3rd Grade Homework: there has got to be a better way
October 12, 2021 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I got an email from my third grader's teacher that she didn't do well on her spelling test today. My first reaction was sh!t I forgot the test was today. My second reaction was why should I be responsible for the third grader's remembering her spelling test? My third reaction was I really don't like helping her with her homework at all and please can I just stop now?

My question is really, do I HAVE to help her? By that I mean, do I have to proactively get on her about having a spelling test and then drill her on the words? She hates it when I do this and I don't like doing it either since her spelling does not improve in the slightest when I do the repetition drilling with her. If she asks for help, we certainly provide guidance but this only happens with math because MATH.

When I was in the third grade (back in the non-parental 80s) I didn't have any proactive parental help. And, this is at a private school where we pay a not inconsiderable sum of money for her to be in a small class so why can't the teacher give her some extra one on one time for spelling?

In other words, I feel like this is a very helicopter-y thing to do and I want her to start learning how to manage her own learning. Is 8 (she will be 9 in November) too young for this? If not, how do I start fostering her to self-study?
posted by tafetta, darling! to Education (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I’m going to be direct here: so you’re willing to pay big bucks for a fancy private school — which you make a big deal of so I mention it — but you feel helping your young daughter with spelling is beneath you — but math isn’t— and should be outsourced to the teacher? I mean, sure, even as a public school teacher with big classes, I will individually coach students on spelling practice. However, most kids need more help in learning *how* to learn when they start. It sounds like your daughter was good at the simpler words but needs to find a new strategy for this new set. You could also just ask the teacher for advice, namely the techniques she recommends for your daughter. There are other ways of learning vocabulary other than just drilling, like maybe getting some cool washi tape & markers for her to decorate her notes or make pretty flash cards. Or she could make a digital study guide! There are a lot of options to explore that don’t take much time or effort from you once there’s a pattern established. Finally, I would say that most students can learn on their own at home in middle school on but they still need help and encouragement in later elementary school. I don’t usually call parents when kids don’t do well on a quiz nor do I expect them to help but it sure is nice when they can and do. I think it’s awesome that your daughter’s teacher cares so much about your child’s academic success that she took the time out of her busy day to call you and make this request!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:53 PM on October 12, 2021 [44 favorites]

If you want a tutor to take over this work (which might be a good idea since I doubt you're effectively masking your loathing of the chore from your child), you're going to have to pay for it, not expect free extra tutoring from the teacher. Eight is too young to expect to keep track of all due dates and figure out how to get prepared over several days to meet them. I know what the 80s were like, and I was fine, but a lot of kids weren't. Scaffolding is necessary.
posted by praemunire at 3:54 PM on October 12, 2021 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I think this is ok. You are seeing drilling isn't working. Drilling sucks for everyone. Spelling is helpful for her future but it isn't going to make or break her academic career at age 8. I would instead focus on lots of reading, her reading and you reading to her as well as opportunities to point out words that happen to be on her list that week. I think homework for young children, especially drilling type homework, is pretty terrible and at 8 she needs more time to be kid and less time "drilling".
posted by stormygrey at 3:58 PM on October 12, 2021 [20 favorites]

Best answer: No answers for you but my third grader is also very VERY forgetful about homework. She is new to in-person school that has any sort of at-home learning component (left the middle of first grade due to the pandemic and just went back last month) and I feel like I have to tell her 20 times to do her freaking weekly reading log before she actually sits down and gets to it.

Like you, my parents never had to remind me I had homework - but I keep telling myself that by the time I was in the third grade I had already had homework since kindergarten. They ramped it up gradually, but when I think back to me as a third grader, I probably couldn't even really remember a time when I didn't have homework. By that age I almost always had 20-30 minutes night and sometimes up to an hour, and it was just part of my routine when I got home to sit down and do my homework. It's so much less work nowadays that it's easier to forget, and my kid has never really gotten in the habit of remembering it since she's never had any before. So while my kid seems so big and old to be needing these reminders, I try to give her some grace because school is just really different now from what it was like when I was a child.

