Tuesday, July 20, 2010

10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School

10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed In Middle School

Middle School, you're thinking....I thought your son was ONE!  I like to plan ahead.  
Actually, I have been a middle school teacher for 8 years, and it is a time when I see parents become very confused about how to help their child meet with success.  So, I thought I would take a break from new mom posts, and share some insight on middle school children....

1.  Get organized.  
Middle school usually brings about multiple teachers, increased homework, clubs, sports, and more!  With all of those exciting changes come PAPER (and lots of it!).  Without places to put all of that paper, your child will quickly become disorganized, which is frustrating for them and leads to a lack of success.  On many occasions, students will go to the effort to complete work, but simply can't find it to turn in.  A large binder with dividers for each class (in the order that they occur during the day) is very helpful.

2.  Use an Agenda or Planner.
Many middle schools provide these for students now, but if not, this is a must for your child.  Students should be writing down the daily objectives from each class as well as homework assignments.  Make it a habit to review the agenda with your child each evening, and encourage conversation about what they learned that day.  Even if you meet with resistance, they secretly love that you care.  Also, have your child check off homework assignments as they complete them, so they don't forget anything.

3.  Find Anything that your child likes to read, and encourage reading daily.
Some children naturally love to read, and others would rather do anything else.  Regardless, there is usually SOME book that each child will find interesting, and practicing reading is key to success in middle school.  Speak with your child's reading or language arts teacher for suggestions on books that appeal to students this age.  So much of all the courses that students take in middle school are grounded in reading, that success lies in good reading comprehension.

4.  Teach your child to use a combination lock.
Lockers are usually new to students, and they really struggle with how to open their locker.  Sometimes, students will even have multiple lockers for gym, music, and academics.  If a student cannot open the locker, they risk being late to class, and are often embarrassed.  You can find the locks at a grocery store or office supply store, and this will really help your child feel more confident.  

5.  Talk to your child about peer pressure and bullying.
Unfortunately at this age, children can be cruel.  They are all struggling with self image, and it often plays out in very hurtful ways.  Only you know your child best, and giving them coping strategies will help them know how to react to these situations.  Also, stay very aware of who your child is friends with, and get to know the parents of your child's friends.  Membership in a positive peer group is crucial.

6.  Encourage independence in your child.
Once your child makes the initial transition to middle school, begin motivating your child to take responsibility for grades, assignments, paperwork, and communication between school and home.  Caution:  This is where many parents go wrong.  Because middle school children start to look very adult, parents often assume that they are more mature than they are.  While you should encourage your children to speak for themselves and be self-motivated, it is crucial that you continually check progress and monitor their achievement.  

7.  Volunteer in the school.
For some reason when parents leave elementary school, they feel like they aren't as welcome to volunteer and be present in the middle school.  Do not fall into this myth!  Middle school teachers usually teach over 100 students per day (sometimes more!), and really need help.  Papers need to be copied, children need help reading, there are concerts to help with, sporting events to coordinate, and much more.  Even if you work, there are often ways that you can help from home (managing a website, send in donations for the classrooms, etc.).  Don't be shy...we really need you....even if your kids are begging you not to darken the schoolhouse door.

8.  Don't always assume that the story you hear is the correct one.
Middle school is a time when children start to stretch the truth, because they do not want to be in trouble (and do not want to lose that precious cell phone!).  If your child comes home and tells you something, please communicate with the teacher and have an open mind.  The vast majority of us joined the profession for the right reasons, and we truly care about your child.

9.  Get your child involved in an extra-curricular activity.
Social development is HUGE at this time in a child's life.  Getting your child involved in music, sports, theater, art, etc. will help develop the "whole" child.  This is a great way for you to have some control of your child's social circle, and let them meet with success is something other than academics.  These activities teach commitment, team work, discipline, and develop self esteem.  Don't go overboard, as the work load in middle school can be demanding, and you don't want to stretch your child too thin.

