I remember my first day of middle school about as fondly as my gall bladder surgery. The night before, I could hardly sleep, gripped with fear of what the other kids would do or say. I wondered and worried if I would be able to keep up with the class work. Wondered if I’d have any friends. And of course, feared I’d forget to wear pants or some other horrifically embarrassing error.
Fortunately, the day didn’t quite go as I feared, but one thing was clear. Middle school was a whole new ball game.
Thinking back on my middle school days, I’m thankful my kids are homeschooled. I’m thankful they can wake up at peace knowing no one at school hates them or will put a frog in their milk carton. I’m thankful they don’t have to worry much about showing up in the school room without pants. But I’m mostly thankful to be blessed enough to walk through this transition with them.
My friend, are you nervous about the transition to middle school? Something about the first day of 6th grade often brings with it a frenzy of anxious homeschool moms. Suddenly, the game changes. It’s true, our kids are getting older, larger, HUNGRIER (haha), and more emotional. Their needs change and the stakes are going up.
But we don’t need to be anxious. Middle school brings with it the same grace as every grade before. We can relax and enjoy it all, knowing that God will lead us through these new waters. Wondering what changes to expect? Here are a few things you can do to help your middle schooler make the transition.
5 Changes to Make for your Homeschooled Middle Schooler
1. Transition to independence
Hopefully you did this in elementary school, but if you didn’t… don’t wait any longer. Your student should be able to teach himself just about anything by 6th grade. He should also be able to manage assignments and plan projects to be completed on time.
If you haven’t gotten to this stage, watch this video for a step-by-step approach on how to transition to a more independent learning model.
2. Give them space
Up until middle school, we do a lot of school together. I like having the kids around me working in the same space. But I’ve found that my kids don’t like it so much as they get older. For some activities it works fine, but when it comes to the more difficult ones, they need their own space.
Consider how you might provide this. It could be a desk space in the same room or even a desk in their own room. The important thing is giving them a space to think clearly, while not in the throes of the alphabet song their little sister is belting out. It’s also helpful for them to have access to supplies that aren’t chewed on or broken by younger siblings. It starts to matter at this age. Plus, it’s great practice to teach them to care for and be responsible with their own materials.
3. Give them the opportunity to mess up and figure out how to fix it
This is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. But it’s now or never. Teaching our kids to handle mistakes is one of our biggest jobs. If we don’t do it now, the mistakes are much more costly when they move out. Step back, mama, and let them fail sometimes. Grades aren’t very important right now and they will learn big from the opportunity and the wisdom you provide them when they do fall.
If you practice this now, high school will be a super smooth transition and their transcript will boast much higher grades. Your student will understand the importance of turning in assignments, studying for tests, and anything else you ask of them.
4. Focus on specific interests
By 6th grade, most kids have begun to show likes and dislikes. Now is the time to give them the freedom to explore these. Doing so provides valuable experience in career guidance. If we don’t allow our kids to pursue their interests now, they may lose interest. Or become unaware of the reality of that interest. (The latter happens to most kids.)
Look for volunteer opportunities, curriculum that is outside the box (such as letting your horse lover study horse history), and get them a library card. Equip them and teach them how to pursue these interests. You’ll love how much it saves you when they get to college! Ha.
5. Set aside a lot of time to talk
When I was a young mom (4 kids under 6), I remember an older friend trying to encourage me with these words. “When they are little it’s physically exhausting. But when they are older, it’s emotionally exhausting.” Encouraging, huh? Haha. Seriously though, I’m glad she gave me this advice. She was right.
As my girls have gotten older, I’ve intentionally set aside more and more time to listen and hear their hearts. Don’t miss this! They need you emotionally and they need someone who will hear the cry of their heart. This isn’t just girls. My friends continually report that boys have the same needs. Set aside time to be available. Look for ways to go on dates and have one-on-one time with your older kids as much as possible.
Whatever you do, don’t fear the middle school years. These years are going to be great. There will be lots of changes, but change isn’t a bad thing! So what do you think? Have you tried some of these? Can you suggest other ideas?