Then I'm like "ARGH, and when I was her age I was carrying like 40 lbs of books home every night on my little back!! Kids these days are SOFT!!" and try to keep all these thoughts to myself for fear she'll start telling me I must have been carrying those 40 lbs both ways uphill in the snow.
posted by potrzebie at 4:00 PM on October 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

the good news (for you) with spelling is that drilling is irrelevant. You do have a responsibility to help your kid reach her potential (sorry), but spelling drills aren't it.

The way to learn to be a good speller* is to read a lot. Make sure she's reading books. Do it now, before she has a phone to permanently impair her attention span and cognition.

*this is the most minor benefit of reading, the rest are more important
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:03 PM on October 12, 2021 [13 favorites]

Also, while I was a bit sassy, you also have my sympathy because COVID schooling has been super hard on kids… and their parents too! As you’ve seen above, many if not most kids are struggling these days at school — academically, emotionally and/or socially. This is harder than usual now but will eventually get better as we all adjust!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:13 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My third grader has spelling homework each night in the form of a word search, a crossword puzzle, a silly/creative sentence writing prompt, and Thursday night a practice quiz right before the Friday morning test. His class also has one page of math review with the instruction from the teacher being if they are stuck to leave her a note in the planner because that means something didn't come across in the lesson. Plus nightly reading time.

Kid's teacher made a point at the beginning of the year that this year the homework is about learning how to do homework and getting in to the routine of planners and making time to do the work.

I expect to be helping my kid manage homework until middle school where I expect to hold them accountable at home but not sit down with them to do homework time. I also expect to be generally monitoring homework in high school, but not in a management style but in an open dialogue about how much work they have and extra curricular scheduling etc.
posted by Swisstine at 4:23 PM on October 12, 2021 [8 favorites]

As a former underachieving smart kid, I’m obligated to point out that it’s possible your kid knows what they’re supposed to be doing and just doesn’t care. I pretty much always knew what I had been assigned and when it was due; I just prioritized doing other things. Sometimes that was watching TV, but other times it was doing extra credit for a different subject instead, or reading for leisure. Luckily for me, when your standardized test percentiles are in the high 90s, teachers didn’t really care about homework. But I still consider the turning point of my life to be early in the third grade, when my school expanded its gifted program to third graders and I was yanked out of the general population and given more challenging assignments. I still slacked off a lot, and I didn’t get good at following assignments or deadlines until (checks notes) sometime after today, but I was more interested in school and less oppositional at least. So what I’m saying is, you have to fit your response to the actual problem, and to do so you have to be sure that she’s actually trying and failing, rather than just not trying.

It might also be helpful to read up on the Carol Dweck mindset stuff. I don’t fully buy it, but if your daughter was formerly high-achieving and no longer is, that could be one explanation.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:26 PM on October 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: do I HAVE to help her?

Yes, you do. She is in 3rd grade, not college. It sounds though like you could use help from the teacher on helping her organize herself AND how to best support her instead of drilling her.
posted by Toddles at 4:28 PM on October 12, 2021 [60 favorites]

Best answer: I think the way to approach this is that it is not actually about spelling.

In 3rd grade, the value of homework (if it has any) is that it's a good way to practice the organisational and motivational skills of doing it at all -- it's not so much about the substance of what is done. Rather, your kid is laying the groundwork for habits that will pay off when they get to high school or university. Habits like keeping track of what needs to be done, doing it even if they don't want to, or even determining for themselves if something is worth doing, and if they decide it's not, being willing to accept the consequences. On the latter point, for instance, I'm okay with my 3rd-grader deciding not to do some homework, but he has to articulate well why that is (e.g., he already knows it) and also be willing to accept the consequences (like, if he gets a bad grade that's on him and I'm not going to intercede).

