Third grade blues

Third grade has been tough for us here this year.

I've been talking to other people about it, and it seems like a lot of parents are finding third grade markedly more difficult emotionally because of all the homework than previous grades. And a surprising number of people seemed to have had difficult third-grade years themselves.

My own third grade year was pretty horrible, with a teacher who seemed to have no kindness in her heart at all for 8-year-olds.

One of my coworkers, who used to teach 4th adn 5th grades, thinks that that might be because testing starts in the U.S. in third grade, so teachers are under the gun to give much more homework.

Has anyone else experienced frustration and sadness about third grade? Either for your kids or for yourself? If so, what do you think makes(made) it so rough?

And if you aren't having problems, can you pinpoint anything that seems to be different for you than for the people who are?

Homeschoolers, do you have anything to say?

People from other countries with differentgrade years and/or no testing, please weigh in. Third grade in the U.S. is ages 8 and 9.

71 thoughts on “Third grade blues”

  1. Skipped it. No regrets. Well, I never learned to write in script.My kids – okay year, not great, not awful. But this was some time ago and I think homework has gone through the roof in the younger grades since then.
    You have my sympathy. Much of schoolwork is total BS, but you can’t get away with admitting it until you no longer have kids in the school 😉 I’m not blaming the teachers, they are under a lot of pressure to dish it out. A lot of the pressure is from the parents, anyway.
    But excessive homework in 3rd grade? Just a bad idea. imo.

  2. We were quite taken aback by what seemed like an overwhelming amount of homework, especially in that first quarter. Our son definitely struggled, but a great deal of that was related to his ADHD and reading comprehension…and there’s a LOT of reading in 3rd grade. Sadly, for every grade he finally gets accustom to, we are told the next year (in this case 4th) will be even harder.Not only is there more reading, but writing essays. And then there’s the introduction of multiplication and division. Not to mention some kids are actually coming into puberty (there’s a 10yr old in my son’s class), or at the minimum, prepubescent!

  3. Third grade was awful for both my kids. Not just more homework- more responsibility in general. All of a sudden they are expected to stop being kids, remember everything and always have their act together. Communication from school pretty much stopped- you had to get news from your kid, who may or may not remember to tell you. We all hated third grade.

  4. I hated third grade. I was a smart kid, but I really struggled with a few of the new concepts that year, especially cursive writing and division. Plus I was the youngest kid in the class, and the smallest by a good three inches. And I had a teacher whose favorite hobby was apparently taunting small children. I remember being ridiculed in front of the whole class on more than one occasion. It was hell. And you’re right, I know lots of people who had terrible third-grade years as well. I had mine in 1989-1990, so things may have changed since then, but if not I will send my daughter to boarding school in Switzerland for third grade. It can’t possibly be any worse. I’m only half joking here.

  5. I’m a teacher, and I think 3rd grade does have a lot of “new” stressors, like state testing, more homework, more writing, more projects, more true science and social studies content, etc. At least at my school, the teachers also hate the amount of homework and find it overkill, but it is school policy and not something we have much control over. But my school is kinda crazy in some ways like that. That’s another story. I definitely feel like 3rd grade is a developmental leap for a lot of kids, and a year where some kids are growing up a lot and some kids are still very little kid, so interactions between kids can be tricky. I personally LOVED 3rd grade (after having a rough year in 2nd) and had a great teacher and met/made my best friend. Interestingly, I was on the old side in my grade due to the birthday cutoff, so perhaps 2nd grade was kinda my 3rd grade, stress-wise? This was also all before so much testing and homework, but honestly I was pretty nerdy and loved those things anyway 🙂

  6. I cannot fathom how we will possibly get any more homework completed in any given day than we have in kindergarten. We have 1/2-day kindergarten, and it seems like the teacher wants the kids to spend their entire afternoons doing school work. We didn’t want that which is why we did half-day in lieu of whole day.If there is more homework in the coming years, I think *I* will not be able to handle it.
    In our school district, standardized testing starts in 2nd grade, but that is the school’s idea not the state’s so they aren’t high-stakes. More like preparation and baseline measurement. In our school, cursive and multiplation tables also start in 2nd grade. So maybe we’ll have the issues sooner.
    When I was in school, we did the Stanford Achievement Tests every year from first-grade on (in the early grades you filled the bubbles in the worksheet, and they moved you to answer sheets over time). But I was in first grade 30 years ago, so I’m sure the entire world is different now.

