homeschooling middle school
It was delightful to meet so many homeschool parents and their kids over the weekend at Great Homeschool Conventions in Cincinnati!
We talked to little guys with blinking lights on their headbands, high school teens who were taller than we are, tiny girls in sparkly shoes, and marvelous middle-schoolers whose interests were all over the map.
Do you know what we noticed about the INCREDIBLY DIVERSE group of kids we met?
They were incredibly diverse! Each one was his or her own person, with interests, fears, dreams, likes, irritations, hopes, frustrations, a sense of humor, insecurities, and a smile like no one else's.
This week, be sure to notice your child -- that kid right in front of you who just spilled something on the kitchen floor.
Thank God for that kid -- that one right there who sometimes thrills and sometimes and frustrates you.
That kid -- that one with the bed-head -- is not exactly like ANY OTHER PERSON on the planet. And God gave that kid to you to parent and homeschool.
How cool is that?
For a free copy of our handout from Vicki and Marilyn's workshop MARVELOUS MIDDLE SCHOOL, click here.
If you are getting ready to begin your homeschooling adventure with Kindergarten, make sure you download Vicki's book first!
A Developmental Approach to Teaching Kindergarten helps you understand HOW your child learns before you begin -- a MUST-READ for parents of little ones.
Marilyn and I presented a workshop about Homeschooling Marvelous Middleschool today at Cincinnati Great Homeschool Convention. Here's a quick look at homeschooling your middle schooler:
1. Middle school is a roller-coaster ride of changes for our kids and YOU as their parents are the best people to help them hang on- and even have a great time!
2. Every middle schooler is different- and they really start to notice their differences during the early stages of puberty.
Sometimes they begin to worry about not being good at anything, not feeling attractive, or being awkward socially. You can be their #1 cheerleader during this time!
3. Physical changes as they begin those years may include a pre-growth-spurt weight gain along with physical changes including oily skin and hair (and body odor).
You can make "health class" include tips on how to proactively handle those socially awkward body changes that can cause problems at that age: greasy hair, unwashed face, dirty teeth, body odor (including stinky feet), and yesterday's t-shirt. Knowing that they must brush, wash, change clothes and work on being presentable is empowering (even if they complain a little).
4. Cognitive changes help them to think more scientifically and logically.
As the brain develops, the middle schooler has more capacity for deep thinking and problem solving- and self-awareness. Sometimes you may notice an increase in self-doubt over these years because they become so self-aware. Help them to remember the gifts God created in them (and to explore new ones). AND give them
opportunities for using their growing thinking capacities- more science experiments, discussion and writing. (Also note that this is an irregular process- most kids won't be able to consistently practice logical thinking until they are well into their teens.)
One way you can invest in this new cognitive power is easing them into essay writing (our Middle School Essay curriculum is based on a gentle, short, daily-for-8-weeks lesson plan).
5. You can help them grow during this time by allowing them more voice in choice of academics.
If they have interests or special abilities, they might like to help you decide how to experience those subjects (maybe more unit studies or a special textbook).
6. You can help them grow by gently remediating in subjects where they struggle so they will feel more confident when they start high school.
However, you should concentrate on their strengths and let them have fun! These are the last years before you have the rigor of logging credits for the transcript. Make the most of opportunities for hands-on learning, projects, and field trips! (Not that you must give those up in high school- just have more work to record them.)
I'll try to share more from the workshop later... but I'm pooped from the long, exciting day. If you're at GHC come by and say "HI"!
Here's Sabrina's suggestions on getting the writing process started:
Don't be afraid of homeschooling middle school. These are some wonderful years and can be the best years yet!
All the Sisters at 7 Sisters have homeschooled our middle schoolers. We've had lots of ups and downs- it has been worth it all. Here are 5 tips we've learned for homeschooling middle school:
1. Prepare for high school
We used middle school to do some remedial work to bolster subjects that were weak. Some of our kids could also do a little academic stretching at this age (like writing official essays)... but we learned to...
