I LOVE… I mean seriously LOVE middle school. These years are quirky and hard and fun. Your child is growing up and middle school are those in between years where one day your child is so very grown up and the next you find them on the floor surrounded by Legos or Barbies or Playmobil. It is an amazing and extraordinary time. These are not years to be feared, but to be embraced. Teaching middle school is an adventure.
I work with middle schoolers and have learned a lot about how they tick over the last few years. Sixth graders think they know everything. They are loud and overly confident (at times). They are socially awkward as they try to fit into the adult world. They linger around adult conversations and often burst in with comments that are seemingly out of place. They wiggle and have the attention span of a goldfish. Seventh graders have started to have some control over their bodies…. some control… not full. These poor seventh grade boys have bodies that are growing faster than they can keep up with. They trip over their own feet! They have realized that this thing called puberty is happening. Their bodies are changing and they are very aware of that. They can sit a little longer and hang with a deep conversation. They are forming their own opinions about the world around them. Eighth graders are moving from concrete thought to abstract thought. They are beginning to understand the world from a whole new perspective… understanding imagery, grasping abstract concepts. They are well on their way to becoming young adults… but definitely still need time and space to play.
Middle school is a really special time when they are still little, but definitely stepping out of childhood. The difference with my son from the beginning of eighth grade to the end was like night and day. The things he found funny, the energy he had, the things he occupied his time with all changed that year. He really began to come into his own and his personality started to come through in a way I had never seen.
So… how do you homeschool a middle schooler???
These are great years to challenge your child, to train your child, and to have fun with your child. In North Carolina, there are no requirements that you must teach per grade. You are the chief administrator of your school and therefore decide what your learning goals and curriculum should be. If you are not homeschooling in North Carolina, please take time to familiarize yourself with your state’s homeschool laws.
Train for Independence
For our family, I have used the middle school years to begin training my children to take responsibility for their own learning and maintaining their schedules. I begin to grade certain assignments. The first test my son took for a grade was in seventh grade. We were using Master Books, General Science. He did not do stellar on his test. I made him study and take it again. He told his dad that I gave him a D on his test. His dad replied, “Mom didn’t give you a D. You earned it. That’s on you.” He learned how to study. He learned how to take a test.
Use a Planner
I begin to teach more independence. By middle school, most students are fluent readers. They can be given an assignment and tools to complete it on their own. It takes training… just like when they were young and you were teaching them to read or to clean their room or to wash the dishes…. it all takes training. Once the training is complete, you should be able to confidently give them an assignment to complete. In seventh grade, I create an Evernotes account for my children as well as a Google account. With a Google account, they have email and access to Google tools such as Slide, Docs, Sheets, etc. Evernotes is simply a program for creating checklists, schedules, etc. Trello and Google Keep are other good options. You could also go with a good old fashion paper planner. My children learn to follow a checklist and not come to me for every little thing. I give them their entire week of assignments at the beginning of the week. The assignments are due by Friday. They learn to order their day. I have one child that budgets his time and does a little each day to make sure he completes the entire list by Friday. I have another child who tends to wait and does it all towards the end of the week. I do ask that they do math every day and not try to do that all at once. There are still times when they require instruction and involvement from me, but more often than not, they can complete an assignment without my help.
Different Learning Styles
Different children have different learning styles and ways in which they attack the world. You have some who like to follow a schedule, check boxes… those who are self motivated and those who need a little push. You have procrastinators and those who are up and at em early and done by ten! Help your child learn who they are and how they learn during these middle school years. But also remember that puberty is a beast and your middle schooler may have lost their brain temporarily and need a little extra love and attention.
Interest Led Learning
Most middle schoolers are screaming for independence. They are desperately trying to figure out how they fit into this world. Middle School is a fantastic time for interest led learning. Sit down with your middle schooler and ask them what they want to learn, do, explore, invest in… and help make that happen. Middle School years are transitional years. Do not rush to get them into high school. Use this time to teach independence, teach them how to identify what they want to learn and give them the tools to go after it! Allow space for them to grow and space for them to fail. Your homeschool should be a safe space for your middle schooler to grow.
You can still have the foundational subjects in place…. your reading, writing, and math. When you include your child in the curriculum planning, it gives them a sense of ownership. Be willing to listen to them and invite them in to the process. Help them develop or continue to develop a love of learning by showing them that school is so much more than sitting at the desk and doing math problems. Do you have a child interested in coding, check out Scratch from MIT. Do you have a Minecraft loving kid, check out Homeschool with Minecraft. Budding film maker, check out FilmSchool for Teens. Does your child want to start a business, check out Starting a MicroBusiness for Teens. Want to learn another language, learn to sew, garden, blog, build something??? The options are endless!
Not sure where to start as far as curriculum???
First, I would encourage you to figure out what homeschool philosophy appeals to you? Check out THIS POST.
Second, get your basics in place. What are your plans for math, literature/ language arts?
Third, ask your child what they want to learn and seek out materials to help you.
Here are a few of my favorite resources:
SchoolhouseTeachers.Com– This is an online program. You sign up for a membership and gain access to over 400 courses from preschool-high school. You can click on middle school and on the subject you are looking for and see all the courses they have to offer. It is self paced and from a Christian worldview. They have a new feautre called “School Boxes.” These are currated courses by grade that puts together your curriculum for you and takes out the guess work… all included in your membership.
Easy Peasy– This is an online curriculum. It is free… yep… free!
Khan Academy– This is another great, FREE option. There are tons of different homeschool helps to find through Khan- academic and elective. They start in early elementary and go through high school.
Progeny Press– I recently discovered this company through the Homeschool Review Crew. They look at secular literature through a Christian worldview. Their study guides are thorough and meaty… lots of good stuff.
Enjoy these years. They are precious. They are hard, but don’t have to be impossible. You don’t have to write off your middle schooler as a hormonal mess. Remember that you are the grown up here… lean into the chaos and love on your child. They still need you. They still want you. I remember a game night with our youth group when my second was in sixth grade. Most youth activities, she was off with her friends, not giving me a second thought. This particular night, however, a storm moved through and the thunder was very loud. As we were playing games, she found her way to me and sat in my lap until the storm passed. Neither of us made a big deal about it. It was a sweet moment. She needed me and I was available.
Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:
- The Law
- Socialization/ Homeschool Community
- Choosing Curriculum
- Establishing Routines and Schedules
- Homeschooling Preschool
- Homeschooling Elementary School
- Homeschooling High School
- Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers