Back to School: Tips and Strategies for the Middle School Years
The middle school years bring much more to the desktop, for parents and students alike.
In general, the theme for middle school is independence. This is the time that parents should take a step back and let their middle schoolers chart their own paths through the world of learning.
Keep in mind that middle school teachers will discourage parents from doing everything for their children. These teachers work ceaselessly to help children step up to the plate with confidence. Don’t undermine their efforts by encouraging and rewarding dependence in your child.
At this age, a child begins to accept responsibility for his or her own learning, study materials and resources. You can help your youngster find a little more independence each year. Let your young scholar make their own study-related plans and build their own time management and organizational skills.
Although middle schoolers are growing in independence, they probably don’t have good study habits yet. One way to help them build head-of-the-class habits for a lifetime is to set up a work contract.
Let your child make the decision about what after-school time will be free time, what will be done first when she or he gets home from school, and other school-related issues. Some kids may want to do their homework as soon as they get in so that the rest of the day is theirs; others may prefer to spend some time relaxing before they begin their homework.
During the summer months, work with your child to set up a system and workspace for independent homework in the coming school year. Make sure there’s a place where all of his or her work tools can be stored—and found—easily and quickly. This will empower your student to work on her or his own, without parental involvement.
If you have a desk area available, clear it off and set up dividers and shelving. Let your child pick out a place for pending assignments, finished assignments and other projects.
Have your young learner develop a set of organizers for school projects. Colored folders can be a great organizing tool at home. Let the student pick out different colors for different subjects. Yellow, for example, could be anything related to math class.
You can help your child think through the organization process with a series of questions such as: “What will you do when you bring math papers home?” “What will you do with the math papers when you’re finished?”
Remind your student that the classroom will have its own set of organizational tools each year. And know that the groundwork you laid at home will help the teacher spend less time teaching organizing skills and more time teaching subject area lessons.
It’s equally important to focus on classroom needs. When possible, ask the school for any resource lists so that you can shop and prepare before the school year begins.
August is the perfect time to start working on study habits. If you know your child would benefit from practice work in a particular subject area, this is the perfect time to look for fun ways to explore that subject. You can find workbooks or computer games to assist you, or you can even make up your own practice exercises.
This is also the right time to get your middle school student back into the habit of reading. Teachers know that many youngsters don’t read at all during the summer. This can lead to a difficult transition to the increased number and length of reading assignments in the middle school years.
Let your child pick out a chapter book to read—and encourage him or her to keep picking out chapter books and to keep reading until school begins. The reading practice will make school assignments much less intimidating.
Beyond the Classroom
During middle school, students begin to learn about different career opportunities. Think about your youngster in terms of interests, inclinations, talents and aptitudes as you help the child start to consider the possibilities and choices for her or his future studies and work.
Use all of the resources around you—friends, neighbors and research materials—to provide your youngster with a clear picture of the unlimited career possibilities available. Many professional and trade associations provide career guides designed to lead the next generation of workers into their professions; some of these are published online. In addition, look around for opportunities that would let your child see exactly what a day on a specific job can be like.
You and your child are organized, prepared and thinking ahead. There’s only one thing left—the first day of school. As you go through the obvious checklist—getting plenty of sleep, making a good clothing choice, eating a nutritious breakfast, getting to the bus stop early, having lunch or a lunch payment on hand, bringing all needed school supplies and having information about the ride home—you realize that you’re on the way to another action-packed school year.