All across America, moms and dads with kids in grade school are yelling "Whoohoo! I love '100 Days of School' projects. I can't wait until this arbitrary non-holiday comes around each year so I can help my child with the totally fun task of gluing 100 somethings to something else!"
According to a very unscientific survey I conducted amongst my Facebook friends, sentiment about 100 Days ranged from "definitely torture" to "so annoying" to a very generous "not so fun." Adding to these less than affectionate feelings was the the injustice of the 100 Days hullabaloo happening the same week as Valentine's Day in many schools.
If you have a school-age child, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If your kids are younger and you went to school before the mid-1990s, you are probably scratching your head right now. Let me take a step back and explain. In elementary schools, well-meaning teachers use the occasion of the 100th day of school to impart a math lesson on their pupils. Taken at just its educational value, it's great. Young kids can learn concepts like grouping by 10's in a fun way. Classes can take a break from worksheets and do some active lessons involving counting.
But, 100 Days is not just a math lesson in many classrooms, it's grown into a full-fledged celebration with parties, games, and projects. It seems to be a relatively new addition to the school calendar – nobody I've talked to who's currently in their 30s or 40s remembers doing anything special for the 100th Day of school. The earliest mention I can find came in 1996 when Angela Shelf Medearis wrote a book called "The 100th Day of School" filled with ideas for how the 100th day could be celebrated in classrooms. In an American Library Association article, Medearis describes what inspired her to write the book:
I was visiting a school when a tribe of first graders walked into the assembly wearing sashes and hats decorated with all kinds of odd things glued on them. The teacher was wearing a vest with 100 pennies glued all over it. I thought that maybe it was somebody's birthday and asked the teacher. She told me that it was the 100th day of school. She was a first year teacher and I thought that maybe she was particularly happy to have completed 100 days! But, then she told me all about celebrating the 100th day of school and the counting and calendar activities teachers did. I knew immediately that I wanted to write a story about the 100th day of school to give teachers a tool.
Sounds lovely, right? So why all the hate? Well, the parental angst comes into play because 100 Days often involves a take-home project or assignment. When my oldest was in kindergarten his assignment was to bring in 100 of something to school to share with the class. My youngest came home last week with a sheet of posterboard where he's to glue 100 somethings on to it. One of my friends has to help her son decorate a t-shirt with 100 of something. Another has to glue 100 plastic jewels on a crown.
Let's be real here—at age 5 or 6, this isn't a project for the kids, it homework for the parents. The kids need help and lots of it to complete these tasks. And while I'm not a total killjoy and am happy to help my kids, this is on top of the normal homework which can be quite torturous on its own. And let's not forget, we also have to write out Valentines for the class this week. It's just too much.
While I speak for the many moms and dads in America who also feel less than thrilled about 100 Days, there is another camp whom I should mention. These are the talented, crafty parents who look forward to 100 Days with glue gun at the ready. They "help" their children with very cool, but very clearly parent-orchestrated 100 Days projects. To these super-parents, I say "Rock on with your crafty selves!" And feel free to stop by with your glue gun and some googly eyes on day 99—we could use your help at my house!
Check out these 100 days projects posted on Instagram:
Tracy Odell is the General Manager of Parents Digital and mom to two boys. She doesn't own a glue gun, but can do some amazing things with duct tape. Follow her on Twitter at @tracyodell.