What this all means is that I don't think your job is to do drilling with your kid, especially if she is resistant to it. But your job is to support her in building those healthy studying habits. It's not obvious to a kid how to do this at all and many kids either have no guidance or additional challenges (e.g., ADHD, difficulty finding quiet spaces to work, etc). As a parent, do what you can to help your kid figure out what works for her, and support her in the way she needs -- for instance she may request that you remind her of things or whatever, and you can decide whether that's in your capacity and if it's not, help her come up with alternatives (e.g., alarms) that are.

This is much more your job than her teacher's, because you're at home with her.
posted by contrapositive at 4:55 PM on October 12, 2021 [22 favorites]

Yes, you have to help her. That doesn't have to mean drilling, but it probably does mean helping her figure out how to keep track of things and making sure she knows you ARE willing to help if she asks. It could mean getting her a tutor.

This would be true for any eight year old but it's extra true for someone who's had the better part of two years disrupted by a pandemic. She has likely not been able to build and maintain even a typical eight year old's level of early study habits at this point.

Ask her teacher for any resources for you on how to help your child learn to learn. As others have said, it's not about the spelling.
posted by Stacey at 5:08 PM on October 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You actually can choose not to monitor homework. It will put you outside the norm of middle class/upper class parenting. If your child’s grades are mediocre then she will be tracked accordingly for a bit, probably with a reset at middle school and high school. She may find she cares and take over in a few years, or she won’t, and settle for worse grades.

When my son was in grade 1, I had a sick baby and a sick parent. So that’s how I know, he got way lower grades than he was capable of and got used to it for most of elementary school. I had a lot, a lot, of work getting him to go the distance between a B-/C and an A. Then he matured and now he does reasonably well (he’s in high school, honours student.) But grades 5&6 were a battleground.

I too did my homework as a kid - but I came straight home, we had 6 channels and they were mostly Little House on the Prairie reruns.

(Ideally I think parent should always be just a little incompetent so kids take some steps. But it’s a fine line. - “Is your test Tuesday or Wednesday, I forget?” not “well you should have studied.)
posted by warriorqueen at 5:09 PM on October 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

As a parent of a third grader, our approach so far is that we set up parameters for our kid doing his homework (come home from school, no video games till homework is done and verified complete). His school has him keep a homework planner which every day has the homework written in it so it's easy to know what is supposed to happen; so far we do a light checking of the work but mostly just focus on him completing all of it.

So I guess my feeling is mixed: do you need to help her study for the test? I dunno. You should make sure that the assigned worksheets, reading, etc are at least completed every night. Beyond that, I don't know how much assistance with "studying" you should expect to do. I have not helped my son study for his quizzes yet beyond making sure all the homework is done. If kid has trouble with spelling, I would probably check the spelling homework more carefully every night and help my kid correct it. I don't know that I would drill my kid in order to improve their spelling, but I might ask the teacher for suggestions of what I should do.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:13 PM on October 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Why are 3rd graders taking tests that they have to study for? That sounds like the wrong kind of pressure to put on an 8 year old.

If your daughter's teacher has concerns about her spelling, great, help your daughter out with her spelling. But keeping track of your kids high-pressure test schedule is something shouldn't happen until high school, or maybe middle school. 3rd grade? No way.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:55 PM on October 12, 2021 [10 favorites]

I think if you don't want to teach her spelling, you need to teacher her other things instead. Does she have a planner/organizer/calendar (I know it sounds nutty, but they teach kids to keep these now, starting pretty young. Teach her to get into the habit of keeping one and then say "so have you checked your planner? what do you need to be working on today?" until checking her planner daily becomes a habit.

Also, if you want her to take responsibility for her own learning, a good phrase is "What's your plan for..." "Oh, your spelling test is on Wednesday? What's your plan for learning the words before then?" It let's her know that A) She should be making a plan b) you have faith in her to make a good plan. You can add "is there anything you'd like me to do to help?" once she tells you her plan. That means that A) You are available to help if she needs it (you know, like math) and that B) She is still the one taking the lead in this.

