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Whose science project is it, anyway?

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By Marian Wilde

Advice from a Science Fair Winner

Ben Fohner, now a student at Stanford University, won first place as a high school student in the botany category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, California, in 2001. Fohner believes that his parents' support was crucial to his success, but he did the work himself.

"I did the research at a plant pathology lab," he explains, "a connection I had made while working on a previous science fair project." [This connection was facilitated by his father.] "I worked there over a summer and ended up focusing a lot of my time on a project that was of interest to the company. The company grows geraniums in Guatemala and they had problems with a certain bacteria being transmitted from one plant to another, and they couldn't really figure out how it was happening.

"So my project was basically to identify the water as the cause of the contamination and then to show that the bacteria could survive in the water for a long period of time and could infect the other plants. I wrote it up over the year and entered it in the Santa Clara County science fair. I won and the grand prize was a trip to the Intel International Science Fair. I competed in that at the end of my junior year and ended up getting first place there."

How His Parents Helped

Fohner's description of his parents' involvement is sound advice for any parent looking for ways to support their children.

"You want the student to come up with the science fair project idea. You want them to do all of the writing. You want them to come up with an idea for the display," he says. "What parents can do that is really helpful is to make the connections with people that might be able to help, and to be there to bounce ideas off of. Being there to say when something makes no logical sense. Being a support structure. I think the support level is definitely the most vital."

A Science Fair Judge's Perspective

Roger Falcone, a professor of physics at U.C. Berkeley and a former school board member, is a judge with the Siemens-Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, which is a national high school program.

Falcone points out that kids can suffer when parents are either too involved or not involved enough.

"There could be a negative side of demoralization for school kids based on the perception that projects, be they science fair projects or art projects or even written work, are at an especially mature level and that obviously there was more parental participation than they might have had," he says.

"On the other hand, the other extreme is where parents have no involvement in encouraging their kids to be on schedule, in doing some editing of written work. Or there's no involvement in helping them if they have some art concept in their mind, in helping them to get art supplies and not asking them to make something out of scotch tape and chewing gum, but bringing them to an art supply store where they might be able to get some clay in different colors."

"That kind of participation is a very positive thing. It encourages the kids and opens up an understanding and capabilities for them to express themselves more."

While science fairs at the local level might not have safeguards in place to prevent over-involvement from parents, science competitions at the national and international level do,

says Falcone. "There's a period when the students and the projects are opened up to the public, so the students have to engage with the public. Students have to talk in front of their peers and explain what they did and explain why it's important. It's really hard to fake it there or to have parental involvement dominate in an oral presentation. Even at the elementary level, I think one of the fun things is when the students get to present their projects to their peers. That's where the added value really comes in. How do you communicate the science that you did to your peers? That's a real high energy situation."

