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Motherhood Is An Assignment

Wow! What a treat to see so many gorgeous images from the "Mother and Child" assignment. It has been a very moving experience seeing such expressions of love and bonding from across the globe and through all walks of life. The sheer variety of experience shared -- from pregnancies to just seconds after a birth, through the joys and strains motherhood, and even death -- offers us a learning experience like no other. Importantly, with your stunning shots of whales, alligators, leopards, birds and various types of insects, you've reminded us that mother and child relationships span the entire animal kingdom, and aren't just an artifact of the human experience. 

Moving forward, I have just a few things for you to keep in mind to help you make your images the best they can be. First and foremost: captions. Captions are so important. It is hard for viewers like myself and the readers and editors at National Geographic to know the depth of the moments in your images without proper caption information. For so many of the photographs of people in particular, it feels like we are missing too much of the story. Certainly, an image can exist in a vacuum as a pretty picture, but when have you known National Geographic to simply leave it at that? 

So, for those of you photographing the human animal, I'd like to challenge you to have conversations with the people in your photographs. I know that can be an intimidating prospect, but, I promise, it is exceptionally rewarding. The basics of any caption should contain the 5Ws -- who, what, when, where, why. I also find that knowing my subjects' backgrounds allows me to make images that are more intimate and better share their story. I promise this will not only make your images stronger and more likely to get published in the magazine, but will enhance your photographic experience. 

I'd like to also challenge you to shoot something specific for this assignment. Looking at the metadata for the images, I can see that many were not shot within during the time of this assignment. This is your chance to get real-time feedback and repost another image to see if you've improved. And one of the benefits of this assignment is that it is subject matter that is all around us, every day in some form. 

Lastly, I've been moved to see that some of you have shared stories and images about their encounters with young mothers, some who were married at young ages. If you would like for those to be highlighted on our @TooYoungToWed Instagram feed, please post them to your account and tag us! I will be keeping an eye out for images to share with our community as well.

Thank you for making this such a delightful project to work on and I look forward to seeing more amazing images! 


While a simple school worksheet may seem innocent enough, one parent decided to rewrite the assignment, changing the narrative from a negative experience of a mother returning to work to a positive one.

Lynne Polvino was helping her 6-year-old daughter Hazel with her homework last week when she noticed something troubling with the assignment, an unfortunate and increasingly common problem thanks to outdated curriculums. So, Polvino decided to make some changes to the assignment with an updated narrative.

SEE ALSO: Mom lets daughter's school know her 10-year-old is 'done' with homework

The worksheet is a fill-in-the-blank style assignment which follows a story of a mother returning to work. The first line reads, "Lisa was not happy. Her mother was back at work." 

Basically, the story centers on a little girl named Lisa, who has a terrible day because her mother is finally returning to work after leaving to raise her child. To top it off, the girl's father is bad at cooking. How cliché. 

"It just pushed so many buttons for me, and with each sentence it managed to get worse!" Polvino told Today. "My shock and dismay quickly turned to outrage. I mean, what decade are we in, anyway? In this day and age, we're going to tell kids that mothers working outside the home makes their children and families unhappy? That fathers don't normally do things like cook and wash the dishes?"

According to Polvino, Hazel wasn't too fazed by the story, and was more focused on finding the right words to fill in the blank, but it bothered Polvino. While the experience of a parent returning to work can be a big adjustment for a kid, Plovino decided to rewrite the assignment into a positive story that more accurately portrays the life she wants for her children.  

In Polvino's version, Lisa is happy that her mother is back at work. Their father is on paternity leave, and no one is in a rush because "Dad had things under control." The father in the story makes a good breakfast and the little girl dreams of her future and career.

The story ends with, "Lisa was glad she was growing up in a society free of gender bias and misogyny."

Polvino told Today that she reworked the story "to reflect the kind of world I want to live in, the kind of world I want my kids to live in when they’re old enough to have jobs and families." 

Although Polvino did not send the rewrite to the teacher, she did voice her concerns via email. The teacher agreed the worksheet was outdated, and said she would review them in the future. 

Plovino later posted the original assignment and the updated rewrite to Facebook, where is was praised by her friends and followers.

Oh and Polvino. She works as a children's books editor in Manhattan.

Mashable has reached out to Polvino for more information and comments.