AND SHE COULDN’T ANSWER THE QUESTION.

In addition, I think kids need time to absorb everything from the day, unwind a little, and develop other, less academic skills and interests: gymnastics, piano, drums, swimming, or just (gasp) building relationships with their peers. They need time to do what they want to do, explore their own creative realms. Please.

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Published by

Beret Olsen

Writer, photographer, teacher, and part-time insomniac.

One thought on “The Curse of the P word”

  1. I totally agree. It seems to me these last few years living here, the projects are better, less demanding, more time to do them in class. I really appreciate that.
    The mission kits remind me of the derby in scouts, where the boys carve wood into cars and then race them. We let our son do his own. Of course, he lost madly, since apparently, the other boys had their fathers carve theirs into wicked precise aerodynamic vehicles.

    Like

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