Recent studies conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggest that parents can best support their children's learning by refraining from becoming too involved. The optimal approach is to encourage children to do their own work. As tempting as it may be to rush in and get the job taken care of, or to help a child to be a classroom star, the long term effect of such actions is to cause children to disengage from the learning process.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/22/2010:
"Great article, very similar to our exp..........my son is in second grade and he did a similar project on his own, but the shocking thing is that the teacher didn't like it and preferred the projects done by the parents. This was really demotivating for my son. So i did the other project for him and the teacher said 'it's the first time i rec. something good from you'. "
07/31/2008:
"I know for sure that most teachers give children areasonable amount of homework.But some parents fail to understand that more is not better.I try to impress upon my parents that quality, not not quantity is the focus.There is very little evidence that that giving a load of homework does much good to the child .ManyParents who suggest more homework are those who are not willing to work on a one to one with their child but expect everything to be done by the teacher. Teachers are stressed out and children can be stressed out as well >they need discipline but they also need to enjoy their chilhood."
02/22/2008:
"Yes I agree kids today do not have time to just be a kid and go play outside. Parents push too hard to be involved in extra activities the kid may not want to be involved in...AND homework! I feel stressed FOR my kid! One way to help is to get homework done FIRST. But, if a child is slow w/homework parents are up battling nightly to get it done in MORE time. Add fun by giving some kind of treat or play a game to stay on track of time if its done within a certain amount of time. Then reward the child. Relax. Unwind. Schedule only 1 or 2 extra activities per week. BUT something your KID WANTS to do. Not you. "
02/22/2008:
"I love the idea of students doing projects in the classroom. My son is in the third grade and is responsible for a science project each six weeks. The project must include a math component,science report, charts, demonstration and presentation. This grade is used for 2 math test grades and 2 science test grades. My question is, 'Where is he supposed to learn how to do these projects?' If the students aren't seeing these types of projects in the classroom or doing experiments in class in order to learn the science process...how can they be assigned homework on something they haven't been taught? Whatever happened to guided practice?"
02/21/2008:
"MY 4th grader just did a Science project and got Hornor memtions of all 4th graders. She chose a subject that intrested her, and was told by her teacher she could not do her project on this subject, becasue her project had to be on the subject that was being studied at the time. My child then tried to find something that she could do that intrested her on Weather. She put her project together and, we spent many hours sitting in front of her allowing her to pratice her presentation, she made it to her teacher and to the class and did wonderful. All casses were given rules to follow. No names on project, all materials were to be on board. And would'nt you know the 1st place winner school wide for 4th grade not only did not put all material on her board, she also had her name in very large print on her project. Also my child was only one of three who did their project on weather. She was so very upset when seeing this , she said she would never do another Science project because the school allowed the rules to be broken and give the 1st place award to someone who broke the most inportant rules. So...what did my child learn about the School?"
02/20/2008:
"I just went thru this Science Project assignment with my 6th grade son. As a parent, it's difficult to draw the boundaries. However, we need to help them sort out all the information required because it is overwhelming. I still recall being overwhelmed when I was their age! My niece acknowledged my help with her science projects during middle school and when she graduated from college she said it out loud to all her guests. That told me that I touched her life at one point and made an impression on her to strive. I like to help my own children by telling them to save their work on the computer so they can refer to it the following year and improve it. My daughter has done excellent. My younger son is still learning & perfecting. Hence, Science Projects never end when you graduate from High School or College!! Ultimately, When I see the finished result, I want to step in and fix it and perfect it to my taste, but I know that will be my grade and not that of my children! . I do like the idea of one teacher who lets he children do their projects at school!!!"
02/13/2008:
"I really found your article informative! Our son just finished his Science Project this past week but barely. Part of the problem is homework every night of the week. He's in a preparatory school and even though I find the school great and the atmosphere wonderful, I hesitated on the homework issue. He did pick his own science project and put it together. The project involved a catapult and we ended up having to order him a kit on line. He was upset about that because he wanted us to buy all of the wood and then have dad put it together. It was so much cheaper to buy a kit after Christmas and we got a Trebuchet as an added bonus for him to put together in his spare time. He enjoyed the Science Project but it would have been far better had he not had so much homework throughout the whole time of doing the project. Especially, the last week. It seems as though the teachers didn't think about this and he ended up staying up until 10 p.m. every night trying to catch up on not only homework but the final details of his project. Oh yeah. He happened to be sick for a 1/2 day and that was awful because then all of his History, Math, and English subjects had double the homework. Not only that but the teachers even gave major tests that same week! Now we're already thinking about next year's project! Maybe he should get started now?"
