No matter how seasoned a homeschooler you are, middle school triggers this question.
In that way, experienced homeschoolers share the journey with families only beginning to wonder about schooling at home.
It is important to consider both academic and social factors affecting middle school students. In part 2 of this series, we explore academic concerns.
There’s a freebie waiting for you over there, so don’t forget to read it once you finish here!
Social Advantages to Homeschooling Middle School
If your child is in a negative situation with bullying or exposure to risky behaviors, homeschooling can be a welcome relief for all involved.
Is your student already imitating negative or unhealthy behaviors? Early days as a home educator will include attention to undoing the damage and work on replacing poor choices. Sometimes that work takes priority over academics.
For others, the decision may involve a fear of failing a child if they try to homeschool. In the minds of many, middle school is a pivotal point to opt for traditional school enrollment. College and career years are looming. Who really feels prepared to prep our kids for that?
Unexpected Advice on Socialization From School Headmasters
I know families who could not afford private schooling every year. Their solution: homeschool some years and private school others. When asking advice from headmasters about which years were pivotal for classroom teaching, a common answer emerged.
Because of the social pressures (described by one headmaster as a “shark tank”), every headmaster suggested homeschool as the best option during 7th and 8th grade.
What sets up the middle school years to be a unique social challenge? Is it the rapid hormonal and brain chemistry changes during these two years? Is it the more intense effort to discover one’s unique identity apart from parents and family? Probably both along with other factors.
After hearing this advice, I began to note middle school social behaviors in both traditional and homeschool settings.
The number of times I identified negative behavior and personality changes in this age group was stunning. I thought back to my own actions and feelings during these years and reflected on how I went through the same.
This is not to say kids became demon seeds bound for prison. However, once bright, sunny and eagerly social kids went through periods of withdrawal, acting out, and even bullying. Usually, the personalities I had previously known would reemerge around age fifteen.
The advice of those headmasters, and my subsequent observations, made my decision to keep at it through middle school almost a no brainer.
The changes became so predictable that when my own sons entered middle school, I forewarned them.
Sure enough, two of my older son’s friends arrived for 7th grade co-op classes resembling zombies. It was as if their real personalities had been sucked away by aliens. The welcoming, happy kids they had been the spring before were just . . . . gone.
For two years, they barely uttered a word in my son’s direction. The 1st day of 9th grade co-op, they were waiting for him and ran to him while calling his name in welcome. The abrupt change back to their former selves stunned even me!
As he exited the car, my son looked back and said, “Good, Lord, but you nailed it. They are back!”
Other Factors to Consider
Whether you are a new or seasoned homeschooler, there are common advantages to a middle school homeschool program.
- the opportunity to learn at your own pace vs. feeling the pressure to move with the herd
- a safe place to play catch up for a student who is behind
- the ability to learn without distractions
- the freedom to follow your own interests vs. a school’s scope and sequence
- an opportunity to improve self-confidence with each success
- the chance to pursue special interests with more free time available
These are the years when our children begin to blossom into who they will be as adults. The opportunity to explore and master emerging interests will foster a life-long hunger for learning.
Just this morning, a mom in a group I’m part of expressed thanks for our flexibility. She posted her daughter’s stunning sunrise picture. It was worthy of entering in an art show. Her daughter was free to capture the magical moment on camera because they were not rushing for the school bell.
Because of both the developmental issues and social dynamics involved, middle school is a great time to continue or begin homeschooling.
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