Syndicated section: School project management | Columns


Raising three daughters came with many delights, challenges, prayers and moments in this alley of Target trying to figure out the differences between “ultra”, “Infinity FlexFoam”, “overnight”, “sport”, “wings”, “Radiant” and “Just ask your wife, you goober.”

One ordeal that all parents are destined to endure at some point is the dreaded school project – specially designed by educators to take revenge on parents who genuinely believe their child is “a joy to teach.”

When our daughters started going to school, I made an arrangement with my wife to help with all the projects if she took care of anything related to the ailments of math. After helping with enough school projects to qualify for a Concealed Glue Gun Permit, I’ve found that what should be an opportunity for a father-daughter bond usually ends with someone hurting themselves and crying – and it’s not always me.

Another challenge I face is trying to figure out how much “help” to offer on a school project versus how much to risk one of my daughters getting hurt or, more importantly, the Sheetrock.

One of the first school projects I remember our daughters being assigned to was the infamous leaf collection, which often involved third-degree trespassing and assaults on innocent leaves. Inevitably, the last specimen we needed to complete the project required me to jump in the dark like a drunken baboon trying to reach for the perfect bundle of loblolly pine needles – because my oldest and dearest daughter insisted. so that the ones all over the floor weren’t “pretty” anymore.

Another foray into school projects was to create a shoebox diorama of a scene from EB White’s traumatic children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web.” This project required us to artistically design Wilbur’s barnyard out of a shoebox that once contained a pair of Gianni Bini pumps that never quite looked good on me. While my daughters and I were working we fed the tears brought on by strands of molten hot glue and that chapter where beloved Charlotte dies after becoming the only arachnid in history that we didn’t want to crush with a thong.

I also remember helping my eldest and middle daughters bake and decorate cakes that are supposed to represent cross sections of human skin for science class. Yes, that’s right, skin cakes – completely topped with pale pink epidermis frosting, melted Tootsie Roll hair sticks, Sour Punch Straw sweat glands and subcutaneous tissue made from mints Hickory Farms Mini Meltaway. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to get excited about the sweat glands for dessert, which is probably why I only had four servings.

More recently, my youngest daughter was commissioned to assemble a three-dimensional model of a phosphorus atom. Before helping with this project, I didn’t know much about phosphorus – other than the fact that I ate a lot of it, according to the Honey Nut Cheerios box.

Apparently, though, making a phosphorus model requires at least $ 50, about five trips to Michael’s, and a full weekend in the tubes. The trick was to find a way to put together three outer rings that would contain the electronic items without teaching my daughter new curses. The teacher’s instructions recommended using household items, but my daughter just rolled her eyes when I suggested an old toilet seat.

We finally understood, and the model was so “phosphorous” that the teacher asked to keep it as an example. (I wonder if she’s ever received my bill.)

Despite all the injuries from the hot glue, spray paint fumes, and general arts and crafts trauma, I still think I got the most out of the deal I made with my wife all those years ago. And I bet if you ask any of our daughters, they’ll tell you that through it all, I’ve been “a pleasure to teach”.

Jase Graves is an award-winning East Texas humorous columnist. His columns have appeared in Texas Escapes magazine, the Shreveport Times, the Longview News Journal and the Kilgore News Herald. Contact Graves at

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