What Is My 3Rd Grader Doing All Day?

Updated on October 18, 2013
C.S. asks from McHenry, IL
22 answers

My 3rd grader receives grades for 4 subjects. Two are spelling and vocabulary and I teach her the weekly words at home (she has A's in both of these subjects). The other two are Math and Writing and she has B- in both of these subjects.

I am so Frustrated! When she brings home math homework, I have to explain how to do the homework to her. I feel like school is a waste of time this year.

How do I ask the teacher what they do all day without putting my child on a hit list?

I have looked into private schools and I don't like the selection near our home. Do I just supplement her education this year and hope for a better teacher next year?

Any words of encouragement would be appreciated!

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

If I sound bitter, it's because I am frustrated. We don't have Curriculum Night. No weekly updates (my 1st grader gets those). When I email her, she never really answers my questions. My husband says to walk away but, its hard.

I don't want to have to put my dd in Kuman, she would take that as a failure on her part. She comes home crying saying that she is stupid.

I wish the teacher would care more but, that is not in my control.

Featured Answers



answers from Anchorage on

I feel like this this year too and I think it may have more to do with the new "common core" the schools have adopted then the quality of the teachers. Hopefully they will get rid of common core and go back to how they used to teach.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My child does not know how to do the homework. 2nd grade.
But, I don't either.
They are teaching math a new way now.
It's crazy! I don't want to confuse him but I only know how I was taught.

B- is very respectable for third grade. Her writing is still developing big time.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from New York on

Don't be so quick to throw teacher under bus. Maybe, yes, your kid forgets how to do things by the time she gets home!go see teacher and communicate.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

This isn't a zero sum game. Discussing your concerns about your daughters education won't immediately result in her being put on a hit list. To the contrary, most teahcers I know LOVE parents who are interested in what their kids are doing and helping them to be better students.

You will likely have to explain that math homework for many years to come no matter what school your child attends. Through elementary school kids often need a refreshing on the day's lessons before they can do their homework, especially with math.

Attitude is everything here. Approach the teacher in a positive, respectful way asking about how you can help your daughter in math and writing. Remember that if she is receiving grades in four subjects that's at least a couple of hours of academic instruction per day. Then recess, lunch, PE, hopefully some arts education, science, silent reading, reading aloud and likely just some fun stuff. Sounds like a full day for an 8 year old to me.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Why is talking to the teacher such a big deal? Just ask: "I've noticed that my daughter is having a difficult time understanding the math assignments and I have had to explain them to her. Do you have some tools or resources to help us? Do you have any insight as to where she is struggling?"

I think, if you go in looking to be solution-oriented and enlisting the teacher's help in a TEAM effort (not "why is it my daughter doesn't understand..."), things will go fine. Teachers sometimes really DON'T know when a child is struggling, especially if the child is hesitant about asking for more explanation in the classroom. Think about it-- if the teacher says "do you all get this?" and the rest of the class says "yes", it is socially much harder for a kid to raise their hand in front of everyone and say "this doesn't make sense to me. I don't understand". Plus, if your daughter is getting help/instruction from you at home, her grades may be good enough that the teacher doesn't understand how difficult this is for your girl.

If you want to know what they do all day-- did the teacher go over this during the 'parent night' at the beginning of the year? Did he/she offer you written materials to take home at that time which covered the year's curriculum? Our teachers do this at my son's school. If that didn't happen, just ask "could you tell me about what the day in the classroom looks like? I'm trying to get an idea of what my daughter is learning and I'm only getting bits and pieces from her." Most teachers would be happy to clarify what's going on.

That said, I think your best approach is to focus on the area your daughter needs more support in first and foremost. If you just baldly ask "so, what are the kids doing all day if my kid doesn't get it" -- it is a fairly accusatory statement and will put the teacher on her guard. Go in with a positive attitude that the teacher IS doing their best, that they may not be aware that there is a problem, and ask for what will HELP. A solution-oriented attitude is so important. Think about it-- reverse the situation-- how would YOU like to be approached?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Please take the time to visit the classroom to see what they do all day before passing judgement.

Sounds like you expect your daughter to immediately understand concepts and directions and remember them hours later without your Iinvolvement. Learning is a process that involves much repetition. You are a part of that process.

Also know that your daughter is experiencing and learning things that are not a part of the grading process. Classical academies is only part of the classroom experience.

After your swh it's imperative that you make an appointment to speak with the teacher in person in a calm, non judgemental manner. Your daughter is struggling. Sounds like you blame the teacher. Yes, back off from the need to blame anyone. Doing so will ease your frustration. Approach this with a problem solving focus. Tell her about your daughter's difficulties and ask for help in finding a way to help her. Learning in school is a team effort.

I suggest that at least some of your daughter's feelings are the result of your attitude fed by your frustration. You are telling her that this situation is bad and she's failing. Instead, tell her that even tho she's having difficulty she will eventually understand. Tell her you are going to talk with her teacher and work this out. Praise her efforts. Down play the grades. Focus on moving forward. Neither you or she is a failure. You're having a rough patch which you will get through with the help of the teacher.

Perhaps the teacher isn't adequately answering your questions thru email because she doesn't understand what you're asking. Remember she doesn't know you. Much of our communication is thru ehat is not said; from body language, tone of voice and awareness of the person's values and experiences. Perhaps your frustration and anger came thru in your messages as they did here. She has no personal connection with you and may only hear the judgment.

About Kumon. Enrollment is not a sign of failure. Many parents enroll their children for enrichment. Attending also provides a different approach to learning. There are different learning styles and the child may benefit from Kumon's style more than the style in the classroom. Kumon is a resource; not a sign of failure.

I urge you to back off from judgement and your idea of failure. View learning as a process in which school, parents, and community resources work together to achieve success. I've pretty much eliminated the word failure from my vocabulary. I look at situations either working or not working. When they don't work I look for ways to change so they do work. We are successful when we find ways that work. We are learning when things do not work. No failure there.

Later still. I just realized that you're upset over a B- grade. Wow! You are the one causing her to feel failure; not the teacher. B-is a very acceptable grade. Do you really expect her to always get As? You require her to be perfect in everything academic? How about the rest of her life? Perhaps you expect ypurself to be perfect too. And of course the teacher should be perfect enough to know on her own how to please you.

A very few students get straight As and I'd venture to say that none do so in grade school. I suggest that your unreasonsble expectations doom both of you to a lifetime of frustration and anger. Your daughter will struggle to please you and miss the whole point of education which is to learn. Grades are only an imperfection way of measuring what is learned. With your focus on grades and seeing a B as failure you are guaranteed that your daughter has low self esteem and have difficulty finding happiness her whole life. Perhaps that is what happened to you. You have the opportunity now to change that for your daughter.

Later, later. How can you know the teacher doesn't care when you haven't talked with her? Seems to me you are quick to rush to a negative judgment beforeyou know what is going on. When we expect failure we usually get failure because we unconciously do things to get what we expect.

Your first negative action was to expect an A in math and not being willing to accept the grade while thinking of positive ways to help your daughter improve. You chose to blame the teacher without talking with her. And more to your daughter's detriment focused on how she failed instead of on how well she did with a new approach to math.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I don't think you should walk away from this but I also believe that you need to reign in your expectations.
Contact your child's teacher and request an appointment to meet in person. There are still people around who just don't communicate well by email or other electronic means. Also when you have an appointment to meet with her she can't just ignore you.

Make a list of questions when you go meet her. What is are the main issues your child has trouble with, how can you help, what can you do to improve communication... don't be confrontational or show your frustration.

A private school is no guarantee whatsoever for a good education or improved communication with the teacher. Bad teachers also exist at private schools - it's the luck of the draw.

And last but not least, a B- is not the end of the world, especially not in third grade. Sure it's good to have high expectations and stay involved with your kids education...but if your DD comes home crying that she is stupid because she got a B-... maybe you need to lighten up a little bit.