2. Have fun
These are the last years before counting credits for transcripts, so we tried not to kill their love of learning
with overwork or busywork. Instead, we included rich experiences and adventure. We did lots of things with co-ops, group classes, choirs, sports, and with our families (or course).
3. Push social skills
Middle schoolers often feel clumsy- physically and socially. We tried to teach social graces and hygiene. We weaved these into group activities and spontaneous moments at home. Knowing that they could carry a conversation, read non-verbals, and not look and smell disgusting helped them feel comfortable around peers and adults. For the inexpensive and easy guide to social skills we Sisters have used click here
4. Fortify their spiritual foundations
American young people leave the church in young adulthood at the rate of 70% these days. Some people think that lack of actual Bible knowledge and spiritual foundations contribute to this. Middle school is an important time to fortify Bible and prayer basic skills. Some of our kids did this through Awana. We tried to integrate spiritual discussions into life, as well as encouraging personal devotions.
5. Explore interests and talents.
Some of our middle schoolers would feel stressed by not knowing what they wanted to do when they graduate from high school. We tried to encourage them that middle school is time to explore- not settle down. We tried to make opportunities to invest in interests and talents (and if they felt they didn't have any interests or talents- lots of different kinds of experiences helped them explore).
We loved our middle school years. Hope you have fun with yours, too!
Hope to see many of our friends at the Cincinnati Great Homeschool Convention this week. Drop by our table and say "Hi", ok? (And check out Sabrina's workshop on Drama, and Marilyn and me speaking on Middle School.)
Here's Sabrina's vlog on the importance of essay writing:
Are you teaching Spanish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Latin...or any other World Language to your homeschooler? Want to know how to make it fun? Good for you!
Making language learning fun is a big part of success for both teacher(s) and student(s). Think back to when you were learning any subject. Didn't you want to spend more time practicing the things that were fun to you?
Whether you're teaching an elementary, middle or high school student, read on for a few of my favorite tips on teaching world languages in a one on one situation:
-Incorporate vocabulary that is meaningful to the student.
If I learn all the words for the people, places and things around me, I will think of them each time I see them. Are the words for computers and other technology-related items more relevant to you and your student or the words for farm animals? One of my favorite ways to do this with high schoolers is to have them pull words from their texts and Facebook messages.
-Use your target language in other fun activities that your student enjoys.
Sing songs in Spanish. Make and serve a homemade Japanese meal together. Connect with someone like my French friends that I met in the Grand Canyon, Christine and Alan, and become Facebook friends. Go to a Chinese church service. One of my students' favorites is to watch a TV show of movie, with which they are very familiar, using the target language with English subtitles or vice versa.
Some of my favorites are Veo, Veo, Algo... (like I spy something...) hangman, crosswords and word searches. You can be the "leader" then reverse roles and have your student be the "leader".
One of my favorite applications of this one is having the kids write and present their own "material". Anything goes! Younger and earlier level homeschoolerss may start with a short conversation, poem or skit.
-Use your target language in other fun activities that your student enjoys.
What do your students do together in English? As they gain more vocabulary and confidence, they can write or do their translations of some of their favorite songs or learn dances. I even had a class write, perform and film a "school" newscast. They still remember those lines!
We love to play games (you'll be able to get most of them in my upcoming release from 7Sisters). While scrabble and hangman are obvious favorites for the youngers/newbies, we had a blast playing Pictionary, Smash Mouth and Manzanas con Manzanas in my advanced class.
Whether you use Rosetta Stone, Learnables, Flip Flop Learning with my amiga Senora Gose, the high school curriculum I'm developing or something you've created yourself, remember to laugh together. Fun is one of the keys to successfully mastering any world language!
What are some interesting methods you have used in teaching World Languages to your kids?
How do you handle homeschooling social studies during the middle school years?
First, you want to define your goals:
-Is middle school the last time you can genuinely concentrate on the fun of learning without the pressure of credits?
