WHAT THE PARENTING BOOKS DON'T TELL YOU: My Kid's Third Grade Homework Is Really Hard

In normal life, I’m pretty sharp. But while I’m doing the work that an eight-year-old is expected to be able to do, I feel so, so stupid.

Sep 10, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

My son’s third grade homework is killing me. Not literally. YET. I am waiting for his social studies book to come to life and murder me in the night -- that mother is heavy.
 
I don’t know about you all, but I do not remember having homework in third grade, aside from an occasional project, like a diorama of a river habitat or whatever. I remember in fourth grade having to do my first research project (on suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt). 
 
I'm going to shake my cane here and say that I certainly don’t remember spending an hour every night doing homework in the third grade. In my day. Granted, my memory may be rusty, as third grade was nearly 30 years ago for me, and I do know that educational standards have changed. But I certainly was not doing algebra and statistics and bringing home social studies books that weigh 200 pounds and sleep-murder innocent humans.
 
I have been completely stumped by my eight-year-old’s math homework no less than three times, and we are less than a month into the school year. Tonight, instead of writing this column for Jane, I was trying to decipher several of 18 essay questions, including one asking for “primary sources” (sources of what?! my tired brain asked after a long and stressful day at work, before I realized I could find the answer in the answer key and work backward from there to tell my kid what the book even meant by the term "primary sources" so that he could go looking for the answer in the textbook).
 
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WHAT IS A "FACT TRIANGLE."

 
Maybe it’s because my brain has been working overtime these days, but it seems like there just isn’t enough time in a day. By the time I leave work, pick Oliver up from after-school daycare, and get home, it’s 6:00. From 6:00 to about 8:00, I’m: cooking dinner while helping Oliver with his homework, then eating dinner, then helping Oliver with his homework some more. At 8:00 the kiddo has his shower and gets ready for bed, while I juggle writing and checking email with being summoned to the bathroom every five minutes (“Mom, look, I made devil horns with my hair!”). Then we aim for Oliver being in bed around 8:30, with lights out at 9:00.
 
So basically during the week, the only real time I get to spend with my kid is over a list of spelling words and timed multiplication table quizzes. I’ll take it -- after all, I care about his education. And I know that his teacher is not assigning crazy amounts of homework because she wants to make my life an overscheduled living hell. But seriously, what in g-d’s name is a “fact family”? That means absolutely nothing to me.
 
I call bullshit on this third grade homework.
 
Sometimes I just stare and stare at a sheet of Oliver’s homework and it looks like a different language to me. Oliver will often read some confusing directions and call me over to ask what he is supposed to do. (Answer: I. Do. Not. Know.) In normal life, I’m pretty sharp. But while I’m doing the work that an eight-year-old is expected to be able to do, I feel so, so stupid.
 
Are you stumped by your kid’s homework? Do you need at least two more hours in the evening, the way I do? Did you get an hour or more of homework every night in third grade, or is this a completely new thing? I’m dying here.
 
Somer complains about third grade story problems and other super important stuff on Twitter: @somersherwood