We all want our children to do well at school. We want to support them in their learning and give them all the help they need with their homework, tests, and school projects.
But there is a fine line between supporting them, and taking over…
When it comes to school projects, its better to be hands-on in the thinking and planning stages, but hands-off when it comes to actually doing the work.
It’s important to consider why teachers set projects – or assignments – in the first place. Regardless of the topic, projects provide kids with the opportunity to plan, form a strategy, implement it, and see it through to completion. They also allow students to demonstrate understanding, show creativity, improve their time-management skills and develop independence. Ultimately the goal is for kids to become self-regulated, self directed learners – capable of holding down a job, and managing projects in real life.
Here are ten ways to help your child with their school projects, without taking over:
1) Establish regular homework time
It’s a good idea to start this early on in your child’s schooling, for example when Home Readers begin being sent home. Making it a usual part of the daily routine will help to keep on top of both daily homework tasks, and irregular ones like projects.
2) Use a family diary or calendar
By the end of primary school, kids are expected to be able to manage their own diary. Help your child to become familiar with simple calendars, and mark the due date of school projects clearly together. Also mark regular after-school activities to help with time management. Our free weekly planner can help with this.
3) Ask first!
Before jumping in, ask your child what they would like from you. Don’t make assumptions, and try to remember that it is their project – not yours. Read through the project instructions so that you understand what is being assessed.
4) Brainstorm together
Some kids approach a school project knowing exactly what they want to do, while others – like my eldest son – prefer to consider their options before deciding. Often, children benefit from a brainstorming session with a parent. This could involve writing on a big piece of paper, or just chatting it over.
5) Find resources
Finding information is an important part of any project or assignment, and one area where parental support makes a big difference. Sit with your child while they search Google; go to the library together; look at newspapers, magazines, and posters. Remember not to take over; your child needs to learn how to find their own sources of information eventually.
6) Identify materials
Ask your child what they need ahead of time and don’t think for them. Depending on the type of school project, they may require cardboard, craft materials, glue, USB stick, photos, or even the use of video.
7) Sit on your hands
You can help your child with ideas. You can help them to find information. You can help them to get their materials together. Then give your child the freedom to do their project their own way. If you can’t stop your fingers from picking up that glue stick… sit on your hands!
8) Be a cheerleader
Don’t nag your child about their project. Encourage them, spur them on, let them know you believe in them and cheer them to the finish line.
9) Celebrate success
Don’t wait for an A+ before you celebrate your child’s successes. Let your child know what you like best about their work.
10) Learn and grow
Taking the time to discuss your child’s project with them afterwards can be valuable. Ask them what they might do differently next time.
As parents, our job is to prepare our children for life in the big, bad world. That’s the whole point of school, of homework and of school projects.
Doing everything for our kids won’t help them in the long run. If we take over the gluing of our seven-year old’s poster presentation, we just might find we end up doing half of the work for their Year 7 science project, which will possibly lead to them expecting us to write their resume at 17 and (horror!) still do their washing at 27.
It’s important to support our kids in whatever phase they are in, while still keeping an eye on the bigger picture. We need to be invested in our kids’ learning and development; ensure we are available when they need us; and most importantly, offer practical support without taking over.