And absolutely nothing bad will happen if she bombs a spelling test.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

You do not need to help your child with their homework. If your child can not do their homework on their own, then the homework is either developmentally inappropriate or it is covering stuff not taught in class. My kids went to a homework optional elementary school, and it taught me that homework is supplemental to the work done in class. If you are paying top dollar for a private school, and your kid can't do their own homework, then that is on the school. I am not advocating that you let your kid do what ever they want- enforcing a set time, and a set place to do the work, I think, is a parent's responsibility. But the work done should reflect the child's knowledge, and if the child can't do the work, then the teacher needs to know that by seeing the undone work.
posted by momochan at 6:22 PM on October 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

Elementary students shouldn't have homework.

Reading more would be good.
posted by flimflam at 6:27 PM on October 12, 2021 [12 favorites]

My daughter is a second grader at a public school, and her teacher told us at open house that research suggests that traditional homework does not benefit elementary schoolers (but that we can expect a bit in 4th and 5th grades so that middle school isn’t a shock), and that spelling drills also do not seem to have a long-term benefit. She said to expect our kids to come home tired because they’ll work hard in school, and to spend our evenings doing things that benefit our family. We are asked to read together for about 20 minutes a day, but no log to turn in or anything.

I believe what she says about educational research on homework and spelling tests. But it does seem like it will be hard and maybe have long-term effects for your kid if they’re not receiving the help that’s being required by their school and provided to their classmates.

In short, maybe you can find a private or public school that is more in line with what we’re being told is contemporary research and more in line with your parenting style.
posted by Kriesa at 6:28 PM on October 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

It depends on why she did poorly on the test, but most 8 year olds need some parental support for their learning outside of school. That can take a lot of forms, including offering help if she wants to improve, making sure she has folders/notebooks to make the organizational bits easy, sharing activities that build skills (drawing together, reading books, doing word puzzles, writing grocery lists, reading recipes, doing small home improvement projects), making sure she has a dedicated time/space to do schoolwork. (If she’s in an after school program, some of these supports may already be in place.)

If she did poorly because it’s the first time she’s had a test, or because the topic of the spelling words was something she hasn’t read much about (we had this with sports words week), then I wouldn’t change much.

If she did poorly as a larger pattern of struggling with literacy, then looping the teacher in to a larger conversation might be productive.

I’d avoid learning activities that turn into a fight (we’ve done this and the kid grew twice as fast when we eased up). Use the words in a sentence. Talk about weird phonics rules. Play hangman.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:41 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am a terrible speller. No amount drilling or practice helped me to get better and I did a ton.
Honestly I used short term mnemonics, and avoided teachers that graded spelling when I could all the way through graduate school (which I finished!)

I'm sure I am internet judged occasionally . But I have put a ton a work into figure out spelling and it is not something I am good at. I have accepted this about myself. Spell check is a godsend.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:05 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’m really disturbed by these answers. We had almost no homework when I was a kid. To expect working parents to come home from a full-time job, cook dinner, clean the house, and then act as professional tutors for their kids? I’m sorry but this is absolutely absurd, and I’d also call it misogynistic, because guess who all those things fall on in basically every case? Something is wrong with the system, not a mother who is pushing back against this. My mother quizzed me on spelling because I liked it and found it fun. But no, parents shouldnt have to spend hours keeping track of homework and tutoring and tests, and historically I dont believe it was typical. I recommend hiring tutors, but also believe a private school with small classes should absolutely be doing better at this during actual class time. I’m fully on your side.
posted by asimplemouse at 7:28 PM on October 12, 2021 [23 favorites]

When I was in seventh grade, I went through a period where I could not keep track of my homework and tests to save my life. I'd been pretty self sufficient, school-wise, till then. But the transition from single classroom elementary where I'd been with the same best friends and dire enemies for years, to an overcrowded anonymous middle school was jarring.

