I could tell Grade 2 was going to be a different kind of year, just from looking at that list.

Each grade in our elementary school has its own list of “no excuses” words, which are words the student should know perfectly by the end of the year — reading them and writing them with the correct spelling.

The Primary list is short — words like “a” and “it” and “is” — and even the Grade 5 list isn’t that long, with words like “through” and “though.”

The Grade 2 spelling list, however? It’s massive. Fifty two words in two long columns — by far the longest list of any grade.

I was shocked at first. Shouldn’t the list gradually get longer with each grade? Shouldn’t the Grade 5 kids — many being 11-year-olds — be learning more new words than my precious little seven-year-old?!

I laughed nervously when I asked about it during ‘meet the teacher’ (which is, by the way, hilariously nicknamed “meet the creature” by many teachers — with the parents being the creatures).

Of course, his teacher knew exactly what to say to reassure me. She said the Grade 2 list is longer than the others because there are so many basic words that need to be memorized — rather than sounded out. They need to be able to recognize these words instantly, and spell them without taking forever, because they’re going to be using them constantly.

It makes sense, but I’m still a little nervous. Everything about Grade 2 feels worlds away from the innocence of the Grade 1 pod.

In Grade 2, the students sit on large chairs — not the little ones they used in Primary and Grade 1. They feel tall and important on those chairs, even if their feet dangle a little.

In Grade 2, the students have their own individual desks, instead of sitting in groups at larger tables. They get to keep things in their desks, unlike the “little kids,” my son informed me. They’re trusted to keep their own boxes of crayons, instead of passing around bins for a whole table to share.

In Grade 2, there is homework every night. It includes 15 minutes of reading aloud — which we also had in Grade 1, except it was called “home reading” instead of homework and therefore felt less serious.

In Grade 2, part of the homework is to practice counting by twos and fives, up into the hundreds and starting no lower than 30. I have no idea what this is for, but I’m happy to do anything that will ensure my kids do better in math than I did.

In Grade 2, there are 52 sight words to work on — while not forgetting the 14 from Primary and the 36 from Grade 1. I regularly feel panicked because if genetics play a role in spelling, our son will either be a spelling savant (me) or someone who consistently confuses “your” and “you’re” in his late 30s (my husband).

Actually, our son spent much of the summer repeatedly misspelling easy Grade 1 words like “took” (“tuk”) and “was” (“wuz”). It got so bad that I developed the world’s worst mnemonic device: “ If you think it’s a ‘u,’ it’s probably not a ‘u.’” I really missed my calling as a teacher. Not.

While Grade 2 might seem overwhelming to me, luckily it hasn’t felt like a big deal to our son. He still loves school and doesn’t realize this is an important academic year. (He’s mostly still psyched about the big chairs).

As for me, I’m ready to take Grade 2 as seriously as it seems to want to be taken. I’ve already laid out the homework sheets for when the kids get home from school, and I’ve got a plate of fresh Rice Krispie squares waiting to lure them to the dining room table.

Instead of doing our home reading in the evenings like we did last year and the year before, we’re starting a mandatory after-school homework routine: have a snack and finish ALL homework before any playtime or devices.

School’s only going to get harder from here, so it’s time to start building good homework habits. Maybe I’ll even improve my own math skills?

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist who married her high-school sweetheart. They moved from the city to the country, where they spend their days making messes and memories with their seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. Follow their family’s adventures over at www.heathershandmadelife.com.