Is it just me, or is the transition from grade three to four, and from single digits to double digits in age, a nightmare?!

1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG) “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

Okay, okay, I know I’m exaggerating just a little, but it is tough! Am I alone?

Most days I feel overwhelmed by the amount of homework my now fourth grader gets, this week past was his first exam week, oh my gosh! Are we there already? Where has my baby gone!? Just everyday homework tasks require text books for every subject, and my oh my, remembering which books (and text books) to bring home daily has been a challenge for Caleb, resulting most days, in my frustration when the assigned homework cannot be completed because of this. While my husband is included here, he mostly is involved with homework and school tasks – and the stress of the ‘no books’ dilemma, over the weekend, since I’m home in the afternoons before him. Although he hears second hand from me at night when we talk about the day, so he definitely does feel it too, not to say it’s just me dealing with it in our home.

Caleb has been grounded and scolded more times in this first barely two months of the new school year than he has in his lifetime. I even met with his teacher about this very thing just a couple weeks into the term.

While I don’t regret being a little hard on him and basically begging for him to be more responsible, I also realised that we need to cool it down just a little, because I absolutely will not spend our evenings day in and day out scolding at and reprimanding my child and in effect, making him feel as if he’s not good enough or that’s he is somehow inadequate, I refuse to that leading him to just give up all together, surely convinced he won’t be able to live up to ours, or the school’s expectations. Nope! I decided that while he needs to understand the seriousness of his commitment to school work, which I believe he does, most of the time, that we would take it a little easier. But I’m sure many more parents of now seniors (albeit in junior school) or those in the intermediate education phase, know what I’m talking about and may even have to just do a double check for their names above or wonder if they themselves didn’t write it, because it sounds so, so familiar.

Well I decided that this would not be our everyday, yes it won’t be perfect and come on kids are going to be kids, I don’t even want to think of the teenage years right now because I’m just about handling the pre-teens.

To make things easier for him and me, I drew up a simple “To do” list for when he gets home each day, actually I made him write it out and asked him for input as to what he thinks needs to go on there. I feel like getting him involved in the process of trying to make both of lives easier and more pleasant was the way to go, I mean come on, we are talking about really intelligent kids here, give them a little credit, at almost 10 years old they are certainly not babies.

Well our list, as simple as it is, helps us tremendously, since instead of me repeating myself every afternoon, “hang up your school clothes”, “hang up your wet swimming things”, “take your lunch box and water bottle out of your bag” etc., etc., etc. … I now just say “Caleb follow your list please” he knows to do the applicable things and skip what is not relevant for that day. A tip, we found that getting that homework book out first thing when we get home or even in the car ride home, helps us tremendously because knowing right away how much homework tasks we have ahead of us for the evening helps me plan it in my head so that I don’t get frustrated at the last minute when we realise we’ve left homework for too late and it starts cutting into bedtime… Yes, it’s happened. Even just that change we’ve found to be completely necessary to ease the tension, limit the shouting, scolding and frustration, no it’s not perfect, we are just human after all and sometimes Caleb is tired from a long school day and not in the mood to do what he’s supposed to, but at least he knows what is expected of him. It’s the worst for a child to be scolded at and in addition taken completely by surprise when they have no idea the responsibility that is meant to be theirs in the first place.

For us now, exam week has gone by and hey we survived, Caleb seems confident that he did well or at least well enough, I’ll have to trust that until we get the results. Do you sometimes just wish you could be a fly on the wall at your child’s school? See how that oral really went? Did he do it like we practiced, on end, at home? Did it really go “fine” because that’s about all I can usually get out of Caleb, whether the result comes back great, good or not so great. Go figure! Is it a grade four thing, is it just boys, or is it just Caleb? Coaxing anything more out of him about his day is like pulling teeth, I swear.

On homework, wisdom and open communication with his teacher is key, if you’re concerned write your child’s teacher a brief polite email or note in homework diary if you have a question, also for us our class group chats on WhatsApp (with the class parents) helps loads too, just to check if we’re all on the same page.

I’ll admit that some days Caleb just need some time off, a chance to chill, but what if he has homework to do? Well thankfully a little reading and practicing math timetables is all that is usually necessary – please don’t quote me to your child’s teacher on that. Having spoken to Caleb’s teacher and having a look at their weekly schedule too, I see that they have English, Afrikaans and Mathematics every day, but most of the other subjects are once or twice a week, so go according to that, also usually in the homework diary they will stipulate due dates so work according to those and plan appropriately. At times it may get away from you, as I’m sure it will for me too, but take it in your stride and deal with that when you have to.

With that in mind it allows that some days Caleb can take it a little easier than other days. On those days, we don’t always have to be sitting at the table doing homework, maybe just for that day it can be done in a light setting, while he’s relaxing on his bed or playing with a car, while I quiz him on Timetables, or spelling. Other times he will have to study for an upcoming test, complete an assignment or prepare for an oral presentation and it will be handled a little more seriously. I guess balance is key, communication with your child and his/her teacher, taking it one step at a time and praying for wisdom.

Caleb will be ten years old in less than a week, I almost can’t believe it, he has grown so much! He is an amazing big brother most of the time, he plays well with Craig and even Joel – although there are times when he needs his space from his baby brothers too.

I’m sure he’ll be great with his little sister on the way too, I definitely cannot wait to see that relationship and how it will be with them, since she’ll be 10 years younger than him, it’s bound to be an interesting bond to say the least.

For Caleb: 

Caleb my boy, you’re almost in the double digits, and an older brother to almost three younger siblings. I know the beginning of fourth grade hasn’t been that easy and the transition has been a little tough on you, but together, and with God, we’ll get through it and conquer it! I pray that God guides you in all you do going forward because I know that He has great plans for you my boy.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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