01/22/2008:
"I read this at the right time since we are in the process of science fair time! I've printed stuff up for my son to read and then HE is the one who writes it. I do sit by and answer any questions he has. Last year he worked so hard for about a month. He was in 3rd grade and the science fair wasn't required but was open to the kids in the GATE class. They wouldn't judge it because they couldn't test the theory. Now this year my son doesn't even want to try and it has been a struggle to get him to work on it."
01/15/2008:
"My 4th grader has a science fair project due this Thursday. I am one of those parents that want to get to involved. I am trying to step back! We have to put his display together. It hasn't turned out the way it should but I think it's a learning experience for him. It is his first science project. He is so smart and capable, I just want him to do well on it!The school does give us a list of what we should & should not do as parents. I also have learned from reading these comments. Thank you! "
01/14/2008:
"It is irritating to me when I see children’s projects that were clearly done with little input from the children. One of my daughter's carpool-mates turned in a butterfly habitat that looked like it had been done by an architect. Her teacher wrote a note exclaiming that the student had done exceptional work! I can’t decide if I’m more upset with the child's parents or the teacher. It seems that the parents decided that their second grader couldn’t be allowed to turn in second-grade-quality work. The teacher, who gushed about the post-graduate-quality result, sent a message to parents and students that it is better to use “assignment subcontractors” to achieve the desired results (praise, higher grade, etc.) than it is to allow the student the opportunity to achieve a degree of personal, if measured, success."
12/11/2007:
"This is a great article. I have wondered the same thing. "
10/18/2007:
"I found this article to be quite helpful and informative. I believe that as a parent, it's my job to guide my child's education but I draw the line at actually doing his work. We make a point of taking him to the art or hardware store to pick out items for his projects and help out with ideas etc. Now that he's in 2nd grade and has had a few of these projects, I'm no longer surprised at the professional entries submitted by these otherwise unremarkable children. We've asked our son what he thinks about it. His response: it's kind of cool that so and so's Dad could make such and such. So who's fooling who? And who's learning what? I'd prefer my son get a lower grade and learn to build a better mousetrap using his own brain cells than borrowing mine or my husband's to get ahead."
09/6/2007:
"In first grade my child's project was on Sandra Day O'Connor. After getting a 70 on a previous timeline project that I insisted my child do mostly on her own, I realized that she was competing with other parents for grades not with their children. So I taught her the inverted triangle approach to writing a paper, conservatism, the supreme court, the senate, and we read a couple of books that O'Connor wrote. To be honest, the information my 6 year old found on the internet was too advanced. I even dressed her in costume for her presentation. We got a 100. If that's the way they want to play, then I want to win! Apparently, todays parent is the teacher. It is up to me to teach my child everything from multiplication facts to handwriting. Teachers and schools are evaluated on standardized test grades, so of course, that is what they are focusing on. I have changed my work schedule to adapt. I'm now trying to come up with science projects that my kids might be interested in. We'! ll need to start them now in order to have enough time to get everything done, since there is only a couple of hours per week we can devote to them."
04/9/2007:
"I have a third grader who has a project due about every 3 months. I let her interpret what the project entails, and allow her to gather what articles she thinks she needs. I then sit with her as she begins assembling things. The only time I actually say anything is if she starts lacking interest. I then ask her what she thinks may be a good idea for a particlular task, and give her some encouragement. I have tried to teach her that it doesn't matter if it looks better than someone else's, it matters that she did her very best, and her grade reflects that. Even though we don't put a lot of money or special effects into a project, she has received A's on them all. I tell her how proud I am of her, and she is happy. I try to teach her that in all aspects, not just her science or social living projects. Of course, a lot of help comes from her teacher, and the understanding of the location we are in. Most of the parents here don't have a lot of money, and some work very ! long hours. The teacher's ability to realize that the child has put their all into the project is what makes the grade."
03/26/2007:
"Great article but I think it also needs to be said that our children are not permitted to be children in our school systems. They are treated like high schoolers in jr. high and in high school, they are treated like college students. The expectations are enourmous and as a parent I am overwhelmed and don't want them to get discouraged and just throw in the towel altogehter and try to help. I think some teachers think it is 'too helpful' to remind a group of 7th graders to turn in their work and if/when they forget, the get zeros. We are forgetting where they are in developmental growth and pushing into doing things they aren't ready to be able to accomplish. No wonder so many parents are choosing home-schools and private. Public school teachers have so much pressure on them as adults and they are transferring this to their students. Public school systems are in trouble and 'the no child left behind' is BS."
03/26/2007:
