The School Project - Help Is On The Way

by John Hartnett - Date: 2007-01-02 - Word Count: 836 Share This!

My wife and I do too much for our children and the guilt has become so overwhelming, I feel compelled to confess publicly in the hope that someone can guide us out of the dark, twisted labyrinth we disappeared in more than four years ago. The shame of committing countless clandestine acts, relying upon deceit, trickery, and cajolery for the sake of our children has become too much to bear and can no longer be justified by the need to get a decent night's sleep.

I refer of course, to the school project.

If ever there was a need for parents to unite against a common enemy it is the school project. I've nothing against reports but if a homework assignment requires plaster of Paris, glue, cardboard, cement, newspapers cut into strips, paint, clay, wood, beads or the use of arc welding equipment - let's return to an agrarian society where wheat was once ground into flour for food and not to serve as an adhesive ingredient in Paper Mache.

For those of you unfamiliar with take home school projects, or for those of you fortunate enough to have suppressed such memories, there are seven stages to every school project. Let me enlighten you:

Stage 1. The Introduction and the Delivery of False Hopes. In this stage, a child announces at dinner that they have been requested to make a diorama, say one on the book, "The Jewel Princesses and the Missing Crown". A parent, generally the mother, will announce gaily that she has been saving shoe boxes for such an occasion, in much the same way expectant mothers knit booties. There will be a brief discussion on how the diorama will be constructed, including the type of materials needed to ensure that it is as beholding to the eye as it is informative. A sense of confidence that all is in hand will fill the room. A parent will casually ask between bites when the project is due, the child will respond that it is due in one month and the parents will process that information to mean that they never have to be concerned about this again.

Stage 2. High Noon. The night before the day before the project is due, the child will approach one or both parents and shriek, "What about my diorama?" One or both parents will respond, "Why did you wait until now?" There will be finger pointing, recriminations and the gnashing of teeth during this stage.

Stage 3. It Takes a Village to Decorate a Shoe Box On the day before the project is due, work will be parceled out to all family and extended family members within a radius of fifteen miles. It will take no less than three trips to the local crafts store, the Home Depot of the elementary school set, to assemble all the accessories necessary to complete the diorama. A grandparent will be dispatched to locate a roll of contact paper once spotted in their basement six years prior.

Stage 4. We Are All Being Graded The child will begin to assemble the diorama but it will not pass the standards set by the parent or parents who worry that the little 8" x 12" box could potentially be seen by someone they know over the age of eight. The Internet is dispatched and graphic items are printed in an enormous volume to provide the greatest number of decorating options. A sibling of the student will be reduced to tears when a beloved toy doll is surgically altered to fit inside the box. Negative emotions run high throughout the duration of this stage, despite claims that the maimed toy will be replaced, that future projects of such scope and magnitude will commence at the instant in which they are revealed to the parents, and that the bed is pretty much in scale with the armoire made from wooden matches.

Stage 5. Emerging From the Trial By Fire Generally sometime after 11:00 pm, anger is replaced with a sense of accomplishment when the school project is completed. All the stress and turmoil evident on the faces of the parent or parents will vanish once it is apparent that the nightmare is over. A moment later, the stress returns when the child mutters that this is not how she would have done the project if she did it all herself.

Stage 6. The Return of the Prodigal Project Days later the child returns with the project and the grade. Everyone celebrates the "A" they received. The project is placed in a position of prominence for a period generally lasting no longer than 72 hours before it is tossed into the trash with the coffee grinds while the child is at school. It is never missed nor spoken of again.

Stage 7. A Clean Slate A child comes home with a new school project. Repeat steps 1-6.

I'm willing to march in front of the school board if you're with me on this school project issue. We can get everything we need to make signs at the Crafty Kitchen.

Related Tags: education, children, crafts, parents, discipline, teaching, teacher, homework, class, school project

John Hartnett is the owner of Early Bird Publishing, a manufacturer of all occasion humorous greeting cards ( He is also the author of Now What?, an online blog at

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