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What Three Weekends, Two Arguments, $63, and a Prison Look Like

By Lori Garcia |

Here I am with a frustrated Boy Wonder knee deep in 4th grade project hell at our local library.

Since California’s dawn of the ages (or at least since I was a 4th grader), elementary schools have tasked parents children with creating a 4th grade project on California history that is so mind-numbingly awesome that we collectively grow up with PTSD as a result of our stint as a 9-year-old. It’s true, ask any California 4th grader.

The 4th grade parent project (as I like to call them) involved a 3-5 page written report, scaled model, and a 3-5 minute speech. In other words, the near impossible.

In an effort to get my kid motivated for what was sure to be his most difficult assignment yet, I suggested Alcatraz prison as his topic. I figured prison, cannons, criminals, escape attempts – that’s the stuff boys love to love, right? Right-ish.

See, all of that stuff is cool and everything, but you know what Boy Wonder didn’t find cool? Doing the work. It was like pulling teeth to get him to focus on even bite-sized pieces.

With my model-building husband complaining that the island ”has a whole bunch of other crap on it besides a prison”, and resources from our local library being mysteriously hard to come by, World War III erupted in the Mommyfriend house all on account of Alcatraz.

We argued over the scale of the model, Boy Wonder’s penmanship, and how to alphabetize a bibliography when no author is given. We even argued about the 14 Alcatraz escape attempts made by 36 men!

Four trips to the craft store, $63, and approximately 16 hours spread over three weekends, the model emerged looking all kinds of not-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell-this-was-done-by-a-9-year-old professional.

In the end this project wasn’t just about the history of Alcatraz. It was about learning how to manage an epic task to successful completion using organization, time management, and parental guidance.

While the program management skills Boy Wonder acquired will no doubt assist him in 5th grade, I’m ready, willing, and able to tackle a Jeopardy category on Alcatraz any day of the week.

Fun Alcatraz facts:

  • Alcatraz started as a military fort
  • Each prison cell was 5′ x 9′ and included a sleeping cot, sink with cold running water, and a toilet

Have you experienced the joy of a parent project this school year?

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About Lori Garcia


Lori Garcia

Lori Garcia is a writer and mother of two living and loving in Southern California. When she's not fussing with her bangs, you can find her shaking her groove thing on her personal blog, Mommyfriend where she almost never combines true tales of motherhood and mayhem with her degree in child development. Read bio and latest posts → Read Lori's latest posts →

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