Australia During WWII…What I learned from My Son’s Homework.

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been very preoccupied with my son’s project on an Australian Prime Minister, which I suspect feeds into his upcoming Canberra Excursion. The Canberra Excursion is a virtual rite of passage for Australian school kids close enough to get there. In case you’re not aware, Canberra is Australia’s capital and where we herd our Federal politicians.

When we discussed who he should choose, I suggested Prime Minister John Curtin.I am a Curtin and all my life, people have asked me whether I’m related to John Curtin. Indeed, it only dawned on me recently that all those questions had stopped. These days, I usually go by my married name.

Well, as it turned out, we are related to John Curtin , just not Prime Minister John Curtin. Ous was an Irish sailor from City of Cork, County Cook who worked his way to Australia as ship’s crew.Last year, we had a family dinner honouring that John Curtin and while that wasn’t this John Curtin, at least there was a link for me.

Prime Minster John Curtin served Australia during those horrific years of World War II where a Japanese invasion looked imminent and the Germans weren’t far away either.Just to put you in the picture, he came into office on the 7th October, 1941, only six weeks before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, launching The Pacific War. The stress of the war had a huge toll on Curtin’s health and he ultimately died in office on 5th July, 1945, only a few months before the Pacific War ended. So, you’d have to say that his time in office was one enormous stress pill and I am really struck by the huge personal sacrifice he made, in effect, dying for our country!

While acknowledging it’s horrors, it is a fascinating period of history, especially when you look at it through a contemporary perspective, not hindsight. After all, life is lived going forward and there’s no crystal ball to see into the future. No one knew in 1942 how the war would turn out. Who would win. It is all too easy to forget that now. I personally find it interesting to see how people react under such stress, what they were thinking and how they get through. These are important life lessons that we can carry forward and a critical reason for studying and really knowing our history.

Anyway, as you can obviously sense my undisguised enthusiasm about to blow a gasket, this brings me to the awkward question of just how much a parent should be helping their kids with their homework and in particular, home projects. Should the kid be left to do it “all by myself” or is it okay or even a good idea for parents to “help”?

As I’ve found out, the answer is not so clear cut.

While I don’t believe a parent should be doing their child’s assignment in total, I do believe that being able to give them that one-on-one support at home, can really boost their learning experience, especially if they are having any troubles. Perhaps, a parent or grandparent has a bit more time to sit down and explain things one-on-one like a personal tutor and personalise that help, in a way that a teacher in charge of a class of students, can not.Having that older perspective, particularly if they’ve lived through that period in time, can also add insights and make history feel more real. It’s hard to have that sense of history when you’re 11 years old.

Moreover, learning how to process information and put it together in a report is a challenging process. I did Honours in History at University so I am well equipped to help. Just don’t ask me to help him with his Maths. Thank goodness that’s his strength and he could no doubt help me.

Yet, at the same time, there’s also that fine line between guiding and taking over. Of course, we’ve all heard parents talking about “our assignment”, “we scored” or even “I got an A in their last project”.

There has to be be a middle ground but when “your pupil” is watching TV, playing computer games and looking like those lollies weren’t a good idea, it’s all to easy to just push them out of the way and “do it myself”…particularly when I’ve been avidly interested in this period of history since I was a 13 year old school girl reading The Diary of Anne Frank.

But to quote John Curtin himself:

Prime Minister John Curtin: “The game is not lost – or won – until the last bell goes.”

Perseverance isn’t just something for kids. It’s also for grown-ups.Sometimes, it takes a lot to stand back and let our kids do it themselves. Sink or swim. Yet, even if we have to tie ourselves to the chair just as much as we long to do the same to our kid, it has to be done!.

However, does that mean we should stop our own learning experience? After all, these school projects can be fascinating once you’re mature-aged. I know myself how I’ve become embroiled in the John Curtin Project and have taken off like a hound chasing the fox through the undergrowth. If only I’d studied like that with the research skills I have now, I’d be a complete genius.


