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The Middle School Years

If you homeschooled your child through the primary grades, you may find that you initially experienced moments of self-doubt, but you managed through the first year (or two or three) and gained confidence to educate your child at home…until now!

It is not uncommon for parents to suddenly begin to second-guess themselves all over again as their children approach the early teen years and the parents feel inadequate to prepare their children for high school. And if you are just beginning to homeschool at the middle-school level (usually grades 6–8*), you may be jumping in already at the second-guessing stage.

Take heart—you can do this!

The subject matter will be more complicated as he enters junior high school, but remember that it is not your job to teach your child everything there is to learn; it is your job to:

  1. Teach him how to learn;
  2. Reinforce basic knowledge and basic tools of learning;
  3. Instill in him good character;
  4. Encourage him in the way he is to go; and
  5. Provide avenues for further learning.

Know Your Strengths and Limitations

Evaluate your own skills and knowledge, and be willing to utilize other resources as needed to meet your student's higher academic needs. Some options include:

  • Textbooks designed specifically for homeschoolers, written to the student in a conversational tone with all explanatory material included, or written with scripted teaching material for the parent
  • “Living” books
  • Tutors (including relatives or parent trade-offs)
  • CDs
  • Videos
  • Supplemental classes (either local or online)
  • Tutorials
  • Co-ops
  • Hands-on experiences or internships

Strengthen the Basics

I call these the 4 Rs: Reading, (w)Riting, ’Rithmetic, and Responsibility!

  • At this stage, you’ll want to review and strengthen his arithmetic skills and computation speed so he has a solid foundation for algebra and geometry in high school.
  • Composition will be transitioning from the report-writing stage to the essay-and-analysis stage, so this is a good time to reinforce his reading comprehension, grammar, and basic composition skills. If you don’t feel comfortable evaluating his writing at this level, you may know of a friend or tutor who would be willing to help in this area. The constructive criticism of a writing club can be positive motivation for some students at this age level.
  • Your goal as a parent is to eventually work yourself out of a job! Life skills and time management training will serve your student well in the future, both immediate and long-term. Young people at this age are usually able to be given increasing control over their schedules as well as some input into subject matter choices. This may take a bit of patience on your part (and training in diligence and thoroughness on your student’s part), but it will eventually be worth it.

Let Him Explore His Passions

One benefit of homeschooling is the flexibility to incorporate opportunities for your child to pursue his passions, interests, and talents. Many students dabble in entrepreneurship and develop talents or hobbies that could blossom into future ventures.

Look Ahead to High School

While some students use these years to solidify earlier concepts, others are ready to move into some high-school-level work during junior high years. Many families will begin high school studies in the eighth grade, giving the student an extra year for in-depth studies. Wherever he falls on the timeline, you’ll want to check out HSLDA’s Homeschooling thru High School webpages, bookmarking your favorite pages from our high school consultants!

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

This may be a time of great transition for your young person—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It can be a challenging age, but she needs your affection, communication, and understanding even more than ever. It is not uncommon for students in this developmental stage to have spiritual questions; don’t take them personally but do take them seriously. What a wonderful opportunity to mentor and disciple your child!

Rachel Bentley Ramey, in See, I Told Me So? (edited by Tammy Cardwell), encourages parents of middle schoolers:

“[Before homeschooling,] my family did not have my heart; my friends did. Though I had a better-than-average relationship with my parents, I had been in government school for six years, spending more time with my friends than my family. I had become peer-dependent … Homeschooling—and all the family time that came with it—allowed my mom to change that … . [My parents] persevered. Mom could have put me back in school, deciding it was much too wearying to fight with me everyday. She could have given in to the friends and family who insisted that she was too hard on us, that we weren’t going to be ‘socialized’ enough, and that one needs a teaching degree in order to teach effectively… . If she had given up, she would never have drawn my heart back … . Don't give up. Do not ‘grow weary while doing good, for in due season [you] shall reap if [you] do not lose heart.’ (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)"

*The term middle school is often used interchangeably with junior high school and usually denotes grades 6–8, depending on the school district.

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