  7. Hmmm, eee888, I’m on the young side for my grade, as I skipped first grade. I wonder if that had anything to do with it. And thank you fro the teacher-side feedback!

  8. My kid is still in kindergarten, but I remember 3rd grade fondly (well, the school part anyway).I moved across the country the summer before third grade, and started the year at the neighborhood school. I only had phonics with my class, and I went to the 4th grade classroom for the core subjects. Then partway through the year I transferred to the magnet school. I loved my 3rd grade teacher and I liked being challenged.
    But that was a long time ago. I hope my son loves school as much as I did.

  9. Hmmmm… Interesting. Eldest is still in first grade, but she’s on the old side, so I’ll keep this conversation in mind for next year. I liked third grade all right, but it was fourth grade I absolutely loved. It does seem like that age is a developmental bridge–neither here nor there, in a way.I offer total sympathy to commenters awash in homework. Luckily, our school and teacher’s philosophy seems to be to err on the side of less (much less). Eldest will occasionally have take-home projects, and she has ongoing reading to do for her literacy group, but apart from that, we are completely spared the nightly worksheet-type homework. I dread it, as they grow older.

  10. I hated third grade. I remember that being the time that we stopped what I might call functional learning and started with text books, drills, and arithmetic tables. I remember tests and much larger classrooms. I remember feeling scared and overwhelmed. I was also the youngest in my class. I feel like that was definitely a transition year, and it was really hard. I wouldn’t want to do that again. The only year that was worse was 6th grade.

  11. Gosh – I don’t remember having any kind of homework until 5th grade, except for some rote memorization (like getting a spelling list on Monday, for a spelling test on Friday). Is this a Canadian/American thing?Homework in Kindergarten?? Is that common? That seems bonkers to me.

  12. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  13. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  14. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  15. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  16. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  17. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  18. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  19. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  20. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  21. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  22. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  23. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  24. My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.I think it is also hard for some kids because it seems to be when learning disabilities/ADD& ADHD problems really begin to really emerge.

  25. My son is in second grade at a Spanish immersion school. He has a crazy amount of homework THIS year, including three (so far) huge projects (for example a six-page hand-written report on Brazil in Spanish along with a mobile). If next year is even worse, I may slit my wrists. I appreciate the challenge, but the burden on parents is immense–a second grader cannot write a research paper independently! Can’t imagine what I would do if I had a full-time job.However, the silver lining to all this is that he has figured out that he can accomplish MUCH more than he ever imagined. There was much gnashing of teeth over the Brazil report, but when it was finally done, there was a huge feeling of satisfaction on his part.

  26. My son (now in 4th) had a really rough 3rd grade year. This year has been much better. For us, it was way more about social stuff than academic stress. His teacher wasn’t the greatest, she mostly ignored the smart kids since they were going to do well on the standardized tests anyway. My son never got homework and it didn’t seem like he learned much in her class. Her response was– he’s already working above grade level, don’t worry about it. Uh, gee thanks.Anyway, the academics weren’t stressful but the social stuff was hard. My son really began exploring his identity with respect to his peers, his identity outside of our family. He was attracted to a “fast” crowd that wanted to talk about staying up late, making out with girls, surfing the internet, listening to teen music. We got a lot of push-back about our family rules and my son’s (typically solid) self-esteem suffered. He starting lying and being evasive about what he was doing with these friends at school.
    In the end, we were able to resolve things and he distanced himself from the “fast” crowd. It was a good learning experience for all of us. But my son had to come to his own realization of who he wanted to be when he was away from us. I had to learn to be the boundaries and support for his exploration, and not just pick him up and put him where I wanted him to be. It felt like a tiny taste of the self-identification that is going to hit *big time* in the teen years, and oh man, it is going to be tough.