Your kid's just been through something even more jarring, as have we all; there was a recent Ask about college and grad students struggling, and they've had 10-20 years more than your kid to learn "good" study habits.

My parents both worked long hours/long commute when I was a kid, but I do remember them helping me go over spelling or multiplication tables in the car, in line at the grocery store, waiting at the doctor's office, those other moments of Unavoidable Delay. We're talking words like "balloon" and "seasonal," not "antidisestablishmentarianism." This shouldn't take a ton of mental energy for the parent. Bedtime reading (both parental and under-the-covers solo) was probably more helpful for my actual vocab/spelling, but again it's not about the spelling, it's about the study skill.

Eight going on nine is young to have established good study habits, but it's not too young to start forming them, which is what elementary school homework is about. The rule of thumb where I grew up (public school, 1990s) was 10 min homework per night per grade. So for third grade, ballpark 30 min a night. If I got done with real homework sooner, the rest was reading time. I was a bookworm so this was a great deal! I thought I was getting away with more reading instead of math, meanwhile my parents were probably congratulating themselves on coming up with a good bribe, and everyone was happy.
posted by basalganglia at 7:30 PM on October 12, 2021

I don't want to weigh in harshly on your balking at helping your daughter with homework - it seems like you're balking on principal, rather than a pragmatic approach to learning, spelling or otherwise. Interesting you're OK with helping her with math. I'm wondering if you are strong in math yourself, and hope for a math-loving child. Most people love to delve into the interest where they feel strong.

It's true that lots of reading will help immensely with spelling, but that's really a gradual by-product that depends a lot on what, and how much, your child reads. It depends on the ability to see that a word looks "wrong", so she needs to be able to recognize what the "right" spelling would be. It won't help much with the specific vocabulary she will be tested on, which is keyed to the class curriculum. It may affect her self esteem if she consistently does poorly on spelling tests at school. I don't like memorization either, but maybe some word games can help soften the blow. If she can't read well during 3rd grade the truth is that she will be handicapped in 4th grade. Up until 3rd grade kids are learning to read, after that they read to learn and absorb content. 3rd grade is the critical fulcrum.

My closest friend went to a renowned progressive independent school that didn't assign homework for the lowest grades, had small classes and a socially progressive philosophy with a "child-led" philosophy. No grades, rather an "in-depth essay" from each teacher. She loved it and did incredibly well (went to Harvard and Penn) so not just in my score-book. However, she is an incredibly self-disciplined self-starter with zero learning disabilities. I think if you research schools in the (small, private) vein you'll find that small class size is not, by itself, enough. The personality and learning-style of the child also must be a reasonably good match with the teacher and school for a child to really thrive.

My daughter read on about a 1.5 grade level in the late fall of the 3rd grade, and we were mystified and alarmed. After intensive at-home work and multiple meetings asking for help from her teacher and the reading specialist, we moved our child from a well-regarded public school into a small private school with 12 kids in her class at Christmas to finish out the 3rd grade because of the lack of support we perceived at her public school. We also engaged a tutor and had her tested for a reading disability, and it turned out that she was dyslexic. She needed combined educational and supportive approaches to succeed, but it wasn't accomplished overnight. It took a couple of years before she read fluently, and still, as an adult, relies on spellcheck for spelling difficult words.

We all have different strengths, and there are no blanket "right" approaches. You'll figure out what your child needs, and when you do, you will provide it.
posted by citygirl at 7:41 PM on October 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

I can count the number of times my mother helped with homework on the fingers of one hand. Then again, I was highly motivated at that age, and usually finished it on the bus ride home. And the help I did get wasn't with the actual material, but in figuring out how to overcome difficulties. (I had classic math anxiety, and I'll never forget what a revelation it was when Mom had me cover up all of the page except the problem I was working on. Without the stress of seeing how much more there was to do, I could focus on the problem at hand.)