"Great Article! My twin boys are now in the 4th grade and working on their 'California Mission projects'. For their 2nd grade Science projects I made them hand print their own reports and put together their display boards with their experiments. We were so proud of what they'd accomplished, not perfect but they did it. I was stunned to see they were the only kids in class who didnt have computer generated graphics, glossy pictures and reports typed in cursive. I thought when the teacher said 'this has to be ALL your childs work' thats what she meant. My kids thought I was the meanest mom EVER for not using the computer to help them, and I have to say I felt pretty mean. It is disappointing when kids pour their heart and soul into a homework project and be outdone by a kids mom and dad. It's been hard not helping them with the Mission project (SOOO HARD) but they have done an excellent job! I am typing up their reports exactly as they are written...and forcing myself to let th! e grass and trees be in the wrong areas. They are doing fine all by themselves!"
12/26/2006:
"Great! Parents are not always sure how far to go with a project. I asked my little girl ( age 10 & 5th grader ) to make me her last resource if she need help and I would review her work and offer comments."
12/21/2006:
"I think some responsibility should fall on the educators, that is to identify those projects that are obviously not original and to reward those that are for their originality...a bigger evil is a child that has been rewarded for a project that he/she did not actually make, which spurrs parents to go too far. "
12/21/2006:
"This article was great! I am one those too involved parents. I know I need to let go some and am amazed by what my 10 year old daughter can do all by herself. I only help a little now and have had to help my girl through that so and so's project was better than mine. So an so had a parent do it! The internet is really helpful and I have her look it up."
12/4/2006:
"This was a great and encouraging article. It is the sad truth however that some teachers just don't grade according to originality and content. Some do expect more from some students than they are capable of. This article encouraged me to continue what I am doing with my 13 year old daughter, who is in the 7th grade---TO BE CREATIVE AND GO WITH HER INSTINCTS. The sad thing is the perfectionist way some teachers grade...Thanks for the article!"
10/10/2006:
"I think that sometimes a teacher gives out to hard of an asignment for the grade level. You, as a parent, try to step back but only to see that your child is getting frustrated and wanting to give up. It is a big help if the teacher does give a DETAILED outline on what they expect from the finished project. With this in hand it makes it easier to guide, but not take over, the child in the right direction."
09/12/2006:
"I agree that alot of parents are actually doing the science projects for their children. My children are now 11 and 14 and although they were not required to enter the science fair at their elementary school until the fourth grade, they chose to do a project from the time they started kindergarten. The way the science fairs are ran makes it impossible for a child to come in first place if the child did all the work themselves. From the time my kids started school the first and second place winners were obviously projects that were done solely by parents. The kids that actually did their own projects with little help received a 'participant' ribbon. Those children walked away wondering why they should even bother doing a project in the years to follow. It's just not fair."
05/19/2006:
"can a school require your child to have a high speed computer, internet, video camera, editing software etc. for a graded project that compromises a great part of a grade? This is for a freshman in high school"
03/24/2006:
"I teach in grade 5 in Maine,and I found that the article is very much on target with the identifying delimmas we teachers and parents face when assigning and assessing the success of the child's project work. For my students, project based learning requires 4 phases, if not more: Project Research Descriptor, Research Check-up Inspections, Physical Project Descriptor and Project (with deadlines); Presentation in Class with Fielding Questions and Answers. When I develop project guidelines and opportunities for the students to fulfill in their learning process, the first phase involves in school research. I teach the research skills that culminate in the end product: the project that shows the learning about the subject, as well as the product that shows the skills development. At the start of the school year at the open house parents meeting, I tell parents emphatically that all projects assigned are expected to be in kids-work style. (Thus if a parent wants to take on that project, the parent has to invest lots of energ! y into making it look like child's work, or simply let the child to the work!)It works! In the research skills development it is important that the teacher guide the process in the classroom, especially on the elementary school level. There are the skills of skimming and scanning materials (safari hunts) that help students pick out key information, that teach students how to use a variety of differently designed informational texts. A carefully crafted product descriptor page helps students stay focused on the basic required information, while allowing students additional credit for going above and beyond the basics. This is where they get to show some excitement about the information findings that might stray from the central topic. The freedom to stray from the central topic actually brings the student back to the central topic of the research. The research process needs to have accountability inspection check ups on unannounced dates with 24 hours notice. That keeps students on their research alert to wake up and get with the project in case they felt they could save all researching for the parent at home at the day before the total project is due. I usually have 3 check up dates at which time I use a rubric for designated amounts of research achieved. When the parents at home see that the student is lagging due to the check up grade, the parent usually steps