Homeschooling the Middle School Years

Did you ever think you’d make it this far!?? Homeschooling your middle schooler! Whew. Seriously, the hardest parts are behind you: Your kids can read and write; they know their basic math skills; they can – hopefully – work self-directed for at least a short time; and you are all in a rhythm. You’ve answered “But what about socialization?” the mandatory 2,864 times and you’ve smiled and nodded at “Oh! I could never homeschool my kiddo!”. I promise that homeschooling actually gets easier from here on out, although it may start looking different. Your elementary-aged student may have enjoyed several field trips a week, play dates, and park days. Your middle schooler, however, is going to need to spend more time “hitting the books”. The time has come to be sure he will be ready to check off those boxes for high school needed for college admission. It’s also time to start developing those skills he will need for college: note taking, time management, and self-discipline.

There’s no need to make a 180* change in every subject; just pick one or two subjects at first. Math is an excellent choice as it lends itself to independent effort so well. (1) If your child is not already doing so, have him work alone – without you hovering near by. No offense meant because I was a Hover-mom until I saw the damage it was doing my daughter. We won’t always be “right there” to pick them up; they have to learn how to “struggle”, how to find the answer on their own, and, yes, how to make and correct mistakes. They need the confidence that comes from working alone – not the immediate validation of you shaking your head “correct” before their pencil leaves the paper. (2) Use a weekly planner to assign your student’s lessons. Even better, schedule the assignments with your student so that he sees the process of dividing the workload among the school days. I like the weekly planner free to print at The Homeschool Mom. Use one sheet for each subject. So MATH, Monday, week of 4/1 might look something like this:

READ pages 3-5 in your textbook

COMPLETE questions 1-15, Section A, page 4 in your textbook;

COMPLETE questions 5-15, Section B, page 5 in your textbook;

When everything is complete, he is “done” with math for the day. Who doesn’t love checking off items on a “to-do” list?! It’s a great sense of accomplishment! (3) Check the work and return it the next school day with items to be corrected. You can also make a note “SEE MOM” when it’s time to broach a new topic. They’re still young – so stickers and stamps or a drawn heart from mom still go a long way!

(4) If you aren’t using a traditional textbook, now is the time to start. Again, maybe for just one or two subjects at first; math is, again, a great choice. Your student needs to get familiar with traditional textbook formats: table of contents, sections, section review questions, skills tests, bolded vocabulary words, indexes, glossaries, etc. This is not to say that you can’t – and shouldn’t – still incorporate other resources into study, like videos, other books, articles, field trips, etc.

(5) Now is also the time to work on your student’s note-taking skills. This skill building activity is probably easiest with History and Science topics. To begin, you might want to create fill-in-the-blank note taking activities to accompany videos or reading lessons. It takes time, but you can watch the video or read the book first and type out questions that follow along leaving blanks for your student to fill-in. Another way to build this skill is to have your student outline while you are reading together. This gives you the opportunity to say “Hey. That word is in bold so it must be important. What does that word mean? Why is it important to what we’re reading? Do you think you might see that word on a quiz about this subject?”.

(6) It’s time for your student to take tests and quizzes too, if they are not already doing so. You can create a simple quiz for any subject. Your student needs to get used to working through test anxiety and what better and safer way than in your homeschool! Online quizzes are fine, but don’t underestimate good, old-fashioned paper and pencil bubble tests. I love for test creation.

(7) Along with quizzes and tests, it’s time for objective grading. I didn’t give my daughter a grade on anything in her elementary years. My philosophy was: she either mastered it and we moved on OR she needed more time and we kept going over it. There was no “C+” and we moved to the next topic. By middle school, however, your student needs to start seeing grades and you need to start getting used to keeping grades for his high school transcript. Now, there is still only “MASTERY” accepted in my homeschool, but, if she makes an 84 on the quiz, then that grade will stand on the official record even though we will go over it again until she is at 100%.

(8) Middle-school age, especially at the 7th and 8th grade levels, is a good time to get involved in group classes. Your student needs to learn to take direction from another adult; he needs to hear how others present information; he needs to experience a classroom setting with other students. Hopefully, you have some awesome co-ops around you and can participate in a class or two.

(9) For your student’s sixth and seventh grade years, it is important to ensure your student is ready for high school level work. Use these middle school years to prepare your student for high school level classes. Start by checking the graduation requirements for your cover school. If your cover school does not have any requirements, you can use your state’s standards. For Alabama, those standards can be found here.  Another helpful resource for helping in the high school years is found at Everest Academy in their High school Handbook. 

(10) By eighth grade, your student *can* begin to earn high school credit for high school level work. You can find several articles for more information: HERE and HERE  I realize all this is sounding a lot like “school” and, as homeschoolers, that’s probably what you’ve been trying to avoid. PLEASE keep enjoying the blessings that homeschooling affords us, while beginning to incorporate some of the ideas mentioned above. Colleges haven’t changed their ways of doing things and we want our students to be prepared for that setting.

By: Kristin Smith; homeschool momfor 15 yrs; Madison County, AL