10.  This too shall pass.
Middle school is a time of very high highs and very low lows.  The emotional rollercoaster  can be quite draining on you as parents.  Remember that your child is experiencing a lot of change, and hormones are crazy things.  Patience, kindness, and listening to your child can go a long way.  Usually the typical tween just wants their opinion to be heard, even if they don't get their way.  If you have a particularly challenging situation, seek the help of other parents, the school guidance counselor, or even an administrator.  These adults want your child to feel comfortable and safe at school, and are willing to help in any way we can.  
If all else fails, just blog about it.  The best therapy there is!

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At July 20, 2010 at 11:54 AM , Blogger Anna M Blanch said...

Great post!!! I love the way you worked out the list post challenge. I used to coach middle schoolers (swimming) and i'd echo all the emotional/psychological stuff you mention! wow, what a crazy age - and so different from 20 years ago when that was me!

At July 20, 2010 at 12:20 PM , Blogger Elizabeth said...

A good friend of mine has a middle schooler right now - I will have to forward this to her.

At July 20, 2010 at 3:29 PM , Blogger Ashleylee said...

Best of luck for the new school year! I've enjoyed your blog!

At July 21, 2010 at 11:26 PM , Blogger Debbie's L'Bri said...

I am doing the 31 day blog post too. Come and say hi.


At July 23, 2010 at 8:04 AM , Blogger Until tomorrow, Jennifer said...

Glad I found your blog. My son is just entering 7th grade. His grades are good, he is in band and helps out around school especially the band teacher. My problem is I am finding it hard to let go! Like letting him walk to friends houses or around the town....now he is asking for me to drop him off at the mall. I trust him and he is responsible but it is soooo hard. following from MBC check me out too www.babysittinmama.blogspot.com

At July 23, 2010 at 9:35 AM , Blogger Michelle said...

These are all excellent tips! I'm a homeschooling mom, but my son (who will be entering high school in the fall) needed some extra help once he reached middle school. He really needed some extra motivation, so we tried to encourage him to learn using things he enjoyed, rather than sticking to the school curriculum 100%. That really helped a lot.

He's also extremely intelligent (I'm not bragging - he took a performance test at the beginning of his seventh grade year, and they couldn't score him any higher than the 12th grade for language arts), so he has a tendency to get lazy about schoolwork. I'm sure it has something to do with raging teenage hormones though too. He has really matured a lot over this last school year (thank goodness), and now I don't worry about him as much.

Finding a good motivator is the key I feel, to making middle school a success for any child. We're fortunate though, to be with our kids 24/7, and we don't have to worry about things like peer pressure and bullying. Those were all factors that played into our decision to keep our children out of public school. Having homeschooled for 10 years now, I can really see the benefits of it in their behavior, not to mention they're much healthier during the year since they're not exposed to all of the illnesses that typically goes around in schools. ;)

#31DBBB challenge visiting. You have a great blog - keep up the good work! I'm glad to have found your site, and am going to follow. ;)

At July 26, 2010 at 10:59 AM , Blogger Art Garden Diva said...

Good post. Both of my kids had rocky middle school years for different reasons, and are now well adjusted (thankfully)college students. I might add that this is an age where many parents dis-engage, when they really need to be more involved than ever. My motto became "trust, but verify."

Make sure that the parents are really there when your child visits their friends.

Get to know your kid's friends! And, the friend's parents.

Make your home, the 'go to' house. There may be lots of noise, and they may eat you out of house and home LOL, but you'll know where everyone is!

Get a sense of humor.

At August 9, 2010 at 7:12 PM , Blogger Adrian's Crazy Life said...

On #4, when the middle school counselors came around to the elementary schools, they brought a big basket of combination locks with them. Each had a tag with the combo on them and they handed them around to the kids to try. I thought that was really smart of them and you could tell some of the kids were relieved that it was easier than they thought.

They also have them come in at the end of the 6th grade year and have a scavenger hunt for candy in all the different classrooms so they can start learning the layout of the school. I remember having nightmares at that age that I wouldn't be able to find my classes.


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