That doesn’t entitle me to do my son’s project for him.

Thank goodness for my blog because I’ve been able to do my own project, which I’m still working on.

Moreover, through working through John Curtin’s term as Prime Minister on my own, I also realised that I wanted him to learn some valuable stuff, which wasn’t directly part of his project. I wanted him to gain some understanding of the socio-political context of the Prime Minister he was studying and not just parrot off dates or cut and paste stuff from the Internet. I wanted John Curtin to go through those two eyes, two ears and pass through his brain and fire off a few neurones on the way.

That’s what I call learning. Getting an education.

I didn’t grasp that when I was 11 either but we adults all live in hope that somehow we can improve the next generation in areas where we fell short.

Mister has been away at a Scout camp all weekend and while the project is almost finished, it’s now down to the final countdown and really making sure that he’s answered the question and nailed it. Thank goodness, he’s had a nap and recovered somewhat as the hard yards lie ahead  and I’m not sure who is going to struggle most…him or me.

How have you gone with the kids’ projects? Or, if you’re a teacher or educator, any advice?

xx Rowena

13 thoughts on “Australia During WWII…What I learned from My Son’s Homework.

  1. derrickjknight

    Here’s my favourite grandchild’s project story: Alice was about Mister’s age when she was studying WWII. I was babysitting. Her bedtime was just at the time Foyle’s War (detective during that war) was due to start. I told her to bring her duvet down when she was ready for bed, and snuggle up on the sofa. I turned on the telly and told her that was her homework, so it was OK to stay up. She was asleep before it finished.

  2. Norah

    Thanks for the history lesson. I agree that it’s great to get an idea of the times and the person. Names and dates alone is a pretty boring way to be introduced to history. I think you have a lot to offer Mister with your knowledge and experience. It is important, though, to be guided by his interest and abilities as well as the requirements of the assignment and not try to push him to a masters thesis at age 11! 🙂

  3. vanbytheriver

    I’ve been both parent and teacher. It’s great to suggest, support, advise, be there. Anything else, and it becomes apparent that the student’s work is not his own. And believe me, they know your child’s work ethic and capabilities.

    I’m thinking of the Science Fair, which is mandatory in middle school here. I served as guest judge a few times. It is a challenge to award the projects that showed promise and genuinely came from the student, and separate the ones that were lovely and detailed and perfect…and done by a parent.

  4. Pingback: Weekend Coffee Share: 25th October, 2015 | beyondtheflow

  5. TanGental

    We tried hard to resist the urge but it is difficult. I think we must have done ok because both are in a good place academically but it isn’t easy…

  6. roweeee Post author

    My parents didn’t really help me much with my projects while other kids had their parents do the lot. The difference was quite obvious. I went to a rather upmarket private girls school so it’s hard for a 12 year old kid to compete with a CEO.
    I cut and pasted a few points into his project yesterday and forgot to go through it with him and when he was going through it with Geoff, he got a few surprises. Oops! He did do a great job in the end and I’m very proud of him. He also made it through a long Scout hike and finished despite wanting to give up halfway so he must have grown a few inches in the last week. Hope you’re doing well xx Rowena

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thanks. It was quite challenging. Fortunately, the Scout hike seemed to get his brain into gear and he was thinking quite clearly again and made really good progress.

  8. roweeee Post author

    The New Forest was in Dead Flies & Sherry Trifle wasn’t it?
    An Irish friend of mine has ju7st been to Uluru and says the flies are so bad out there that people wear head gear to protect themselves. When I’ read your book, I had thought that we could give you a run for your money in the flies dept. In the outback, the dead flies would form an entire layer in the trifle, possibly even replacing the fruit.

  9. TanGental

    When we re in the Northern Territory we needed those netted hats; our flies have nothing on yours for persistence. And yes the New Forest setting comes form my childhood.

  10. Pingback: Beyond the Call of Duty: Australia’s War Time Prime Minister. | beyondtheflow

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