  27. Bebe is only just one, but I wanted to chime in to say that I too hated third grade. Maybe Judy Blume was on to something?For me, it was my teacher. I’d had very nice, malleable and easily manipulated teachers in 1st and 2nd grades. 3rd grade teacher took no bull, so I hit a bit of a rock wall. I see now that hers was one of the best educations I received in the elementary grades, but just hearing her name makes me shiver. I’m 35 now.

  28. @M&Co – “My daughter’s 3rd Grade teacher said that the third grade is hard because it is the year most kids go from learning to read to reading to learn. Along with that comes more homework than they are use to and with that comes added responsibility which is a hard lesson to learn.”This would have driven me up the wall – my Kindergartener was reading to learn – and all the homework was pretty much busy-work that she saw no good reason to do. I didn’t have a good reason for her to do it other than being an obedient child. In retrospect, I really should have let her direct her own education. She was doing an awesome job of it, but school kept getting in the way.

  29. I did not like 3rd grade either. I know a third grade teacher and she says it is a challenging year for most kids. More is expected of them all around. She is a good teacher and is able to motivate most if not all of her students to rise to the challenge. My oldest is in first grade, we struggle with the little bit of homework he has now. I got a little over a year to develop a third grade strategy. 🙂

  30. Third grade was terrible. I had an old-fashioned Gorgon of a teacher who, when my mom died midyear, told me, “Get over it and focus.” Hello, I was eight. She also put me outside on a chair for an hour, midwinter, because I insisted that modern pencils used graphite, not lead. Lots of other fun anecdotes about her.She is the only person upon whose grave I’ve literally spat.
    None of this is illustrative of any larger problem with the third-grade year, of course. Just my own data point of horribility!

  31. DS is not yet in kindergarten, so we haven’t experienced homework with him yet.But I do have very distinct memories about grade 3. For me, as with @Laura’s son, it was a difficult year socially. I think I too was exploring my identity and was becoming very aware about how others saw me. I was very self-conscious about being different than / standing out from my peers (didn’t like my red hair and freckles!). It definitely was a ‘growing up’ kind of year as @eee888 said.
    In addition to that, for the first time in a school setting I encountered a teacher that truly challenged me. It was the first male teacher I had, and he was different than any other teacher I’d had (or would have for that matter). There was no BS with him, and he was really interested in helping kids at all levels learn and achieve their best. He pushed me academically and creatively and challenged my assumptions. Very engaging, but a little bit topsy-turvy for a shy, very sensitive girl. It really turned what I thought I knew about the world on it’s head, in a good way. Looking back now, I’m amazed at the kind of teacher he was and really appreciate the years I had him as my teacher (grades 3 & 6).

  32. I had a horrible awful 3rd grade year. Actually it started in 2nd grade with a teacher who didn’t believe I could read as well as I could so would dock me points because I didn’t spend enough time getting the (correct) answers. Then in 3rd grade I have a lovely story about getting punished for something (can’t remember what?) and having to turn my desk around and face the wall while the rest of the class was watching a movie, so I passive agressively took scissors and CUT OFF MY EYELASHES because I was so mad. They grew back. My mom put me in Montessori for 4th and 5th grades which saved my love of learning and I went back to public school in 6th. I loved Montessori and if it weren’t cost-prohibitive I’d have my kids in it. But 3 kids… I can’t do it unless there’s a true need. 🙁 I am scared of public schooling for my babies, though. The oldest starts K in the fall. I am so terrified.