Good luck.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Take a day and visit the classroom. Sit in the back and watch.

Also, stop explaining how to do the homework. Homework isn't for teachers to see how well parents teach their kids, it's to see how well their students can do the work without outside guidance. If your daughter can't read the directions and remember what to do from the lesson, she needs to do what she knows and take the rest back to the teacher so the teacher knows what your daughter doesn't understand and can work on it.

Holding your daughter's hand doesn't do her any favors.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I'm not sure what your expectations are exactly. It's your responsibility as her parent to supplement her education, esp areas that she is struggling with. Teachers can't do one-on-one all day to reinforce lessons and the curriculum will continue to get more difficult with each passing year. Education doesn't end when the bell rings for the day. It's a team effort between teachers and parents.
On the same note, not all teachers are wonderful teachers, and not all students will connect with the teacher, or vice versa. This is why your role is so important.
As a former educator, it sounds to me like your daughter is doing fine- not straight As, but not everyone is a straight A student. Always have her try her homework alone first before you step in and provide any kind of guidance. Make sure she knows it's ok to get things wrong. Getting something wrong means there's an opportunity to get it right. Usually, it's the mistakes that provide the best opportunity for a profound teaching moments.
You are doing the right thing- keep doing it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

First, please put that B- in perspective. Not all grades are going to be A+. I struggled very very hard in math and often just barely passed. I had other classes where I excelled. Maybe she isn't as strong in those subjects? If you don't like her school, is that adding to your disappointment? Is school a waste of time or is your child just needing more instruction? I was in GT in English...and tutored in Algebra. Maybe she just needs your way of explaining it? Many was the night I sat with SD going over her 3rd or 4th grade math. I just thought the way she did, so my explanations were better. It is not uncommon for a young child to need a little help with HW at home. It doesn't mean her teacher failed her.

Don't ask the teacher what they do like it's an accusation. Say you noticed that she is getting a B- in these classes and it isn't like her. Is there something you should be worried about? Is there a new way of teaching? Is she changing classes in a way she didn't before? Etc. Find out. Don't just act out. Your DD won't have a target on her back if you don't go in guns blazing.

If she comes home saying she's stupid...is that because she picks up on your attitude? Do you only accept As and a B is not allowed?

I would try again to talk to the teacher. Leave her a message and ask for a face to face meeting. And then bring up your concerns but also give her a chance to talk.

And if your DH is telling you to walk away, talk to him. He's her parent, too. What is his POV? Maybe he has a perspective you have not yet considered.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Yeah, that's how last year was for us (my girls were in 3rd and 5th grades), and this year, I decided to homeschool. It's going very well, and I'm glad I made that choice.

That being said, don't be afraid to speak with the teacher. Let her know that your daughter seems not to understand the math that's being presented at school. They may have switched to Singapore Math as part of the common core curriculum. My biggest issue with Singapore Math is that if you didn't start off using this method (and let's face it, none of us did), it makes almost no sense. They tend to give the kids multiple methods to solve a problem. Most teachers who are new to this method don't fully understand all of the methods themselves, and therefore don't explain them very well. Then, they don't have the kids master each method before moving on. They introduce the methods all at once, spend a few minutes on each, and then move on. Meanwhile, the child is left feeling very confused and unsure of the concept. Then the whole mess is sent home for parents to figure out and explain. I may be wrong, but perhaps this is what's happening in your daughter's classroom, and that's why you're having to re-explain all of her math to her each night.

With writing, it's also worth speaking to the teacher. Part of the new curriculum standard is to have the kids do extensive writing in each subject (including science and math), but again, teachers don't always fully explain how technical writing differs from creative writing or report writing. There may be some kind of disconnect there.

