Claudia Mills’ Oliver Olson changes the world

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

Ah, back-to-school time! The fall fundraiser packets are coming home and so are the first homework assignments of the year. Figuring out how to help your child without doing it all for him can be daunting.

Sometimes parents try so hard to be supportive that they take off and “helicopter,” hovering over their children’s work and activities. It can be difficult for us to learn how to come in for a landing and let Junior fly alone.

That is the problem in Claudia Mills’ funny and insightful chapter book, How Oliver Olson Changed the World. Although just published in 2009, it is already so popular you might find Mills’ book in your child’s backpack one of these days. When Junior goes to bed, sneak a read for a good head adjustment. It might improve your parenting.

Overachieving parents
Oliver loves his parents deeply, but he is frustrated by their over-involvement in his homework.

As part of their space study, all the kids in Oliver’s class had to make a diorama of the solar system. They could work alone or with a friend.

Oliver was working with his parents.

Or, rather, Oliver was watching his parents work.

On Saturday morning, Oliver’s father had three empty shoe boxes spread out on the dining room table: one small, one medium, one large.

Oliver’s mother was reading aloud from the grading rubric on Mrs. O’Neill’s assignment sheet. “ ‘Name on project—ten points.’ George, make sure you put his name on it. The name is worth ten points!”

“Patsy, we’ll put the name on last. How can I put the name on it when I don’t even know which shoe box we’re going to be using?”

Oliver thought he could put his own name on the project.

Does this dredge up any childhood or parenting memories that make you wince? I remember feeling guilty in seventh grade when I earned an “A” for a model of a telegraph that my dad built for me as I watched.

Flash forward to my daughter’s middle school years: My husband and I struggled to help her build a pinhole camera. She mostly watched.

Where were  Oliver Olson and Claudia Mills when we needed them?

Learning to jump off a cliff
Finding a way to build his diorama without his parents’ “help” is only one of Oliver’s problems. His parents won’t let him do fun things like attending his class’s “space sleepover.” They worry that he might catch a virus or not brush his teeth properly.

When Oliver points out that all the other students will be attending, his mother replies, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you jump off, too?”

With a bit of help from his outspoken friend, Crystal, Oliver learns how to politely stand up for himself and enjoy it.

I won’t tell you what his parents learn, because you need to find out for yourself. I’m trying really hard not to hover.

For a good laugh watch this video:
Mrs. Enid on Over-Protective Parents

For more information about helicopter parenting:
New York Times, “In Defense of Helicopter Parents”
CNN, “How to Ground a Helicopter Parent”
“Is the Helicopter Parent Finally Landing?”
•What College Board has to say

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