-Is middle school the transition from the freedom of elementary school to the structured credit-system of high school, thus requiring more use of traditional curricula such as textbooks?
There's not one RIGHT way to homeschool. In middle school, we tended to begin use of texts in science but held to unit studies and experiential learning for history.
The only time we broke down and textbooked history in middle school, we used The Mystery of History from Bright \Ideas Press. Linda Hobar wrote a lovely curriculum full of Biblical integration, cultural awareness, timeline, and movie ideas. It is a great curriculum for homeschoolers because it can be adapted to several ages.
(Also, from Bright Ideas is the groovy Wondermaps program.)
If you like to enjoy the last 3 years of freedom before credit-keeping hits in high school, you might like to handle history like
we did in our co-op. We did unit studies with:
-story telling or teaching
-real books (including biographies like God's Smuggler and literature such as Sarah Plain and Tall- check out our awesome study guides- only $3.99- great info, comprehension work but no busy-for-busy's sake)
-primary documents (letters and writings by people of the time period)
-dancing (like square dances, Renaissance-era dances, Native American dances)
-hands-on projects (homeschooler-driven- stories, films, art, skits, reports, etc)
-field trips (Here's our post about some favorite field trips.)
The idea is to have fun, to inspire our homeschoolers to love learning history, to begin to perspective-take, and to see God's hand in the affairs of mankind. If kids love history in middle school- they will hopefully keep that good attitude through high school!
Give-away this week: Woodrow the White House Mouse by Peter and Cheryl Barnes.
This adorable hard-cover copy tells the story of our presidents in a way that inspires young children.
We will be giving a copy away at midnight on Sunday. The winner will be chosen from this week's comments.
Bless your kids or your friend's kids!
Now, here's Sabrina's vlog on Oral History Papers:
I've read some great stuff recently.
Here are links to some great posts I've read in the last few days:
- Daniele at Domestic Serenity offers words to spur you on -- your dreams should not be ignored.
- Carol Anne shares the real-life-real-hard-stuff that parenting is made of when the mean times hit:
- Good ideas from Martha Schaum to keep your homeschool schooling during the Christmas season (from Homeschool Mosaics):
- No, our kids won't just automatically be thankful people. Here are Rachel Martin's (Finding Joy) tips for teaching gratitude:
(and if you have an extra moment, please read her post "Knowing That You Cannot Do It All" - and be a little kinder to yourself the rest of the day!)
- Lee Binz has a wise perspective on homeschooled graduates entering the work force:
- Poignant and practical words from Penny, talking about one of the topics everyone is afraid to mention:
- Would you like a free gift from Kendra Fletcher at Preschoolers and Peace? Know a mom of preschoolers who could use some help? Click over here:
- Jimmie shares thoughtful and practical tips for reaching out to a teen who's recovering from major illness or surgery at Jimmie's Collage:
- Sarah Small has a smart take on middle school at The Homeschool Classroom:
Looking for a one-semester course to begin after the start of the New Year? Consider Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective. You will find nothing like it anywhere else. Click the title to view an excerpt from this excellent high school resource!
And watch my interview with the author, Vicki Tillman, to understand why Psychology is an important course to take in high school:
The 7 Sisters and many of our buddies had a homeschool co-op for many years. We loved having a mom who LIKED a topic teach it to our kids. We loved the fun of brainstorming and praying together. We loved watching our kids grow up together. One of the things we loved most, that added sparkle to each year, was the wonderful field trips we took together.
We can feel homeschool year 2012-13 in the air. In honor of that, and the nostalgia I feel looking back, here are some of our favorite field trips- and suggestions by some of our friends. Can YOU add some?
Going on field trips is one of the best things about homeschooling. Getting to experience tons of learning in unusual and exciting environments, receiving instruction from folks who are passionate about their subject area....that's the stuff!
We live in the DE/MD/PA area, so many of these field trip ideas are in our neck-o-the-woods, but you'll see a few suggestions that reach far beyond our locale. Here's hoping you find some inspiration to go someplace fun and learn something fabulous with your homeschoolers!