in and the research gets done. I also call homes during the research phase to alert parents of the child's success and ascertain if there are any questions the parent has. The other phases are self explanitory, with the final phase as the project presentation and questions and answers session. This is where the child gets to present and explain his newfound knowledge. Yes, I do require a written report section to accompany the physical project. Here is also where the child can go beyond the usual 'that's what the book said'. Those students who do not initiate the project presentation well tend to do exceptionally well when fielding questions about the project they present. Those asking questions also get credit for their questions: the questions have to be focused on the project information and physical information self-evident the project. To qualify for questions credit, the students have to write their questions in their research notebooks, as well as record the answers they received. Additionally, the presenter has a second chance to research the questions he or she was not able to answer, focusing only on questions relevant to the impo! rtance of the topic presented. Parents are free to help their children at home with additional research, being interviewed by their child, as well as in constructing the physical project. A final stipulation of project based learning in my classroom is that all projects must be constructed of free, recycled, and inexpensive materials. I usually put a bold type notice on project descriptors that the quality of the project comes from the information and knowledge the child presents; that expensive materials are nice, but free, recycled, and inexpensive materials used get the project more points on the points rubric. As a results, students bring in cleverly designed works which do reflect mostly kids works! While I did have one or two students who did lots of work on their projects, but were too nervous to even present, other students came to their rescue and presented for them, asking them along the way if what they were saying represented what the research was about. These particularly shy students tended to interrupt and find themselves actually taking over, reclaiming their presentations until they realized what they were doing and opted out again. Either wa! y, they were successful."
03/20/2006:
"When I was a kid I was very artistic and just LOVED projects! I always did them completely on my own. I don't remember even asking my parents for any kind of help ... I had a big box of art supplies under my bed: paper, beads, pipe cleaners, scissors & tape, scraps of things I'd collected and found, paints and crayons, etc. I always knew I could complete projects entirely on my own, and I always got good grades on them. My homemade creations were always among the best in the class, but they were all obviously made by me. But now, with my own son, I feel helpless. I've tried to insist that he do all his own work, but the projects always seemed more advanced than anything I'd ever gotten at his grade levels. It was a huge internal struggle inside me to figure out how much to help him. He's not as artistic as me and didn't have the same enthusiasm for his projects, which didn't help at all, so what I always ended up doing was pressing him to come up with ideas, then providing him the materials, and he'd have to do all the writing or typing, cutting, assembling, but I might help him glue things down or finish coloring a background or something else that wasn't a reflection on the quality of the project, but just helped save him a little time for the more important aspects. By middle school he was capable of doing all his projects on his own. They may not be the most beautiful things I've ever seen, but he knows how to take ownership and get them done by himself. His quality standards have also improved quite a bit, and he's now got excellent computer skills."
03/16/2006:
"I have been teaching for well over 30 years,and much of that time I have been involved with the teaching of science. Thus, there have been many times when I have been aware of projects that were designed and completed by parents rather than students. While teaching at a private school during the 1990's I was told of parents that paid experts to construct projects for their children! Learning how to use the scientific method is an important lesson, and conducting science experiments and/or creating science fair projects can be a very educational experience. Thus, teachers and schools should continue to promote science fairs and other such projects. More work during class and less required work at home is one way to get students more involved. The truth is that many students can do much better than their parents are willing to give them credit. "
03/16/2006:
"To be perfectly honest, I completely disagree with this article. The main focus of this editorial is on the fact that parents are helping their children too much with school art projects. As a student and not a parent, I am a victim of these projects that are continually assigned by my teachers at school. I confess that I am very uncreative and even have trouble drawing stick figures, but when a teacher assigns a project, there is absolutely no way that any child is going to have 'fun' with it because he or she is under the pressure of simply completing it in the allotted amount of time. When a teacher assigns a 'project' it usually requires at least 12 hours of work (if you want it to be a good one) which could alternatively be used for actually learning something. Throughout my years in school, I have had to complete several projects such as an invention, a novel (with illustrations), a dream house (which included drawing the house, landscaping it, creating a floor pl! an for it, and a whole lot more), a magical creature creation, an edible model of a prokaryote and eukaryote cell, and countless interactive notebooks. Most of these art projects were completed for my English class. Needless to say I learned absolutely nothing in the process except how much I hate projects. Teachers must learn to face the facts. There are reasons why we have state standards: because those standards are what students were meant to learn! Art projects are for art class, and that's the way it should remain."
