October 25, 2018
Middle School Mayhem
Navigating through the Change with Home Education
By: Dinah Whitton
Parents of middle school children are often caught off guard during this poignant developmental stage. Home educators can take advantage of having more time to observe their children and adapt accordingly. However, it is essential to learn more about what they’re going through to adequately support them through these “tween” years. Since middle school consists of grades 6-8, we’ll examine the average age group to give us a better understanding.
According to Chip Wood, author of Yardsticks – Child and Adolescent Development, 12-year olds are often unpredictable, and “swing between childhood and adulthood.” The following are some highlights of this developmental stage based on the Yardsticks theory.
- Peer opinions matter more than parents or teachers;
- Major responsibilities become attainable
- Careless with things that seem “unimportant” (like chores)
- Very energetic: require plenty of sleep, exercise and food
- Both boys and girls typically experience growth spurts
- Enjoy physical education and sports
- Understand and enjoy sarcasm and sophisticated jokes;
- Set goals and concentrate well
- Enthusiastic about school work that appears useful (research projects, science experiments or drama etc.)
While all children are not alike, many of them share similar characteristics at this stage. Parents and educators that have consistently spent time with this age group have an interesting perspective on these students.
Mr. Brown* is a father of three and has been a private Christian school teacher for over 17 years; and, he understands the importance of home education. He has spent countless hours with middle school students and believes alternate methods of education – beyond the traditional school system – are necessary for academic success. “These students are capable of far more than we think.” Mr. Brown said. “Our goal as parents is to work ourselves out of a job.” From his experience, he believes this is the age when parents start letting go and allowing them to fail and fall. Mr. Brown advises parents not to walk away either, “It’s a difficult dance between giving them what they need and having them figure out how to do it.”
Ms. Connor* has been an educator in the public school sector for over 20 years and stresses the importance of parental involvement. Even now as an elementary school principal, she encourages parents to remain involved with in their children’s academics regardless of their evolving independence. “Usually parents are more involved in kindergarten, but they start pulling back during the middle school years.” Ms. Connor shared. There is so much happening during this time frame that affects how students perform academically. With their bodies changing, peer pressure and an increased workload, it can be overwhelming. Academic challenges can be a result of other struggles in their environment. Ms. Connor encourages parents to utilize community resources, including workshops that aren’t just about academics. “Mental health issues for children are real and knowing that there are resources to help you navigate through these challenges is invaluable for parents.”
From infancy to the end of the teenage years, parents have the ability to observe, embrace and educate along the way. As a new parent those sleepless nights seemed endless. But, as time progressed, it proved to be just a short period of your child’s history. The middle school years will come and go, and one day it’ll be a distant memory. After all, it really is just another part of growing up – pimples and all!
Wood, Chip. Yardsticks: Child and Adolescent Development Ages 4-14, 4th edition. Massachusetts: Center for Responsive Schools, Inc. 2017.
*Names have been changed upon request to maintain anonymity.