It may seem a little dramatic, but there’s some pressure that comes with homeschooling middle school. It’s a time to crack down, get serious, and start looking ahead high school, colleges, and careers, right?
Well, there’s some truth there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the homeschool middle school years. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that your time as a homeschooler is about to get super serious and considerably more difficult. Isn’t that a relief?
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You know all those expressions about time flying? It turns out that they’re all correct and they all apply perfectly to our preschool and elementary years of home education. In fact, we were a full month into seventh grade before it dawned on me that my oldest kid finished elementary school and moved into middle school.
Even so, I’m knee-deep in seventh grade and I’m learning that there are some crucial elements that must be present in order to successfully homeschool middle school. You might even say these things could make or break your time in middle school.
3 Things That Will Make or Break Your Homeschool Middle School Experience
Now that we’re in these homeschool middle school years, I’m learning that consistency matters more than ever. Granted, there’s never really an ideal time to be inconsistent in homeschooling or parenting in general, it’s just that middle school isn’t a good time to test out the new curriculum everyone’s raving about — just because they’re raving about it — or to let a “flexible” homeschool mindset give way to a barely-there homeschool plan.
Even a flexible, relaxed middle school requires a plan. There’s no way around it.
You see, preschool and elementary school years both lay an educational foundation, but they both provide a safe space for trial and error. It didn’t matter so much that it took three years to find the best math curriculum for my son because it wasn’t a huge deal in third grade.
By eighth grade, however, those curriculum switches could create a massive problem because keeping track of high school credits is just around the corner. That’s not to say that I’d power through and deal with a curriculum choice that’s not working, but I’m to that point in our homeschooling where I can’t afford to be distracted by the shiny new homeschool curriculum choices. There’s too much at stake here.
Similarly, the need for a consistent schedule is undeniable in middle school. My son needs to know that he’ll have adequate time to do what I’ve asked him to do each day. Sure, unexpected things will pop up from time to time, but I’ve found that approaching our homeschool with a steady, dependable routine in place helps my middle schooler concentrate on his schoolwork and enjoy what he’s learning each day.
Along with consistency, I’m also learning that accountability can make or break those homeschool middle school years.
It was easy to keep track of my son’s progress in the early years because I was sitting alongside him in nearly every subject. In the younger years, there was no reason to question his understanding, even when I chose to wait a few days to review his assignments or even chose not to test him that often. I was there nearly every step of the way, so the reviews and tests didn’t always seem necessary.
That’s not the case when independent learning is the new normal for your homeschool. Now that I’m not teaching him every subject each day and I’m more of a coach or mentor, I understand how a lack of accountability can do major damage.
You see, if I wait too long to check his work, I could discover a problem that should’ve been corrected several lessons ago. Even worse, an uncorrected problem could allow confusion to set it because it wasn’t addressed sooner.
A lack of accountability could also allow bad habits to form and could send mixed signals to my middle schooler. In Home Education, Charlotte Mason shares an example of habit training involving a young boy who has been trained to close the door as he leaves, but fails to do so after many times of doing it correctly:
“Some day Johnny is so taken up with a new delight that the habit, not yet fully formed, loses its hold, and he is half-way downstairs before he thinks of the door. Then he does think of it, with a little prick of conscience, strong enough not to send him back, but to pause a moment to see if his mother will call him back.
She has noticed the omission, and is saying to herself, ‘Poor little fellow, he has been very good about it this long time; I’ll let him off this once.’ He, outside, fails to hear his mother’s call, says to himself – fatal sentence! – ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter,’ and trots off.”
That is why accountability can make or break your homeschool middle school. When we don’t hold our children accountable, we risk sending the message that attention to detail and effort don’t matter after all. Do we want our children to do their very best at all times? Sure. In a perfect world, they would always do so without wavering.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world and our children aren’t perfect. Like it or not, they’re not likely to approach their work with effort and excellence too often if we as their parents and teachers are not willing to hold them accountable.
Middle school is a time of growth — physical growth, emotional growth, and intellectual growth. And, while it’s wonderful to get a front-row seat while all that’s happening for your tweenager, this growth can also usher in some turbulence in your usually agreeable homeschooler.
When middle school hormones show up in my homeschool, I’ve found the best thing to do is be up front and admit that I’m navigating all of this for the first time. “I’m the parent, do as I say” mode doesn’t go far (even with a typically respectful child), but honesty makes all the difference.
This is no time to pretend to have all the answers. Instead, it’s time to say, “I remember how crazy my middle school years were; parenting a middle schooler is new to me, but I’m going to do my best to help you through it.”
In conclusion, know that homeschooling middle school doesn’t mean that your best years of homeschool are ending. With some consistency, accountability, and honesty, you may just find that this season of homeschool is better than the last.
Looking for more help with middle school? Grab some coffee and hop over to my guest post on Year Round Homeschooling: Transitioning from Homeschool Teacher to Middle School Mentor or pin it for later.