Spelling came easily to me, but I remember one of my favorite teachers doing the same thing Swisstine describes, replacing tedious drilling with activities that actually used the week's words and increased familiarity with them. Even the kids who didn't like spelling didn't mind those activities. Might it be possible to search out web applications that will create simple puzzles and games, that you could plug her vocabulary list into at the beginning of the week? Or find prompts for a story you can make up together using the words?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:42 PM on October 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

How does the school work with parents to help you support your child's education? There should be some way for you to easily know the spelling current words, reading material, math assignments, and her status on assignments. Not all schools make this easy. You could have her ask you to spell the words, then you ask her, or some other interaction. Reading to and with kids helps with spelling. Working with your child on a joint project can be a good experience, especially for her. Show her you value her education.
posted by theora55 at 8:33 PM on October 12, 2021

I was a professional proofreader for a while, and I *still* learned to spell better through the automatic error correction on Microsoft Word that marks spelling errors with a wavy red underscore.

If you felt comfortable getting her into a typing game — Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing used to be the gold standard, I don't know if it still is, but of the many I know who used it to learn how to type all liked it — and then, a little further down the road, encouraged her to use her weekly spelling list to write a little story or sentences with the words in them, it might be a nice way to teach her to work independently, get her to enjoy writing and learn some basic computer skills all at the same time.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:45 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

A few thoughts:

- There's a lot of "I" in your question but also a couple of "we"s, so one thing is that if your daughter has another parent there's no reason school help (and school emails, etc) necessarily need to be your responsibility rather than the other parent's, or both of yours together.

- you might want to talk with the school at some point to see what their expectations are in general regarding parental involvement. There are comments above about schools whose philosophy is that little kids shouldn't be getting homework or tests - but that doesn't sound like that's your current school's philosophy. It could help to have an idea if the school is going to ramp up its expectations of you over the years, and if so to consider whether it's the right school for all of you.

- I definitely think school should ultimately be a kid's responsibility and get very frustrated at parents who do everything for their kids. But at the same time, kids can need a lot of help learning how to take on that responsibility, and that can take time.

- kids tend to enjoy school and studying a lot more when they feel they're good at it, and to believe in their own abilities more when they have some record of success. So on the one hand who cares if she doesn't do well at spelling, and on the other hand you'll want to keep an eye on things like how she feels about not having done well, what conclusions she's drawing from it, how she feels about studying in general.

- you'll also want to keep a (light) eye out over the years for things like attention disorders, dyslexia, etc. that can make sitting down to study harder than expected for your kid

- covid complicates this, but if your kid has a friend in the same class and you feel comfortable letting them hang out together, then maybe their parents (and the kids themselves) would be open to setting up "study dates", where they can do their homework together or practice together for tests before they play

- one trick for spelling is to pronounce words (strictly for this purpose) in a way that makes their spelling more memorable. The classic example is to remember Wednesday as "wed-nes-day", but you can use it with more basic words too: "too" becomes "to-o", "trick" becomes "tric-k" with a fun click in the throat, "spelling" becomes "spel-ling", etc.
posted by trig at 2:34 AM on October 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Both of my kids are clever. Both of them bailed on their fancy private school as soon as they reasonably could (age 16). I went to the same school until age 18 (on a free place because my parents were Poor, and there was govt funding for poor kids at fancy schools in those days) and I thought it was a life-changing revelation - so I sent my kids there too. I did my homework confidently & independently. They... didn't.

I helped them as much as I thought I could, or should. In the spelling-test days, we made it fun by putting all of the spelling words into wacky, imaginative sentences - mostly about our cat, whom their teachers all got to know in the guise of Fred the Lovable Kitten, who featured in all kinds of adventures (I was gently subverting the process, as well as encouraging them to follow it).

Has that made any difference to their longer-term educational or life-opportunity outcomes, in our current age of spell-checking software? TBH I doubt it. I brought them up to make up their own minds & take their own decisions, and both of them decided that a formal education beyond age 16 was not in their future.

