Is it appropriate for a teacher to assign a 'family project'?

My daughter got an assignment today that was billed as a ‘family project.’ It involves making a miniature adobe shelter. The instructions given make it clear that the parents are expected to do most of it, including going out and buying a certain kind of clay.

This just seems rather inappropriate to me. As far as I’m concerned, the teacher can give homework to her students, but not to their parents. Requiring the purchase of special materials makes it even more expensive and time consuming. I don’t mind helping my daughter out on a project, as long as it’s clear it is HER project, and I’m just assisting as necessary.

But to think up a project that requires the parents to do the majority of the work seems rather… presumptuous.

What do you think?

I think it’s crap. I have a real problem with assignments that assume the parent is uninvolved unless the school makes them get involved.

Also, anything that requires you to buy something special is really rude. What if you had no money for this special clay?

What grade is the kid in? I have a hard time seeing what educational value there would be in this project.

I think every fourth grader in the state of California has to do a ‘Mission Project’ where they build a California mission out of the materials of their choice. Why, it even has its own Wiki.This project is so well known that places like Michael’s sell mission kits. My point is, it’s not exactly odd that there’d be some sort of take home project where you have to buy modeling clay or something. Obviously a kid would probably need help with a big project like this, so maybe your kid’s teacher is just being up front about that fact, rather than tip toeing around it.

Every single one of my friends remembers our mission projects. It was a super fun project where I got to learn a lot about architecture and history. Heck, when I finally saw the REAL mission I built a replica of for the first time, I was so excited-- and I was 19! I could still remember what the features were called and why they were there. Sure, it seems like a small thing- but when I got to college and did a mission-related paper, the info I learned way back when did come in handy. So, it can definitely be educational.

This is pretty much exactly my feeling. I went through elementary school once, did my homework, completed my projects, and don’t really feel the need to do it all again just because the school thinks they need to foster “quality time” with my family. We get plenty of quality time on our own, thanks, and I frakkin’ hate craft projects.

^That. I already completed school, and that’s just one more imposition on family time, thankyouverymuch. There are things we’d rather be doing together.

I am raising kids in CA, so I now know the Mission project. My kid’s school was awesome - they held a Mission day instead and invited parents to come help. I had a team 6 building a Mission, with shared materials etc. This kept the poor kid, the kid with absent parents, etc. from feeling left out. It also kept the rich kid, the kid whose parents are structural engineers, etc. from being the top of the classroom.

I was the only dad in the room - that was also pretty interesting. I DID have to burn a vacation day though.

That’s reasonable, for two reasons: First, it’s identified as the kid’s project, with parental help optional. Second, it the student’s choice of materials, so they could choose to use mud from their backyard, or fallen branches off a tree, or recycled materials, or whatever, if they can’t afford fancy clay. Sure, the kids who can afford a mission kit from the craft store have an unfair advantage, but that’s the nature of wealth and poverty, for which there are no easy solutions. But at least don’t exacerbate the disparity.

Total bullocks.

I don’t live in CA and this isn’t the mission project. It’s just something the teacher is doind on her own because she thought ‘it sounded like fun.’

3rd grade, btw.

I would challenge the teacher with your concern.

I agree that its unfair, especially for those students who dont have the resources at home. Just because a piece of paper comes home with a child, mandating a Family Project, doesnt mean there is a Family at home to follow thru.
A family mandated project, does not a family make.

No. What happens to the child who brings a note back from the parents saying “I refuse to help”? Report them to Child Protective Services for neglect?

In my school the mission project was broken up in to two parts: report and the mission.

As you mentioned, there’s always those one or two kids who’s parents build theirs and it looks amazing, but the way my teacher graded theirs got really low grades, as it was obvious they didn’t do it.

Mine, on the other hand, looked horrible. It was made out of cardboard, completely lopsided, just a horrid looking thing, and I got a B. It was clear that I did it by myself.

Wow, the soap box derby of the California school system … what exactly comes in one of these kits from Michaels?

I think it is absurd. I can see sending home a list of projects that could be done by the family as extra credit suggestions, but mandating it is untoward. many people do not currently have the money to spend on special project materials, or time to do teh projects, or perhaps the craft ability to do it.

