by Iram Shaukat
Everything about my middle school child amazes me. Personality shifts, blossoming, and exploring are all exciting… and scary stuff!
Once upon a time, my child was using crayons to scribble on walls. We started our homeschooling journey when my children were in their elementary years.
The younger years seemed endlessly filled with read-alouds, poetry tea time, and long walks in the park.
We explored life science in our lab (aka the kitchen); and math class was always at a park where we could take breaks for slides and swings.
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When I re-discover my children and myself
Fast forward many years and here I am, a homeschooling parent of multiple ages and grade levels, with my eldest being in high school.
Homeschooling middle school is wonderful and, well, interesting. 🙂 Looking back, I remember feeling the need to rediscover myself and my children. To say it happened overnight would be an understatement!
When my eldest first became a middle schooler, or young adult, my mind gave me warning signals to head back into research mode. My motherly instinct told me these are uncharted waters and I need to be prepared to deal with what I have yet to venture.
So once again, I prayed about what was to come. Once again I delved into research; clearing fact from myth.
My greatest challenge was the little voice of negativity creeping back into my mind and heart. I began to wonder –
- Will I really be able to give my middle schooler a quality education?
- Am I “qualified” enough to teach math, chemistry, physics, and biology?
- Will my middle schooler listen to me?
Tip 1: Study your middle school child
This tiny being evolved from a lovingly sleeping infant in my lap, to a young adult laughing hysterically at his own jokes.
My middle school child also presented behaviors such as assertiveness and being opinionated. I realized that if these actions were guided and nurtured in a positive direction, they won’t turn out to be ‘bad traits’.
However, I’ve also observed an emotional, stressed, and sometimes even sad and confused middle school child. I began to think, “What’s happening in my middle school child’s brain at this point?”
I began to read books on the needs of children at this age.
Tip 2: Understand the needs of your middle school child
Our teens need to feel supported by important adults in their lives.
When teenagers feel supported by important adults…they are likely to be more engaged in school and learning.”Croninger & Lee.
Your teen needs family and community connections. This will help them feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
Keep your middle school child engaged with:
- Community events
- Volunteering in soup kitchens
- Cleaning parks
- Youth groups
As a result, they will build more confidence and become more responsible.
By now, teens should know how to be independent learners. This skill is crucial as it allows them to learn the tools needed to thrive once they leave our home.
Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to find answers
In certain circumstances, we tend become scared to search for answers. But in all actuality, finding answers and praying about your situation removes the fear.
Don’t be afraid to ask other homeschooling parents or professionals for advice.
Tip 4: Treat your middle school child like an adult
Treat your teen like a young adult.
Speak with them in the same manner that you speak to your friends and other adults. Don’t talk down to them or speak to them as if they’re three years old (and this isn’t the best approach for three year olds either!).
They’ve changed and so must you. 🙂
Tip 5: Involve your middle school child in creating a homeschool vision
Creating a homeschool vision is important for every homeschooling family, regardless of age. The difference now is that you have a young adult in the picture that needs to be involved in the process.
Sit down as a family and allow your middle school child to communicate her aspirations and goals. Help her articulate her gifts and how she can improve them.
During your conversation, listen attentively and don’t comment immediately.
Tip 6: Be gentle
Your middle school child is now a ‘young adult’, but that doesn’t mean you toss your gentle spirit out of the window. You shouldn’t use harshness to deal with his attitude, for example.
Your teen will deal with insecurities and is still learning to navigate this world. They need you to remain gentle even if they aren’t gentle.
When and if the time calls for it, remind your teen that you are treating them like an adult, therefore you expect them to treat you with kindness.
Tip 7: Allow your middle school child to make mistakes and face natural consequences
Allowing your child to make mistakes starts very young, however it’s capitalized once they’re bulugh, or young adults. Enough trying to ‘save’ them from natural consequences caused by their choices.
Your middle school child needs to make mistakes and learn from them to become a thriving adult who understands that, “Natural consequences will come and mama can’t save me from them.”
