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?