  33. My 3rd grade experience was so bad that my mother yanked me from public school mid-year and put me in a private school. My public school teacher was horrible and mean, and told my mother that I had a learning disability because I misspelled “ghost” on a test.Almost everyone else I’ve talked to in my family and among friends has had terrible experiences in 3rd grade. My husband’s boss homeschooled both of her kids through third grade because it was so bad.
    My oldest is entering Kindergarten this year, and I am so dreading the homework I know is coming. To even say the words “homework” and “kindergarten” in the same sentence is ludicrous to me. Homework for 5-year-olds should be play, period.
    End rant. Must find another schooling solution!

  34. @Leah, I am right there with you. My son is in Montessori for preschool and loves it and has done so well there, but I don’t think we can swing it for Kindergarten and up. :o(

  35. I’ll chime in for some perspective: loved third grade. One of my favorite years. I had a fantastic teacher who was by no means easy but still loads of fun. She did a lot to make learning come alive. One of the things we learned that year was tabulating long lists of numbers (so 1+2+3+4, not just 1+2) as well as division. How did we learn this? Every Friday the whole class went outside and walked/ran laps on the track. Four times around was a mile. When we got back inside we reported our number of laps, and then our homework for the weekend was to add up everyone’s laps and divide by 4 to get the miles, which we then charted on a map to see if we could “walk” across the USA. I do remember some things being harder and that it frustrated me (that’s the first year I remember “doing science”) but overall I have happy memories. I’ll point out though that my school was K-3 with only a few teachers for each grade – our school only had 12 classrooms. I’m a firm believer in small, neighborhood schools for the elementary grades… and I’m sorry to say they just tore down my K-3 school and are building in its place a K-8 megaschool that will serve the whole town 🙁

  36. Third grade was horrible for me with a teacher who used shame and humiliation to control the class. I was quiet so it was never directed at me but the poor kid next to me (who went on to Harvard Law) received a ton of it. I started throwing up before school it was so bad. My parents moved me to a public school after that year and while it was never as horrible as 3rd grade, I never did like school again.We are currently homeschooling our children and it is my son’s third grade year. He is learning all of the same things (cursive, long division, etc. minus the long papers) but in about 5 hours of actual lessons (plus reading and piano) a week. He would probably have a bunch of letters (ADHD, ODD, SID) assigned to him in school but at home we can deal with them and work to his strengths. The rest of our week is spent in various homeschool co-op activities, outside classes and just hanging with his friends and siblings. So far this has been one of our better years.

  37. I have a visit scheduled to a montessori school next week. DS is crying again every morning from the time he wakes up until I leave him crying on the floor of his classroom that he hates school. He’s three and a half and who hates “school” at three and a half?? I am sorry for all the kids and parents struggling with school at any age. It just sucks.

  38. Like @ Laura I got a very bracing response to my father’s death in the same grade.We went home for lunch( not US) where I learned of the death and then I went back to school. I was sent out of the classroom so the teacher could tell the class and got called back in. Not a great moment.
    Worse though was the same teacher holding me back at the end of the afternoon to tell me ” not to use it as an excuse. No taking advantage! “. Indeed I never got time off school as the funeral was on a Saturday and soldiered on, dazed.
    I could keep up with the greatly increased work and the new subjects in this grade and did in fact enjoy them, but the atmosphere was much more unforgiving, there was much homework and the pace was great. I was able to do the homework in class, so I was lucky.
    Then again I went to Kindergarten in a liberal school, as in the European sense of pre-school from 4 until 6.
    The elementary school was a horrible awakening really. Left-handedness was not tolerated. My parents chose a reactionary conservative school for that reason.
    If you asked too often for the loo you sat there in a puddle. ” Too often” was of course in the teacher’s estimation. And she did not see raised left hands. Puddle time.
    This martinet teaching the third grade drilled me until I could write very neatly with my right hand. She kept me after school. It was rather illegible but looked good. Drove my later teachers nuts as they had to decipher but couldn’t say they couldn’t grade as it looked neat.
    I went back to left-handedness after school ended and funnily enough I don’t blame this teacher particularly. She was harsh but she was not unhinged. Very predictable and steady.
    First grade tied my left hand behind my back and second grade whacked me with the felt thing you wipe the blackboard with to remind me about the hand. I don’t think back too fondly on those ladies.
    There is a developmental leap after age seven, and there are lots of social changes among children too, and the schoolwork changes.That’s all stressful no matter where you are.
    My 3 1/4 year old daughter is starting Montessori after Easter and if she likes it she can stay there until she’s off to college. School is a lot different here to the old country but I want her to have a happier and safer feeling time in education.

