The easy years are behind you. From now on, you can count on your child getting lots of homework. Most third grade teachers give anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes of homework a night, though it may take up to an hour. Fridays are often homework-free, unless there's a book report or special project due on Monday.

Because it's designed to back up whatever the teacher is teaching in class, it may be fairly rote — and, for you, comfortably familiar. Your child may have spelling words to put into sentences and memorize, for instance, or a page of math problems to work out. He may be assigned a chapter to read in his social studies or health textbook, or be given a worksheet related to grammar or reading comprehension. He'll probably have some additional reading, and may have a test to study for.

In some schools, children also receive homework designed to reinforce specific character traits or values, such as kindness, responsibility, respect, and motivation. For example, to reinforce the concept of responsibility, the assignment might be: Write down all of the chores you do this week, and make a graph showing how much time you spend on each one.

The Parent's Role
Most third grade teachers want their students to take more responsibility for their own homework. "We really want the child — not the parent — to pack and unpack the book bag, write down homework assignments, and hand the work in now," notes teacher Susan Jameson, of Boyertown Elementary School. To encourage this, teachers use different strategies to help their students remember what needs to be done, and when. Some even hand out monthly planning calendars marked with the due dates of long-term projects, reports, and tests.

Your job is mainly to help your child find a time and a place to get the work done. There's no formula here: Pick a time that's convenient for your child, and a place that's relatively private. Do what you can to make the homework location special, so your child will begin to think of it as his own little office.

When he's finished with his homework, look it over. If there are careless mistakes, or it's especially messy, have him fix it. Third grade teachers expect homework to be relatively neat and error-free; some even grade it.

If your child doesn't understand an assignment, and you can't easily explain it, don't force the issue. Send it back to the teacher with a note explaining that your child needs more instruction.

Many third grade teachers also require the parent to sign the finished homework (mainly to verify that you've taken the time to be involved in your child's school work).