I recently attended a homeschool convention in Nashville, TN, and the curriculum junkie in me had such a good time looking at all the latest editions and fun new ideas. I especially loved seeing that there are more and more choices for homeschooling through the precarious middle school years. I have been homeschooling my youngest child, the only one left at home, since Kindergarten. She is now 12 years old, in the 7th grade, and truly a joy to teach.
Each passing year gets a bit tougher in some aspects. I mean, she’s a pre-teen, which translates into the fact she’s a bundle of emotions and hormones which are constantly at war inside her little body. But I am loving homeschooling her as an older student for tons of reasons. Here are my top three:
- Subject Matter—The older my child gets, the deeper into subjects we can delve. She has moved beyond simple crafts to multi-step art projects.
We can spend weeks at time on her favorite subject—the animal kingdom—but now, we can do more than just look at pictures in a magazine; we can study their behaviors and do dissections (my favorite!), and see them in their own habitats. These activities naturally allow for a bigger impact than a one-dimensional photo.
And more importantly, we can now attack subjects such as terrorism and politics and religion in a way that was just not possible when she was only a 1st grader. We can linger as long as we need to in order to explore questions she discovers as she becomes more and more aware of the world in which she lives. I help her sort through media spin; she helps me gain perspective when the world seems so dark.
- Learning as Much as your Middle Schooler Does—When I was in Jr. High I thought school was cool enough, but I only studied some subjects and memorized some facts long enough to get a good grade on a test. Anybody else? I can say without a doubt, the historical facts which meant the most to me as a child were the ones I had lived through, such as President Reagan’s assassination attempt or the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. The facts in textbooks did not stick with me.
Learning alongside my daughter this time around, history takes on new meaning because of the availability of such excellent online self-paced programs, living history books, and well-done documentaries available on Netflix or YouTube. I love being able to take our time on an event or a person she’s really fascinated by and explore it in as many ways as we can. We recently visited Civil War battlefields on a trip through TN and you better believe walking in the exact spots those soldiers had marched made those facts come alive even more to her.
I encourage you to pay attention to your middle schooler when they’re struggling in a subject. If those boring facts are not sticking well, shut the book and try a different approach!
- Watching Your Child Developing into a Mini-Adult—While this can be the toughest part of having a middle schooler in the house, it is also one of the most rewarding as a parent, regardless of whether you homeschool or not. When children are small, their world is highly focused on one subject—Me, Me, Me. Oh, and maybe what affects them in the next two minutes of time.
As they begin to age, you get the wonderful privilege of seeing their world become larger; their worldview developing; and their hearts being touched by the plight of others. Learning opportunities which can’t be found in textbooks are all around them at this pivotal time in their lives. It is your job to help them navigate this scary world while reassuring them of their own safety. In my daughter I see a little girl still wanting to cling to innocence and a young adult longing to grow up overnight. And I get the wonderful honor of being her guide. Embrace those middle schoolers under your roof; they will help run the world one day!
April Brooks is a mama to four beautiful children, ranging in age from 26 to 12, and four beautiful grandchildren, ranging in age from 4 years to 4 months. She and her husband run a woodworking business (Woodworks by Brooks) and live in the childhood hometown of Truman Capote and Harper Lee in southwest Alabama. She blogs about homeschooling, housekeeping, and quiet time with the Lord over on her blog Coffee, Cobwebs, and Curriculum. Visit her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter as well!