Looking ahead to the high school years from your middle school child’s perspective is a curious thing. They want to be the “Big Kid” right now and grow up faster than we want them to. It’s also a time of big changes for them physically, mentally and spiritually.
As a parent, we’re trying to slow these years down, but at the same time try to instill a heavy dose of independence and confidence in our young learners so that they can begin to embrace the idea of working on much harder material in the later years of their schooling.
Thinking Ahead to High School and College
I am reminded of this transition with my older two children, one who is now enjoying her sophomore year in college with all her many exciting activities, and the other working through his senior year of high school and trying out dual enrollment through our state’s excellent Running Start program via community college.
They both have made different transitions, but reached the high school years with mutually beneficial success, as they were well prepared to move to this next level of their education.
The Nudge Towards Independence
These goals and their success I would like to attribute to some forethought in the middle school years to nudge my young students towards more independent learning.
In my eBook, Homeschooling High School, It’s Not As Hard As You Think, I mention that “home education is an evolving and ever changing model of learning and action based on a set of goals that you and your family set for each other.”
There is a push and pull from both you and your student towards this new level of independent learning and that is a good thing. We want to assist our young learners in this journey just as we did when they were transitioning from the toddler years to the early years of their education.
Cultivate an Environment of Independence
Cultivating an environment of independence is a positive thing for your middle school students. It’s time for them to begin taking responsibility for their schedule throughout each homeschool day, learn time management skills and be able to complete tasks without having to ask you for help every step of the way.
We want to keep the door to learning flung wide open as these soon-to-be young adults enter the high school years without a gravitational pull back towards the hand-holding you gave them in the earlier grades.
Think mentor and trail guide, not micro-manager and dictator.
Let’s break it down into baby steps:
- Be FLEXIBLE with your middle school students, but give them appropriate parameters at the same time. They are wired differently than younger elementary kids as well as the older high school kids – they are the “in-betweeners” (a term which I don’t particularly care for but am using for visual effect).
- Allow plenty of TIME for them to accomplish their daily/weekly tasks. Try your hardest not to push them through their schedules just to check it off the list. I have some good examples in my post How to Live Out Your Homeschool Plans Like a Rockstar if you’d like some ideas on how to do this for middle schoolers.
- Keep yourself AVAILABLE but at a distance. This goes back to the “hand-holding.” It’s difficult not to stand over their shoulder and give them a blow-by-blow on everything they need to work on, or even with a particular subject, but step back, give them some breathing room, make way for independence and confidence, give discovery a chance. It’s magical in these in-between years, truly.
So now that we have our baby-steps, let’s look at some ways in which this can happen in your homeschool organically.
Create a weekly schedule for your student that they are capable of following.
Some that we use:
- Weekly sheet with scheduled assignments including date due
- Student planner – Write in schedule with due dates
- Spiral notebook that is filled out daily with a checklist. You could also do a week in advance.
Expect your student to follow the schedule. Set up a weekly meeting time with your middle school student if you haven’t incorporated this already.
Allow your student to make mistakes and to learn from them. This can be so hard for moms, especially if you happen to be a bit “controlling” (ahem), but step back and let them figure it out – this could be the one thing that leads to great success for a particular child, know their learning style and then let it happen.
Start giving grades now – here’s how we break it down:
- A = 90-100%
- B = 80-90%
- C = 70-80%
- D = 60-70%
- F = anything below 60%
You can also use Pass/Fail for projects and such, but I find this to be a bit ambiguous. It’s really more effective for both of you if they start getting used to the high school grading system and what they will eventually see in college. They may also need to do an assignment over if they didn’t complete it correctly, better to learn this now than to wait until the longer, more difficult assignments in high school – think 5 Paragraph Essays, etc.
Read aloud with your middle school student every day, just like you always have – or if you haven’t, start now. This is invaluable school time with real, living books that you all enjoy together as a family. I can’t say enough about the merits and benefits of reading time with your children, even well after they can fit into your laps to listen 😉
Include your middle school student in the decision-making process along the way. Continued collaboration will launch your independent learning environment light years ahead if you start including your “tweener” in the process of their education. They need to own it. This will also ensure a smooth and easy transition into the high school years and beyond!
Many of these tips and encouragement I have shared today are expressed much more in depth in my eBook Homeschooling High School It’s Not As Hard As You Think.