I have no clue what their future will bring. Maybe a lifetime of regret, who can tell. But, I do know that adolescents have an awful lot more to worry about in 2021 than how well they did on their primary school spelling tests. My kids are also lucky enough to have stores of social capital available to them that I certainly didn't back then, when education was a lifesaver for me.

tldr: focus on the big stuff, for the sake of your & their sanity.
posted by rd45 at 3:15 AM on October 13, 2021

Best answer: I've been pretty hands-off with my kids when it comes to homework, but the fact is that sometimes they do need help with things. Spelling does not always come naturally to some people, even if they are voracious readers. One of my kids absolutely did need (and want) to practice her spelling words each week, but neither of us liked it when I drilled her. We found it was much less stressful to use an app. I'd spend 10 minutes/week recording the words she needed to learn and then she was responsible for using the app to practice if she wanted to get a good score on that week's spelling test. She'd set her own goals, like going through the list 3 times, doing it until she earned one of the virtual pets, or trying to get all the words right the first time through.
posted by belladonna at 4:11 AM on October 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Difficulty spelling can also be indicative of a whole range of learning differences. It might be worth considering whether the teacher is asking you to help more, or whether the teacher is asking you if you've considered whether there might be some learning challenges. At least around here, teachers are not allowed to just say "I think your kid is dyslexic," and so "your kid is really struggling with spelling" might be the way that is being articulated.

There is a whole bunch of research that homework in elementary school isn't that helpful, and may be harmful. There is also research that you forcing them to do it rather than figuring out methods that work for them (e.g. belladonna's suggestion) is counterproductive.
posted by lab.beetle at 6:14 AM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do you probably have to still support your eight year old in learning important life/academic skills?? Yes, yes you almost certainly do. Does that mean you, personally, and nobody else, must specifically drill your eight year old on spelling words? No, probably not. The ideas above about tutors and apps are all good, and as people have noted, the child's other parent also has a role to play.

Without knowing more about the kind of specific challenges your kid has with spelling, it's hard to say whether this is just a subject she doesn't like or whether she has a learning difficulty or whether she just needs to be more organized and aware of her tests.

But certainly one thing you can do, which will lighten your daily burden, is to build a schedule with her at the start of each week. Maybe on a dry-erase or one of those magnet boards that is preprinted with days? If she knows which homework is which days and which days are tests you can add them to the board, and then your daily support is more like: OK, today's Wednesday, what's on your board for Wednesday?

We don't come fully formed knowing how to manage our time or teach ourselves. Your kid is gonna be a kid for like fully 15 more years, in practice if not in law, and trust me, there are parts of those 15 years you're gonna like WAY LESS than helping with homework.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:23 AM on October 13, 2021 [9 favorites]

Philosophies of parenting aside, as a practical note, you’re at a private school, and they have a lot of leeway in deciding just how painful to make this for you, and for your child. I don’t know what’s in your kid’s long term best interest, but in the short term it’s probably in your kid’s best interest for you to either cooperate with staff as best you can, or look elsewhere for school.
posted by eirias at 11:12 AM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can't really opine on the parenting issues (though reading the responses with great interest for the future), but will just provide as a datapoint that I started using a homework/class "planner" in 4th grade and found it to be a great help. It actually gave me some good habits that did me well all the way through undergrad and into my first job, when I finally started using an electronic calendar and to-do list.

The private school I went to (starting in 4th) created and provided planners to each student, but you could probably whip up something functionally similar in Excel and have it printed and bound at Staples in an afternoon.

The easiest way to generate something like what I used to use is probably by going into Google Calendar, putting it in "Weekly" view (press W), then hit print and choose the appropriate date range. You might want to save to a PDF and insert one blank page (or a title page, whatever) at the beginning, so that when it's printed double-sided with long-edge binding, you end up with one week spread across the face of two pages (so the first week is on pages 2-3, second week on 4-5, etc.).
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:12 AM on October 14, 2021

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