Monday, May 1, 2017

Surviving Science Fair Season

Remember when you were in high school and you longed for a day when you'd be through with intrusions on your life like book reports and science fairs? Remember how you hungered for a life that no longer included homework? Remember the incredible freedom you felt on graduation day as the weight of syllabuses, memorized locker combinations, and term papers rolled off your shoulders?

I now realize I was a BIT premature in feeling like I had walked away from all of that. It's especially clear when I'm stressing in the morning to help get forgotten homework completed or when I'm supervising a large school project. Days of doing homework aren't DONE; the difficulty level has just been increased. Books, notes, and/or instructions are often left at school, requiring guesswork on what the teacher intended and expects. There is a direct ratio between my understanding of the assignment and arguments from the child, who has misinterpreted said assignment, but is certain he/she DOES understand. Most of all, there is a distinct drop in control over time management (as, inevitably, any assignment or project I help with has been put off until the last possible second).

Right now the school year is about 65 to 75% done. The kids are 90 to 100% done. The gap ends up requiring 110% effort from me (don't worry; it all adds up when you apply Common Core math). For some reason (likely some sick sense of humor) the schools choose THIS time of year to assign the largest, most time-consuming homework, like science fair projects.

In years past I prided myself on obtaining that perfect mixture of allowing the child to "help" just enough to honestly say he/she "did" the project, while ensuring I created a scientific work of art.

This year I attempted a new strategy. It was actually out of necessity. I was distracted with trying to minimize the damage of the train wreck that was my son's grades, so I allowed my 5th grade daughter to take on her science fair project all by herself.

I recently quit doing the kids' laundry. I was tired of putting clean, folded clothes on their beds to be put away, only for them to be kicked around until they fell to the floor, get kicked around some more, then get thrown right back into the dirty laundry. As a new member of the laundering community, Maddie decided to test which stain removers work best.

It is hard to put into words just how painful it was for me (a self-admitted control freak with a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder) to watch said project leave the house the day it was due.

Here was her hypothesis:

Here; let me offer a bit of punctuation for that last one, since complete sentence structure didn't seem to be a priority for this project in any way, shape or form.
Stain remover, organic or not: I think it will work. Well, not as well as bleach, but...well...because, like I said, bleach takes out all the color and stain remover doesn't.

Here were her conclusions:

Again, I'll offer a bit of punctuation clarification.
Soap: It was...well...I don't know how it was, but it just was.
Bleach looked like it was from the start - plain white. I was right; yay!!!!
Organic was way worse than non-organic. Weird, right?

And...drum's our [beautiful?] finished product.

I don't drink. I think if I did, this would have been a good time to grab the bottle. Instead, it is times like these when I am extremely thankful for friends who take the sting out of some of these parenting challenges (whether they realize what they're doing or not). A few weeks ago my friend, Vickie, stopped by the house unexpectedly. She had recently made a quilt; the colors of which were inspired by a recent trip she took to Sprague Lake.

She decided - for whatever reason - to gift me the [breathtakingly beautiful] quilt. Now, on mornings like that one, when my nerves are particularly fried, I curl up under said quilt and escape into one of my books, allowing my energy reserves replenish in time to face whatever challenge the end of the school day may throw my way next. At night I keep it folded up at the end of my bed, and when I climb in at bedtime, exhausted and drained, the weight of it on my feet feels like a daily hug from my thoughtful, talented, and very generous friend. Thank you, Vickie, for helping me survive this year's edition of Science Fair Season!