Puppets for homework

I hate arts and crafts. Fortunately, my daughter likes arts and crafts so she did all her own crafty homework assignments with no help from me, except for purchase of innumerable posters. So I sympathized with the parent who
complained in the Christian Science Monitor about endless crafts projects (via D-Ed Reckoning) that send Mom on late night runs to the 24-hour Walgreens in search of construction paper, glue sticks and pipe cleaners.

Please, oh please, dear curriculum developers, give us parents a break: Ban all make-work projects. Parents have jobs, too, you know. We do our children’s homework. We serve on school boards, coach basketball, and volunteer with the Boy Scouts. Now you want us to be creative?!

. . . Recently, while rummaging through my son’s 20-pound backpack, I found a note from the literature teacher: “Class, please sew together a stuffed animal representing a character from the Dr. Dolittle novel we read in class. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, simply use any old scraps you have around the house. And, please, whatever you do, DON’T INVOLVE YOUR PARENTS!”

Oh yeah, sure. They always say that. Who, may I ask, is going to drive to the fabric store and run the sewing machine? Who will buy the stuffing, find buttons for the eyes, and sew on the cute whiskers? Certainly not the 9-year-old boy who is busy playing a Star Wars game on the computer.

. . . And it doesn’t end in grammar school. When my high school daughter got the assignment to create a quilt representing the stages of her life, I finally lost control and ran around the house screaming, “What ever happened to the written word? Where are the book report assignments? When will you guys ever learn how to write?”

But I think RedKudu has a good point too: Stop doing your child’s homework . Make him turn off the video game and tackle it himself. Teach organization and time-management skills so you’re not running to the store late at night to get your kids’ materials. And, teachers, don’t expect every family to own a hot-glue gun.

I do remember late-night trips to the 24-hour Rite Aid to buy poster board. My daughter was making posters right through 12th-grade AP English. And I’ll never forget my attempt to make a wig out of cotton balls and Elmer’s Glue so she could go to school as George Washington, for dress-as-your-hero day. Did I mention that I hate arts and crafts? Her stepmother took over the project. I think she went to a costume shop and bought a wig.

About Joanne


  1. Barry Garelick says:

    I’m also tired of book reports that are to be done in a newspaper format, including a cartoon depicting a scene from the book. This still is going on in 7th grade. Alternatives are, writing the report to be on the flyleaf of a book cover jacket.

  2. It’s interesting that the movement to turn all subjects into arts & crafts projects is going on *at the same time* as the elimination of programs to teach serious craft skills through shop classes.

  3. I’ve learned (via Mary Pride) to refer to such projects as “educational clutter.” After all, what are you learning by creating replicas of George Washington’s clothing? His influence on history had nothing to do with clothing. I know the intent is to help “kinaesthetic learners” but if there’s no relevant subject matter involved, then it doesn’t make much difference what medium is being used to convey it.

    My daughter’s school is phasing out the posterboard in favor of PowerPoint presentations, which is still inferior to written reports but less hassle for parents (at least computer-literate ones).

    Oh, and in honor of Thanksgiving Day may I say I’m thankful that your new format allows me to post my comments directly instead of having to email them to you for you to post (I bet you’re thankful for that too).

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    I love the idea of parents’ stopping doing their kids’ homework, but how can that happen? Which parents are going to be the ones who sacrifice their childrens’ grades by being the first ones to stop?

    And while I’m commenting, what kind of an idiot teacher thinks that the average 9-year-old boy can sew a stuffed animal (or anything else whatsoever) without any help? What 9-year-olds have fabric scraps, needle, thread and scissors lying around their bedrooms? (Well, OK, I did, but I was never a 9 yo boy.)

  5. david foster said: It’s interesting that the movement to turn all subjects into arts & crafts projects is going on *at the same time* as the elimination of programs to teach serious craft skills through shop classes.

    And at the same time that legitimate arts classes are being phased out.

    I’m a music teacher and a strong proponent of the arts. But I’m not in favor of the ‘educational clutter’ that seems to be popping up. It’s an attempt at arts integration that does a disservice to both subjects. Gluing cotton balls into a wig doesn’t teach a history skill OR an art skill. Things like that are a waste of time.

  6. callie””a disservice to both subjects’…indeed. I have the sense that many teachers have so little interest in *knowledge* that they can’t believe anyone else would be interested in knowledge, either, unless it is hidden inside something else (like a pill you are trying to get your dog to take)

  7. I personally love arts and crafts, but I do realize that they are not for everbody. Plus, the people that seem to assign them don’t convice me that they understand arts and crafts. What is so ironic is that I got marked down for trying to add arts and crafts to my assignments. Quite a bit. I will give an example. For my high school government class, we were given the assignment to write a campaign slogan and give examples of how it could be used. The teacher was also a local politician who had used a styrofoam hat in running for office the year before. I refurbished the hat and put my campaign slogan assignment directly on the stryofoam hat. I just did not write down how it could be used, but showed a finished product. In my mind, I took the assignment to the next level. I got marked down for doing that and the teacher said I would have gotten an “A” if I would have just followed instructions and wrote it on a piece of paper. There were even a few assignments that I even had to redo for classes because my creativity was seen as too creative of an interpretation. I think maybe I went to school at the wrong time. I do think that arts and crafts could aid certain assigments if used properly, but instead they often seem to have nothing to do with the assignments or the student don’t have the necessary skills and raw materials. I hate to see arts and crafts done this way.