Interesting coincidence in timing. My daughter is in year 3 (we’re in Australia) and has just been given a major project to do. The teacher’s instructions were that under no circumstances are the parents to help their children - it is to be all the childrens’ own work. Quite a contrast.

Now having said that, what they are being asked to do is quite complex so I imagine it will be a case of the parents not helping but “providing guidance” or “answering general questions” or such like. (Reminds me of when I was an ISO 9001 auditor. We weren’t allowed to “consult,” but we did sometimes offer the auditees some “generic suggestions based on our experience.” :wink: )

The thing I really hate about this is it kind of singles out kids who have absent or truly neglectful parents. They aren’t going to be able to complete the assignment, or will turn in shoddy work or something and it will be obvious that nobody loves them.

I feel the same way about assignments that require me to talk about my family. Some of my classmates (in graduate school) have to do a ‘‘family tree’’ assignment and basically map out their family history, including abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, etc. I don’t even know what I would do if that were my assignment. It’s nobody’s goddamn business IMO and projects like that just exist to make kids without normal families feel shitty.

The mission project is a California right of passage. Twenty years from now, when your child meets another Californian god knows where, they are going to reminisce about how they built their missions. Mine was from foam board, and I was jealous of the sugar-cube kids but felt bad for the kit-from-Michaels people.

I’m all for family projects. Sometimes, it can be the wake up call a parent needs to learn “Hey, you! You are a part of this education process as well.” Most of these project take more than a couple of hours and maybe $20.00. I dare you to tell me that you can’t afford that.

I remember my first family project was in second grade, and we had to decorate a cardboard duck. Well, I knew my mom was busy and stressed, so I hid the duck somewhere in my room. My mom eventually found it and asked what it was, and I had to explain. Well, obviously she was devastated because she hadn’t realized how much of her stress I had absorbed. But I think it also renewed her commitment to playing an active role in my education. We made the best duck in the class. And I have fond memories of our projects after that.

I guess that’s one way to make the adobe. :stuck_out_tongue:

The people who can’t afford that are probably not hanging out posting on the Dope.

And regarding the “wake up call that a parent needs”: No. This is not a wake-up call. Parents who are already involved with their kids are simply going to be annoyed by having to do homework for third grade when presumably they already successfully completed third grade on their own once already. Parents who aren’t involved with their kids are not going to see a homework assignment from Mrs. Taylor in Grade 3 and realize, “My God! I’m not involved enough with my child! I’m going to sit down and craft this pioneer hut out of matchsticks and popsicle sticks, and afterwards I will have realized the error of my ways!” More likely, that kid is just going to show up to school with either no project or a shitty project, and the net change in his family life will be zip.

Mostly I just take issue with the entire concept that the school is responsible for promoting family togetherness by assigning stupid homework projects that are supposed to be done by the whole family. If anything, as has already been pointed out, this only serves to highlight the shitty family circumstances that some kids have been saddled with – although that’s not really my main issue with it. My main issue is that it’s pointless and annoying.

I can’t understand why they’re still sending home Family Trees to be filled out which have only space for two parents and four grandparents. Which of her deeply loved grandparents would you like us to leave off, and why? And how about that other kid in her class who has never had even two parents? In today’s world of divorce and blending families, not to mention single parenthood, family trees should be left until the lessons on genetics, or given more or less branches as needed.

Really? Okay. I can’t afford that. If you can find me that $20 in my bank account, I’d love to put some gas in my car.

While asking about abuse, etc. is clearly out of line, I don’t think that these projects are necessarily a bad thing for children with neglectful parents.

i think in many cases, they can play a role in empowering children to identify and strengthen the connections with whoever can help them. An aunt, neighbor, grandparent, etc. may know on some level that a child isn’t getting the care that they need, but not really know how to process that. But when a kid comes up to you and says they need help building their mission, it’s a pretty clear sign that something is going wrong in a way that you can help with. The bond that is created stacking sugar cubes may later be the bonds that gets that kid through the hard years even with a neglectful family.

I agree that finding an interested ally is a harsh thing for a child to have to do, but it’s also a very useful one. And I think most kids can come up with someone who can help them, and they will be better off for it.