Overinvesting in homework projects



I know school projects are all about the kids, but I’ve got a little bit too attached to only son’s ancient Egypt homework. We’ve been working on it all term. When I say we, I mean I. Only son has shown the bare minimum of interest and has groaned every time I open up a book on the ancient Egyptians [we got 11 out of the library…]. I, on the other hand, have found it utterly fascinating. “Listen to this one. The ancient Egyptians were doing xxx 4,000 years ago,” I say in awe to an unimpressed only son who is more interested in getting the next megaladon sharkie thing on shark central games.

Due to the ongoing success of last year’s homework project – Fruits Galore! – a family board game promoting healthy eating, which only son still enjoys playing, we opted for another game-type theme. The Egypt homework stated that we merely had to produce something – anything – that was ancient Egypt-related by half term. Voila – Where’s the mummy? – a board game for all the family. I tried to involve only son in the overall concept, but he was more into the specifics of the mummification process, which, despite showing no interest in the books we had, he seemed to know in great detail.

The game consists of a pyramid, naturally, and two mummies [the players]. They have to cross the pyramid by rolling a pyramid-shaped dice and answering pyramid-shaped questions about ancient Egypt. The first player to climb over the pyramid wins a key and opens the door. Inside is a sarcophagus surrounded by [chocolate] gold coins [thank goodness, the shops are stocking them early for Christmas]. Inside is a mummy. Only son coloured the sides of the pyramid and helped stick it together and painted the board plus the sarcophagus. I looked around for something to mummify. I was contemplating Lego Batman, but only son protested so I found a small china cat. “The Egyptians mummified their pets, didn’t they?” I asked only son. He nodded. We mummified the china cat. After serious thought, we decided, on health and safety grounds, against making players wrap themselves in toilet paper and peel off a layer every time they got a question right.

On Sunday night we presented Where’s the mummy? to a panel of judges – only son’s sisters and father. I said that if we had had the backing a major board games company we would have, of course, made the players magnetic so they stuck to the pyramid as they traversed it. In the absence of said funding, we had opted for blutack. Only son and I played a game. He won, mainly because he wrote most of the questions.

As fate would have it it was pouring with rain when we took it to school so he had to put it in a plastic bag and balance it very carefully. “How did it go?” I asked him at the end of the school day. “Lunch wasn’t so good,” he replied. Lunch? I wanted to know about Where’s the mummy?  Only son said that the teacher had liked it. “Just liked?” I inquired, seeking further – any – feedback. I realised at that point that I had slightly overinvested in the project, that I needed to take a step back and that there is a thin line between encouraging homework projects and dominating over.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.

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