How do you know how much help to give for a school project in elementary school without becoming a helicopter parent? I don't know, but here's our story of how we probably shot past helicopter parenting to smothering. When my son brought home his assignment for the third grade History Fair I had no idea that a few weeks later I'd be questioning my husband's and my ability to parent him. Picking a good topic for your kid's grade three project, or "the destiny of man is in his own soul." – Herodotus At first glance, it seemed a straightforward enough assignment: "It's around the 1800s in Upper Canada, there are the existing First Nations peoples and French settler communities. Task: Students are to select an aspect of the First Nations people or the Pioneers and research that event, thing or person." Noah decided to choose forts. Feedback came home from his teacher that "forts might be hard to research." But, but but -- pretty much every schoolchild in Toronto gets to visit Fort York, established in 1793, which is 20 minutes from my house. I should have stepped away from the project right then. But as a Formerly Gifted Child ™ who was given attention way too often as a child for knowing things, this project was now officially A Thing. I did what any mother in my position would do: I took to Facebook to share this "research" issue and get praise from my friends for being a mother who introduces her kid to primary sources. Soon Noah and I were headed for Fort York. It was a great day, and I was riding high on parent achievement points, or at least my high horse. How much work should your kid do on his own in grade three? Or "history is a set of lies agreed upon." – Napoleon After a couple of weeks of library visits, planning, note-taking, and drafting we got to the weekend before the due date – Mother's Day weekend. It's relatively easy, I find, to let Noah do his own work weeks before the deadline. But staring at 48 hours left before this project had to be done, I found myself with the standard set of questions any Gen-X parent who had the only Science Fair project with the crooked and progressively smaller misshapen bubble letters while the other kids had wired light-up signs ("but at least you did it all on your own, honey") would have:
- Does my son really have to look up every word he has misspelled? Do I have to not put my finger on all of them first to hint that they might be?
- If I help type, is that cheating?
- Does "helping to use the glue gun" mean it's okay to also make sure the sides will match up when they are glued, which also means drawing up the plans for the fort walls?
- Will this make my kid look bad, feel bad, or hate history or hard work forever?