I’m failing 3rd grade
I’m failing 3rd grade.
We just finished the fifth week of school and I think maybe I can catch my breath. The amount of homework that’s assigned to my son, Sam is astounding. He has homework in every subject, every night. He’s required to read for 30 minutes each night and keep a reading log, in addition to his math, spelling, grammar and science homework. He has a test in all four subjects every week. He also has to complete his “Independent Reading” (IR) goal for the trimester (which is essentially four book reports) and do 24 online reading assignments (with tests) and score a 75% or higher on the first try, otherwise it doesn’t count.
Third graders are not given time during the day to go to the school library, so they’re expected to go before school between 7:15am and 7:40am. Instructional staff isn’t available in the library before school, so he has to navigate the card catalog and choose a book at his reading level by himself. AND he’s expected to manage his time while choosing a book, check it out from the library and make it to class before the tardy bell.
We were not given a syllabus at the start of the new year. The kids are expected to write their assignments in their planners each day. The first week, Sam missed the part about there being a spelling test on Thursday. He’s always had spelling tests on Fridays, and so naturally we prepare him for that day. He got a “D” on his first test.
By the end of the third week, Sam got in the car with tears in his eyes and said, “Mom! My grades are terrible!” His confidence was shot and he was feeling defeated.
Patrick and I attended curriculum night during the third week of school. The tension in the room was palpable. Several parents raised their hands asking the team of teachers how long they expect the kids to spend on homework each night. The parents seemed as defeated as my son and the energy turned aggressive.
Round and round we went, teachers avoiding the answer and parents asking the same question in different ways. The principal stepped in and explained that the object of homework isn’t to bog the students down but to enrich their classroom learning. Our principal is so soothing. Her tone is calm and she smooths over the angry parents like she’s frosting a cupcake. We never did get a straight answer: How much time does the average student spend on third grade homework?
“Well, it depends.”
My son is not the fastest student. He spends a lot of his time complaining about having to do homework at all – time he could spend actually doing it. But we have baseball practice and Faith Formation and other trivial things like, oh, I don’t know, dinner and showers every night, so two or three hours of homework is not realistic. I want my kids to have time to be kids.
After the three weeks of tears and the cranky curriculum night, I decided I needed to give myself an attitude adjustment.
I have neither the money nor the patience to send my kids to private or home school. And Common Core is as inevitable as menopause. My kid is going to be inundated with homework this year to prepare for the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment, formerly the FCAT) and there ain’t a whole hill of beans I can do about it. And while I could stay on my Common Core soapbox for days, the air is getting thin up here. So, I decided to change my attitude and hope my kids follow my lead.
Now, each afternoon I pick up the kids and have a snack ready for them when they get home. After a short break, I tell Sam that we have to do homework and I make myself very visible while he alphabetizes spelling words and muddles through Common Core math worksheets.
I told him that playing baseball is a privilege and he will not participate unless he has all of his homework finished. He still has to go to practice, but if he doesn’t do homework he’ll sit on the bench. Period. So far, being the homework hector is working.
Last week Sam turned a corner. There weren’t any tears or tantrums about homework (from either of us!) and he got an A on his spelling test. I’m not sure if it’s my shiny, new “We can do it! You have to do it!” attitude or if it’s that we’re acclimating to the heavy third grade demands.
Either way, we found our groove and we’re just gonna keep on dancing.