For example, if your child lollygags while getting ready for soccer practice, you will end up leaving the house late. Which means your child will be late for practice.
Instead of speaking to the coach and trying to give excuses about why your child is late, let your child face his natural consequence. His coach will be upset, and that’s OK. Your son’s next consequence is that he’ll have to meet his coach at 6am on Sundays to make up the practice.
Allow the consequence to happen.
Allowing your child to face his natural consequences now, will prevent him from making the same mistake when being late has greater consequences – at his 9-5 job.
If you always try to ‘save’ your young adult from their natural consequence, you are not allowing them to grow up, and they may face severe consequences later.
Tip 8: Expect and accept fewer physical forms of affection
Your middle school child may reject many ‘childish’ ways because he is now an adult. In the process, he may stop expressing and/or accepting physical affection from you, in order to show that he no longer wants to be defined and treated as a ‘child’.
This ‘letting go’ of non-verbal intimacy with parents is common. If your middle school child is standoffish and physically unresponsive it’s OK.
You can continue to offer a lesser form of physical affection, such as a pat on the back. You can also show them that you care through positive words, such as telling them that they are loved. And don’t forget the power of a smile!
Tip 9: Continue reading aloud to your older child
Yes, it’s important to read-aloud to big kids too! Why? For many reasons!
Reading aloud to your middle school child continues to:
- Expose them to new authors, texts, and genres
- Help them improve long-term reading success
- Help them build awareness and empathy
What’s great about this age is that you can have a genuine discussion with your middle school child after your read-aloud. This opens up the doors to developing a good relationship with your middle school child before they leave your home.
Tip 10: Continue going on field trips
Don’t stop getting out just because your child is older! Continue going on field trips.
Out of ideas? Try a new museum or an Escape Room! They are a great hit with middle schoolers!
And don’t forget to step outside of your own city! Travel will help your children understand their diverse world.
Tip 11: Allow your middle school child to explore their interests
As parents we tend to register our child in classes that we deem interesting. But our young adult should be given the opportunity to choose what they’d like to sign up for, based on their interests.
Do they like to cook? Sign them up for a cooking class!
Do they have a desire to ruin everything in the house by cutting everything down to re-create something else? 🙂 Try out a wood working shop!
Here are some more ideas, and the list is endless! –
- Spoken word
- STEAM based classes
Just remember to choose what will bring joy to your middle school child.
Also it’s important to note that you need to allow your introverted child to skip things that may make him feel uncomfortable. For example, your introverted child may not enjoy competitive sports, even though you and your husband may love them.
Tip 12: Be an active listener
Active listening is –
…a technique that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. This is opposed to other listening techniques like reflective listening and empathic listening.Wikipedia
Being an active listener as a mother means that you recognize that the conversation is more about your child than about you.
Being an active listener will help you discover your middle school child’s way of processing information, emotion, and perspective.
In the end, what he says might be wrong, but it could be the other way around – you may be the one who is wrong! Try to let go of your ego as the parent and listen to him when he speaks, without demeaning or belittling his thoughts.
Tip 13: Read up, mama!
Read parenting and educational books about middle school children to learn how to develop a good relationship and open communication with your middle school child.
Books on educating your middle school child
The following are the books that I’ve read concerning middle school children and homeschooling/parenting topics in general.
Everywhere All the Time: A New Deschooling Reader by Matt Hern
Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling, by John Hold and Pat Farenga
In Other Words: Phrases for Growth Mindset: A Teacher’s Guide to Empowering Students through Effective Praise and Feedback, Annie Brock and Heather Handley
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The Whole-Brain Child Workbook: Practical Exercises, Worksheets and Activities to Nurture Developing Minds by Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
I Notice: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Student Potential Through Building Intentional Relationships by Claire E Hallinan
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
Tip 14: Have realistic expectations
As the parent, you may feel as though your middle school child should all of a sudden zap into a completely put-together adult, but that isn’t the case (especially if we didn’t take necessary steps when they were young)!
Have high standards, but don’t expect perfection from them (or from anyone for that matter!).
