Have you noticed that middle school is the time when homeschooling parents seem to struggle the hardest, and sometimes even give up? Crossing over from elementary to secondary school presents a hurdle that many families struggle to overcome, and it has nothing to do with advanced math or teaching foreign languages or any of that.
No, the single biggest challenge that homeschooling families face as their children reach middle school is connection.
It breaks my heart when I see a mom post online that she can’t stand her 13-year-old daughter, or that her 12-year-old son cannot get along with the family. The problem often is not that the middle school child is a wreck, but that their connection with the family has become frayed as they’ve entered adolescence.
As homeschooling parents, perhaps the most important thing we have to do during the crucial middle school years is work to maintain that connection with our kids. There are so many lessons we’ll need to teach them in the coming years, but these six, I think, are among the most important things your middle schooler needs to know.
You are normal
What time in our lives is as fraught with confusion and frustration as puberty? Your middle schoolers are adrift in a sea of powerful hormones that can cause rage, despair and longings that they cannot fully control. It’s okay. They need to know they are normal, and it gets better.
You are worthy
There is so much pressure on young people, more so today than perhaps ever before. Don’t let them believe for a minute that their lives don’t have value. They matter, even if they don’t know yet what they want to be when they grow up.
You are capable
As they grow up, your children need to know that they are capable of learning and mastering new things. They need to know that they are able to take on new challenges and handle new responsibilities.
You are safe
Although middle school kids are known to argue and push boundaries, they need to know that they are safe and that their parents are still in control. Set limits, discipline fairly, and help your adolescents take slow and steady steps toward independence.
You are forgiven
Kids make mistakes, and those in their early teens seem to make a lot of them. Your children may have a hard time opening up if they’ve done something they’re ashamed of, but they desperately need to know that it will be okay, and that they can be forgiven.
You are loved
The most important thing we can teach our middle schoolers is that they are loved. They are loved because of who they are, and sometimes in spite of it. They are loved unconditionally and completely, and to such a degree that they need never seek love from people who might abuse them.
You may think your middle schooler knows they are loved because you hugged and kissed them a lot when they were little, or because you bought them the latest iPhone for Christmas. You may feel so caught up in power struggles with this adolescent monster, you don’t even recognize the sweet child you raised and you sure don’t feel like loving on them. But that’s when they need us the most.
I encourage you to stop and think on this list, and while you are filling out your planner this year, consider how you’ll address these important lessons.
Which important lesson(s) do you feel that your middle schooler needs to know? How can you focus on teaching them in the coming year?
Tavia Fuller Armstrong is The Unplanned Homeschooler, an award-winning freelance writer, speaker, author and homeschooling mother of three awesome kids. She resides in Oklahoma where she enjoys spending time with her family and reading old books. Check out her latest book, Homeschool Bullies: Dealing with Mean Kids, Cliques and Mama Drama on Amazon.