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Parents and School Project Boundaries

A teacher at a private school made no friends when she remarked at the science fair, “Wow, the parents certainly worked hard this year!” She had only spoken the truth. The stamps of parent involvement were all to obvious in the craftsmanship of models and complexity of analysis.

Yet too often, children have fabulous ideas but lack the skills needed to bring them into reality. For example, one of my friend’s sons, at age 8, could picture a “build and play” chess set in his head, where the pieces you captured could be interlocked for building towers and vehicles, yet didn’t have the power tools or drafting expertise to make a prototype. YES to parent involvement here, as long as the child remains in charge as much as possible.

What does a NO! look like? When the idea and most of the work comes from the parent. At one school, parents were so involved in National History Day projects that they, not the students, seemed in competition with each other! The school set a new requirement: all work on the projects had to be done during the school day. What happened? Student enthusiasm soared. While some projects had a few rough edges, the students could answer the judges’ questions at a deeper level. An equal number moved on to higher levels of competition.

Being an advisor to a project rather than a coworker might be a good way to describe the difference. It’s tough, especially if other parents are over-involved. However, children know when they’ve accomplished something on their own. Talk with teachers about ways to help build this kind of culture around projects!

Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is