The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Middle Grades
There are no doubts that homeschooling your middle-grade children will be incredibly beneficial to both you and your child. If you’ve been homeschooling the entire educational process, then you already know some of those benefits. But even if you are just getting started on the homeschooling journey, there are still amazing days ahead. It’s much different than homeschooling other grades, but we’re going to talk about some tips and benefits that will make everything much clearer.
For those continuing from homeschooling the early years, you can take solace in the fact that you are closer now to the goal of graduation than when you started. And for those just beginning, know that it’s never too late to start over. It may take some backward working to find any educational gaps or foundational weaknesses, but that’s all a part of the journey. Never assume that you simply must pick up where public school left off and continue on, regardless. Homeschooling is about doing what’s best for YOUR child, and if spending the first six months going backward is necessary, then so be it. After all, you’re likely to make up that time and then some when your child really takes off and surpasses their same-age peers.
What Constitutes “Middle Grades”?
The sixth through eighth-grade years are considered the “middle grades”, situated right between elementary and high school. It’s a time of change and excitement and ever-increasing maturity. There are still many aspects of elementary school life that your child likely enjoys, but you’ve probably already seen signs that they are moving forward in their lives and making plans for their days as a teen and young adult.
It’s very important to make the most of this particular frame of time. In many ways, three years seem like a lot. But in hindsight, it’s going to seem so monumentally small that you might wonder where it went. You’ll second guess yourself and then second guess your second guesses, but you’ll get through it. And if you plan things out just right, you can do so with the greatest amount of achievement possible.
Starting the Planning Stage
As you embark into the middle school years, it’s a great time to teach your child to use a planner. It’s true that this may or may not be a lifelong commitment, as not everyone does well with a planner. However, at this venture in time, it’s a perfect tool to help them see how their time is allotted. Setting a certain amount of time for certain activities can help them learn to plan ahead because they’ll have some general idea about how long certain tasks take.
Scheduling can also help them learn to say “no” to certain opportunities as well. Not all of these “no’s” will be easy – like when they must turn down a playdate on Saturday because they’re otherwise obligated to a music lesson, a local play, or a family field trip. Again, this will have lifelong implications once they’ve carried through with their plans, learned to schedule, reschedule, and adapt.
The planning stage is also a good time to learn proper time management techniques. For instance, learning that managing one’s time is not so much about just getting done, but getting completely done. An assignment that is only half done will only be half-graded. Learning this starting at about the sixth grade can avoid lots of problems once they actually start high school and must start making those changes whether they like it or not.
Learning to prioritize is a part of the process too. Knowing which subjects should be first on the list, early in the day, can become a habit quickly and save a lot of end-of-the-day worry. Knowing how to choose obligations before fun can be hard. If it becomes a struggle, then you can discuss the fact that it’s better that they’re learning the lesson at home rather than in a harsher environment. At home, they’ll have the support of family members, whereas in a work setting, they might be embarrassed in front of coworkers.
Don’t be afraid to employ tools during this stage! Of course, electronic devices can sometimes be problematic, but when they are used correctly, they can be great tools toward great endeavors. There are on-screen and off-screen timers, plugins or email, digital planners that send reminders, and apps, just to name a few, that can be used to create a sense of calm throughout the day.
Letting Your Child Choose
These are the years when your child will really want to start making more of their own choices, and that’s a good thing. It shows a move towards maturity and taking responsibility. Of course, in the homeschool environment, there are many ways that you can allow them to make choices and still remain in control of the school day.
Letting them decide which electives they’d like to work on is a good place to start. After all, pursuing interests and passions can truly make homeschool much more fun. Who doesn’t love getting credit for things you love? Well, our kids are the same way. It could be something like a foreign language, which can be necessary in some college majors, as can science and literature-based electives. However, classes such as home economics, personal banking, or business law can have real-life implications that will help throughout their lifetime.
One of the biggest aspects of allowing your child to make their own choices – and sometimes the hardest for the homeschool parent to cope with – is allowing the child to make the mistakes that go along with those decisions. It’s easy to “see it coming” and that makes us want to rush in and fix it. However, if the implications are not life-altering, and the consequences won’t result in harm to the child, it can sometimes be in their best interest to let them suffer the consequences, especially since you’ll be right there to help them through it. In real life, this will be an immeasurable help.
Keep Them Accountable
Be careful that when you’re starting to let your child choose some things for themselves that you’re not completely letting go of the reigns. They still need a certain level of accountability, even if they are what we consider “a good kid”. Make sure you check on their online work (setting a timer or log if necessary), make them read aloud, and have weekly meetings to discuss the week ahead as well as the last week.
Letting them know you trust them with some decisions, but you’re still going to oversee everything, can give them the stability they need in this sometimes-awkward passage from one stage of life into the next. Of course, as children at this age often do, you might see a lot of eye rolls and hear a lot of sighing, but it’s all a part of things that will be “worth it” in the end. Who knows, they might even thank you for it someday.
Don’t Forget To Keep Moving
Sometimes, as our children move out of the elementary years, they begin to become less active. This is to be expected as they mature and is even more important as they near college. However, we can’t forget that these middle-schoolers are still kids. Moving can be as fun as it is healthy, and the benefits from both are a wonderful part of this period of time. The Bible even tells us that fun and health can go hand in hand:
A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)
Moving actually increases the ability to memorize things, it lengthens the attention space, and can even make learning easier. So, when you start seeing your child tap their pencils or become extra fidgety, then you might want to get some movement involved. Hands-on activities are great, such as science projects, but you could even take your literature lessons outside. Go for a walk and discuss vocabulary words, letting them verbally put sentences together, or recite definitions. Any lesson that can be moved outdoors, weather permitting, will be a great asset in this area.
Use 8th Grade to Strengthen Weak Areas
The eighth-grade year is a perfect time to retest things that you would consider foundational to the upcoming transition into high school. For instance, making sure math skills are up to par, or that they are able to read, on their own, for extended periods of time, are important skills to have in the high school stage. Stepping back to make sure these foundations are covered is never a wasted effort. Even if all their understanding is as it should be, at least you’ve taken the time to find out.
The eighth grade can also be a great time to start prepping for high school in general. Introduce a few lessons that will be upcoming, especially in math, and test ahead in some areas in case they already know a good portion of a subject that is to be covered in the ninth grade. If you have a gifted and talented child, you probably already know it by now, but it sometimes emerges during this middle area of transformation.
Homeschooling middle school is definitely a time for change. I certainly haven’t covered all the things that you might deal with during these three years, but if you’ve read this far, chances are you’ll have a great start. Remember to reach out to your support group, if needed, and if you don’t have one, I strongly encourage you to get one. Because even if you didn’t need that much support throughout the years of homeschooling elementary school, you’ll certainly need it at some point in middle school.
And remember, it’s not always about perfection. No, truthfully, it’s never about perfection. It’s not even always about a perfect curriculum or a perfect lesson plan, or a perfect child. The focus is on learning, loving learning, and learning well. If you succeed in these areas, the rest will come naturally.