  39. I, too, had a horrible third grade year. My teacher, Mrs. Bland, was just sour. My most vivid memory from that year is sitting in the hallway for yawning. Yes, if you yawned you were sent out of the classroom for some period of time. I was so relieved when the year was over, and my mother decided to change schools for me. Fourth grade brought a much better teacher and, therefore, a much better year.

  40. Lord have mercy this is all terrifying to read! I do not want my daughter to have these crushing educational experiences. I really do not want to homeschool, and can’t afford to send her to private school, but will definately homeschool over these horror stories. Will send her on but am prepared to yank her out!

  41. I’ve talked to some friends and observed in my step-kids that the attitude of 8 year olds is pretty awful. I think it must be some kind of developmental leap thing where they try to assert more control over their lives resulting in more defiance or something.That plus more homework = disaster IMO.

  42. I am also one of the few it seemed to have enjoyed my 3rd grade year. I adored my teacher and learned much from her especially a true love of reading. She was the first person I told when I found out my mom was going to have a baby, I was thrilled and wanted her to know. She came to my HS graduation party and then 9 years later came to my little brothers HS graduation party as she was his favorite teacher as well (although I think she taught him 5th grade.) I still see her occassionally when I go back home at 35 and she always has time to chat. I had a lot of really great teachers in my small town public school but Mrs. Stachler was really amazeing.

  43. We’ve found 4th grade to be tougher than 3rd was — for both kids. Math especially is a bigger challenge in 4th — fractions, decimals, long division, percentages, etc.

  44. loved 3rd grade–fantastic teacher who believed in me. 2nd grade–hated beyond belief. Spent most of it in the corner staring at an egg timer. That teacher left to have a baby so for the last few months we had the only male teacher I had in primary school and I loved loved loved him. He was great with me. 4th grade was ok, but not as good as third.Although to be honest, I’m one of the few people I know who overall preferred junior high to elementary school.

  45. P.S. Reasons I don’t love 3rd grade for my ADHD boy : 1. He is smart, really smart – but he needs to be active & there is NO recess!; 2. Too much homework; & 3. The ridiculous FCAT test – & that the accommodation they gave him for his ADHD was to allow him more time to take the test – which wouldn’t help at all – if the let him take the test outside or had him run laps between sections – that might help – but more time? It is the opposite of what he needs. Praying that he’ll pass so we can be done with 3rd grade – no complaints about the teacher or school – just how stupid the system seems to be. I had 2 recesses a day & little to no homework – and I turned out just fine. Guess you hit a nerve for me! Can’t wait till summer vacation!!!

  46. @KatieScott…unbelievable that they have no recess in 3rd grade. Kids need to MOVE, especially boys and especially any kid with a different method of learning. arghhhhhhh.

  47. Maybe I”m playing a bit of devil’s advocate here, and I’m coming from the perspective of parent of a toddler, reading these comments and getting a dreadful feeling about public school:If there is an inordinate amount and everyone dreads it and if it’s all just busywork anyway, why make them do the homework? Especially if you don’t think their education is being improved. Why would it matter to not get an A for a subject in 3rd grade? What are the compelling reasons?

