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Tonight is the night. There is usually some last minute drama, often related to a small logistical detail to which I never paid any attention. "On the third paragraph of the summary statement, underline all the words that relate back to your hypothesis. Make sure that all photographs are labeled in italics and placed in the left corner of the display board." I'm of course being fictitious. It's not that hard for me to understand the details of their teacher's requests. My problem is me.
It's very important to me that my kids learn how to be responsible and be able to handle themselves, take care of the stuff that is their business. I don't hover. I ask if their homework is done and when I'm able, I answer questions. That's pretty much what I offer. When they were in second and third and maybe even fourth grade, I would offer to help type up their essays for school. Mostly because I wanted to use the computer before the next month had passed and their own typing was so slow it verged on torture.
So, during science and history fair preparation my values butt up against my sanity. Do I correct all the typos, grammar mistakes, weird phrasing, and undocumented facts or do I encourage them to check their work again and let the quality of their own effort be reflected in their grade? Do I let them struggle with the typing and the making of charts when it would take me half the time? I know that other parents are probably going to help out (does a 7 yr old really know how to run those color graphs with the attached video feed?). Am I really just putting my kids in an unfair situation - being compared to students who have a design team from their parents pr firm offering support? As is the case with so many of my dilemmas, they are rooted in my real values vs. my own adult fears of judgement. I don't want them to turn in a project that isn't really theirs but I also hate the idea of their tilted, glue smudged display standing next to the matted, black and white photographed project, all printed on archival quality paperstock.
In the end, I am going to do what I've done the last seven years. Tonight, I will brace myself. I will be calm and wipe away any tears of frustration that may come. I will model deep breathing and patience. I will affirm and encourage. And maybe, just maybe, quietly suggest that the summaries should be glued neatly onto the board instead of the "pin the tale on the donkey/willy-nilly" alignment that is my son's preferred method. He will turn it in, even though I know that I would do it differently. He will get a grade that provides relief or frustration and that grade will be all his.