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.
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.