03/16/2006:
"How important this article is! Our kids do their own work--whether it's a project or ordinary homework. If they earn a bad grade on a project we talk about why that happened and how they might improve on the next one. In the end, the kids always improve and they learn another valuable lesson...that every teacher and every boss is going to expect different things from them and it's their job to figure out what makes these authoritive people happy. For instance, this year my 4th grader realized that a late project results in being down graded one full grade. He didn't forget his project (which ironically was done a week early) next month. He also learned that his teacher prefers things typed on the computer. Now he types them and receives better grades. As for ordinary homework, the kids complete it on their own, too. If a paper comes back with mistakes, they correct the errors. When I was a kid, I loved to figure out what I did wrong and how to get the right answer. Now I mak! e sure I don't deprive my kids of learning from their mistakes, too. I think it must be working because my kids almost always seem to ace tests/accessments and earn top grades on report cards. Food for thought...."
03/16/2006:
"I believe in helping your child with a project that may seem a bit advanced for his level and also guide an older child for a clearer direction for his. I recently encountered an event where my nephew's 1st grade class was given an assignment. His mother was there to provide as much encouragement and advice as needed but when it was time to turn in the project, his was the only one done by the student. As a result, the teacher gave him an 'F' with the explaination that it is expected for the student to 'assist' the parent for these types of projects, not the other way around. This occurred at an elementary school in Atlanta. "
03/16/2006:
"Great article! Two of my children participated in the Science Fair just a few weeks ago. My oldest son's story was very similar to the advice given from the science fair winner you noted. He and another child worked at the University of Akron for a summer and did a Bio Diesel research project. As parents, we had to be supportive but really allowed the boys to do all of their own work. They place best in show, won two 1st places, and were awarded a cash prize. The topic was so complex that if they hadn't done the work themselves they would have never been able to answer the judges questions. We did make some mistakes with my youngest son. We were far too involved in his project. Although he made it to the district level, he didn't take any additional awards. I think we all learned from the experience. Thanks for the great article."
03/16/2006:
"Why do teachers give projects that require parental involvement at all? Assign homework and projects that are age appropriate, then maybe parents would NOT feel pressured to 'help' their child. Or as an alternative, do projects in the classroom. I feel strongly that teachers assign too much homework and work and projects that are intellectually, economically and technically beyond most of their students. (I am a parent of three school age children and a former English teacher.) I have seen projects become more involved and complicated over the years. I agree with the parent from Mass. that the teachers do not seem to take into account that one child had help and another child did the work all on their own. teh grading system itself is inherently biased and unfair! "
03/16/2006:
"I agree with what you stated that parents get too involved with the child's projects. My example is when my son was in cub scouts, and it was time for the pinewood derby contest that every scout is required to do to get the badge. Well, needless to say some of the little wooden cars looked like they came from a real showroom. You know the child did not do this by himself. I encouraged my son to do all of the work and he was so proud of his car until he walked in and saw the 'like new' cars and he just shrunk in the seat and thought his was awful. Well, he did not have a dad with a garage full of tools and sandpaper to put the fine finish on his. I felt so bad for him, and all I could say to him is that life is not fair, he would find this kind of thing happening in almost all areas of his life. It really is not fair to these kids who work so hard and then lose to the other kids 'Dad's' projects. Sure enough, science fair projects, scouts, etc... I like the idea of the kids doing the projects in class, so the teacher can see what the kids actually do for themselves. I just think the teachers don't want to take on that kind of project in their classroom. It is easier to send it home for the parents to deal with. I for one do not have alot of free time. That is what we pay the teachers for 'TO TEACH'. THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME GIVE MY OPINION. A Mom with 4 very different children ranging from 9 years to 22 years I have seen it all when it comes to this type of thing."
03/16/2006:
"My son in the past had done projects sent home by the teachers. He wanted to do the projects himself so I let him. He may have done some fairly simple puppets and dioramas but he did them himself. The kids who we knew the parents helped were graded higher than my son who took the project and did it on his own. I find that the teachers should consider this when grading and not compare a child's work to that project they KNOW the parent did. "
03/16/2006:
