Monday, October 01, 2007

Do It Yourself

I just read a Miss Manners column that was about a babysitter expected by the parents of a 5-year-old to do the child's kindergarten project. I never got that whole thing. I never helped my daughter with her projects. Okay, I shouldn't say "never helped." I didn't DO her projects. I would take her to the store to buy supplies or answer questions and there was one project that I found fascinating. It involved building a contraption to protect an egg from falling 200 feet, or something like that. But generally I did not get involved at all. Many times she would come home from school and say things like, "My project did okay, but Jenny's mom did her whole project and she got an A+." Then we'd have that talk. "But don't you feel good about yourself, that YOU did your own project?" I found it sickening that we even had to have that talk each time. My whole generation was so obsessed with their children's self-esteem it was disgusting. Sure, I wanted Kate to have good self-esteem, but I did that by complimenting her accomplishments, not her very existence.


It was just odd that I read that column today because a little while back I was trying to find out the name of a plant and realized that I didn't know even basic leaf descriptions. Then I remembered something from sixth grade. My best friend was a year older than me. Her mom asked me if I was going to have the leaf collection project that year. She told me that she had done it the year before and had a blast doing it. She practically begged me to let her do it for me. When the project did come up, I let her do it for me. She did a great job and I got an A. I hadn't really thought of that in years until I wanted to type in a description of the unknown plant and realized how ignorant I was about leaves. I'm pretty sure if I had done the leaf project I would have had that basic knowledge. I was robbed of that. Just as all children whose parents do the work for them will be robbed. Why do they keep doing that?


Ian Lidster said...

Much wisdom there, my friend. And I couldn't agree with you more. Let the kid 'do' it! For sixth grade science we had to go out and find various rocks and minerals, and mount them and name them and so forth, sort of like the leaves thing. I've never forgotten what a lot of those minerals are.

Tai said...

Man, nobody did THAT kind of thing for me!
(Not sure how I feel about that. On one hand I realize that it was a valuable lesson...but on the other I could have REALLY used an A!)

All joking aside, I believe that is how 'entitled' adults are made. You know. The ones that think they deserve EVERYTHING and screw everyone else?

ticknart said...

I think parents do it because they remember what it was like being all disappointed when they didn't do well on a project and they don't want their kids to feel that way. It's the same thing those principals and super intendants think when they cancel recess because they remember having a miserable time of it.

And don't be so sure about remembering the leaves. Like Ian I did a mineral project in sixth grade and then again in seventh and I can only remember three or four of the rocks I used/found.

Ian Lidster said...

PS. You deserve an award for giving me many smiles -- and you've got one. Check out my blog.

JR's Thumbprints said...

We used to have an event in Science Olympiad called "Straw Egg Drop." The kids were given a raw egg, one meter of masking tape, and a few straws to build a contraption. The winner was the one who could drop the egg from the greatest height without it breaking inside the contraption.

Josie said...

My little Munchkin Freddie just had to do a project on Germany, and then give a presentation in the gymnasium, including German food. His parents both work, and were too busy to help him much (thank goodness) and he did all the research (including learning how to do research, put the whole thing together and got an A+. It was worth 1/3 of his social studies marks for the year. His parents were actually quite surprised afterwards, because they didn't even realize how important it was. They did him a huge favor :-)

geewits said...

~~It's funny how that stuff is such a chore at the time and we look back with fondness. And thanks for the award!

~~I don't know. My parents never lifted a finger and yet I have an insatiable need to be spoiled and trewated like a princess. Maybe that's just me. I also want to win the lottery.

~~Well you remembered 3 or 4. I know NOTHING about leaves. Well yeah, I can do something about that NOW.

~~This one was you could use anything at all, but I think there were size and weight limits. And the part about the last one to break sounds familiar now.

~~That he learned how to do research is the best thing he could have learned and I'm sure he also now knows a great deal about Germany.