Is My Child Ready for High School?
How do you prepare your middle schooler for high school? High school seems like such a daunting event for many homeschool moms, and “the experts” often make us feel like we are behind before we even start. Once sixth grade gets under way, panic sets in with the realization that there is so much to do, and (yikes!) the transcript years are on the horizon.
Middle school is a wonderful time to start preparing your student for high school, but not in a frenzied way. Middle schoolers are delightful creatures – they are beginning to grow out of the “little kid” years and into maturity. They’re able to take on more responsibility and work more independently. They are still innocent to the ways of the world in many ways, yet reaching the age where they begin to analyze and question things more.
Take advantage of the sixth through eighth grade years for high school prep, and then ninth grade won’t come as such a shock. Integrate more high school readiness skills into your curriculum, while nurturing the academic, spiritual, and emotional needs of your emerging teens.
EASE Into Middle School
Emotionally – Your pre-high schooler is going through some of the biggest developmental changes in his or her life. It isn’t easy, and it is often a rocky road. They might be moody one minute, and snarky the next. Just keep listening and talking. Maintain an open door policy, and be willing to hear them, even if what they tell you makes you squirm. Make them feel safe and be a trustworthy confidant.
Academically – Middle schoolers should develop skills needed for high school. This means more literary analysis rather than just comprehension, learning vocabulary meaning by understanding word roots, developing note-taking skills, and preparing for high school math by mastering basic math facts and beginning pre-algebra. Above all, teach your middle schooler how to write a complete three-paragraph essay. A simple writer’s handbook is all you need, and you can assign essays as “reports” in any subject. Students in middle school still need one-on-one time with you, but don’t need as much hand holding and should be encouraged to work more independently.
Assign passages in history or literature for them to read, and then meet together for discussions. Get into the deeper meanings and ask them what they think about the information they’ve read. Expect them to dig deeper than comprehension and begin to make connections. Rather than looking at academic subjects as stand-alone courses, show your middle schooler that literature is affected by history by researching the background of the authors. Math is used in science; vocabulary words can come from all disciplines. These connections will help them when they study more integrated subjects in high school. You are probably already doing much of this as a homeschool family!
Spiritually – realize that your middle schooler will not always take things at face value anymore. She will begin to ask questions and want to know why. He will question his faith and begin to develop his own opinions. This is the time to keep the lines of communication open and guide them to find answers in God’s Word.
Instead of accepting things because you say so, let them read it for themselves in the Bible, and provide plenty of resources for help. In addition to turning to trusted spiritual mentors like your pastor, there are wonderful devotionals, concordances, and other Bible study tools that are perfect for this age group. When your child wants to know what’s what, send her to the source, which also helps develop research skills.
Enriching – The middle school years are a great time to nurture your student’s interests. Is he or she a musician, a movie-maker, a dancer, or an engineer? These years are the perfect time for kids to explore and cultivate their talents and discover what drives them. Before the rigors of a high school schedule begin, let them spend time with their hobbies and passions, and then turn those into an elective course for high school (fine arts, technology, debate, mechanical engineering).
One more thing, some eighth grade coursework might count as high school credit. If your student is ahead in a core academic subject, go ahead and move him into a high school level course for eighth grade. If it turns out to be too much, stretch it over two years!