I think it's worth your while to speak with the teacher and just approach it from the standpoint of trying to understand where your daughter's confusion is coming in. Keep in mind that with the new common core curriculum, many teachers are having to adjust just as much as the kids are.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Why is this automatically the teacher's fault? It might very well be, but you haven't even really talked to her teacher so why do you just assume. Maybe math is not your child's strong point and she needs extra attention. School is not a place to drop off kids and expect them to come home all educated. You and your child have to put something extra into it. In some subjects more than others. First, ask to meet with the teacher to get a better idea of what is going on. Yes, meet in person.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My son has straight A's in 3rd grade, but he has brought home several papers with not so good grades on them. I emailed his teacher each time asking her what the deal was. Did he pay attention to the lesson? Was he focused on other things? Did he rush? Did he not understand the way it was taught? Etc.

I absolutely want to know why grades are below an A if they are. There is a reason for that - and if I can help my kids overcome that reason, I'm all for it. The teachers and parents have to work as a team, so I'm 100% involved and communicate with all of my kids teachers on a regular basis.

Don't be afraid to talk to the teacher about anything. They want to communicate with you as well. It is also not only the teacher's job to teach, but yours as well. So if you have questions, they want to help you understand as well. But be willing to hear the poor grades could very well be the result of your child not wanting to do the work or not focusing, it doesn't always fall on the teacher.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

My daughter is in 3rd grade right now.

In the beginning of the year does your teacher provide your child with a layout of curriculum for the year. At my daughters school they always do. Also, she sends home a weekly newsletter letting us know important things. My daughter also has a daily planner that she fills out and I have to initial along with her teacher Which somewhat tells me what they worked on for the day.

As for homework, my daughter seems to come home with one worksheet a week, front and back and it has a vocabulary side and a math side. Then she is instructed to read 20 minutes a day. Other than that she only comes home with study packets to study for a test here and there.

The rest she does all in class. And while there has been a couple (C's) she has done quite well on most of it. There is so much work her grade actually ends up averaging to an A or A-

She currently has grades in:
Language Arts
Social Studies

If I were you and I didn't know I'd ask for some information about her curriculum. Then I'd also point out that your daughter seems to not be grasping math as she needs lots of help on homework. I'm sure your teacher will have some suggestions and it will also give her the time to really pay attention to how your daughter is responding to her while teaching. Maybe your daughter isn't focusing too well. This is not putting a target on your daughter but just allowing you both to figure out what the problem is so that you both can help her. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Each Grade level, (well at least at my kids' school), has a "Grade Level Chair." THIS is the person, you can ALSO go to with questions or concerns.
Then, it that does not help, you can go to the school's Principal etc.

Now, just because a child is getting A's in a certain subject, that does NOT mean, that they will get A's in ALL subjects.
And just because she is getting B-'s in other areas, that does not make her a "failure."
It does not mean, the school is a waste of time.

Each school and grade level, has a curriculum. As a grade level, they have to meet certain standards and teach certain things, and they have to teach it in a certain way.
Math for example, is not taught... in the SAME way now, that it was taught when I was a kid.
Even if you teach her Math in your way.... IF the math problems are not completed in the way that is taught in school (kids need to show their work, not just writing down the answer), then it may be marked, wrong.

Even in Private school, that does not mean a child will then suddenly be better at certain subjects.

Again, your child is getting B- in Math and Writing. Well, these are not the same subjects at spelling and vocabulary. It cannot be compared.
And is B- so terrible????
She already feels like a failure, because she is not getting A's in these subjects.

Often times, kids just have different comprehension and ability, in various subjects. Its just human. So in certain subjects, they may have to work harder at it, or have extra help.
My Mom was a Valedictorian, and a Math major. Does that mean I was good at math? No. I was a total "dumb dumb" in Math. SHE made me feel like a failure... because when she taught me things at home to "help" me, she actually was not helping but getting personal about it. And she would actually tell me how COME I am not getting it, it is SO simple!
And her frustration, made me, hate, math. Forever.

I have 2 kids. One is advanced in math. The other is not good at math. But the one not good in Math, gets B's in it. And she is PROUD. Because... she tries HER best. And she is very disciplined and genuine about her studies. She tries, HER best. She is not lazy or anything. But, Math is not her strong suit. But we do, also teach her stuff at home. As a parent we just feel it is important to support our kid's academics, at home too. And we do not rely on only the Teacher, to teach her and make her into a rocket scientist about it. We never tell her her studies or school is a waste of time. Sure, some Teachers may not be our cup of tea. But, the kid still needs to learn, not only about the subject matter, but about the whole attitude toward "school" and learning and studying.