* Pennsylvania- Gettysburg National Park, Canoe Creek State Park (cool bats) Raccoon Creek (water bikes), Lancaster, Valley Forge National Park, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, The Franklin Institute Science Museum and Independence Hall in Philadelphia
* Any "special events" at local historic sites where they had costumed guides/reenactors
* Local Nature Centers
Ok, we have to stop somewhere. Lots of these trips, we took as a co-op. (If you are starting a homeschool co-op, download FREE How to Start a Co-op.)
What are your favorite homeschool and co-op field trips?
Homeschooling middle school is such a precious gift.
While there is no one right way to homeschool and everyone's goals are different (that's the joy of homeschooling), I'd like to share 10 goals that my Sisters and I have held for our middle schoolers:
1. Have fun!
These are the last 3 years before the kids have to mess with transcripts- so we live it up! Lots of good field trips, group learning, hands-on projects, silliness.
2. Love learning (well, most of it).
Mostly we tried not to overwhelm our kids with busywork and boring just-fill-time lessons. We looked for interesting activities and books so that the kids learn to love learning. Hopefully, then it will become a lifestyle.
3. Develop perseverance in smallish doses.
My kids never got out of bed in the morning asking if they could do math before breakfast or an extra lesson of grammar. However, they learned to persevere because we didn't waste time with mere busywork texts. We did what we needed to do and the kids learned to push through.
4. Get used to textbooks.
While we used texts for math and workbooks for vocab, spelling, and grammar, most of us did not use many textbooks during elementary school. However in 8th grade, some of us had our kids do a textbook science- just for the experience. (Some good ones include Apologia -for serious scientists, Pearson Concepts and Challenges -for struggling or recalcitrant learners.)
5. Have some great group experiences.
Our local homeschool support group starts its youth group in middle school. They have been doing field trips, group dynamics/games, service in these groups for over 20 years. This has been such a great gift for our kids. They get to form a like-minded peer group with other homeschooled middle schoolers. Other group experiences have included church youth groups, and various activities like choirs and drama camps.
6. Develop skills.
Our kids tried on a variety of hats during middle school. Over the years various kids have participated in team and individual sports, riding competitions, service opportunities, bands, choirs, dramas, art classes. They learned to write more maturely and have some fun doing it: essay writing for technical skill, short poetry and silly stories for creative thought processes. They developed additional life skills with more chores (don't ask about some of their bedrooms, though).
7. Begin some identity formation.
We helped our children begin to explore and discover the identity that He has created for them. We do this by immersing them in atmospheres we value (family time, church, homeschool community). We give them rich experiences in life. We modeled (we hope) the values that are important. We talk with them about things that are important and good. Some of us had the middle schooler journal often about what they were doing or thinking.
8. Give them opportunities to know the Lord.
MOST important to us was to lovingly provide our through living life together, through discussion, through reading, through music, through role models, through experiences, and through praying together.
7 Sisters has put together some of the homeschool guides we've done with our middle schoolers. Good info, no busywork. According to their ages and abilities, allow me to suggest:
Younger middle schoolers-
Older or more advance middle schoolers-
What are some of YOUR goals for homeschooling middle school?
Here's Sabrina talking about why essay writing is so important!
Here on the east coast on Tuesday, we homeschoolers (and everybody else) had a 5.9 earthquake- never in my memory had we had an adventure of that kind! (I mention homeschoolers because we, of course, turned it into a lesson.)
There was much emptying of buildings and phone-calling of relatives. At my counseling office, therapists and clients alike all needed to process our new-found seismophobia (as the principal of Elijah School coined the apt phrase).
Of course, my 14-year-old was not phased. He and his friends quickly added it to the collection of larks from high school. No damage was done around here AND he knew ALL about earthquakes from studying Earth Science in middle school.
Now Hurricane Irene is wailing her way up to us. More Earth Science in action. But we know hurricane preparation from Earth Science.
So here are 3 Good Reasons to study Earth Science:
1) Earthquakes- you never know!
