Saturday, June 11, 2011

Surviving Summer Projects Assigned by the School

*Saturday will be rerun blog classic day.  This first saw daylight July 8, 2008.

Every parent’s favorite game with children in the summer is "Time to do your summer enrichment program." and the subsequent corollary, "What's My Motivation?" When the time honored and irrefutable “Because I said So…” doesn’t work and that summer reading list looks more daunting than the latest 360 Vertical Drop Over 55 mph Double Loop Roller Coaster at the park, what’s a parent to do?

1) Assess your child' learning style. Physical? Kinetic? I admit it’s drastic but with eight books left and only six weeks of summer, radical solutions may be necessary. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I have bartered 30 minutes of reading for an hour at the pool as a standard deal.

2) Re-evaluate communication methods. By mid-summer, the parent voice is on permanent mute status with kids unless key words are tagged –ice cream, park, movies, mall and swimming. Verbal exchanges should no longer be considered an effective medium for letting offspring know what needs to be done on a given day. The following techniques are offered as viable alternatives to speaking aloud.

a) Post-it notes with a task on each post it. Special Tip: Color code by child. Every three notes or so, put a treat or prize or compliment. Quarters, Klondike Bars and bubbles for outside work well.

b) Mystery Mom Madness Game: Want your kids to listen? Declare yourself silent. Respond to every request and need as usual, but say nothing. See how long it can endure. Gestures to get in the car did not work well, but loading the car with the babies and honking the horn was emotionally satisfying. By not listing the errands, one avoids the caterwauls of protest for the usual stand-by need to dos, dry cleaning, pharmacy, bank and grocery store. Handing out worksheets and holding up pencils in one hand and chocolate bars in the other got the job done for the day. Sure it was passive aggressive, but exceptionally therapeutic.

c) Contracts: Posted sheets on the fridge. Wanted: Room Cleaned, vacuumed, laundry placed in bag and beds made, will pay top $$$. Call 301-Clean ME! For more details. Also wanted: summer book reports completed, typed double spaced and proof read. Unrestricted access to Wii obo. My teen aged son called on his and his sister’s behalf to negotiate prices. We settled on a trip to the book store where they could use their gift cards. Negotiations for homework remain an unresolved issue of dispute.

3) Family dynamics don’t matter. Power and authority are insufficient to guarantee obedience or competency. The problem remains that parents consider summer projects to be like homework, status quo behaviors that require neither rewards, nor reminders, like not fighting with one’s sibling more than once in any given three hour period. Parents are unreasonable this way, as kids view any time spent studying as ruining the entire purpose and spirit of summer, and fighting with sisters, a protected right under the constitution.

Rational explanations do not fly in such a situation. Showing a chart of fights with the time, duration, nature of the offense and participants do not move said recalcitrant children to alter patterns of behavior. Documenting that the same time would have been sufficient to finish two chapters or four workbook lessons does not work, as it reveals why the parent wants the job done, not why the kid should or must.

Emotional appeals also fall flat. Suggesting major carnage will occur if the bad behavior (determined sloth) does not stop must be backed up with sufficient force to ensure compliance and that's hot hard work in the dog days of August. Again, the maximum labor is foisted on the parent. One must remember this is the child's responsibility, not the parents. Ours is but to nag and remind and supply the opportunity.

So what does work?

POLICY WONK APPROACH: Take the curriculum rationale stated for summer projects and enrichment from the school/district web site, and thrust it in front of the children to read, or read aloud if the offspring in question is not yet literate. If it doesn’t motivate, it might induce sleep, giving the parent 2 to 3 hours of peace.

KID SWAP: Explain that you love summer projects as much as they do, then, offer to switch. You can clean their rooms and do their math. They can change the diapers, do the dishes, fold the laundry, make all the beds of children not able to do so, clean the bathrooms and cook the meals. No backsies for 48 hours. Be sure to tell them, you’ll do as good a job as they do.

NASCAR approach: Point out that they can finish the 60 pages of math in 30 days doing 2 a day each or make it drag out all summer. Offer a big prize for finishing first. Stand back and have plenty of sharpened pencils.

Play Kid Chicken. Post the number of days left of summer to finish the projects publically. Keep the countdown to school prominently displayed at all times. Do not mention projects again. If it comes up, shrug and say something along the lines, “Your project, your grade, your problem. If you want help...” Warning, this takes a firm belief that the kid cares more than you do.

Should the summer program studies still loom unfinished, unloved and untouched…push the Nuclear Red button of parenting.

“You’re right. This is dumb. Tell you what, I’ll home school you this year. We’ll start today.”


Anonymous said...

Or you could do as I do: tell the school that your child is a child and summer vacation is just that - vacation. There will be no summer projects and any summer reading will be assigned by YOU. We've put so much "structure" on kids that it's breaking their spirits. Summertime is the kids' time, not the school's. What could possibly be more enriching to a child than to be able to run, play, be bored, nap, sing, and, well, just be a kid.

When did we decide that we knew better than our grandparents how to raise kids? If we're honest, we know de don't.

Anonymous said...

S- Welcome back - hope you enjoyed your break!

Tried to post smiley but when I went to a cute kitten told me there were no recent blogs to read.

Is the kitten wrong? Are the dogs trying to mess up the blog? Or is it just not linked properly? Or have I lost it?


Sherry said...

Dear LAR

I fixed that problem. There was a glitch in the RSS feed --oh yes, like I know what I'm talking about, I assure you I don't, that prevented humor-blogs from getting my brilliant posts. It's been taken care of...I think. Thanks for leaving a comment.


I agree the kids don't get much slack these days, but honestly, I don't think my kiddos in particular are slack deprived. I do however think parents are overworked and sometimes wonder if these summer projects are a teacher's revenge...

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!