  48. In my state (GA) mandated testing starts in 1st grade, so that’s not a special 3rd grade stressor (though it does count more starting in 3rd.) My older kid is in 2nd grade, and looking ahead to next year I am hearing great things about the 3rd grade teachers at our (public, Title 1) school – one described as “the calmest person I have ever known” who does daily meditation with his class, and the other a brand new teacher who started mid-year and is impressing the heck out of the (wonderful) Gifted teacher whose daughter is in her class. So I am looking forward with enthusiasm (although some worry about increasing reading load for my struggling reader).My own 3rd grade experience sucked – the only teacher whose name I can’t remember – but my parents were getting divorced that year, which I am sure was at least 70% of the woes.

  49. My third grade was fine, I think. I had a teacher who relied heavily on worksheets, which probably horrified my mother (a teacher), but actually played well to my personality type. I loved finishing the sheets and moving the to the “done” side of the folder. (I’m a project manager now, who gets great satisfaction out of getting things done….)My oldest is still only 4, so we haven’t hit school yet.
    @mom2boy- I’m so sorry! We went through a phase of occasional protestations about not liking day care at 3.5. They have mostly cleared up now- I think some of it was just her age. But we still have problems when things flare up with her little “frenemy,” whom I’ll call B. Then she says she doesn’t want to go because B is mean to her. Sometimes B is actually being mean (she has bullying tendencies), but sometimes she is just being a preschooler (i.e., self-centered and a bit clueless about the fact that other kids may not want to do what she says), and so is my Pumpkin.
    Anyway, can you ask him and try to figure out why he hates school? Maybe it is something that can be fixed in place.

  50. Out here in California, 4th grade is the “leap” year, where the kids tend to start getting more homework and being treated more like big kids, at least at our Catholic school. Both my kids had the same great 3rd grade teacher and both had a good year. I moved schools in 3rd grade and had just an OK year, but it’s so hard to know if that was because of the move or because my 3rd grade teacher wasn’t as strong.

  51. It was 4th grade for me. My best friend switched from our private to the public school after 3rd grade which sucked from a social perspective, and the teacher was well, her last name was Basham (pr. Bash-em), and that’s about how I felt about her. Looking back I just didn’t like the whole year compared to the rest of K-5.Reading “Island of the Blue Dolphin” in the advanced English class and spending what seemed like MONTHS on Indonesia didn’t help matters.

  52. It’s interesting because we found there to be a HUGE jump in the amount of schoolwork and expectations in 2nd grade, and not as much this year in 3rd. We were totally unprepared for this last year and were taken aback and completely overwhelmed from Day 1. First grade felt like almost an extension of Kindergarten, so to hit the ground running the first week of school was BAD.I do think some of it has to do with the teacher, though. Last year’s teacher was BIG into personal responsibility (students were expected to remember everything on their own and very little communication from the teacher unless you went to her). This year’s teacher there is definitely pressure to perform well on state testing, but she has 30+ years of teaching under her belt and she just seems to understand what the big picture is.
    I AM somewhat freaked out about 4th grade, having heard next year there is a big jump in difficulty and expectations … yaaay. =P

  53. AHHH!!! Third grade teacher here! I didn’t realize it was so challenging! I’ve heard that fourth is harder for them. Maybe since fourth is the year they move from “primary” to “intermediate”. But maybe I am just not the normal teacher. In my class, we work very hard but only so we can play hard too. I don’t give busywork homework. I don’t grade everything as it is my belief that they are still learning and it is practice. I don’t sweat too much about their grades either. These won’t be getting them into Harvard, so why worry too much about them? We have fantastic parties, 2 recesses a day and Dance Party USA at the end of the day if they finish their work in time. But I do expect them to work independently, to “solve their own problems” – that is the problems they can solve- like an sharpened pencil, empty box of kleenex, ect. They are expected to listen to directions so I don’t have to repeat them. My goal is to create lifelong learners. Students who are self-motivated and don’t rely on me telling them it’s “good” for them to be proud of themselves. I have had complaints of too much homework and in the same year, not enough homework- you can’t please everyone! I take parent complaints seriously and will take a look at whatever they bring to me and decide if I need to rethink my policy or they need help understanding why I do things the way I do. I can’t imagine teaching third grade any other way. Third graders are the best! It’s the best of both worlds, still devoted to school and learning and yet have independence!To the people who had teachers who showed no compassion to you when you had a parent pass away, I am truly sorry. I have a student this year whose mother passed away. I have made it my personal goal to make this year his best year. He’s the youngest of 4 and I’ve had all 4 kids, so I was very close with this family. I arranged tutoring for them so they didn’t fall behind in their studies and I take them home every Wednesday so I can spend time with all 4 kids. I cannot imagine what they are going through and I only hope to make things a little easier on them.

