Why 4th Grade is a Difficult Year

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I’ve noticed a trend in my homeschool.

Every year that I have a child in the 4th grade, I want to throw in the towel. Nothing makes me want to quit homeschooling quite like having a 4th grade student in my homeschool.

I didn’t recognize this trend at first until my husband pointed it out to me.

I was sharing my school year struggles with him one day. They were focused on one particular child. I felt like I was failing and that maybe we should explore other options.

He asked me if I remembered the last time I felt the same way. I didn’t remember.

He certainly remembered. It was the year that another one of our children was in 4th grade. And all my struggles revolved around that particular child.

Ohh, and a few years before that, I had wanted to give up as well because another one of our children was proving to be a challenge. Yes, that child was in 4th grade at that time.

I was shocked when he pointed to that common theme in my homeschool struggles.

Every year that I have a 4th grader, we have a difficult year and most of the challenges are centered on that specific child.

My husband now calls 4th grade the crying year.

It is during the 4th grade year, that we experience more crying, frustration, arguing, and discouragement.

What in the world?

Why do my children absolutely fall apart in 4th grade?

I have no real answers. But now that I’ve lived through 3 different 4th graders, I have made a few observations.

The early elementary years are focused on learning to read and getting a solid math foundation.

Those years have their own challenges and very few things test my patience like listening to my children sound out the same word for the twentieth time or watching them suddenly forget all of their math facts while working on an assignment.

But by 3rd grade, those children are gaining more confidence. They now have a solid foundation in the basics and are ready to begin a new learning journey. They are able to start applying some of the things they have learned.

Enter 4th grade.

This is the year that I have higher expectations.

I see the end of elementary school in sight and want to begin preparing them to work at a higher level as required in middle school.

By this year, my kids are fluent readers and are given more independent work.

My kids also enter the “in-between stage.” They are not children but not yet preteens and they seem to go through an identity crisis.

They don’t want mom to tell them what to do or sit with them while they do it. They want to do things on their own and do things their way. Yet, they often still need guidance and reassurance. And their need for this guidance seems to frustrate them.

They desperately want some independence and autonomy, but they aren’t quite ready for the responsibility.

In the 4th grade year, I notice a huge leap in emotional maturity with my kids. By the time they begin 5th grade, they are a completely different person. Suddenly, they are thinking more deeply and questioning more thoroughly. They blossom into creative thinkers and are ready for more of a challenge.

All the struggles of 4th grade do pay off.

But it’s during this 4th grade year, that they seem to transition. And it’s during this transition phase, that we experience multiple melt-downs and lots of frustration.

So I’ve learned that 4th grade is a year of change. In this year, you may need to give more space or you may need to give more guidance – it’s like a tug-of-war. They need your help; they don’t want your help. They are unsure of themselves; they want to be independent and responsible.

It’s an interesting dichotomy. My little 4th graders are argumentative, independent, hesitant, curious, and uncertain.

If you’re homeschooling a 4th grader and are experiencing a “crying year,” don’t lose hope. They’re going through a major transition. They will emerge, showing glimmers of the adults they will one day become.

  • Until then, give lots of patience and grace.
  • Be a ready help and listening ear.
  • Try to give them autonomy in a few small areas, and praise their efforts when they are successful.
  • Continue to set boundaries.
  • Encourage their curiosity and questions.
  • But most of all, know that this is a phase. It will pass. It will get better.

Your child is trying to get things all figured out – making new connections and growing in emotional maturity.

By the end of the year, you’ll both be exhausted from the efforts. However, you’ll have a child who is able to apply all the thing learned in previous years and make deeper connections and ask thought-provoking questions.

Make the 4th grade year one in which your child can blossom into a more independent and thoughtful child.

Yes, it’s hard. But it’s worth the wait to watch them emerge on the other side.

Find more homeschool encouragement here:

Preparing to Homeschool 5th Grade

Thoughts on 5th Grade

The Cons of Independent Learning in Your Homeschool

4th Grade Curriculum Choices

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