I’m stuck in third grade

Lisa Ingebrand, Montgomery Messenger

Third grade teachers are super heroes.
Kids come into their classrooms with maybe a slight grasp on basic addition and subtraction and they somehow elevate that knowledge to the world of multiplication tables, division (short and long), fractions, measuring, and figuring out things like area and perimeter.
And don’t forget the word problems!
My Ellen—the redhead—is in third grade. This means my husband and I spend time almost every night tackling third grade homework. Sounds easy, right?
Oh. My. Goodness! It is not easy.
First, it requires remembering HOW to work with fractions (and not just finding the right measuring cup in the utensil drawer).
Then, it requires the explaining of fractions, followed by being told “that’s not how my teacher does it.”
New math vs. old math is a REAL thing! (Thank God they haven’t—yet—changed the ruler.)
Sometimes, John and I are able to follow Ellen’s explanation of how her teacher teaches whatever it is they are working on.
Sometimes, we don’t follow, and Ellen learns a new, “old way” of doing things.
Mix this in with virtual learning and the pandemic, along with a feisty emotional almost 9-year-old… and things get frustrating, confusing, blood-boiling, etc.
Third grade is so much fun that sometimes we resort to asking Alexa or calling friends or emailing the teacher for help.
It’s humbling.
It’s also been amazing to see Ellen advance from struggling with memorizing multiplication facts to acing her 5-minute times table test—and eventually earning her way into the exclusive 4-minute club.
Perhaps I am boasting about my child. But, you know what? I deserve to. At this point, as a parent of a redheaded third grader, I want to throw a party every time she/we earn a sticker on those gosh darn math worksheets. We earned them with hours of work, tears, some sweat, and lots and lots of parental patience (some nights more than others).
Local Lions Clubs have recognized the major advancements kids make in third grade for years by gifting dictionaries to third graders. They choose third graders because in third grade kids transition from learning how to read to learning from their reading—and their teachers guide them through all of it.
Of course, we parents try to help.
But, there have been days when I think we do more harm than good, confusing our own little third grader. (Not all Ellen’s worksheets come back with a sticker.)
Spelling is a bit easier because that is straight forward, but fiery redheads are good at heating up that homework time as well. If she doesn’t want to practice her words… Lord, help us. We hold strong and make her write out each word correctly, but I think I’ve lost years of my life in the process.
Anna, our 11.5 year old, never fought doing her homework, caught on to things quickly, and didn’t need her parents to guide her through third grade in a pandemic.
However, sixth grade also has its parenting challenges.
Do you know the six present day countries that make up what is known as the Fertile Crescent? I didn’t, but Anna needed to know them, so I buckled down and studied to help her study because she can’t get together with her friends to form a study group.
I learned all about Hammurabi, the Mahabharata, and the Babylonian army. It’s interesting stuff, but wow… we worked really hard for that B in Social Studies.
Don’t even ask me about sixth grade math. That’s John’s job.
I’m stuck in third grade.


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