I can’t say why, but homeschooling a middle schooler somehow snuck up on me. One day I was working with an elementary-aged kid and the next I had a middle schooler at my table. Even so, we’re nearly a year and a half into middle school and I’m learning there’s quite a difference between my role in our homeschool now.
Although my role is different, it turns out the transition to homeschooling middle school hasn’t been too bad. I’m still actively involved in homeschooling, but I’m not so much the teacher these days. Now I’m more of a middle school mentor or guide and, oddly enough, I like it this way. It allows me some extra one-on-one homeschool time with my youngest child, a chance to catch up on things around our home and get some work done during our school days.
There are definite perks to homeschooling a middle schooler and I’d love to share some tips that I’ve learned about the transition between the roles of homeschool teacher and middle school mentor. My hope is that these tips will help you smoothly navigate the change so that you and your middle schooler don’t miss a beat.
4 Tips for Transitioning to a Middle School Mentor
Shift to Student-Led Homeschooling
Part of transitioning from elementary to middle school in your homeschool is sharing the lead with your student. If this is a new concept for you, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you need to completely step aside as the leader in your homeschool. This can be as simple as allowing him to have input in curriculum choices or by simply asking him what he would like to learn in the coming year and seeing how you can make that happen.
This student-led learning can also show up by allowing for experimentation with hobbies and special interests. For example, if your daughter is interested in computer programming, middle school is a great time to work coding into your homeschool plans. That would provide an opportunity to experiment on a new level, build new skills, and get a feel for coding and programming as a potential career choice.
It’s also important to encourage independence as you transition from teacher to mentor. This is not so much about preparing your tweenager to handle this homeschooling gig alone, but it’s a chance to watch from across the room and be available for help when needed.
We began incorporating a good deal of independent work in our homeschool before middle school rolled around, but perhaps that’s not the case for you. The good news is that middle school is a natural time to encourage independence in your homeschooler. This allows you and your student an adjustment period before high school without the overwhelm of a completely new approach to homeschool.
If your middle schooler isn’t used working independently, start by reducing your involvement a couple of subjects at a time. Additionally, you may find it best to start with subjects that are less tedious or difficult for your kiddo. Again, reducing your involvement doesn’t mean you’re no longer teaching, it just means that your teaching in this season looks different than in years past.
You can also encourage independence in your homeschooler by providing a daily schedule or checklist of schoolwork to do. I do this for my seventh-grader so that he can start his days when he’s ready instead of waiting for me to get him going. He likes that I still map out his days, but enjoys the freedom to control his pace regardless of what’s happening with the rest of us each day.
All of that independence and self-led learning can be wonderful for your kiddo, but it can also create problems. That’s why accountability is a huge factor in transitioning your homeschool role. This transition allows you to let go in many ways, but it also requires you to step up your involvement in others. Accountability is one of those.
You can approach accountability in traditional ways like reports, specific assignments, and grading procedures, but it can also be as simple as having meaningful discussions about what your student is learning.
Follow up is another important part of accountability. You can hand your middle schooler a list of assignments day after day, but you make things harder on you and your student if you don’t follow up in a timely manner. After all, nothing good comes from flipping through the science notebook and discovering missing work four lessons back.
Timely follow up makes a difference because it’s harder to correct mistakes or address confusion if you wait too long. For sure, it’s difficult to truly progress without this accountability and it’s up to you to provide it for your student.
Give Grace (Lots of Grace)
Homeschooling middle school comes with lots of new opportunities for independence and exploring of interests, but that’s not all. Physical changes, emotional upheaval and hormones are all part of the picture as well. All of these things can quickly turn a good homeschool day into disaster. That’s why grace matters when you’re transitioning from elementary years to homeschooling middle school.
You’ve got to be generous in giving grace because you’ll need it as much as your middle schooler does. You don’t get to sit back and watch your kiddo navigate new territory each day because you’re in the thick of it as well. Simply put, you’re likely to struggle with the changes alongside your tweenager.
Lean in and be who you needed in your corner when you were younger. Be willing to say I’m sorry, listen to your kiddo, and remember what life was like for you at this age. That won’t guarantee that everything with your middle schooler will be perfect, but it will go a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship with your kiddo. In turn, that healthy relationship will make for a more enjoyable homeschool experience for you and your big kid.
In closing, be encouraged and remember that your role as a homeschool parent is always changing and that’s a good thing! We may have different scenarios and different reasons for homeschooling, but raising kids who grow to be capable, independent adults is a goal for all of us. So, enjoy your transition from teacher to mentor and make the most of these middle school years.
How can you make changes as you transition into a middle school homeschool mentor?
Emily Copeland is a Christ follower, pastor’s wife, church planter, and homeschool mom of two. She offers help and hope for the homeschool journey at Table Life Blog. You can also find her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.