When parents have homework …


School projects

because-I-said-so-REDThis year when my oldest son started fourth grade, I joined a book club, of sorts. It was not of my choosing.

Because my son gets to do a “creative” monthly book report, I’m reading all kinds of kid literature so I can help him. A stronger, more confident parent might simply butt out. And maybe my son would rise to the challenge without me. I can see him now, writing long acrostic poems and three-act plays based on the reading material. He’d do this right after he put away his laundry and vacuumed his room (totally unprompted) and before he made the family an elaborate turkey dinner (because, darn it, he just really likes to brine).

Oh, but wait, he’s 9. Who are we kidding here? He’s still working on finding his socks and putting trash in the actual garbage (versus letting it fall to the floor where he’s standing). I feel like it’s a teensy, weensy bit unrealistic to ask a child who can’t yet spell the Eiffel Tower to, say, make it out of popsicle sticks.

Actually, one time I did let a kid do a project entirely on his own. It was for Halloween. My kindergartner was supposed to decorate a paper doll to match his Halloween costume. For most parents, this project would mean a trip to the craft store. The mini costume could be just as sequined, feathered, bedazzled and generally over the top as the real one. Not for us.

Tyler, an independent little sucker who was tired of being called “Just a Minute,” never even took the project out of his backpack. He just took a black crayon and scribbled all over it at school, and turned it back in to his teacher.

Imagine my surprise to see the dolls all displayed at a parent night. There, hanging in the hallway next to paper costumes with hand-fashioned football helmets and delicate mini broomsticks, was Tyler’s Scribble Face.

What did he think he was being for Halloween? A ninja? The Grim Reaper? A tornado? And what on earth did his drawing have to do with the Optimus Prime get-up I had bought for him? I could only guess, and wish that he hadn’t written his first and last name on his doll quite so prominently.

I have flashbacks to that moment every time one of my children needs to make a desert diorama or salt dough map at home. And I just can’t help but get involved. For Scribble Face’s sake.

Teachers, I love you and everything you do for my children. But let’s drop the charade. Projects are parent homework, and some of us do better with a hot glue gun than others. So assign me whatever you wish. I promise to do my best to help my children complete it, while (kinda-sorta) maintaining the integrity of the learning process.

Just remember that I signed up to be your room mom this year. So the next time I’m at Wal-Mart at midnight frantically looking for poster board and glitter glue, I might also pick up a few things for the class Christmas party.

I wonder where they keep the kazoos and Red Bull?



Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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