anniebonoblogThe electric kitchen knife is out, ripping through some polystyrene foam. We’ve cut the main stage out and now it’s my daughters turn to cut the ramps down to the B-stage that will be shaped like a Joshua tree.

Me: ‘Careful of your fingers, don’t put them in front of where the blade is threshing!’

Ahhh, school projects don’t you love them?!

Here we go again. Life on hold. Nobody leave the room or go to bed until this is done.

But school projects actually can be a pointer to better things.

School projects can wake us up, clear our vision so we can see other areas of our children’s lives that we are perhaps less worried or focused on than we should be.

Here’s a little personal reflection on a recent whoppa of an assignment one of my kids roped me into…or perhaps I roped her into…you decide…

This is the (annual?) night of notables. Where children choose a celebrity and show to the school what contribution their celeb has made to bettering our planet. They research their celebrity, present a folio and build an informative, well presented display booth for the school to see.

Normally, I’d be very anti-school projects.

Just think it ends up being more parent, less child doing the work.

And get this, this year my wife said it was up to me to get our daughter through.

I stopped breathing.

Then I reached for lifeline… ‘Ok, but we’re doing Bono!’

It was my idea to build a scale model of U2’s 30th Anniversary of the Joshua Tree, tour stage. But my daughter had beat me to a great idea that would make her display literally ‘stand out’. She wanted to build a real, mini-stage in front of her display table that would be complete with microphone and stand and serve as a podium for people to look at her ‘Bono’ table. I suggested we add the apple iPod artist icon that consists of Bono’s head and microphone in silhouette to the stage floor. It was really coming together. Plus, she had her display board well on its way with pictures, headlines, facts and history.

Bono is someone I enjoy reading up on, or more to the point…I don’t have to read up on being a U2 fan for the past 30 plus years.

But flashback a few months and it could have been a very different story…

Me: ‘Darling, have you started research yet? You know this is something you have to do. I’m not doing it all for you’.

Daughter: ‘Yes’

Me: ‘Who are you doing it on?’

Daughter: ‘Some lady who….’

Me: ‘No…No…It’s Bono, Bono, Bono…remember I’m the only one around to help you…you got to do Bono!’

Daughter: ‘Ok dad. But I’ve already told my teacher it’s…’

Me: ‘Right well then tell him it’s now Bono!’

Daughter: ‘Ok, I’ll try’

She did it for dad

Putting on the Bono glasses

Me: ‘A mini-stage? How will we build that?!’

Daughter: ‘What about that pallet dad, underneath the scrap timber in the backyard?’

Me: ‘Hmmm, yep, a pallet will work, that’s a quick ready-made stage, except it’s got gaps’.

Daughter: ‘What about this flat stuff against the wall?’

She asks pointing to some left over fibre cement sheets.

Me: ‘Good call, yep we can screw that to the pallet and close the gaps’.

Out come the saws, tape and pencil, screws and drill. Pretty soon we are DIY’ing the floor and my 12-year-old is learning to mark out, drill and drive the screws into the pallet. She’s learning some handyman skills and recycling at the same time.

Strangely though, we did a very similar, no, actually the same project last year…only a different celebrity. Many of us parents are questioning the educational value in such repetition.

‘But it’s your child that should be doing all the work!’

I hear you.

And really that’s what bugs me most times about school projects. We all know it’s just not practical…they need help learning to research; they can’t build this stuff themselves. Just imagine the stress barometer across homes as parents try and motivate and assist their kids to finish these crazy projects.

‘So just let them do whatever they do and don’t build fancy scale models of U2’s latest stadium dwarfing show!’

Yeah. You could be right.

On the night, I did see some other pretty fancy presentation booths. And some very basic ones. Part of me yearned be one of those, ‘stick to the over involved parents’, really simple, basic ones. You know, 3 pictures, a title and a bio all stuck down by the kid, wonkily, on a scruffy bit of cardboard. Now that’s been done by the kid, no question.

But no, I’d gone the whole hog and caved into this ‘last hurrah’ of primary school projects.

Well, it was for a good cause, I could share all that time helping my daughter in a positive way, instead of her listening to my complaining.

School projects must be the dread of most parents.

They start in the creative minds of teachers who imagine their little vegemites growing leaps and bounds as they learn research skills, develop creative arts and confidence in presenting to the class.

In reality, the kids either leaves it to the night before or stress about ‘getting it right’ for the months leading up to the due date. Or more accurately, the parent stresses out and plans way ahead, project managing their little vegemite to deliver the result on time and under budget.

And here’s my point: we put in a lot of time to our kids schooling, we choose carefully, we angst over things that might hamper their success…being stuck in a composite year class, not doing enough work in a particular subject…but how much do we worry about their spiritual growth, discipline and habits that will far outweigh anything that they need in life?

We don’t want to look like the parent who wasn’t there for their kid.

We don’t want to let our kid down.

We don’t want to be the parent who left their kid to their own devices and nothing happened.

But is being wound up by such concerns obscuring our vision?

It’s easy to get super involved with schooling but have wonky vision that leaves other areas of our kids’ development, well, stunted.…

So, take off the Bono glasses.

Part of the project meant the kids had to also dress up as their celebrity.

That was a deal maker. My daughter could see that dressing up as Bono could be fun and look cool. So, she was in.

But then we had to fuss about the glasses. What style? He has so many.

Oooooh. I know you can wear the fly goggles from Zoo TV!

She put them on…and all my family said was that she looked like a bug.

Yep, only for the hard-core fans. No-one was going to get it.

But it would be so right! The exact glasses from ‘The Fly’; well a copy.

The thing is, we do often get worked up and involved in so many things, trying to get their academic work RIGHT.

But our vision can be wonky. Our vision can be creased and distorted by wearing…fly goggles.

What I mean is…what about their faith?

What about their character?

What about how they are growing spiritually?

How does that rate for us? How much work will we apply to that?

How much do we angst and stress about that?

How much money will we put into that?

How much will we as parents get our hands dirty and do the spiritual homework God has assigned us with our kids?

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