Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Tommy had this project that his class was doing.  It was pretty straight forward.  They copied an outline of a map of the United States, and then they filled in the name of each state and they had time in class to "decorate" it. 

Nothing earth shattering, am I right?  But I think it's a nice little project for a third grader.  Around the time this was happening in his classroom, I was getting reports from Tommy that his project wasn't going well...someone stepped on it, he couldn't find it, he was too far behind and the teachers were basically telling him to turn it what he had.  (So you know:  the teachers are great, but it's a Montessori school, which means you manage your time ~ with their help ~ and you have to plan out your own projects.  They weren't being unsupportive, just realistic as far as I can can only have so many false starts and redos on a single project before you have to admit that this one will just have to be a learning experience on time management.)

At our parent teacher conference, I asked about the map.  I said we'd like to do it at home.  So I borrowed a poster sized outline of the United States (continental, only!  I had to freehand Hawaii and Alaska off a picture from The Internets!) and a poster sized piece of paper, too.  At home, I showed Tommy how to use my lightbox to copy the image onto the poster paper.

Lookit.  This was not the most cognitively demanding activity he's ever engaged in!  But I was really committed to helping him get this done.  For me, it was a craftsmanship issue.  It was a big, multi-step project, and the truth is, I think he struggled with it at school because he was overwhelmed by it.  He just couldn't start it and stay the course. 

I showed him how to outline the whole thing in black pen, and he used one marker and I used another and we made short work or retracing the entire outline.  Each night (and not every night...hmmm, why is my boy so inconsistent?  ugh) that we worked on it, I helped him by, mostly, sitting at the table with him and getting him started.  He used black pen to write a handful of state names each work session.  I picked out the crayons that were the colors of the rainbow, and I used different ones to outline each state as he finished it.  Then, he filled in the inside of the state outlines by coloring with the matching crayon color. 

It was a fun project for us.  We had many funny and quite enlightening conversations huddled over this map.  I learned that he's a good speller with poor penmanship.   But I was proud of him...that's a lot of states to write out, and he had to make the names fit in the shapes of the state, which was no small trick.  I did show him how to use the "line that points to" teeny tiny states like Rhode Island and Delaware!

I had to get a close up of this crazy mug!!  Anyway, he was really happy when it was done.  It's beautiful, and I was really hoping he learned a lot about making small steps and putting attention on details, like coloring nicely (he wants to hurry sometimes and just scribbles) and writing carefully.  At the end of the project, I asked him what he thought of it, and he told me:  "I think it looks great.  I never could have done this without your help."

I never could have done this without your help.  Er.  That's not quite the message I was hoping to send him.  *sigh*  Parenting is hard, sometimes.  Did I say sometimes?  All the time. 


  1. Michelle ~ He says thanks! I also love your FEET pictures...I tried to leave a comment about them, but it was janky and wouldn't let me. :(