My son is in kindergarten this year, and he loves it. It’s been overall a great experience for us as a family. His teacher really encourages parent participation, not just in the classroom but also with “homework” and take home art projects. Every month she sends us directions for a themed art project to be completed at home. There are usually some vague instructions, but, in general, the kids are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild, with some “light parental supervision.”
I’m really glad that she wants us involved, because it creates more opportunity for quality family time. Furthermore, my son is a very crafty kid so he LOVES these assignments. For each of these monthly projects, he has initiated and completed the project pretty much from start to finish. Our supervision is very much on the “light” end, as in we are often not even allowed to give any advice, just moral support.
Now as talented as I think he is, he’s still only six years old, so, while he tries hard and gives his best effort, these projects aren’t exactly winning any awards.
I have noticed, however, that some parents take this collaborative invitation a little too far. Let’s just say it’s extremely obvious which creations were “lightly supervised” and which ones had some major help by some more -ahem- advanced artists. Luckily my son is so proud of his creations that he doesn’t seem to notice that a lot of the other projects are much better than his.
But the thing is, I do. I notice it. And it really bothers me! A few months ago a parent asked me how long I was up the night before working on the Lunar New Year dragon project. I looked at him, confused, and said, “My son did the project all on his own, he barely let us help at all.” The other parent laughed, assuming I was joking and noted his wife had been up half the night finishing it.
Which begs the question, why? What’s the point of having an assignment if our kids aren’t the ones doing it? I really couldn’t care less what his teacher thinks about my art skills!
I love that my son has so many ideas, and while they might not always be the best or most well-constructed, at least they are his own. And he learns so much by planning the project, trying out different ideas and tweaking things when they don’t work. He’s practicing organization, patience, and executive function skills. That process is SO helpful for him; why would I diminish that learning experience by directing the project or doing it myself?
Don’t get me wrong; my husband and I appreciate the importance of parent involvement to aid and supplement our child’s learning at home. But by expecting (and allowing) him to do most of the work himself, I’m hoping we are instilling in him a strong work ethic, encouraging him to take pride in his accomplishments, and acquiring a lot of hands-on knowledge along the way.
And maybe most importantly, I’m realizing that I have to step back and let him turn in work that may not be “perfect,” because it’s really about the learning process that takes place, not the finished product.