OFTEN times, once a kid gets home, they "forget" what they learned at school, especially with Math. And unless they are taught to take notes etc., they basically need repetition and practice, with it, if they are not getting it.
IF your daughter is not getting it nor remembers what she has learned, then why is that? I work at an Elementary school... and some of the kids just do not pay attention. Or they daydream. Or they are just tired. And they are not KEENLY paying attention to what is going on. Then they get homework on it, and they are at a loss about how to do it and they don't remember.

Spelling and vocabulary, compared to Math, is very different things. It is comparing apples to oranges. Writing, is also not the same thing as just vocabulary and spelling. Writing, entails multiple things at the same time, per the thought process about it as well as writing "rules" and structure and comprehension about what was read, or per creative writing.

Rote memorization (like in spelling & vocabulary)... versus application of abstract concepts and processes and analysis, are very different types of cognition. So, a spelling test, versus having to write out a passage or do Math or Math word problems, are very different abilities and aptitudes.
And per child development, these things do not all happen in tandem.

Kumon, has benefited many kids. It is a different approach, than in school. Kumon, is drills and memorization and repetition. And doing lots of problems over and over and daily. It is not one on one "Tutoring."
So, these kids who do Kumon, may be able to quickly say the answer. But, if they have to work out the problem the way they are taught IN school, they may not be able to do that. In school, at least at my kids' school, the emphasis is on the PROCESS and abstract techniques in working out math equations. Using, diagrams, manipulatives, arrays, regrouping, graphs, visuals, and using the proper steps to work out... the math equation. And the student HAS to SHOW, their work, and HOW they got their answer. So, this is where... some kids flounder and don't get it. Because, it is not just memorization. It is about application of math concepts to derive, the answer. The process... is sometimes more important than the actual answer derived by memorization.
Some kids I know, can spew out Math answers very quickly. But if you ask them HOW they did it, per the way they are taught in school and work it out abstractly on paper... they cannot.

I have, ALWAYS contacted my kids' Teachers, if/when I had a question or concern. I was never on any "hit list."
My daughter recently did not do well on a Math exam. I e-mailed the Teacher and asked her HER thoughts & observations, on what went wrong. Because in my daughter's daily homework and at home when we observed her doing it, she knew it. Turns out, my daughter made careless... errors. And she got a bad grade, because of it.

I am never hesitant to contact any of my kids' Teachers.
I approach them in person when need be. I don't hesitate.
But I also, approach any contact with them, with respect and in an amicable manner. And its fine.

"Failure" is not the same as getting help or needing help.
Even the great minds and geniuses in this world, always, seek more knowledge to BETTER themselves. This is not failure. It is being "smart."
Failure is, not doing anything.

www.khanacademy.org is a free resource for math etc. Even, Bill Gates... is a fan of this site and has used it.

She is in 3rd grade now... is it realistic, for her, to always be getting straight A's, all throughout school all the way to the 12th grade? And if not, then what? And how does that impact you and then, impact her?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

This may sound a little crazy, but have you had her vision tested? Not her sight but her vision. My third grader was just having the same issues and we have discovered he has very little time of "good" vision. About 10 minutes at a time. Most other times he is seeing double which makes for very difficult reading and can't line up numbers properly in math. We are preparing to begin vision therapy next month. I had all of the same frustrations you are having. Not understanding why he would get it at home but not be able to translate it into learning at school or not getting it at all. Homework time was a nightmare. What should take 15 minutes was taking an hour or more. It is a crazy new world of information that we are getting but it is answering so many questions about his grades, concentration, and general behavior. I see you are in very northern Illinois, we are just north of Milwaukee. The vision therapy center is in Brookfield, WI, just about 90 minutes from you. We were referred by our regular optometrist but they don't always catch the problem. Please feel free to message me if you would like more information.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Here is how it was explained to me at Kumon. Children go to school for 6 months out of the year (total) while other countries go for 9. It is not enough time to learn. In K they learn to write their numbers and add, in first they learn to add & subtract, in second they learn to multiply & divide, and if they fall behind somewhere, they are lost.

