Third Grade Sucks

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Dear Mom of a Rising Third-Grader,

Congratulations! Your child has survived and hopefully thrived through their first few years of elementary school. I’m sure there were bumps and hiccups along the way, but you and your child came through it. Closer, wiser, and with a broader skillset in dealing with all of life’s little challenges.

Now, for the bad news. Third grade sucks.

I want to do you the favor I wish someone had done me and warned me about what lies ahead. My mom friends told me about the troubles of the baby years – sleep regression, sleep deprivation, separation anxiety, postpartum depression.

The toddler years came with a warning label so big, I could see it years before becoming a parent. “Terrible twos” they said – even though the fine print (which should have been there) – said, well, “Terrible twos, threes, and fours are no picnic either.” The early school years were a bit of a hiatus from major drama, thankfully. These were mostly sweet years of learning to read and navigate classroom dynamics and new friendships.

But third grade. No one warned me about third grade.

Your child is eight going on nine, most likely. It’s a window of time where they aren’t little kids anymore, but they haven’t quite reached “tween” status yet. It’s mostly a great age full of interesting conversations and growing responsibility.

I want to tell you that the problem with third grade is not your third-grader. Your kid is totally awesome. It really isn’t their fault. Third grade is an adjustment. If you ask any been there, done that parent, they will tell you, in retrospect, yeah, third grade is hard. BUT WHY DID YOU NOT WARN ME?

So, parent of rising third-grader: this is your warning. Third grade is tough. Teachers will tell you the first part of elementary school is learning to read, and third grade marks the beginning of reading to learn.

If you have reluctant readers (and I do), third grade may really be a struggle. They have to read, comprehend, and translate knowledge in a way they are not previously accustomed to. There is more writing involved and getting ideas down on paper can be especially hard for many kids.

Third grade also means more responsibility in the classroom and at home. They are responsible for writing down homework assignments and actually completing them.

And then, the really hard part – turning it in!

I heard this so many times this year from our teacher – it’s third grade, they should know this by now. But, as a parent, I can tell you that your child perhaps should know this (this can be anything from writing things in their agenda, to how to complete an assignment they’ve been working on in class for a week, to actually turning in said assignment).

BUT THEY WILL FORGET WHAT THEY KNOW.

Again, your child is learning so much in third grade, I think, by default, some of it just isn’t going to stick right away. It will take repetition. Lots and lots of repetition.

I heard about growing pains (I’m only 4 feet 11, so I don’t think I ever grew tall enough for it to be painful, LOL) and third grade is a period of intense, and often painful growth for our kids. They will enter excited, muddle through fighting, kicking, screaming and crying, and more likely as not, end the year extremely glad it’s over.

Third grade is a lot like labor. At first, you’re just excited to finally be there, then you really wish you weren’t, and at the end, you’re proud of the end result, but mostly just so grateful it’s finished.

As a parent whose oldest child just finished third grade, the labor metaphor is incredibly apt. Now that third grade is done, I have a hard time remembering exactly what made it so hard, but trust me, it was hard. There were moments I was in tears. My son cried. Even my husband teared up. It was a struggle, daily, for a while. But bit by bit, we made it through.

So, there’s your warning. If I have any advice for you, it’s that you can do it. Your kid can do it. Your family will make it through. Together. Remember to advocate for your child and work with the teachers along the way. You are all in this to see your child through successfully to fourth grade. That’s the goal here, to just get through third grade, and you can.

Sincerely,

Mom of a Rising Fourth Grader (who is pretty sure fourth grade is to third grade what the terrible threes were to the terrible twos). Bless our hearts.

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Katrina is a mom of three great kids and has been married to her first love for nearly 10 years. She’s grateful to have a job that allows her the flexibility to both work from home some days and in the office others. On the surface, Katrina is pretty crunchy – she loves breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, natural birth, and homeschooling — but still loves her stroller, having her kids in their own beds at some point, her epidural was fantastic, and she’ll be sending the kids through public school. Most of all she loves the fact that we have all these choices, which makes life interesting! One of her favorite experiences was moving to Japan in 2002 to live as an adult dependent with their USMC family. It was an amazing experience, and if it weren’t for that, she probably wouldn’t ever have met my husband.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I enjoyed your writing! I have taught 3rd grade for almost 20 years. I came up after teaching 2nd for the two years prior to that and definitely saw and felt the gap between the two years. I’m wondering how we can more seamlessly span that gap, for students, parents, and teacher.

  2. As a third-grade teacher, the title of this article is depressing. Third grade is a year with the opportunity for academic, social, and emotional growth. As all parents know, growth brings change, which is sometimes difficult and always bittersweet. Transitions can be tough for children and their parents. Third-grade teachers give huge amounts of support to children throughout the year. This is not an easy grade to teach, but it is so rewarding to watch my students overcome challenges and grow as students and as individuals. Third-grade teachers need support from families, not negativity (Third Grade Sucks!?) before the school year begins.

    • This had nothing to do with teachers. It was a mom telling other moms about a difficult period of development. She wasn’t being negative, but honest.

    • As a third grade teacher I think the title “cuts to the chase ” and avoids the flowery PC terminology. For frustrated parents and kids , this is how they feel. I always say that 2nd grade holds their hand but by 3rd , they get thrown into the water.

    • You might find it depressing, but I promise all of your parents find it comforting. Teachers don’t help like they should. And a lot of times we as parents are fighting on our own. So maybe you should focus on not trying to put parents down and help our kids

  3. Third grade was rough!!! You are so right! The weird thing is that I actually teach third grade. I have always said that students grows a lot in third grade. Then my own child walked into my classroom. 😬😬😬 We have laughed, cried, and cried some more! I love the experience but I am SOO glad it is over. 😁

  4. What parents can do the 2nd half of 2nd grade and summer before 3rd:

    Stack the states 2 app to learn states early. Amazing app.

    Skip count by 2s, 3s, 4s, etc in the car. Every time you get in and out it takes 30 sec. Transition this to multiplication as time goes on.
    T his is when we learned/practiced multiplication too! Every time we got in/out of car.

    Graphic novels…I can only speak for boys but graphic novels were entry ‘chapter’ books for brains wanting more story but not ready for full chapters. Definitely look for series. We rewarded our guys per book for awhile there. It did not hinder their development of reading.:)

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