Homeschooling the middle school years have been a mixture of fun times and challenging moments. But that sums up any homeschooling year.
To be more specific, the challenging moments come because of the age of the child you are teaching. You are working hard to encourage them to be independent learners and, more importantly, to learn discipline and to stay on track with doing their school.
The fun times come when you see them enjoy learning new things, and the moment you don’t have to hold their hand through every assignment.
I’ll freely admit – I was nervous to approach the middle school and high school years; and I’m still a little nervous to homeschool high school, simply because of all the record keeping and transcripts. Outside of that, I think it will be great.
My oldest is 14 and in 8th grade this year. He has an October birthday and I decided to not start him early in Kindergarten and I still don’t regret that decision. He will be 18 when he graduates, and I think the extra time as an 18 year old to figure out what he wants to do after high school will be a blessing.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from homeschooling middle school years is that it’s a great time to work on your weaknesses without the demands of a more rigid high school schedule.
If you need to get caught up on certain subjects, middle school is the time to do that. It’s also the time to not get really behind on subjects. I’ll explain in more detail….
My son is not a math wiz. He loves history and science and is right on track with that, but the last few years have been a struggle in math. He has been a year behind in math but I knew eventually we would catch up. This year the math tutor that works with him really encouraged me to have him skip the 7th grade year in Teaching Textbooks and go right into Pre-Alegra, which is a normal level for an 8th grader. So far it’s working out well, and I’m so hopeful that we will stay on track in math during high school now.
The middle school years are also a nice time to let your children spend extra time on their interests. During the more rigorous demands of high school they might not have quite as much time to focus on one subject that they really enjoy, but the middle school years are perfect for that.
Our oldest son and daughter playing at their orchestra concert.
My son loves to read and he loves history. Because of that I didn’t go with a more traditional history curriculum (something like Notgrass, which we have used and enjoyed), but instead put him in Heart of Dakota so he could have plenty of living books to read.
What are the hardest challenges of middle school?
For us it’s been all about attitudes more than academics. We stress so much over teaching a child to read and write, and we don’t want our children to be behind. Generally a child ends up figuring it out (of course their are exceptions where a child has learning challenges and needs help), but character issues can be more and more time consuming the older a child gets.
Letting my son drive the RTV at Nana’s house in the country.
Lay the foundation when they are young and expect good character out of them. Use training tools like Character Badges to visually show them what good character is and why they are being corrected for poor behavior. But go beyond that and read to them from Bible story books (our favorite is The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos) and point out examples found in almost every story of the strengths and weaknesses of that person’s character. I’m still including our 14 and 12 year old in our morning Bible story time, and it’s a blessing to teach all my children together, from 14 down to 2.
Learning to figure out your child’s personality and what character weaknesses they have are crucial, and the younger you figure it out the better. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing through the middle school years, and other other times a child starts wanting their own opinions to be heard, and their sour attitudes show just as strong as that screaming 2 year old throwing a fit.
Don’t be afraid to challenge your child and push them in their weaknesses. They can bluster and fuss and say “I can’t do it” 20 times a day, but in the end it’s your job to push them through and encourage them to do hard things.
If you are not big on doing tests in elementary grade, sometime in the middle school years might be a good time to get them used to taking tests. You could do just one subject, but it’s a good training for the high school years and their grades don’t go on their transcript.
Overall try not to stress the middle school years. Enjoy them as much as you can and spend these years forming good bonds with your children that will prepare you for the high school years!