School is not a waist of time this year, she has probably missed an instruction somewhere and is struggling to catch up. It is possible she sits near the loud chatty kids and she isn't hearing everything entirely.

In my opinion, you have to assist your child at home. If you find that you can't, I do suggest you have her participate in an after school program. It doesn't have to be Kumon. You can also purchase Kumon books from your local bookstore. It will be helpful if you read the parent section which gives you instructions on using the books. I figured I know how to read so I can teach my daughter, it didn't work.

Here is what Kumon has done for my daughter. She left 1st grade reading like a robot and was in the schools reading program. Four months later she is reading 1 grade above her grade. She has confidence in her reading, can read her class instructions and comprehend them, and met her personal goal of reading chapter books.

I must admit, I wasn't happy about having to pay for Kumon or use my time to do the additional homework, but I now see how necessary it is. At this point, I no longer have regrets and wish we had time to add math to the program. We use the Kumon math books at home.

I suggest you search Kumon youtube. I think you will be impressed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Some teachers are better than others. With my dd, she forgets what they do in class so I have to start from square one. I started telling her she needs to take notes AND bring the notes home so I can look at them. They do some really weird stuff in our math curriculum...we have some new program that makes them draw a lot of pictures and explain blah blah blah....Even if you know math (which I taught at one time)...the stuff they make the kids do is really "out there".

I have my dd in a supplemental math and reading/vocabulary program called Kumon...they stick with the basic stuff and they make them practice until they really know it. That's the only way I know my kid is really learning. She's one of the few in her class that really knows the good old fashioned math .

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Time to set up a parent teacher conference and decide what is the actual issue. Is your child not connecting with the reaching style? Is she surrounded by kids with issues or chatter or kids Acting out? Yes I feel as parents even if we have the best teacher in this day of teaching style and hurry to get to tests to prove to state and feda that they made their benchmarks does not mean they have everything all set up fie success in the knowledge they need going forward. I also supplement with a home curriculum for my kids. They relearn or learn ahead of others and many times learn what they will never learn in school because they don't have time for that anymore...ex: handwriting....lost art, not taught, the presidents in order with the importance of each one, solid history, solid scientific method, and Spanish(program cut). So if you are not inclined to supplement their education then start looking for a private school that has what you want in their brains as adults.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

We went through this almost all through elementary school.
Third grade was the year I had to sign our son's planner, every piece of homework, graded tests/quiz's every school day.
Sometimes there were 6 to 8 things to be signed per night - my hand would cramp up!
By 5th grade it wasn't so bad as he was doing things more on his own.
It just takes time.
In school they are covering the material and at home the practice what they have learned so it sinks in.



answers from San Francisco on

I suggest you ask for a meeting with the teacher - CALL her don't text or e-mail. Then just say you noticed your daughter struggling in math and see if she can offer some additional help and what her observations are. I find it really hard to help with math homework because they bring home a sheet of paper, not a book. I NEED the book so I can see how to do it before I can show GD. We don't have a computer right now, but we used to use that for help with math homework.

The bottom line is these days you DO have to supplement at home. I often wonder what the heck they teach at school also because it doesn't seem to be the same as the homework they send home. It's like they want to teach 1/2 of the curriculum and depend on the parents to teach the other 1/2.


answers from San Francisco on

If the teacher is not responding to your emails request a conference. Have your questions/concerns specifically spelled out and don't be confrontational about it. Approach it like "what can I do to help my daughter more" and "what exactly is expected in the classroom." If you get nowhere contact the principal, or vice principal. You deserve to have communication with the teacher, and you should know exactly what's happening in the classroom, even if it's just a matter of looking on a website.

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