Making the Transition to Middle School
There is a reason it’s called Middle School. Your sixth-eighth grader is too big for elementary school and not quite ready to be in school with people who can drive and who shave on a regular basis. Talk to just about any adult and they will roll their eyes when you mention middle school. 11-14 are tough years. Many parents opt to homeschool their children for just the middle school years after their own experiences. If you are planning to homeschool through middle school there are a couple of things for you to keep in mind for the sake of your sanity.
Welcome to middle school – brain optional.
The thing with kids just hitting puberty is that they all seem to share one or two brains. There are a lot of middle schoolers out there. That means your child will often show up without a brain. Math will be a brand new subject. Shiny things will distract this child. The phrase “I forget,” will dominate his vocabulary.
What do you do with this? Recognizing it is half of the battle. Hormone surges, growth spurts and mood swings come with the age. This is not to say that you should excuse snarkiness or cancel schoolwork for the day. Work “lost” days into your planning before you start sixth, seventh and eighth grade. There will be days where your child will continually lose focus and you will find yourself explaining things he knew perfectly well last week.
Change your routine.
Many kids this age begin showing signs of becoming nocturnal. Decide if it really matters to you that everyone is up at 7:00 am and finished by 3:00 pm. If not, think about letting your middle schooler sleep in in the morning and work in the evening. You might be surprised at how much improved their work its.
Remember you are working toward independence.
Do not attempt 6-8 grades thinking your child will take your weekly list and get it done. (Really, I did this with my oldest. It was a disaster.) At the same time, you should not have to be in the same room with your child while he works. Detailed, daily checklists and scheduled “meetings” with mom work well for some. It’s a process. Don’t save a week or more worth of schoolwork to check “later.” These are the years it is vitally important that you catch problems as they arise and adjust lessons so that your child can master the basics of math, comprehension and writing. You want their basics to be solid when their brains return sometime in ninth or tenth grade.
Regular, strenuous physical activity is the best antidote to puberty. Middle schoolers who engage in daily activity are much more likely to be able to concentrate and to avoid extreme mood swings. This means really moving for at least an hour a day. Sports seems like the obvious way to go and for some kids it is. If your child is not competitive, look into local homeschool groups as many have ongoing activities. Additionally, rethink punishment/consequences. Grounding middle school kids is not much punishment for them and it will almost always feels as if you’re being punished as well. Put all of that disorganized energy to work. Your seventh grader is capable of washing windows, raking the yard or even moving the woodpile to a new location. The activity will give him time to think and time to burn off any anger. Keep a list handy.
Don’t forget to appreciate them.
Middle school kids are uniquely funny and sweet despite their unpredictable behaviors. Enjoy the glimpses you get of the little boy he used to be and of the man he’s going to become. Go ahead and be silly sometimes. A sense of humor will get you through just about anything!
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