7 Essential Skills for Preparing Middle Schoolers for High School

How are you preparing middle schoolers for high school?

If you are homeschooling middle school teens, did you know that there are some simple and practical things you can do to better prepare them for their high school years?

Now, relax. This isn’t to lay a heavy load on you. It is to encourage you to think about some simple things you can do (and are likely already doing) to help your teens become successful young adults.

Group of diverse tweens huddling together outside by a tree, smiling.

Here are 7 essential skills your teens should work on before they start 9th grade.

Preparing Middle Schoolers for High School

The best way to make sure your middle school students are building the good habits they’ll need for academic success and any plans they have for themselves is to work on these things way before 8th grade.

But don’t worry, even if the junior high years are almost behind you, there’s still time to teach your teens what they need to know to make the high school transition as easy as possible.

Look at these various skills and see how easy it is to work on them during your regular homeschool days.

1. Time Management Skills for Teens

One goal in preparing middle schoolers for high school is to help your students take some responsibility for their education. This comes from building time management skills.

This is an essential life skill that will help them stand out to colleges and in a career environment.

Often, elementary-aged homeschoolers get one or two tasks at a time while mom oversees their work, checking off each assignment as it’s completed.

But middle school is a great time to train them to organize their own day and week. Teens need to learn to budget their time the same way you may teach them to budget their money.

Now, some students gravitate to independent learning and like the structure of having a schedule. They enjoy checking off each activity. Others may not “get it” until they are in their upper high school years.

Even though each child is different, now is a good time to train them.

By encouraging independent time management in middle school, you give your kids the opportunity to learn and make mistakes the first time or two. They can feel the consequences of mis-managed time and make adjustments. The best part is that it is all done in the safe environment of your home. Before the academic pressures of high school.

This is one of the best ways for teens to learn to manage their schedule.

Begin by giving them one or two subjects that they will manage.

Show them how the curriculum is laid out, how many assignments there are, and when they’ll have exams or papers will be due. Help them lay out a plan to accomplish their work during the week.

Explain how planning out their days will help them use their time more wisely and allow for more free time.

You can check in with them every few days to see how it is going, but let them be in charge and shoulder the responsibility.

7 Key Skills & Experiences to Prepare Your Middle School Students for High School

2. Study Skills for Middle School

Study and note-taking skills are essential to a successful academic career.

I find that homeschoolers as a whole have a much more difficult time with taking notes because we do not expose many of them to a classroom environment. They just don’t practice as much as their counterparts in public schools.

Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, even if they are not college bound, students will benefit from these skills. So it’s important to make sure your teens know how to take notes and study effectively.

Note taking is often best learned by experience, so you need to give your teens lots of opportunities to take presented information and break it down into major points.

While they’re listening to a TED Talk or podcast, ask them to take notes. Then, together, go over them and discuss the process. Find an instructional video that is related to something you are learning in school and have them try to identify the major points covered and write out vocabulary words with definitions. Even outlining the main points of a textbook as they read will build these skills.

We often relate study skills to note-taking skills. It is wonderful if a curriculum comes with a study guide that helps students get ready for tests. But if your kids don’t have a prepared study guide, they need to know how to study effectively.

How do you do that? Work with them on memorization techniques.

Do they find they learn better when they write something down or when they see you write it on a whiteboard? Would illustrations or maps help them better “see” what is going on in the material? Are flashcards their preferred learning tool? Can they remember material easier after writing it down on index cards and reviewing it repeatedly?

During the middle school years, take the time to try out a few techniques to find something that works for your kids. Once you do, give them time and practice to master the skill.

3. Test Taking Skills for Middle School

Even homeschoolers need test-taking strategies. I know, I know. It is not all about the test.

We want our students to become lifelong learners. However, if they are college bound, tests are going to be plentiful. Even if they are going straight into a career, often there are certifications or skill assessment tests to face. So you need to lay the foundation for a smooth transition now.

Taking a test is much easier if a student knows how to prepare and approach it. The best way to work on this skill is to build tests into your homeschool. Remember to teach your teens about the different questions they’ll encounter during a test.

Start by giving them exposure to multiple-choice questions. Talk about how to eliminate the unlikely answers and how to manage their time.

For comprehension questions, teach your older students how to skim over the questions before they read the material to get a preview of what is being asked.

A great way to get your kids ready for tests is by regularly giving your middle schoolers the chapter and final exams that come with your curriculum.

You can also work on creating a test taking environment for your kids. Set a timer. Don’t let them talk or ask questions once they begin. And don’t let them use their notes or books during exams.

Luckily, there are many test preparation courses available to students if you need more help. Now is a good time to introduce this skill. That way, when a teacher other than you gives them an exam, they’ll know how to ace it.

7 Key Skills & Experiences to Prepare Your Middle School Students for High School

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4. Technical Skills for High School Students

In the fast-paced world our kids are growing up in, it’s essential that they have strong computer and technical skills before they start high school classes.