  54. @Third Graders Rock! You sound like a wonderful and caring teacher. My daughter is in second grade this year and you sound very much like her teacher now.Our schools go K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 so she starts a new school next year and if the past holds true, she will only know 1 or maybe 2 kids in her class. I hope she continues to get wonderful teachers like she has had at her current school. We truly couldn’t be happier with the teachers she has had so far.
    I personally loved third grade, had a wonderful teacher (she switched to 5th grade and I had her again! So lucky). 4th grade was terrible for me. I was in the gifted program, but this teacher made it clearly known that she didn’t think I belonged there and she always called me the wrong name. Looking back at my school years she is one of 2 teachers I had that I really disliked! She was horrible! Luckily, she didn’t break my spirit because I still loved school after that.

  55. I liked third grade, but I had a terrific teacher. My oldest daughter had a nice teacher for third – we didn’t get a dramatic increase in homework. A teacher I know puts it as third grade is the switch from learning to read to reading to learn. That paradigm shift makes it all make sense to me.Third seemed to bring out more social pressures for my daughter – girl cliques and meanness. That was much worse than the academic side.

  56. Oh lawdy. So now I can expect both Kindergarten and 3rd grade to be ultra-non-nurturing, busywork-laden wastes of my kids’ precious childhoods??!I hope we are overgeneralizing the degree to which the hate for grade 3 is so widespread and so entrenched. At least a little bit? Clearly most of you have MUCH better memories of age 9 than I do! 😉 I’m pretty sure I was not very fun to teach.
    What @Bird said about the benefits of SMALL schools: “My school was K-3 with only a few teachers for each grade – our school only had 12 classrooms. I’m a firm believer in small, neighborhood schools for the elementary grades.” Amen! I have no idea why American educators fail to see that small is better. The only decently-performing public elementary school in my area is arranged similarly to what @Bird describes: K-4, only 10 classrooms, and approx 190 students. With such a small environment, the kids and their teachers aren’t falling through the cracks, and folks are getting the unique support they need. Doesn’t seem like rocket science, but alas public education isn’t really one of our national priorities even though we sometimes try to pretend that it is.
    @mom2boy – I’m really sorry to hear that Tate isn’t loving school right now. Hugs to you!!

  57. 3rd grade was my best, most favorite year because I had a phenomenal teacher who I kept in touch with through high school. It was also the year I had a sibling pass away, and yet everyone at my school was really great.I ended up skipping 4th grade which made things a lot more complicated for the rest of elementary school, but 3rd grade rocked.
    So thanks very much to folks like @ThirdGradersRock. That kind of nurturing is much appreciated.

  58. After reading these comments I have to reflect on what a tremendous impact an individual teacher has. My third grade teacher was a man named Jack Kelleher and he was amazing. He was tough but kind and taught us things like Roman numerals, which I remember still at 42 years old. Third grade was socially challenging as I became aware of cliques and of being left out at times. But Mr. K made me feel special and important, and I know that many, many students felt that way. He died of a heart attack at his desk when I was in 5th grade. RIP Mr. K, your legacy lives. Bravo to amazing teachers!

