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November 2016

Making the Most of Middle School (part one)

By Stacey Wolking, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant

Stacey, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant
Stacey Wolking

As your child grows out of the elementary years, it’s so easy to get stuck in the I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-him mode. When he was younger, most of your time probably was consumed with teaching him early language and math skills, with some singing and crafts thrown in.

But as our children head into the middle school years, we are often at a loss as to how to keep them engaged. Many of us remember spending lots of time romping outdoors at this age—but sadly, today, tweens spend less time outdoors and more time glued to screens than ever before.

Here are some suggestions for getting them off the screens and living real life:

  • Try an evening or a week with no screens. (Yes, that means parents too.)
  • Spend some family time reading together, playing games, baking cookies, doing puzzles or crafts, writing letters to distant family, or looking at photo albums and reminiscing.
  • Take a walk together gazing at and talking about the clouds or the stars.
  • Roast marshmallows or make s’mores over a fire pit or a grill.
  • If you are a real adventurer, pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep under the stars.
  • Head to the park and play the blindfold game by having your child rely on your voice to find a “treasure.”
  • And speaking of treasures, have you heard of geocaching? Your kids will be excited by this high-tech version of a cross between scavenger and treasure hunting! People all over the world hide little treasures and register the coordinates on

One exciting thing about the middle school years is that we really start to see our children’s individuality emerging. This is the time they tend to start pursuing special interests and building productive lifelong habits.

We want our children to be independent thinkers and have a passion for learning. Typically, the high school years are more structured, with specific required courses that don’t allow a lot of time for the “extras.” So let’s take advantage of the middle school years by engaging in some mind-opening pursuits. Here are a few ideas to get you started (and keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive):

Public speaking

Adventure, leadership, and service

  • Boy Scouts of America (Our boys had an excellent experience in the Boy Scouts. Not only did they grow in wisdom and experience through their time with BSA, but the rank of Eagle Scout was also a prestigious addition to their resume and opened doors as they pursued higher education, internships, and careers. It all depends on your local troop dynamics and leaders. We were very blessed that our troop was led by some amazing and godly men and had a lot of homeschooled kids.)
  • Navigators USA
  • Trail Life USA
  • Civil Air Patrol

Civic involvement and leadership

Worldview and current events

STEM and problem solving


(no, not the insect kind—although that could be fun and interesting too)


Home life skills

Take the time to teach cooking, cleaning, sewing, decorating, finance,  time management, and home management—yes, even to your sons. There was nothing sweeter than being thanked by my beloved daughters-in-law for having taught my sons to cook, clean, and do laundry.

Building sibling and family relationships

This is a great time for some planned activities, field trips, or game nights.

Any other interest

They don’t have to wait till high school to dig into their special interest or what makes them feel valued and useful. Find out what gets them excited!

For an excellent avenue to help your child explore a budding or advanced interest, consider having your tween shadow or volunteer for someone who works in the area of interest. Utilize your friends, church, and homeschooling networks to find an eye-opening or fulfilling opportunity for your child to help make the most of these transitional middle school years.

What’s working for your family? I’d love to hear from you!

Next month: What to Expect of Your Middle School Student (part two)

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