School project or family conflict?
Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 9:08 pm
One of the most ironic statements ever made at an American dinner table is, “I have a school project assignment!” Everyone knows that an elementary school child hasn’t been given a school project assignment. The parents have been given an assignment. When’s the last time you saw a second grader drive a mini-van to the Dollar Store right before closing to pick up poster board and glitter? When have you ever seen a third grader collecting leaves in the woods while commenting to himself, “Yay! I found a Tulip Poplar. It says so right here in this handy nature guide that I purchased online with my credit card last year.” Precisely. Let’s all come forward with the truth, shall we? Children don’t do school projects. They never have. Children TALK about school projects. Children carry the school projects with their sweaty little hands into the front door of the elementary school. Children may even help with school projects. But when it comes to the assignment, small children don’t captain the ship. Not even close. Our younger son is in fourth grade which means he was given a school project assignment involving Indians. Each child was assigned a certain type of Indian to study. After studying the culture, the project involved building a home and living environment to illustrate their way of life. Enter his zealous parents. My dear husband is an academic and his zeal for historical purity is admirable … though frustrating. I’m a more relational and creative sort. Knowing that crafting an accurate Indian habitation would be right up his alley, I happily relinquished the project to my husband and my son … well, sort of. Truthfully, I thought the whole thing was looking rather brown and bland. I believed it needed color, life, some pizzazz. I was overjoyed when my young son said, “Hey Mom, can I put some plastic horses around the Indian house?” My response was sure and quick, “Oh, that’d be a great idea! That would really give it some life.” Trouble was brewing. My husband’s brow was furrowed, “Buddy, the Aztecs didn’t have horses. You shouldn’t put the horses on if it’s not really a part of their history.” Strike one for the pizzazz crew. My son wouldn’t give up, “Can I put some dogs around? I have some little plastic dogs from an old farm set.” I thought this was a fantastic idea. I mean, what Aztec family wouldn’t have loved to have a cute little German shepherd pup or a yellow farm dog outside their thatched roof home? My husband’s furrowed brow returned. Evidently, the Aztecs weren’t known for having domestic dogs. Strike two. Before my son could even ask about gluing a mama cat and some kittens by the front door, my husband spoke, “Look, I’ll go online again and we’ll see if there were any animals around their homes. But don’t get your hopes up. We need to make this right if we’re going to do it.” In just a few minutes my dear husband spoke up cheerfully, “Hey! They ate turtles and frogs.” So Jonathan got a plastic turtle and his dad tied a string around the turtle’s leg and they hung it outside the brown house with the brown thatched roof. By the time Jonathan wanted to glue a plastic Indian figure near the entrance of the house, Philip was resigned and happy to let him do it. Moral to the story: It may not take a village to raise a child, but it does take a whole family to do a school project. Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. Published in The Messenger 10.15.08