2) Hurricanes- every fall they help us open the school year
3) Tornadoes- really none of these are funny, because in real life tornadoes have devastated so many places in the US last year
Homeschool middle schoolers or high schoolers should really work the subject into their curriculum.
Here is my favorite Earth Science curriculum:
Concepts and Challenges in Earth Science- Pearson Education
User-friendly 2-page lessons. Homeschoolers can do most of the topics on their own but learn some great material. My son, not a scientist, liked the curriculum. Lessons can be done in a brief time, leaving time for other topics in education- or even real life. It is a secular text, so we add our own Scriptures and discussion.
The study of Earth Science is so important. If homeschoolers understand the world around them:
-they can rejoice well in the things that God has made
-they can understand current events
-they can be better prepared if scary things happen
What have you done with your homeschoolers for Earth Science- texts? field trips? other adventures?
While you are filling in your curriculum for the year, check out our ebookstore for Language Arts, Social Science, Prayer Journals, and practical stuff for moms.
BTW- This is not a sponsored post. I simply shared a curriculum my family liked.
I frequently hear homeschool parents who heave a sigh and say, "My kid just hates it when I have him write about a book we've read. He always says, 'I don't know what to write!' I don't know how to get him started."
Have you ever been there? Some of my homeschoolers have taken to writing about books likes ducks to water, and some have taken to it more like cats to water.
Being able to articulate ideas about what we've read is an important skill that we will use all throughout our lives. For some children, jumping directly from READING to WRITING about it is too big a jump. They may be less paralyzed if we first help them learn to articulate ideas from the material.
Here's an exercise that I have found to be fun and empowering for students who have trouble writing about what they have read:
* Read something together. It can be as short as a poem or an article, or as long as a Victor Hugo novel. (I personally recommend saving Hugo for down the road a ways...)
* Jot down a few simple notes as you read about things that you notice in the text. For example, "Cool string of onomatopoeia!" or "That character did a total flip-flop from the beginning of the story to the end," or "The description of the dinner table made my mouth water."
* Discuss what you've read with your student. Take your own observations and turn them into questions for your child. "Look at the 2nd stanza....do you notice anything unusual and cool about the words in lines 2 and 4?" or "The character of Daisy...what did she say was her passion at the beginning of the story? <wait for an answer> But what did she end up doing with her inheritance at the end?" or "When you read about the dinner party, what helped you to almost sit down at the table with the guests?"
* Jot down notes of your student's answers. NOTE: DO NOT make the student take notes. That turns the exercise into a quiz instead of a conversation. They will begin to believe that there is a RIGHT answer to your question rather than feeling comfortable that you are simply interviewing them about their genuine response to the text.
* Recognize that some types of reading material will work better for some students than others. If your child is very resistant to answering, don't get discouraged. Try again another day with a different type of reading material. Eventually the defenses will come down if you are consistent in "interviewing" them for their observations, rather than testing them to see if they noticed things the same way you did.
* After you have some notes about your student's observations, walk away from the subject altogether. Wait a day, or maybe even more. Take some time privately to look over those notes and see what topics for writing emerge from the page. When you feel ready....
* Take the notes back to your student. Now you get to turn the tables on him...he is the one who observed these things, he watched you take the notes as he was talking, so he can't really convince himself that he doesn't have any idea what to write about that piece you read the other day. "We talked about Daisy and her change of heart...you said that you noticed she only wanted a life of ease and to be left alone, but eventually she spent her whole inheritance on the orphans. What were some of the things that turned her around?" Take notes again, or if there isn't too much resistance, have your student take the notes this time.
* Bingo! You've got the beginnings of an outline for a character analysis essay.
This exercise works with children of varying ages. It can be a really empowering stepping stone from reading to writing about it. Let 'em talk it through first, and you may be amazed at what they end up putting down on paper!
Do you have ideas for encouraging writers in your homeschool?
For help in thinking about WHAT you are reading, check out our growing collection of literature study guides.