You need to build opportunities into your homeschool for students to develop technological skills. This will make them better prepared for high school, college, and competitive in the job market.

Make sure they know how to type and can easily navigate a word processing program. They should learn how to use presentation software, like PowerPoint. Show them how to use a spreadsheet to manage data and accurately cite information.

Luckily, there are several online tutorials for all the major software programs, so it should be easy for your teen to get a head start on building their computer skills.

Many high school and college classes are virtual or in a hybrid format, so middle school is the perfect time for them to take an online course. Let them get some experience with the format before they need to jump into something more difficult.

Build on their passions by having them start a blog or become an expert on social media. By writing about something they love (Legos, cooking, skateboarding, sports, cars, sewing, crafts, etc.), they will build their writing skills and learn to communicate in an electronic format.

Even if it is a short post with a paragraph and a photo, they will be more engaged in their writing and will have something they can further develop within their high school environment.

Subject matter is irrelevant. All that matters is that kids become as adept as they can with as many electronic platforms as possible so they’re better prepared for the future.

5. Learn Through Exploration

One of the absolute best things you can do to when preparing middle schoolers for high school is to use curricula with lots of hands-on activities.

Studies show that middle school-aged students learn much better by exploring and asking questions. That means we have to get our kids out of the textbooks more often and instead play games, work on projects, and take part in fun activities.

We have to stop spoon feeding them everything they need and instead show them how to discover it for themselves.

Choose methods of teaching that involve building models, drawing maps, and doing crafts. Play a board game to learn about geography. Go on a field trip as part of your social studies lesson. Use a science curriculum that offers several experiments and actually do the labs with your teens.

These aren’t busy work or a waste of time. They’re an important part of your teen’s educational development.

Engaging projects give middle schoolers the extra time they may need with a subject. They offer different ways to interact with the material.

Hands-on activities make learning fun.

6. Build Vocabulary Skills

A broad vocabulary is something kids will need all the way from elementary through high school. The fact will never change that our kids need strong vocabulary and grammar skills to communicate effectively.

Plus, a powerful vocabulary will give your teens an upper hand regardless of their career path.

Good books build grammar and vocabulary.

Doing read-alouds, as well as individual reading, enables students to take in excellent English with their eyes and ears. During the teen years, work your way through the classics and Newbery Award-winning books.

Add some word games to your language arts lesson plans so they can work on vocabulary building in a low-key environment.

If you find that your child still struggles with grammar and vocabulary skills, middle school is the perfect time to strengthen them.

7. Add Space Into their schedule

From an early age, we often fill life for students with too much busy-ness.

This stunts their creativity and doesn’t give them the time they need to think deeply. Leisure is an important part of invention.

When you study the lives of Einstein, Edison, or other inventors, you see they had schedules with lots of designated free time.

Don’t over schedule your middle schoolers.

Try to monitor how much time they spend on electronic devices. Young people need time to explore, ask questions, hypothesize, test ideas, fail, adjust, and try again.

Reign back their curriculum a bit if necessary. Yes, I just said that! This slowing down of lessons allows for time to work with math manipulatives, science materials, creative writing, art, and music.

It gives them time to volunteer and to be leaders in groups. Maybe they could start a film or book club, a summer art fair or try some new things they’re interested in.

Teach them about reflection and help them gain a better understanding of how their mind works.

Middle school doesn’t have to be all about hard work. In fact, they can learn much from the quiet spaces. But first, we have to show our tweens how to create them.

African American tween girl holding a school binder with boy faded in background, in school hallway.

Now, I’m not sharing these points to provide stress. I’m all about encouragement and inspiration. So don’t get bogged down in the “academic race” that tries to put undue pressure on your pre-teens.

Just continue to inspire in them a love for learning, find opportunities to strengthen their character, and remember to enjoy being with them!

You are their best advocate, and you are doing a great job!

Helpful Homeschooling Tools

How are you preparing middle schoolers for high school?

Sherri Seligson

Sherri Seligson and her husband, David, have been homeschooling their four children for 21 years. Having graduated three so far, they are still enjoying the journey! Before she was promoted to “mother,” Sherri worked as a marine biologist at Walt Disney World’s Living Seas, publishing shark behavior research. She has authored Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Marine Biology and Interning for High School Credit as well as companion curricula for feature films including Dolphin Tale and War Horse. Sherri has written for several science publications as well as homeschool magazines.  She loves to speak at conferences where she can encourage moms on their homeschool journey, and she has a motivated heart for teaching students the importance of studying God’s creation. You can read more encouraging posts on her blog, www.just-extraordinary.com


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  2. Great post! I especially love #7. It seems like so many people are ramping up their kids’ schedule at this age instead of giving them time to explore interests and skills and manage their own time while they can still safely make mistakes.

  3. Love these suggestions! I chose this as my favorite post from the Hip Homeschool Moms’ blog hop for last week. Your article will be featured in this week’s hop, on our pinterest boards and on our facebook page! Thank you so much for linking up! I always enjoy your posts!! ~Trish

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