Zack's class is studying Ancient Egypt at the moment and he brought home his 'project' homework on the subject this week. Now, I do think it's a nice idea if kids gets the chance to do more than book learning on such a thing. I applaud the school for its imaginative efforts to bring the subject to life for Zack and his compadres. Where my applause starts to taper off into more of a slow hand clap is when they send him home with a list of things to "research and make" that would give even Rolf Harris pause for thought. Oh, and this is no voluntary exercise. The homework sheet states that Zack has to create his own model sarcophagus (apparently a shoe box might come in handy), an amulet and a painting suitable for an Egyptian tomb. Oh, and they threw in a few other suggestions of things that could be made if we felt the urge. Yeah, right.
These things are patently beyond the reach of even the most resourceful Year 3 child. There is no way that Zack can be expected to construct such items to anything like a presentable standard. And so the duty of doing this falls to the parent least unartistically inclined - which happens to be me, in this family.
Hannah has overheard other parents at the school gate discussing tips on how best to achieve that much sought after authentic Ancient Egyptian look to this project. It's madness.
And it's not even as though we can give up on this and let Zack fend for himself since we know that many parents will go to difficult-to-comprehend lengths to create an impressive array of Egyptological artefacts from nothing more than a bit of papier mache and a strip of sticky backed plastic. At the end of this project last year, the Year 3 children had a day when they dressed 'like an Egyptian' and poor Rachel was despatched wearing an attempt at some sort of ancient-like robe gown (which looked suspiciously like a ripped up sheet) and a necklace arrangement hastily constructed from a piece of cardboard from a cornflake box, some silver paint and a selection of glued on beads. When we got to school that morning we discovered that other children from her class looked as though they'd just stepped off the set of a particularly lavish production of Anthony and Cleopatra.
We're not going to try to compete with those parents who seem to see these projects as a form of one-upmanship but the pressure is there to send Zack in on his dress-like-an-Egyptian day with something a bit more convincing. Rachel's old necklace found its way into the dressing up box and I fear 12 months of being jostled around in there has not improved its authenticity.
But, and I have to ask this, why, why, why are the school doing this to us? And where is the educational value in it? It's hard to imagine what good the school believe will come of the whole exercise.
But Zack is enjoying these activities and is now the proud owner of a cardboard and glue amulet, even if he has no idea what exactly an amulet is.