"I think that it is unrealistic to think that a child can handle these big projects on their own! When these children have these large projects on top of their regular school assignments to do, it is hard to expect them to get it everything done with out the aid of a parent. As parents we are pressured into getting involved in these 'productive' projects. Most children want to get that 'A' and please both their teachers and parents. Parents have the guilt of whether we want to see our child to succeed or fail? These teachers are not at our homes witnessing the stress that these large projects can cause the entire family. These projects take a lot of time, stress, and can be very costly. The kids feel the pressure of wanting to do well and we as parents feel their pain. I believe these bigger projects should be done in classroom with the teacher guiding them through the process. Instead with these bigger type projects, the student is handed a stack of instuctions, a due date, and then sent off on their own to complete it. Lets face it, when a teacher assigns these type projects she is giving the whole family the assigment too. The only benefits I see in this type of school work is the one on one time the child recieves with the parent who is helping them. "
03/16/2006:
"I believe that the points discussed in this article are very much on the mark. There is a very fine line that parents walk in the amount of involvement in their children's education. Too little, they suffer from lack of guidance. Too much, they will never learn to be independent-thinking and to stand on their own. As a tutor to children in reading, writing and math, I don't give answers to their questions unless I am doing a directed or guided practice on the subject at hand. After that, they are on their own and I will answer their questions with questions to help jog their thought processes. I want to see the children get that 'light bulb moment' when they come to realize the answer on their own. That, for me, is very gratifying, to know that while I helped them, they really helped themselves. That is what education is partly about - learning that you are capable of arriving at your own conclusion with the information that you are presented with or that you have discovered on your own. Incidentally, the students I have tutored have all made great progress in the time I have worked with them, and there is nothing more gratifying than to see them be proud of their own accomplishments!"
03/16/2006:
"I have no choice but to partipate very actively in my child's kindergarten homework. His teacher assigns him so much that there is no option but to help him. There are things that he does not even have the ability to read the instructions to yet much less complete the assignment. There are assignments that involve him studying the weather forcasts for the week and comparing them to a thermometer that I am supposed to automatically have set up outside my house. Such a thermometer does not exist outside my home so I had to show him the temperature on the outside of the local bank everyday to help him complete the assignment. I think that requiring a kindergartner to complete a minumum of 30 minutes per day of homework is ridiculous! "
03/15/2006:
"i help my sister out with homework all the time. and when she as a big project she comes to me with ideas. i tend to do all the work my self becasue it usally has to do with me using the comuter and the i end up cuting and gluing becasue i like thing to be perfect so i just decided i would let her mom help her and she does a great good by walking her through each part and asking me question then helping her some more. it just takes a lot of patients that i dont have but my mom does. she used to help me out with school projects and she still does!"
03/15/2006:
">From Illinois' 'I raised six children and was busy and the older children many times did not tell us about projects they were expected to do. One example was for the Science Fair Open House. When we went to tour the open house and our daughter did not have a display and we asked the teacher why. We were told her airplane made out of toothpicks and glue was not fit to show. The ones on display were very good airplanes. Some were perfectly made 10 inches or so long and every toothpick perfectly glue and shaped into full bodied aircrafts. I had a new baby at the time, and my daughter had not asked for help, nor showed us her 'masterpiece'. A few days later it was sent home with her from school and I admit it was a sorry looking plane. But, she had done it alone. And obviously the other children had MORE then a little help. So I have always felt that a teacher needs to give each student a letter when a project is given to be done, saying if the student should work 'alone' or if the parent should 'help' or 'do the project'. "
03/15/2006:
"This is a fantastic article!! Our daughter is in the 1st grade we review homeroom, however I insist that she give it her best effort in figuring things out first on her own. The life skill she is learning isn't maybe about a particluar project it's about problem solving and that is part of life. How to look a word up in a dictionary, how to figure out why 8+7=15. Doing everything for your kid/s totally handicaps them in the long run. I have siblings who had no idea how to even turn on the power or phone to their new apartments and had to have their parents do it for them. We lack such common sense as a society it's really scary. There's a difference between helping with work and doing it all with kids looking on. There is nothing wrong with helping, doing is a totaly different issue."
03/15/2006:
"Last year at the local elementary school my 4th grade daughter had to do a science fair project. Unfortunately, the school hadn't taught her the first thing about writing an essay, much less putting together a presentation. I tutored her myself on how to get the research material, how to plan the project and stood behind her on the computer as she typed letter by letter the 'warm air expands/cool air contracts' presentation (I had to teacher her basic computer skills), then she glued the report and pictures of her doing the experiment to the poster board. The teacher gave her an 'A' but I know she thought I did the project. When I went to the science fair I could clearly see which kids had an available parent at home to help and which ones did not and which projects were done by parents. Needless to say I changed schools this year and am paying for a good private Christian school, letting her do 4th grade again. She is learning how to write all over again. They do Scien! ce fair projects in the classroom. The students had to bring in a list of supplies and research information on the Rain Forest. The