When we jumped aboard The Homeschooling Train (it's a real thing, friends), my kids were young. I was up to my elbows in wooden blocks, crayons, read-aloud books, and episodes of Dinosaur Train and Curious George.
Our homeschooling days were organized by whatever I pulled together and thought I needed to teach. We learned about the states and capitals, made sensory bins, read lots of great children's books, played tons of games, and went on so many field trips.
Things were going along smoothly (smooth-ish, let's be real). And then (queue the edgy music): MIDDLE SCHOOL!
I don't know about you, but middle school conjures up images of braces, bad perms, book reports, new friendship dynamics, hormonal mood swings, and so much insecurity. It also brings up memories of acid-washed jeans, awkward school dances, and did I mention the bad perms? I digress. Homeschooling middle school can be a great thing because all the peer pressure, negativity, drama, etc. that comes along with these years can be lessened by choosing to home educate.
I'm not saying homeschooling middle school years is all cupcakes and rainbows, but it does offer balance, more time for interests, and a chance to focus on health and wellness during a time when tween and teen bodies are rapidly changing.
I've had three middle schoolers (all at once), and we have one more year to go with our 8th-grade twins. I'm sharing my top four tips to help make your transition into homeschooling middle school manageable—whether you're brand new to homeschooling or you've been homeschooling from the beginning.
My top 4 tips for homeschooling middle school without making you (or your kids) crazy!
Get your kid on board. Newsflash! Your middle schooler will have infinitely more opinions on all.the.things. Yup. Things that used to be a "YES!" from them are now met with a scrunched nose and eye rolls. If you're not used to planning with your kid, this would be a good time to bring them on board.
What are their interests? What are their strengths? How can you come alongside them? What are your non-negotiables? Can you let them plan their own unit study?
I do this all of the time. I direct my kids to resources that might be helpful and tell them to report back to me with books, online classes, etc. and we discuss. My goal isn't for them to cram every fact in their heads before they graduate. My goal is for them to stay curious, explore their passions, and ask questions. Which leads me to the next tip...
Leave lots of time for interest-led learning. I had a mindset shift a few years ago when my oldest son was entering the middle school years. I got panicky because I kept hearing all my friends with kids in traditional schools bemoaning the workload in middle school. The loss of free time and time to move their bodies. I certainly didn't want that for my kid.
Middle school is not just to prepare for high school. Middle school is a great time for your tweens/teens to take more ownership of their work, to explore topics, to try new activities, and to get to know themselves. My three kids have dabbled in many things over the past few years including entrepreneurship, sewing, baking, making movies/videos, dentistry, dogs, making jewelry, comic book writing and art, writing books, painting, and Lego building.
Some of these interests lasted a week and some are pushing two years. I'm just thankful they've had the time to delve into a variety of things.
Honor their changing bodies and minds. Can we discuss the amount of food changing bodies need? I know this a commonplace joke around homeschooling communities about first breakfast and second breakfast, but it's only funny because it is TRUE! Their bodies are rapidly growing and changing.
If health and wellness haven't been part of your homeschool discussions, now is a great time to do this. Be open and honest about how food choices affect their bodies. Research the effects of sleep (and lack of it), keep the dialog going around screen time. Is your kid sleeping in more? Mama, let them sleep! Seriously!
If homeschool can be pushed to 10 am instead of 8:30 am, why not be flexible? If you have younger children who are awake and ready to go, perhaps you can work with them while your older child sleeps. When we discuss the importance of taking care of our bodies (this goes for the parents too), we're modeling self-care and body awareness.
Have fun (both together and apart). Having fun with your newly-minted middle schooler is important. Stay connected with them by having one-on-one time, asking about their favorite music or movies (and yes, you might have to listen to the music too).
Are there trips you can take now that they might appreciate more? Let them help plan one. Even just talking while making lunch or visiting a coffee shop together can make a huge difference.
Also, it's important to give your kid space to have fun with friends/peers. This might look like online gaming, wanting to take more classes outside of the home, or signing up for more activities. I encourage you, friend, to take time for yourself, model what self-care and interest-led learning look like.
Find a new hobby or return to one that you've put on hold for too long. Keeping the fun in your day and in your relationship with your middle schooler will make for good memories and a stronger connection.
Are you ready to take the leap?
Just like with any life change, shifting into a new season of homeschool can bring up all sorts of feelings. And that is OKAY! Lean into the feelings, friend. If you're closing the door on all things elementary school, I am giving you permission to grieve a bit. Your kid is growing up and experiencing new things! You are too!
Instead of looking at middle school as simply a time to panic and prepare for high school, think of it as a time for your tween or teen to explore and to step into themselves more. Yes, there will be tears (Dear Puberty, I'm talking to YOU!), there will be three times the amount of snacks because the growth spurts are no joke, and there will also be loads of interesting and challenging conversations.
I'm cheering for you and for your kid. Homeschooling middle school can be cool. I promise.