Thursday, May 23, 2013


In theory, I'm a big fan of projects. I read the Project-Based Homeschooling blog obsessively, I always have a ton of projects of my own going on at a time, and I love when my kids come up with something, like a toilet-paper roll marble-run or a pizza-box airplane. But when they come home from school with project assignments, I tend to panic and feel like a python has wrapped itself around my esophagus.

Maybe it all goes back to the time when M had to make a model of an avalanche, while C was away at his grandfather's funeral in Vermont, we were in the middle of a blizzard (if not avalanche) of our own, Z had a high fever and we were out of children's Tylenol. 

Whatever the cause, when E and Z came home from school with project assignments the Friday before we left for camping I wanted to scream. With two weekends fully booked and nearly every night devoted to The American Pastime, I had no idea when we would get them made. Especially since Z wanted to carve a prairie falcon for his.

With some drill-sargeant-like time management (one night when baseball practice was cancelled and Saturday afternoon, while M was hanging with his buddies), we managed to complete both projects in time.

Z was not receptive to the idea of carving soap, but after a bit of discussion, he did acquiesce to relief carving, rather than 3-D, for this, his first project. I happened to have a set of little chisels in the basement, leftover from that time I was going to learn to carve, but never got around to it. He did great, and I hardly helped him at all, other than the suggestion of enlarging the bird photo from the book and tracing it for his pattern (and a little painting right at the end, when he ran out of enthusiasm for all that blue). Once he asked me to do the details around the wings, but it turned out that he handled the tools much better than I did, and took them back from me after two attempted feathers.

For something completely different, E wanted to make a stuffed animal road runner. I recommended felt, for ease of use and no unravelingIt ended up being not so much stuffed as flat...and I might put E to work making my Christmas ornaments next year.

I ended up helping him a lot more than I did Z––cutting out pieces and sewing around the tricky parts, like beak and feet, and I glued on the background when E, too, ran out of energy and enthusiasm right at the end. It's interesting how much more I helped with the work I know how to do and am comfortable with, while with something neither of us knew about, Z took the lead. It will be a good lesson to keep in mind for future projects.

They both seemed to have fun and were proud of their results, but I'd really love to make time for them to do more self-directed project work.


  1. nothing like huge assignments right before leaving on a camping trip! :) looks like you *all* did great, though — love what they created.

  2. I absolutely dread the home-based school project, i.e. science experiment, that requires so much parental involvement. This year, the teacher stretched it out over months, which was a blessing because she took over more of the project management. Good for you for getting it done in a way that allowed you and your sons to grow!


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