school is teaching them about the Rain Forest, plus how to put research together, write up an essay and do the presentation. If schools do not want parents to do the project, then they should not send it home to be done. The child's home life should not affect the quality of this work. That is what they attend school for. Schools should not mistake parental involvement with having parents do their job. You have to teach the children how to write before they can do a project like this. When they bring the project home and the parent can clearly see the child is not capable of doing it, then they are forced to assist them. Most of the parents I know do not enjoy this part of the school year. Now, I have to go as I have a full time job that does not end at 3:00. I do not get a summer, Christmas, Easter and a Winter break. When I get ho! me I have to cook dinner then go thru a big stack of papers my! daughte r brings home from the school, then help her with the big stack of homework. I have an idea. I think the school keep the kids an hour longer, get everything they need done then the Homework thing would not be an issue. 8:00 to 4:00 with a lunch hour is still not an 8 hour day for the teacher and it would keep kids off the streets until the regular working stiff gets home from work. Oh that's right, that would compromise parental involvement. "
03/14/2006:
"First and foremost..great article. Now many people will probably disagree with me but this is one of the many reasons why children, who become adults are not able to understand, comprehend, or just plain and simply figure out how to do simple things for themselves. Because mom, dad, or whoever else is raising them handicaps them by doing all of the work, assuming that it is to hard for the child. Then the child learns nothing. Watching the parent do it is all good to, but very little interaction even occurs while the childs work is being done for them. Not knowing how to do something is what school is for, and about.....teaching children about over coming the obsticle and being able to do the task at hand. Also the child is expected to be able to explain what it is that they did and learned during the process. If that child isnt able to do that, then the kid didnt learn a dam thing. School like most other areas of life have become a place where the intelligent are forced to slow there pace and..............well, I think most of you know where I was going with that statement. "
03/14/2006:
"I am the father of a 4 1/2 year old daughter. At this point I am starting to get ready for what it's to come once my daughter starts kingergarten. I am reading as much as I can to inform myself about school and education in general. This article is very informative and it's an eye opener for many parents that don't realize how bad it is when they do their children's. I am not a teacher nor a child psychologysts but, in my opinion, parents who do their children's homework are doing more harm than good. First, they are not letting the child think and be creative on his/her own. Second, they are not teaching the child independence, on the contraty, they are bringing up a child that will grow up to depend on other people. Third, by doing their homeworks the message that they are sending to the child is 'It's ok to cheat.' I am sure that there are many more consequences wwhen a parent does the homework instead of the child but like I said I am not a child psychologyst, so I can't name them all. On the other hand, helping your children or giving them some direction with their homeworks it's ok. In fact I am in favor of parents getting involved in their children's education. However, there's a big difference between getting involved in your child's school work and taking over the the school work. Those parents who miss homework so much, should go back to school themselves. Jorge, Ft Lauderdale, FL"
03/14/2006:
"I love it! I teach second grade, and I have had some parents over the years, who do their child's homework, and the child turns it in! Please! I have several children who are slow writers, and I am sure the parents get impatient, too, but how will the child ever learn to write faster if s/he is not given the practice of writing words or numbers? As for the grandiose science exhibits - I appreciate the parent who helps with research, especially Internet things, but it is important that the child be the chooser and the actual creator! "
03/14/2006:
"In a case such as the one demonstrated in this article; I feel that the child's parent did the work, not the child. Rather than make a big deal over the child who's parent did the work, and the other children who actually did the work on their own feeling bad or inferior it is proper to grade the other children on their merit and fail the child who obviously had mom or dad do the work for him/her. Because this sends a huge message to the children and we want them to grow up feeling good about themselves and what they personally can accomplish. Not what mom or dad can do for them. The parents should back-off and be there to assist, not do it for them."
03/14/2006:
"Teachers should make it extremely clear what their rules are about parental help with homework. Without guidelines, well meaning parents either help too much or not enough. Teachers can make it easier for both their students and the students' parents if they clearly define the rules for helping with homework. "
03/14/2006:
"Good story. When I was a kid, teachers didn't even assign homework until 4th grade. Now they start giving it in kindergarten. Parents have to be involved, to read directions and explain instructions. Parental involvement is a good thing, but if the assignment is complex for the age/grade, parents will get more involved, naturally. Then a habit is formed that the parent provides so much assistance, it becomes hard for both to totally cut the ties. Also, teacher praise and feedback goes a long way in motivating kids to product their best quality work on their own. My daughter isn't going to put extra effort into anything that she knows won't be looked at more than just checked to see if it is done."
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