But unlike when we were pregnant, there’s no What To Expect book to guide us through. After the relatively warm “hand holding” of elementary school, middle school can seem big and impersonal. New principal, new teacher, new schedule and new kids.
Middle school can seem daunting when you realize it is the training ground for high school and college. In fact, crazy as it sounds, this is the ideal time to start thinking about college and building the educational foundation and good study habits that high school demands. Here are seven things you need to consider before the first day of middle school.
1. Create a Study Space: If you already established a great study or homework space in elementary school that works for your child then keep it! If not, now is the time to select a spot with your child. Do they work better in a public space where you or other family members or close by? Or are they better off in their own bedroom where there are fewer distractions? After you pick a spot, make it comfortable with a good chair, desk or table and great lighting. Have your child pick out study accessories and supplies that they may need throughout the year.
2. Manage Distractions: Middle school students want to spend more time with friends and establish a social circle. Thanks to texting, SnapChat and Facebook it’s really easy to be social and really hard to focus on school work. Establish reasonable homework rules with your kids over the summer months and then enforce them when school is in session. Research shows that most kids can focus for about 20-30 minutes on a task. Let your kids work intently for 30 minutes and then take a 10 minute technology break. They can earn great grades and be social.
3. Read. Read. And then read some more. Most elementary schools encourage kids to read 20 minutes a night. This is just as important in middle school. Keep your kids reading all summer so that they have a well-established routine come fall. Remember, you don’t have to force them to read classics. Magazines, graphic novels or a biography of their favorite sports star all count too. And since these kids will take the “new” SAT in a few years, non-fiction is more important than ever.
4. Check out your school’s curriculum options. In most middle schools, the curriculum is more or less prescribed; however, there are typically a few classes where an accelerated option is available and there may be elective classes. Make sure your child is taking the most challenging classes she can handle. If you’re not sure what will work best for your child, set up a meeting with a school counselor.
5. Explore extracurriculars. Middle school is the perfect time for kids to start exploring what might interest them because the stakes are lower than in high school. Typically sports teams will accept all students so they can try out a sport in a less competitive environment than high school. Beyond sports, kids can explore other activities such as debate, drama, choir, band, yearbook, student government and many more. They can find out what they are good at and what interests them so that they are ready to hit the ground running in high school. Summer is a great time to find out what’s available and start thinking about what they want to be involved in from the start.
6. Get involved. I hear parents lament all the time that they feel left out once their child heads to middle school. They don’t feel as though there are as many options to help with the classroom, parent-teacher organizations and field trips. Connect with your local PTA and check out the school’s website to see what opportunities are available and remember to introduce yourself to your child’s homeroom teacher via email at the beginning of school.
7. Practice using a padlock. I am not kidding. Depending on the type of lockers your school has, I have heard over and over that many kids say the hardest part of middle school is learning to use the locker! The familiar padlock twist isn’t something kids use anymore. Your child will thank you when they are the one who knows how to commandeer their padlock with ease!
Leaving elementary school can be a bittersweet moment. So much growing and learning happened in those safe, familiar halls. And before you know it, the middle school will feel that way too. Spending some time this summer looking ahead will help speed that time to familiarity!
Parents, what do you wish you’d known before your child entered their first day of middle school? Let us know!