Ideas for Making the Transition from Middle School to High School

Are you wondering how to transition from middle school to high school with your homeschooler?

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.

So what’s the best way to get your teen ready for high school?

Tween girl holding a blue binder in a blurred classroom.

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Transition From Middle School to High School

It’s not uncommon for homeschooling parents to feel a little apprehensive about their teen making the transition from middle school to high school. After all, high school is a big step up academically, socially and emotionally. However, there are a couple of things that homeschooling parents can do to help their teen make a successful transition to high school.

Moving on to High School

I am reminded of how this was with my older two children. One is now enjoying her sophomore year in college with all her many exciting activities, and the other is working through his senior year of high school and trying out dual enrollment through our state’s 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.

Independent Learning

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 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.”

Independent learning is important for several reasons. First, it helps teens become more self-sufficient and better able to manage their own time. Second, it allows them to delve deeper into topics that interest them, and third, it helps them develop the ability to do research and solve problems on their own. All essential skills that will serve them well.

To start, give teens opportunities to practice by assigning projects or tasks that they can complete on their own. Then, offer feedback and guidance along the way to help them improve their skills.

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.

Encourage 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.

Tween girls outside a school with backpacks on their backs.

Tips for Transitioning from Middle School to High School

Here are some helpful tips you can implement right now that will help get your tweens ready for 9th grade.

Managing Schedules

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 to write in their 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.

Reading Together

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.

Decision Making

Include your middle school student in the decision-making process along the way, especially when it comes to curriculum. 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!

Young teens, 2 boys and 2 girls, dressed for school, standing against a white background.

Hopefully, you’ve seen that transitioning your tween from middle school to high school doesn’t have to be hard or scary. It just takes a bit of planning and tenacity.

More Tips for Homeschooling Middle Schoolers

Resources for Homeschooling Middle School

How are you getting your teen ready for high school?

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Meredith Henning, veteran homeschooler of 15+ years, spends her days amongst the chaos of her “fab four” children, including one girl already graduated and off to college, a son working on dual enrollment during his Senior year in High school and two more boys in elementary and middle school. She is the author of Homeschooling High School It’s Not As Hard As You Think and writes about homeschooling, books and the sweet life she shares learning along with her family at Sweetness-n-Light.


    1. I worried about this too Rachel. I found that (especially with my first) if you begin easing in to more difficult material while they are still getting their feet wet with middle school, the transition will be much more smooth and natural. Try reading a more difficult text together in 7th and 8th grade so that it won’t be quite so overwhelming by the time she hits high school literature classes. Or to garner more independent work, have her choose a topic of interest and really delve deeply into it and create a presentation to share with the whole family. Creativity really takes center stage here as you let her make the decisions on how she wants to put it all together and share it. Just some more thoughts for you! Such an exciting time for you both πŸ™‚

  1. I worry that I won’t move our kids along enough to be ready for college after high school. I am also concerned about my grace giving. It is hard to loosen the reigns and remember to give our kids grace in their decisions.

    1. Gail, I feel your struggle and if you can, look at the big picture plan. Then break it down, so that every year of your homeschool through high school you have a plan that includes the classes that your kids need to move on to higher education. I hope you joined the giveaway as I have many great ideas in my book on how to accomplish this, as well as some worksheets to help along the way. You could also subscribe to my newsletter as I have some great freebies that might be just right for you πŸ™‚ God bless you in your homeschooling journey!

  2. The increased workload and complexity of high school subjects, preparing my child for college.

    1. College prep is a biggie in our homeschool too Anna and if you approach it year by year, it won’t seem quite as daunting. Especially if you are collaborating with your teen(s) along the way. It’s okay to let them stretch their minds, now is the time for discovery and accomplishment and success. It will get harder in the later years, but if you set them up for success now, it’ll be a breeze. πŸ™‚ Thanks for weighing in today!

  3. This is a timely topic for me! My son is in 7th grade and has always been an audio learner. We have always done a ton of reading aloud, so I am struggling with how to encourage him to be more independent all around with his work… he’s the type who learns best when he’s doodling or has something in his hands. This year I am giving him more tests and quizzes with assigned grades and deadlines; that is also new for us. I think it is harder for me than him!

    1. Yes, Jennifer, I think it is always harder on us Moms, LOL! We tend to take it all very personally, so this is definitely a phase where the letting go a bit really needs to start with us – the hardest part. I think it’s great that you’re already giving him independent work and some deadlines, and I would continue to let him doodle, it’ll keep him focused if that is his learning style. I have a friend with 8 boys and she has them all chew gum during lessons to help them focus, as you can imagine they have a very “active” homeschool. My boys have benefitted tremendously with being able to move around while they work or being able to do something with their hands while they are listening to a book or lesson. It’s easier to let them move than to fight it πŸ˜‰ Thanks for stopping in!

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