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How Parents Can Support School Projects

How parents can support school projects – practical tips from someone who’s been there as a teacher, a student, and now a parent.

how parents can support school projects

This week my eight-year-old brought home a fairly large project assignment, and it got me thinking about how parents can support school projects. Having approached school projects as a student, a teacher, and now a parent, I thought I would share the things that help my children do well on a school project without my taking over.

How Parents Can Support School Projects

Teachers assign take home school projects as a way of encouraging students to dig deeper on a topic and as a way for students to creatively demonstrate that they understand the topic they were assigned. Teachers also use school projects to help parents see what their children are learning in school, and to strengthen the home-school link. Here are some things parents can do that will help their child create a successful school project while ensuring that the child maintains ownership of the project.

Always remember that the child is in charge.

This is the most important part of supporting a school project. As tempting as it may be, do NOT take over your child’s project. They may hand in something that is messier than you would like, or less organized than you think is appropriate. They may not hand in a project at all. Your expectations may be much higher than is fair to your child, but even if you are spot on in terms of what is expected, school is a safe period of time for your child to experience failure. If you respect your child’s ownership of the project, then they will benefit from whatever learning opportunities may come their way while your relationship with your child remains intact. Occasionally, you AND your child may be pleased with a school project only to find that it is not what the teacher wanted. This is another important life lesson! Things like this often happen in the real-world workplace, and an experience like this in school can help your child learn how to recover and move on gracefully.

There are, of course, ways you can help your child successfully complete a project without removing their ownership of the project. Here are the three ways I find most helpful in terms of providing parental support for a project:

Be a sounding board for brainstorming.

Your child’s teacher wants them to talk to you about school, and a school project is a wonderful opportunity to chat! Parents can be valuable sounding boards as children brainstorm how they will complete projects. Feel free to tell your child stories about similar assignments you had as a child – how you approached them, what worked, and what didn’t – and why.

Break the project into smaller tasks.

Projects consume a lot of time, and sometimes children are at a loss as to where to begin. As part of the brainstorming process, you can help them break the project into several smaller tasks that are less daunting to complete.

Create a timeline.

Once the project has been broken into smaller tasks, you can help your child create a timeline that will allow them to complete the project on time without the project taking over their life. Make this timeline as specific as possible, with several due dates for portions of the project set along the way. Be sure to allow a grace period so that there is no need to panic if things do not go as expected.

If needed, help your child contact their teacher for support.

Notice that I said to help your child contact their teacher, not to contact the teacher yourself. The teacher assigned this project to your child, not to you, and they are the ones who should be communicating concerns to the teacher. You can help them think of how to ask their questions, and you can also help them word a written note or email if needed, but ultimately the communication should come from them.

Remember that this is their project.

Your child may take the project in a direction that seems strange to you, or they may choose to leave the project less polished than you would like. Remember, this is their project, not yours! Any consequences that come of their difference in vision – positive or negative – are there for your child (and sometimes you as a parent) to learn from.

What tips would you add to this list?

How parents can support school projects. I love these practical tips from someone who's been there as a teacher, a student, and now a parent.
Here are some great posts on this topic from some of my fellow bloggers:

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

16 thoughts on “How Parents Can Support School Projects”

  1. These are such great tips. I get so frustrated when I see projects assigned to kids that clearly their parents did. My kids proudly take ownership in their projects. I love it when they make a good grade on it. They are so proud of their work!

    1. I LOVE when my kids take charge of a project and do really well. They would never get that kind of satisfaction if I took over the project.

  2. That first one is certainly the hardest from what I saw while teaching. Parents just want their kids to do well. It’s certainly even one I struggle with with my kiddos from time to time.

    1. I think it is easy for us as parents to forget that our children’s teachers see their work every single day and so are unlikely to be surprised (unless parents take over!)

  3. These are great tips! My husband is a perfectionist, so it’s quite hard for him to see the projects from our non-perfectionistic child. I keep reminding him of a similar goals that you mentioned in your post.

  4. Great advice! I try very hard to step back and let my girls take the lead. The part I hate the most about projects is when my kids bring in their (obvious) child made projects and it gets put up against someones perfect parent made project. I know teachers are very good at knowing the difference, but the kids often aren’t.

  5. It does take nerves of steel not to take over your kid’s school project! Great advice! I try to make suggestions during the planning and choosing of the project phase but they invariably get rejected.

  6. Great advice – it doesn’t matter what age either there were points I wondered how much of examination projects had been done by parents rather than students at senior level in high school!

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    Project work is so important in every aspect of life. Kudos to you for letting your kids take the lead, since I’m assuming these are kid-sized projects the teachers are assigning. I always wished my parents would help me when I had the dreaded science fair project, but beyond taking me to the library I was on my own. Which has worked out well in the end – I even worked as a project manager for a time.

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