  59. We homeschool now, but in K I did treat the homework as a suggestion, with no negative repercussions. I did write down many of the books we read, but everything else was just there, and we did it if we felt like it. (Fwiw, the teacher knew I was supplementing DS’s learning in other ways.)If did put DS back in school, I would absolutely check in with the teacher about homework if it were (a) more than a year off appropriate work level, or (b) making our lives miserable. DS has an exceptionally slow processing speed, and the kind of work I hear about with endless worksheets and drill would make for difficult evenings. And I would be very concerned about him losing his love of reading and learning generally. I’m not saying I’d ask for a free pass, but maybe ask if he could drill math at the appropriate level on khanacademy.com instead of worksheets, or read a classic novel instead of reading comprehension drill. And for sure I would set a limit (ten minutes per grade, maybe) and let him stop after than point.
    I do think there’s a value to project-based learning, and to learning basic information (math facts so fractions and long division go more easily), but I am really reluctant to push DS to do hours of work every day/week after seven hours of school, when there is little evidence that children get anything from it.
    But then, I am immensely lucky to be in a position to homeschool.
    Can’t say much about 3rd grade, except that the friends we know with homeschooled kids haven’t mentioned any difficulty. In some ways, it seems to be an easier time as kids are usually reading fluently and able to work in longer independent stretches.
    DS is in first grade now; like the pp, we do an hour or two of formal work a day, plus lots of art lessons, rock climbing, baseball, play time, reading, Legos.

  60. These stories are upsetting. Our kids attend a Waldorf school, and all the kids look forward to third grade the most! No homework at Waldorf, and the third grade curriculum is fabulous. Highly recommend a Waldorf education. I’d homeschool otherwise.

  61. Laura’s comment alone should caution anyone who thinks teaching should be tenured. That’s not the topic here though. I transfered to a new school in 3rd grade. I went from being a confident girl thrilled to be at school and in love with learning to the sad girl who had a tummy ache every morning. The new school was ahead in math in science in everything, and it was an all girls school and all these snooty snotty girls were totally bitches…even at 8. But the teacher was lovely. But yes third grade is a significant grade. Its the beginning of really being a student, and its the perfect time to get kids hooked on learning and feeling powerful about curiosity nstead of turning them off with pressure and too much homework.

  62. My third-grade teacher was a sweetheart, as was my olderst’s. We both got straighten-up-and-fly-right, no-nonsense types for fourth, though.I wonder if third is one of those grades that show a school system’s weaknesses? Our school system is great, as was the one I grew up in, so maybe once again we’re spared the trauma?

  63. Actually, third grade was a good year for me (probably though because I had a very good teacher). We had “funny story time” where we got to get up in front of the class and read a funny story we wrote!We got candy for quiet behavior, so that helped too! She liked kids and was the “grandmotherly” type. Overall, I feel fortunate because it was a fun year.

  64. Third grade was one of my favorite years because I had one of my favorite teachers. I remember the whole class chewing gum and my teacher taking all the chewed up gum and smearing it on construction paper for a mural. We also went “sledding” behind the school on trash bags.Fourth grade was harder for me because we had timed multiplication tests and I couldn’t take the pressure. That teacher treated us like adults- more so than I was probably ready for.
    I think alot of how I did year-to-year had to do with how the teacher’s personality meshed with mine.

  65. I am a former high school teacher who currently has a child in 3rd grade. We did a transfer from a school in need to the best public school that rivals the private schools here in Albuquerque. My son was tested for gifted, he is smart. I always did extra homework from pre-K-2nd. (Still do now while he is in 3rd). I have a son who is all B personality. Work of any kind has never been his thing. However, to see my son go from 90 plus percentile in math and 100% in reading to the 68%/66% respectively, has been frustrating. Not the teacher’s fault. My son’s fault!! He refuses to follow directions or even read the directions. This is the child while in 2nd grade would lose his jacket almost on a daily basis. Or new books from Scholastic because he could not leave them alone in his backpack while riding the bus until he arrived home.Thus, homework is not an issue, the age/maturity/personality is an issue.

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