She may make a decision, and then all of a sudden change her mind. Once in a while, reiterate your expectation kindly. She is still living and learning, as we all are!
Tip 15: Set clear boundaries
Somehow, we tend to expect our child to read our minds. Guess what? They can’t and they won’t (and neither can anyone else)!
We must clearly communicate expectations each and every time.
For example, when setting boundaries for screen time in our household, I clearly communicated the rules. Then I took the next step to make sure my middle school child understood what I’ve just said, by asking him to repeat the screen time ‘rules’.
I asked him to answer all of the following questions: What are the rules about screen time? What is/isn’t acceptable? In this instance, I set boundaries which prevented technology from becoming detrimental to my son’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.
Tip 16: Be patient
We must have patience with our middle school child. There will be forgetful days, sick days, and crazy ‘I’m lost!’ type of days. Remain patient.
If you’re currently going through difficult times in your homeschool, let me remind you – You’ve got this, mama!
Tip 17: Give your teen opportunities to be responsible
Giving your middle school child opportunities to be responsible will help her develop a growth mindset and boost her confidence.
For example, you can allow her to tutor her younger siblings. You’ll find that it comes naturally because she’s been doing this all along while they play alongside one another!
Below are a few examples of opportunities to allow your middle school child to be responsible.
Allow your middle schooler to manage his time
Whether your child will end up going to college or straight to the work force, he will always need time management skills. How can he develop time management skills? By you not scheduling everything for him.
Allow your her to purchase a planner and calendar of her choice. Tell her to pencil in important dates.
Next, allow her to create her own schedule. She should be able to turn in work at any point in the day. Just be sure to check her work!
Allow your middle schooler to choose and schedule monthly volunteering projects
Continue to get your middle school child out into the community. There are many ways to this. Choose what is feasible for your family.
Here are some great options:
- Feed the homeless.
- Visit the sick.
- Visit the elderly.
- Volunteer at soup kitchens.
- Clean up parks.
- Set up and volunteer at charity events.
The list is endless! إour child will develop a sense of belonging and begin to see themselves as change makers and enablers, boosting their self-esteem and in hand display more positive behavior.
Tip 18: Don’t try to be like others
Understand that every individual and family is unique. Every homeschool dynamic is different.
Personalities vary. Learning abilities vary.
It’s your homeschool. Make it yours 🙂
Tip 19: Accept that things will change over time
Accept that your vision and goals will change over the course of time. Your children are growing. You are growing.
The important point is to view change in a positive light – welcome it with an open heart!
Tip 20: Help your teen stay motivated
Learning can be difficult in a negative environment.
Also, it’s best to show empathy by letting our middle school child know that we understand his emotions. It will help him move through difficult times.
A great way to motivate your middle school child is to get outdoors. Changing the scenery, getting some fresh air, sunlight, and exercise, is good for all of us, no matter the age!
The last thing you need to know about homeschooling middle school
- Your middle school child is now an adult. Treat them like one and reap the benefit!
- Allow your middle school child to be responsible. It will help them thrive for years to come!
- Allow your middle school child to make mistakes and face their natural consequence here and now. You’re giving them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes so that they don’t make the same mistake when the consequences are more severe.
Can I start homeschooling in the middle of the school year?
It depends on where you live. If you’re in the U.S., homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and you can begin homeschooling at any time, even in the middle of the school year.
How many hours a day do you need to homeschool middle school?
However many hours your family decides on, and that your child needs. 🙂
Understand that a middle school child will need more time for formal lessons, vs elementary aged children.
What subjects should a homeschooled middle school child learn?
Whatever subject their hearts desire and that you require. 🙂 Keep in mind, you’ll need to focus your attention on core subjects: Math and English. Even if you skipped formal lessons in history and science when your child was in their elementary years, it’s best to start now.
Don’t forget that they still need physical education and other classes of interest such as home economics, art, technology, etc.
New to homeschooling? Read the Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling for Muslim Families!
Looking to simplify your morning time? Grab this!