One of the greatest challenges with middle school is helping students move toward more independent study. That doesn’t mean you give them the teacher manual and expect them to grade their own work. It means that they should be given the opportunity to learn how to manage their time, efforts, expectations, and school work. Let’s look at a few areas where your child can begin to take control.
“What’s taking so long?” Have you ever been guilty of saying those words as you patiently wait to start the day? I certainly have. Time management is something that people are either naturally good at or an area where they struggle. Teaching your student to manage their time is vital. First, find a tracking method that works with your child’s learning style.
Digital calendars, wall calendars, planners, scheduling apps, and simple handwritten lists are all good ways to track and plan tasks. We still use a wall calendar with my high school student because it gives him the freedom to easily cross out what’s been accomplished, and I can easily see what he’s still working on each day. (And I never have to hunt down his planner.)
Consider applying rewards for a schedule well kept. Things like dinner of his or her choice, having some friends over for a movie night, or even an extra hour to sleep in could all be inexpensive ways to let them feel the benefit of making and keeping time-sensitive deadlines.
Personal Effort and Expectations
It’s difficult for adults to give 110% all the time. It’s even harder to teach a child to do the same. Personal effort is simply defined as an earnest attempt at something or exertion of mental energy, strength, or will. We want our children to give their full effort when completing a task or assignment. The tricky part is instilling the desire in them to take pride in their work while making their best effort.
Watch for opportunities to praise a job well done. For example, your child completes a difficult assignment and does so in a manner that shows determination and pride. Affirming responses could include acknowledgment of their effort in light of how difficult the assignment was, such as a reward like a small gift card, special event, time with friends or dismissal of a household responsibility for the day. Even sharing how proud you are to a family friend or relative in front of your student says that you understood the difficulty and that their effort did not go unnoticed.
We have to expect quality work and maximum effort from our children in order for them to begin expecting it from themselves. You know your child best. Tailor your expectations to their abilities, and require them to continue to grow by raising your level of expectation as they master skills.
Much of the middle and high school homeschool curriculum written today is student-directed. It is designed for students to be given the tools they need to successfully navigate the material with you at the helm to answer questions and grade their work. By middle school, your student should begin to do the following.
- Look at a two-week window of assignments and complete each day on schedule.
- Plan their school day by looking at the day’s assignments and other household chores or responsibilities.
- Review (with you) and understand your expectations for the semester’s work.
- Know how long it should take them to complete a book for a book report and possibly set a completion goal.
- Learn how to use a calendar or other scheduling tool.
- Be able to communicate with you about their goals and interests, leading into high school. Note that these interests and goals will likely change, but learning to communicate them is important.
Middle school was a blessing for our family. Watching our children develop personalities, interests, and skills were fulfilling to watch. You begin to see the fruit of your labor. It’s not always joyful, but even in those hard times, watching the Lord’s hand in their development is a true gift.